About a year ago, we described Minnesota GOP chair Tony Sutton as a tough-as-nails operative, unafraid to butt heads in his drive to help Republicans win elected office.
So it didn't surprise us that he slammed fellow Republicans who yesterday endorsed independent gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner as traitors who were going to hell.
But the actual term he used to describe them -- "quislings" -- was a surprise. That's because it's a word that denotes a Nazi sympathizer.[jump]
We figured that kind of invective was reserved for anti-Barack Obama teabaggers.
Here's what Sutton said:
"There's a special place in hell for these quislings."
Here's the Random House dictionary definition of quisling:
Quisling-noun: a person who betrays his or her own country by aiding an invading enemy, often serving later in a puppet government; fifth columnist. Origin: 1940; after Vidkun Quisling (1887-1945), pro-Nazi Norwegian leader.
We weren't the only ones to notice.
Two of the Republicans chided by Sutton are war vets: former state Sens. George Pillsbury fought in World War II and Bill Belanger fought in Korea. They didn't take kindly to the character assassination either:
"Those of us who support Horner and his centrist view of governance have nothing in common with Norwegian politician Vidkun Quisling, a Nazi sympathizer who collaborated with the Germans to enslave millions of his countrymen during the Second World War."
The AP caught the Sutton slip, along with Sutton's mea culpa: He figured the term meant Benedict Arnold-like traitors.
We'll take his word for it. But Horner is going to the bank with the gaffe. His campaign issued this statement in a fundraising letter today:
"Enough! When a charge like this is made, challenging these good public servants' love of country and dedication to our state, how can the Republican party ever be part of a conversation to solve our problems and move Minnesota forward?"