It is not hard to see why Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) is ducking debates, refusing appearances, and trying to limit her exposure to hard questions from a well-prepared opponent.
Challenger Scott Brown has been attacking her for supporting Obamacare and more recently for being “confused”about national security threats. In a phone interview he tells me, “I’ve been interested in these issues since I was a senator and since I joined the military when I was 19 years old.”
Until she discovered her inner hawk on the Islamic State (Brown says she didn’t mention it until August 28 of this year), she was joined at the hip with Obama, and that’s Brown’s big objection. In a recent speech he declared: “This is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee we’re talking about, and it’s been nothing but silence on the most urgent national-security threats that we are facing. In fact, when the Committee was hearing testimony on the emerging threat of ISIS a year and a half ago, guess what? She missed the meeting.” He tells me, ” Because she is supporting the president over 99 percent of the time, and because she is always late to the issue and because she is a rubber stamp for the president –well, that’s a problem.” He cites a number of Obama foreign policy blunders that he criticized openly and quickly (e.g. pull-out of all troops from Iraq, the about-face on bombing Syria) while Shaheen did not. As for Iran he slams Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) for blocking a vote (“one of the worst majority leaders in our history’), he says emphatically, “I would have voted for sanctions. I would have opposed extending the [interim] deal.”
Shaheen is no different than many Democrats and therein lies the problem for vulnerable incumbent Senators Mark Udall (Col.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Mark Begich (Alaska), and Kay Hagan (N.C.). They were napping while the Islamic State surged and were asleep during the wheel for other Obama foreign policy flubs. They didn’t raise any objection to zeroing troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. They were unmoved by the atrocious Iran interim deal. They were quite happy to watch the sequestration cuts wreak havoc on military preparedness. Now the bill has come due for circling the wagons around Obama.
Brown says his military background “plays a role. . . but is not the only factor.” Indeed, being willing to analyze threats, and provide an independent perspective on national security definitely count for something. Unfortunately for Shaheen, she did none of these things when it came to national security. Brown certainly stresses other differences with Shaheen (“I am for the Keystone pipeline; she’s against it . . . I got the Chamber [of Commerce’s] endorsement. I have an A rating. She has an F. She has a zero rating — I don’t know how you do that — from the National Federation of Independent Businesses. I have a lifetime [rating] of 94.”) But when it comes to national security, Shaheen seems to lack any good answer for her passivity. No wonder she’s trying to limit the debates.