Utah County commissioners have blasted comments by Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, who told the Deseret News that vice presidential nominee Dan Quayle should consider withdrawing from the GOP ticket.
Nielson has since said his remarks were misinterpreted, but additional comments aired on television and radio in which Nielson referred to the National Guard as "second rate" also angered commissioners."I think it's inappropriate and uncalled for," said Commission Chairman Malcolm Beck on Wednesday. Beck said he served with Guardsmen who were sent to Korea.
"I knew Guardsmen who were good friends and who were killed after being activated during the Korean War," he said. "The Indiana National Guard was activated the same time I was drafted. I ended up on Heartbreak Ridge in 1952 and 1953 with a bunch of them. They got killed like everybody else, and their blood flowed red."
Quayle joined the Indiana National Guard in 1969, a move some have said he took to avoid combat in Vietnam. More than 20,000 National Guardsmen ended up serving in Vietnam.
"I think the whole thing has been blown completely out of proportion, and I think we should get back on the issues and off the petty stuff," Beck said. "I think he's (Nielson) got to answer some questions for me right now. I heard that (Nielson's comments) on the news last night and I'm fed up. I think we deserve better."
Commissioner Brent Morris, who served 14 months in Vietnam as an infantryman and door gunner in a military helicopter, said Quayle's Guard service doesn't bother him. He said Nielson's comments hurt both Quayle and the political process.
"My first concern is that everyone is blowing the National Guard issue out of proportion. I served in Vietnam and feel no resentment toward Sen. Quayle or any other citizen who joined the National Guard and didn't go to Vietnam," Morris said.
"To me, this is typical of what campaigns are turning into. They're turning into finger pointing, name calling and rattling skeletons in one's closet rather that addressing the issues and what the individual will do or our country during the next four years."
Commissioner Gary Anderson said Nielson's comments angered him.
"One thing you shouldn't do is attack people who put time and effort and their very lives on the line for our country, whether in the National Guard, the reserves or any military unit," he said. "I think it's inappropriate for anyone, let alone anyone in public service, to cast aspersions on the National Guard or on any other fighting unit."
Anderson said he was in college during the Vietnam War but that he respects all branches of military service. "I took the (Michael) Dukakis route. I was on student deferment," he said.
"I've flown with the Air National Guard, and those people are very professional and are a proud and able unit. I have incredible confidence in the Guard," he said.
"The furor over Quayle's Guard service is absolute crap. I think it's to his (Quayle's) credit he was in the National Guard. He should be proud of that."