VFW endorses … Senator Ma’am?

The VFW has a history of tilting towards liberals, but this seems rather stunning.  Barbara Boxer, who dressed down a general in a Senate hearing for calling her “ma’am,” won the endorsement of VFW’s political-action committee yesterday.  The move also comes despite Boxer’s votes to curtail military spending — or perhaps because of them:

Accenting again the campaign focus she has placed on veterans’ affairs, Sen. Barbara Boxer on Sunday formally opened a veterans’ center at Pasadena City College and was later brought to tears by a forceful defense of her record by Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii,  a highly decorated member of Congress.

Inouye joined Boxer for her formal endorsement by the political action committee of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, whose California chairman also praised Boxer’s work on behalf of veterans. …

As Boxer spoke, a few dozen protesters chanted outside the PCC meeting room where she spoke, repeating “Don’t Call Me Ma’am”–a reference to Boxer’s request years ago that an Army Corps of Engineers general call her by her title rather than “ma’am” in a hearing.

Fiorina has been critical of Boxer’s record on military issues, including Boxer’s vote against a military spending bill that Boxer opposed because she said it did not outline a clear exit strategy from Iraq. On Sunday after speaking at a civic affairs conference hosted by the Iranian American Jewish community in Century City, Fiorina said the VFW PAC had  “lost a great deal of credibility because they’ve demonstrated once again that all they ever do is endorse incumbent politicians.”

“There are a great number of veterans who are offended by Boxer’s refusal to support our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Fiorina told reporters Sunday. “There are veterans who are offended by the way she dressed down a general, and there are, unfortunately for the VFW PAC, now a whole lot of veterans who are offended by the decision the VFW PAC has taken.”

One could understand endorsements for Democrats in the House and Senate with more moderate records on defense, such as Jim Webb in the Senate, who refused to go along with the retreat strategy demanded by Boxer in Iraq.  Barbara Boxer has worked on veterans’ affairs bills in the past, but mainly on broadly popular benefits bills.  There is no evidence that Carly Fiorina would have worked any the less on those issues, nor does it appear that the VFW made much of an attempt to check it.  Remember that the VFW — like NOW — had the option of simply not endorsing anyone at all.

It’s a safe bet in most midterm cycles for lobbyists to back an incumbent.  It may even be a safer bet in this cycle in California to back Boxer’s incumbency.  But I wouldn’t necessarily guess that they’ll be on the winning side this time, and in the meantime, it more or less exposes the rather cynical calculation of the VFW in its endorsing process.

One veteran outraged by this decision is Orson Swindle, who worked on the John McCain campaign and now works on Fiorina’s campaign.  I’ll be speaking to Swindle in bonus minutes on today’s TEMS.