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Ex-GOP Congressman walks out when taunted over lack of military service

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Former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo attempted to argue against Democratic plans for health care reform on Friday by claiming veterans were dissatisfied with their government-run health care. He was confronted by blogger Markos Moutlitsas, who unlike Tancredo is a veteran himself, and reacted by stalking off the set of MSNBC’s The Ed Show where both men were guests.

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Tancredo had begun by pointing to what he sees as problems with the Medicare system when host David Schuster interrupted him to ask, “So how about the Veterans Administration? The Veterans Administration is a single-payer system. … That’s also a threat to our freedom?”

“Every veterans groups I ever went and talked to complained about the Veterans Administration and the way it was a bureaucratically-run program that didn’t serve their needs,” Tancredo told Schuster. “They would much rather have vouchers that would allow them to go out and buy their insurance in a private marketplace.”

Moulitsas, founder of The Daily Kos, began laughing as Tancredo was speaking. “Tom, I’m a veteran,” he told Tancredo. “I did not get a deferment because I was too depressed to fight in a war that I supported in Vietnam.”

This was a slightly garbled reference to Tancredo’s having obtained 1-Y status in 1970, after his student deferments ran out, on the grounds that he had been “diagnosed with depression when he was 16 or 17 and received medication for five years for panic attacks and bouts of anxiety and depression.” Tancredo was 24 at the time.

Moulitsas and Tancredo then began speaking over one another, but Tancredo finally managed to say, “You’re not going to try to insult me that way and then pretend like we’re just going on and talking about that. You either apologize or I’m off.”

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“I’m not pretending anything,” Moulitsas replied. “I told you straight up.” At that point, Tancredo ripped off his earpiece and microphone and left the set.

“This is a threat to Republicans,” Markos commented after Tancredo was gone. “They’ve built an entire ideology predicated on telling people that government does not work. They are terrified of government programs that work, because then people will realize that government’s not the enemy.”

Prior to his confrontation with Moutlitsas, Tancredo had agreed with House Minority Leader John Boehner’s claims that health care reform is a “very scary threat.” Tancredo, who left Congress last winter after a failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination, is best known for his opposition to immigration, but he has also been identified with conservative causes in general.

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Note: The original headline on this story implied that Tancredo had walked off because he was unwilling to defend his views on health care reform. This was clearly not the case and we apologize to our readers for any misunderstanding it may have caused.

This video is from MSNBC’s The Ed Show, November 6, 2009.

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