Republican leaders are rushing to distance themselves from Rich Iott, one of their party's congressional candidates in Ohio, after The Atlantic uncovered photos of him wearing a Nazi uniform. Iott, a Tea Party favorite, said he abhors Nazi beliefs, but that he had participated in World War II reenactments out of a "purely historical" interest in the war. Democrats called Iott an example of GOP extremism. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor said he would "absolutely repudiate" anyone who would wear Nazi garb for fun, and the GOP promptly scrubbed Iott from a list of promising potential members of Congress, called "The Contenders." Is Iott just a misunderstood history buff, or does he deserve all this scorn? (Watch Rich Iott's defense)
The GOP is right to rebuke Iott — but it is too late: Republicans should be embarrassed they recruited this guy, says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. No matter how Iott tries to sugarcoat it, his "little troupe" or reenactors was glorifying soldiers who "rounded up Jews to be slaughtered." Even if the GOP says all the right things now that the truth is out, Iott makes it easier for Democrats to argue that Republicans are "running fringe, extremist candidates."
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This is about history, not ideology: Iott's crime was exploring a new hobby to "bond with his son," says blogger Stacy at Right Pundits. It is understandable that his rival, Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo would try to make political hay by calling the image of a Nazi uniform disgusting. But the fact is that war reenactments are a popular pastime, and "you can’t have an accurate reenactment with everybody dressed up as the good guys."
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Iott isn't evil, just insensitive: It is unfair to use Iott's love of playing "Nazi dress-up" to brand him as a sympathizer, says Tommy Christopher at Mediaite. But he and his buddies in the reenactment group do express a "misguided admiration" for their subjects. That is where these guys were "insensitive," even "stupid" — if you are going to pretend you are Nazis, "you have to face the fact that you are the villains." Iott has tried to avoid doing that.
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