As Jim Mowrer closes out his campaign for Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, he’s getting some help from fellow veterans who have made the journey from soldier to statesman. Seth Moulton, a Massachusetts congressman and Iraq War veteran, joined Mowrer at events in Central Iowa this week.
The central part of Mowrer’s candidacy has always been his service in the military in Iraq and then back at the Pentagon. Most polls have shown Mowrer trailing incumbent Republican David Young. But a Loras Poll yesterday pegged 17% of voters as undecided, with Young still up five. With that many undecided, there’s a decent chance the late deciders could break for the candidate with the more attractive profile of a war veteran.
That would be a good thing for making Congress work again, suggested Moulton during his Iowa trip. While some of the veterans serving in Congress get high-profile media attention, Moulton noted that there’s actually very few veterans currently elected. That’s a problem, he and Mowrer think, because veterans have a stronger sense of working together.
“Jim is exactly the kind of veteran we need in Congress to be willing to stand up above party politics,” Moulton said. “In my infantry platoon I had marines from all over the country … We came together with vastly different backgrounds … at the end of the day we were able to set aside those differences for what was best for America.”
“We have a lot more dysfunction than we do in the past, and I think those things are related to one another,” Mowrer said of the lack of veterans in Congress.
Moulton has seen problems with that in how his colleagues in the U.S. House approach foreign policy problems, particularly with Syrian refugees.
“The fact that the Republican in this campaign is actually criticizing Jim for supporting the enemies of ISIS is outrageous,” Moulton said of Mowrer’s stance on assisting refugees. “But it’s just reflective of the fact that his opponent is not a veteran and he doesn’t understand the Middle East.”
The next president and Congress will deal with a host of new national security threats that have emerged during this campaign, Russia’s willingness to use digital warfare against America chief among them.
“Russia is pushing the limits in a lot of different areas, but specifically in the cyber domain,” Mowrer said. “I think part of the problem there is there’s not a clear history, there’s not clear lines that have been drawn, there’s not clear doctrine that has been set. So I think we need to set clear precedent as to any intrusion or attacks in the cyber domain will not be treated differently than an intrusion or attack into any other domain … It’s no different than physically stealing. It’s just happening digitally.”
Donald Trump’s potential involvement in the Russian hacking has unnerved many foreign policy experts. One moment during the campaign that Moulton points to as particularly disturbing was when Trump openly encouraged hackers to target the DNC.
“Imagine if Trump had gone out and said, ‘Russia, why don’t you pull a submarine up to the Potomac and fire a missile at the Democratic headquarters.’ What he said was no different than that. What he said to incite Putin to attack our country, it’s fundamentally treason,” Moulton said. “I think it’s frightening to have a colleague in Congress (Young) who supports someone who’s encouraging an enemy of the United States to attack us … You could kill a lot more people through the internet, taking down critical infrastructure than you could dropping a bomb on Washington D.C.”
Mowrer has seen a lot of America’s foreign policy threats and opportunities up close when he served in Iraq both as a soldier and later as an intelligence analyst, watching the Green Revolution happen in neighboring Iran.
“You have to have knowledge of the Middle East, you have to understand it. Right now we don’t have enough representatives who have first-hand experience,” Mowrer said. “Even understanding the religious aspects, the tribal aspects … These are very complex situations that don’t have easy answers and we need people who understand the complexities and adapt and overcome those.”
As Mowrer enters the final few days, he’s sticking to that contrast between him and Young: that Mowrer is a veteran who can work across the aisle, while Young misrepresented himself in 2014 and is actually a far-right extremist. Mowrer pointed to the recent Des Moines Register endorsement of his candidacy of signs that the message is getting through.
“In 2014 David Young didn’t have a voting record, but he told the voters, the press and others that he was a moderate,” Mowrer said. “He spent all that time in Washington and he knew how to govern and he would bring that pragmatic approach to Congress. And from day one, every piece of evidence that is available has shown that has been completely false. He misled the voters about how he was going to govern … He says one thing when he’s in Iowa, then when he goes home to Washington he does another.”
If Mowrer does prevail on Tuesday, he’ll be the youngest member of Congress from Iowa by far. For a state party that’s lacking in new leadership, that could be very helpful. Moulton, elected at age 36, has tried to get many young people to run to provide a different perspective in Congress.
“When I first ran for office I had no family connections to politics. The first congressman that my parents have met is me,” Moulton said. “No money, still paying my college loans as a member of Congress. But I put my hat in the ring and ran and look, our democracy still works and I beat an 18-year incumbent. One thing that electing Jim will show … that they can get involved, they can win and they can make a difference. I think a lot of young people are looking at this race and thinking if Jim can win they can too.”
Mowrer offered some advice for other young people thinking of making the jump to elected office: just try it.
“Whatever is there available to do, do it,” he suggested. “Just jump at the opportunity … Running for a local office, a board, getting involved in the party at the local level. Just taking personal responsibility for things. You’ve seen young candidates be successful because they’ve put their name out there and they’ve done the hard work … There is a desire for change and people are frustrated in the way things are now … If I’m not willing to step up and try, then it’s not going to change. And I’m depending on 434 people to try to do their best and try to improve our country and move it forward as well.”
by Pat Rynard