The GOP Nebraska primary race to replace Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) has gotten less attention than other races, in part because it is a deep-red state, so Democrats (and hence the MSM) don’t care all that much, and Republicans aren’t worried about losing the seat. Ben Sasse — a former turnaround specialist, veteran of the George W. Bush administration and now university president — has picked up support from some tea party-type groups and Sarah Palin as well as more establishment figures like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). He is running against Shane Osborn, a former Navy pilot and ex-treasurer for the state. He’s got some establishment backing but also the endorsement of FreedomWorks. Sasse says he’s a conservative devoted to repealing Obamacare; Osborn says Sasse is a Johnny-come-lately to the fight and worked for a firm that helped implement Obamacare. They both seem eminently qualified conservatives.

SEWARD, NEBRASKA - JULY 04: This is an American Legion entry that was participating in the 4th of July parade attended by Senate candidate Deb Fischer (she's walking just behind this truck). She is running for Senate in Nebraska and she walked the parade route in Seward while campaigning. Her position was that she originally was against the Keyston XL pipeline because it would run through the sensitive Nebraska Sand Hills area. Once TransCanada agreed to reroute the path around the Sand Hills, Fischer changed her position and is now for the Keystone XL pipeline project. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post
An American Legion entry in a Fourth of July parade in Seward, Neb. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

Things heated up this week when stories circulated about a 2001 incident. The Lincoln Journal Star explained:

[A] mini-firestorm over the decision to land on Chinese territory has been ignited by an Omaha World-Herald story quoting some military veterans who suggest that Osborn should have ditched the intelligence-gathering aircraft in the ocean.

Although Osborn and his crew destroyed most of the aircraft’s documents and electronic equipment and dumped them in the ocean before landing, those critics suggest the Chinese may have acquired some valuable U.S. intelligence information. . . . Osborn on Tuesday acknowledged that he erred in the manner in which he attempted to demonstrate that his decision to land the aircraft followed Navy policy or directives. A memo written on Navy letterhead that he has distributed stating that his action adhered to policy was not an official Navy document, but a statement authored by a Navy officer at the request of a friend of Osborn who had been a crew member.

In a written statement, Osborn said comments made by officers in his chain of command have confirmed that he followed directives. “Now questions are being raised about a memo that sought to explain the matter in an unclassified manner and the directives we followed each day in service to our country,” Osborn stated. “This was a response to attacks against my record of service to our nation of which I am very proud. While the facts in the memo are correct, and it was intended to clarify the issue, the manner in which it was handled was regrettable and I take full responsibility.”

All of this has obscured Osborn’s military service, which was heroic.  Joseph Wilson Prueher, former ambassador to China, explains a 2001 collision involving Osborn’s plane:

On April 1 of that year, then-Lt. Osborn piloted an EP-3 electronic surveillance plane over the South China Sea on a routine mission, when a Chinese fighter plane crashed midair into Shane’s aircraft — nearly knocking it out of the sky and forcing Shane to make an extraordinarily difficult emergency landing.

The Chinese jet was fatally damaged and crashed into the sea, killing the pilot. The EP-3 lost a wingtip, its port outboard engine and its nose cone, resulting in a hard roll and abrupt descent. It took a feat of superb airmanship from Osborn to recover from this condition.

Flying with massive structural damage, Osborn saved his life and the lives of his 23-person crew by executing an emergency landing on the Chinese Island of Hainan. In this extremely tense circumstance, Osborn, a junior officer entrusted with large responsibilities, instinctively made a series of correct and critical decisions that allowed for the best possible outcome.

Osborn and his crew were detained on Hainan Island for 12 days while a diplomatic standoff between the U.S. and China was resolved.

Whatever you think of the merits of the two candidates or of Osborn’s eagerness to defend himself, he is an American hero. We can at least put politics aside long enough to acknowledge that, right?  So now everyone can go back to squabbling.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.