The New York Times has come to Sen. Kay Hagan’s defense for missing a myriad of Armed Services Committee hearings in the face of the rise of ISIS.
“When political ads are reduced to criticizing a lawmaker’s absence from a few congressional committee meetings, it’s usually a pretty good sign that they’re running out of material,” the Times’ David Firestone wrote Wednesday.
Hagan’s Republican challenger Thom Tillis has been taking the incumbent to task for missing more than half of her Armed Services Committee hearings, including one classified hearing about global threats for a cocktail fundraiser.
According to Firestone, however, a poor attendance record — or “missing several Armed Services Committee hearings” — is not a legitimate line of attack for a political campaign.
The voiceover in a recent Tillis ad entitled “Cocktails” says:
In January, President Obama refers to the Islamic State as a ‘jayvee team.’ Days later, the Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on new global threats. Senator Kay Hagan? Absent. Hagan’s missed half the Armed Services Committee hearings this year. In fact, Hagan admits she prioritized a cocktail party to benefit her campaign. While ISIS grew, Obama did nothing. Senator Hagan did cocktails. To change policy, change your senator.
Firestone argued that the “Cocktails” ad is “misleading” and has a bit of hypocrisy to it, given Tillis’ own absences at the state House. He wrote:
What’s truly misleading about the ad is the notion that attendance at committee meetings actually has some effect on national security, or that any individual senator can be considered responsible for missing the rise of the Islamic State. Obviously senators should show up for work, but the real problem is that few of them really want to work when they’re there. Leaders of both parties in the Senate and the House have been pressured by their members not to allow a vote on President Obama’s bombing of the militant group, afraid of sticking their heads up on a controversial issue before the November election.
To be sure, Hagan did miss 27 out of the 49 public hearings over the last two years, and her campaign dodged the issue for weeks before Hagan admitted that in at least one instance she missed a classified hearing for a cocktail fundraiser.
Tillis spokeswoman Meghan Burris said earlier this month:
For weeks, Kay Hagan’s campaign dishonestly attempted to cover-up the fact she inexcusably skipped a classified hearing on threats to our national security to attend a cocktail fundraising reception in New York City. Kay Hagan’s web of falsehoods has been exposed, and it has revealed a continued pattern of deceiving North Carolinians, whether it was falsely telling families they could keep their health care plans if they liked them, or misleading voters about her indefensible record of failing to prioritize our national security.
Firestone explained that the attacks on her attendance are an effort by Tillis to distract from his own record and use the fear of ISIS for a campaign victory.
“What’s really going on here is an attempt by Mr. Tillis to change the subject from Ms. Hagan’s effective attacks on him for the cuts he has made to education and women’s health services, and his leadership in trying to suppress the votes of minorities and other Democratic-leaning voters through a very strict voter ID measure,” Firestone wrote.
“Capitalizing on fears of a looming national security threat is an old and often successful Republican tactic. For George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, it was al Qaeda; for their successors, it is the Islamic State, which is being waved like a red blanket in several other races as well,” he added.