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Gomez vs. Markey: Debate policy, not patriotism

Edward J. Markey’s aggressiveness in fighting terrorism has made Massachusetts safer — particularly his diehard efforts to safeguard transportation, including the LNG deliveries that still come through Boston Harbor. He has, at many junctures, gone beyond merely voting for protective measures to crafting his own bills, including a landmark measure to screen air cargo. Still, his votes against the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and reauthorization of the Patriot Act are legitimate subjects of debate on the campaign trail.

By contrast, the commemorative resolution for the victims of 9/11 that congressional Republicans put forward in 2006 was a bit of a ruse. Under the guise of honoring the victims, the proclamation heaped praise on the Patriot Act and immigration restrictions. An earlier version defended the war in Iraq. Because the resolution had no actual effect, most Democrats simply gritted their teeth and voted yes, realizing that their no votes might some day be portrayed on the campaign trail as callousness toward the victims. Markey was one of 22 members who refused to go with the flow; later, he voted for resolutions in support of the 9/11 victims that were devoid of the controversial language.

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For Markey, “some day” arrived this week. His Senate rival Gabriel Gomez cited Markey’s no vote on the resolution as proof that the longtime US representative from Malden is “out of the mainstream” on terrorism and national security. This type of chatter shouldn’t get any traction in a state that has suffered real terrorism just last month.

The fight against terrorism has become more complicated over time. The Massachusetts Senate campaign should focus on the hard choices being presented now, such as President Obama’s drone strategy, rather than meaningless resolutions from seven years ago. Gomez, a former Navy SEAL, ought to know that there are many ways to show patriotism — including voting against partisan resolutions disguised as commemorations.

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