California's Jack Bauer Candidate

| Thu May 27, 2010 7:59 PM EDT

With California's Republican Senate primary less than three weeks away, the candidates are starting to make their closing arguments: former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina says she's the most electable; former Rep. Tom Campbell says, no, he's the most electable; and insurgent candidate Chuck DeVore wants voters to know that he, more than any other candidate, is the most qualified to impale a terrorist with a pair of scissors and find out where the bomb is. Hey, the Senate's a wild place!

Earlier this week, DeVore debuted a 24-style online ad, which runs through his national-security resume: Working in Afghanistan in the 1980s (Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a former mujahid, is a supporter), fact-finding missions to the Middle East, lengthy military service, and fancy-sounding quasi-covert operations he helped plan. Take a look:

That comes just one week after DeVore's campaign released decades-old audio of the candidate being shot at during a trip to  Lebanon, after the Los Angeles Times suggested he was being something less than truthful about the incident. The recent lurch into Tom Clancy territory shouldn't come as much of a surprise, though: DeVore enjoys military-strategy computer games, and in 1996 he co-wrote a novel, China Attacks, in which an imperialist Chinese bureaucrat sparks World War III. Yikes! I spoke with DeVore last month for a story I'm working on about the race, and somewhat unrelated to the story, I asked him about his book...which now seems strangely relevant.

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The short takeaway is that while the book is unknown stateside, it turned him into a cult hero (or villain) in the Far East; it's kind of like Spinal Tap. Here's how DeVore described his visit to Taiwan:

As I was leaving with the other delegation members, the staffer comes out with his hand shaking, and was like, "Mr. DeVore, Mr. DeVore, I wanted to tell you how much this means to me. Your book is mandatory reading for everyone on the national security council staff, and Mainland Affairs Council staff. And you're a hero to us"...I just felt like, jeez, thank you for the recognition, but [laughs] I kind of feel bad for you guys if I'm the best you've got.

There's more:

I found out later, what was interesting, I saw an article in the Taiwanese press that talked about an issue in their military strategy where they decided to co-locate at every major runway in the country a mechanized infantry battalion. And at that point, I knew that part of my objective in writing this book had been met, which was that the Taiwanese military establishment took seriously some of the weaknesses I'd highlighted in the book. And one of the weaknesses I highlighted was the fact that their airfields were undefended, civilian airfields, there was no military presence.

Chuck DeVore may not crack the 20 percent barrier on election day, but he saved a tiny East Asian country from invasion and got his book banned in China in the process, so he's got that going for him, I guess. Anyways, early voting has already begun in California; I'll be keeping you up to speed as the race hits the homestretch.

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