Though war metaphors are common in the language of sports, it appears that Tommy Tuberville, the incoming Republican senator from Alabama, didn’t learn much about World War II in his time coaching Auburn football. On Thursday night in Montgomery, Tuberville told his supporters about the sterling military record of his father, an American G.I. who landed on Normandy Beach in D-Day and drove a tank across western Europe, earning five bronze stars and a Purple Heart at the Battle of the Bulge during his deployment.
Despite being of an age at which American men pick up military history as if by osmosis, Tuberville did not seem familiar with the politics of the European theater: In his speech, the new senator described how his father took part in “liberating Paris from socialism and communism.” While this may be an effort to compare his father’s combat experience to his own effort to halt “the doctrine of socialism” in America, the coach’s political framework is off. When First Sergeant Charles Tuberville landed in France in 1944, he was part of a campaign to liberate the Allied power from the Nazis. Though the full name of the party that Hitler rode into power was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, the Nazis were fascists. And for students of history aware of the robust French left prior to the war, Tuberville’s gaffe could accidentally suggest that his father was involved in a different march into Paris in the 1940s.
Tuberville — who has vowed to “donate every penny” of his Senate salary to Alabama veterans’ groups and once ran a charity for veterans’ causes that donated less than a third of its proceeds — has made other mistakes about pivotal 20th-century events in recent months. In October, his Democratic opponent in the race, Senator Doug Jones, hit him for not knowing what the Voting Rights Act is as a candidate in Alabama.