According to the conservative newsmagazine The Weekly Standard, Rep. Adam Kinzinger isn’t just a rising Republican superstar, he’s a rising Republican superhero. The magazine begins a flattering profile of Kinzinger with an anecdote about how he rescued a Milwaukee woman who was being stabbed by her boyfriend. Kinzinger, who developed his combat instincts as an Air Force pilot in Iraq, stopped the attack by wrestling the knife-wielding man to the ground.
“That was a point when I realized, if you make a decision to give your life for something, which I did, it changes you,” he says. Almost every day since, he adds, he’s thought about that night and the lessons about leadership he learned from that experience.
“In a combat situation or in a real crazy situation, half of people will run, no matter what,” Kinzinger says. “Four-fifths of the remaining fifty percent will act only when told what to do. And ten percent will actually take control of the situation and lead. That’s what our military teaches officers, is how to not run and then not just do what’s told, but how to actually lead in that chaotic situation.”
Kinzinger, who has military experience, likes to think he’s part of that 10 percent in Congress, leading on the issues that matter and taking a stand on principle, even when the situation looks like a political loser. It’s how he says he approached the issue of entitlement reform, specifically the Medicare reforms of the House Republican budget, for which he voted. Since taking office in 2011, Kinzinger has held 50 town hall meetings—events his predecessor, Democrat Debbie Halvorson, was infamously reluctant to hold—and several of those meetings were at senior centers and with AARP members.
Kinzinger says the urge to go toe-to-toe with his opponents, political or otherwise, is just who he is. “I don’t like really running away from a fight much,” he shrugs.
Kinzinger, who is 34, defeated Rep. Don Manzullo, a congressman exactly twice his age, after the two were drawn into the same district this year. The Weekly Standard portrays Kinzinger as part of a conservative youth movement in Washington, pointing out that the 10 youngest congressmen are all Republicans. It doesn’t mention the name of the youngest congressman, Rep. Aaron Schock of Peoria. Schock beat Kinzinger to Congress by two years, but as the two young men advance politically, they may face a showdown in a primary election for U.S. Senate or governor. So Kinzinger is out there promoting his biography. Who are flag-waving conservative Republicans going to choose: a metrosexual who models suits in GQ and flashes his abs on the cover of Men’s Health, or a tough combat veteran who fights off thugs with his bare hands?
Kinzinger even gets an endorsement from Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, who says, “His future is very bright. He’s all upside.”
Watch out, Aaron.
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