Update: Apparently the Sinner campaign thinks the photo was wrong. They pulled it down off their Facebook page shortly after I posted this. See below.
Yesterday Rep. Kevin Cramer landed himself in some hot water over a campaign ad filmed in the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery. A lot of people – including myself – found the ad to be tacky. A memorial like that to our veterans shouldn’t be used as a political prop.
Cramer’s opponent, Democrat George Sinner, agreed. “No one, including Kevin Cramer, should use those who have served and sacrificed as political props on these hallowed grounds,” Sinner said in a scathing press release issued after SAB first brought the issue to light. Sinner also demanded that Cramer apologize to, well, pretty much everyone.
But then I noticed this photo on Sinner’s own Facebook page:
Update: As you can see below, Sinner’s campaign has pulled the photo shortly after I wrote this post. Thankfully I took a screenshot which I’m now placing here. Click for a larger view.
This was the original photo embed:
That…kind of makes it seem like Sinner is using veterans as a prop. You know, the sort of thing he thinks people ought to apologize for.
Maybe there’s some context for this photo which makes it kosher, but I have no idea what it is. There is no caption. July 12th isn’t any sort of a remembrance day for veterans. There wasn’t a press release sent out by Sinner’s campaign explaining what this event was. The only other online evidence that Sinner did anything on July 12th of this year was a tweet posted to Sinner’s campaign account apparently from the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation.
It sure looks like a campaign event to me. And even if Sinner was there with veterans, so what? Cramer’s ad featured veterans who clearly, as evidenced by their participation in the ad, had no problem with him being in a veterans cemetery.
This is all sort of subjective. Yesterday I was talking to my father – a Vietnam combat veteran decorated with the silver star, four bronze stars, and four purple hearts – about Cramer’s ad in the veterans cemetery. He said it didn’t bother him at all.
That surprised me. I don’t agree, if only because I don’t like the idea of memorials to specific veterans (their tombstones) being used for politics, but clearly that’s not a universal feeling even among veterans. And there’s also the legal question. Political speech on public property – even in a veterans cemetery – is protected speech by the 1st amendment. Policies prohibiting reasonable access to this sort of public property for political speech probably wouldn’t be constitutional.
But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. And Sinner is the one who chose to demand an apology from Cramer for using “veterans as props.” I think Sinner should explain his own use of a veterans memorial as a backdrop.
I’ve reached out to the Sinner campaign for an explanation, but I won’t hold my breath on them getting back to me since they never do. Certainly the people who are emailing me this photo today feel what Sinner did was on par with what Cramer did.
What do you think?
Update: Per the comments, Sinner was apparently attending the dedication of the veterans memorial in Belcourt. The July 14th edition of the Turtle Mountain Star documented the occasion. There’s no mention of Sinner in the article, but Senator Heidi Heitkamp addressed the crowd.
But then, she was there as a sitting U.S. Senator. Not a candidate. Which is probably why Sinner’s campaign pulled the photo.