Posted: Nov. 27, 2012


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Call Tom Carper corrupt? He does not even flinch. Accuse him of covering up serious health problems? He does push-ups. But doubt his military record?

Those are fighting words.

Carper had a grit-his-teeth campaign season, even though he was easily re-elected with 66 percent of the vote and set a Delaware record by winning a 13th statewide race as a Democratic treasurer, congressman, governor and now a three-term senator.

He was assailed not so much by Kevin Wade, the Republican whose rhetorical attacks were fairly measured -- "Washington won't change until we-the-people change the people in Washington" -- but by Alex Pires, the Independent Party candidate who huffed and puffed about Carper all the way to a meager showing that did not even amount to 4 percent of the vote.

Pires actually managed to do worse than Christine O'Donnell did, when she polled 4 percent as a conservative write-in candidate against Carper six years ago and did little more than dot the roadsides with her picture on posters. Between the two of them, however, they certainly established the baseline vote for dead-enders.

It might seem like time to forget all about Pires, and there is no evidence that Carper is on the hunt for the 15,300 people who voted Independent, but still, there has been a strange outpouring from Carper's Senate office.

Press release after press release after press release, all related to Carper's military service.

In the two weeks after the election, there were eight of them. Carper's office is known for being prolific, but this was exceptional. It was hard not to notice, coming as it did after Pires took all those potshots accusing Carper of lying about being a Vietnam veteran.

He was, flying on anti-submarine missions during five years in the Navy with the papers to prove it, plus another 18 years afterward in the Naval Reserve.

It was like Pires wanted to swift-boat Carper, and Carper came back with a swift boot.

The press releases piled up. Naturally there was one for Veterans Day -- "As a veteran, I know the sacrifices our service members make" -- as well as one giving the deadlines for holiday mail to the troops -- "As a former naval flight officer who served three tours in Southeast Asia, I know how it can be" -- and one about jobs and housing for veterans -- "Carper, a veteran of the Navy" -- and so on.

Maybe it was not so much piling up as piling on. Was there a message in there somewhere?

Carper's office insisted there was nothing to see here, folks, no more military-related press releases than normal, but really, there were.

In Carper's current term, there were four in November 2011, but none in November 2010, none in November 2009, none in November 2008, and one in November 2007. People can look it up on Carper's Senate Web site.

Carper is not exactly known for letting go, anyway. After an opponent tried to smear him in an earlier campaign that nevertheless ended in a smashing victory, Carper declared, "My mother taught my sister and me to love our enemies but beat the socks off of them."

Nobody puts Carper in a swift boat.