by Max Brantley
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, as a powerful incumbent in a solidly Republican district, will continue to mostly ignore potential Democratic opponent Ken Aden of Russellville, but he'll do himself no favors by continuing to demean Aden's service as an enlisted man under Womack's command in the National Guard.
To recap: In an interview with a Northwest Arkansas newspaper reporter, Womack said he couldn't recall Aden, who served under Womack when he commanded a unit on a peacekeeping mission in the Sinai. Must have been nothing worth remembering, was Womack's haughty explanation to the reporter. He minimized Aden's participation in an athletic competition.
Aden today released documents showing that Womack recommended him for an Army achievement medal for his service. It's full of glowing remarks on Aden's contribution to the unit.
I've attempted to ask Womack for a comment, but the Colonel generally does not take calls or respond to questions from the Arkansas Times. I've also asked for a copy of Womack's military record and citations. Womack retired as a colonel; Aden went on to the Army and finished his service as a sergeant. He also earned the combat infantryman badge for service in combat. Does Womack hold that badge? Running from a political opponent's criticism isn't particularly valorous.
UPDATE: I take it all back. I heard back from Beau Walker of Womack's staff. He promised to run the news release by the boss for comment, but in the interim said Womack didn't mean to demean Aden with his remarks in the published interview. With hundreds of men under his command, Walker said, it was only natural that Womack would remember the truly extraordinary, both good and bad. But there were many others — though they did their jobs and loved their country — he just couldn't recall years later.
UPDATE II: More from Beau Walker after he talked to Womack. He said Womack signed a large number of commendations as the officer at the top of the chain of command and doesn't remember all those either. He reiterated that it would not be uncommon not to remember someone except for an unusual reason. "He did not not intend to belittle or condescend,” Walker said. “He served his country. That’s an honorable thing. He didn’t mean to demean his service.”
Suggestion: Should Womack refer to Aden in the future, prefacing remarks with “bless his heart” isn’t a good way to start. It's how an unctuous granny begins her criticism of a straying child.
ADEN NEWS RELEASE
Democratic Congressional Candidate Ken Aden's campaign questioned the truthfulness of Congressman Steve Womack's remarks about his service under his opponent in the Sinai Peninsula on Friday, noting that Womack's remarks don't jibe with military service records released by Aden's campaign on Friday. The records show Womack authorizing a military decoration for his opponent while commander of Arkansas National Guard forces in Egypt.
In Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Womack was quoted as claiming, "If Ken was a dynamic leader and outstanding soldier in every respect, I probably would have had reason to have crossed paths with him during that deployment, but honestly I don’t remember him.”
"Congressman Womack's characterization of Ken's service as something less than outstanding does not mesh well with the facts," said Jacob Burris, Campaign Director for Aden's campaign.
According to documents released by the Campaign, Womack approved the awarding of an Army Achievement Medal to Aden. According to the commendation documents, Aden was recognized for his leadership that "motivated others by setting the example," and for being "a vital asset to Alpha Company." The Army Achievement Medal is awarded for outstanding achievement or meritorious service and is generally awarded to junior Army personnel.
"Bless his heart, it looks like Congressman Womack has his facts wrong—again," said Burris. "Not only is he wrong on issues like job-killing free trade agreements that are sending jobs from our districts to foreign countries, he can't even manage to tell the truth long enough to properly characterize his opponent's military service record," he continued.