The Nazi Sympathizer Who Isn't

The response over the weekend was swift and fierce. When a photo surfaced of Republican Ohio congressional candidate Rich Iott wearing a German SS uniform, Democrats moved Christmas up two months. Within 24 hours, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee blasted out a handful of media alerts, pointing reporters to photos of Iott in full Nazi garb. Not long after, Republicans scrubbed Iott from the RNC's Young Guns website. Eric Cantor repudiated Iott on Face the Nation, and other GOP leaders slammed Iott for his historical exploits.

But while his opponents rushed to capitalize on the photo and his Republican compatriots frantically distanced themselves from him, the question of whether Iott actually is a Nazi sympathizer has been glossed over. And all the evidence presented by The Atlantic, which originally published the photo, as well as the information used by congressional leaders to hurl attacks at him, seems to suggest Iott is guilty of being little more than a giant history nerd. And that's neither a capital, nor even a rare, offense in American politics.

He has strongly repudiated any suggestion he agrees with the tenets of the Nazi Party, arguing that he's interested merely in the impressive military achievements of the German armed forces. To prove that he's an equal-opportunity war re-enactor, Iott also posted photos on his campaign website of him reenacting other wars, including World War I and the U.S. Civil War, for which he wore a Union Uniform. It's also worth noting that swastikas are prohibited by the re-enactment group of which Iott is a member.

Of course, those are just details, and in the media-saturated big-picture world of American politics, details may simply not matter very much.