This campaign's version of Joe the Plumber appears to be an Army corporal and Ron Paul supporter named Jesse Thorsen, who has already found controversy: He's under investigation by the Army for violating protocol by campaigning in uniform. Thorsen showed up in a CNN interview on Tuesday night and later at a Ron Paul rally, when Paul himself introduced the 28-year-old soldier as someone who'd been around the campaign "for quite a few years." Thorsen's a well-spoken proponent of Paul's inward-looking foreign policy. Unfortunately, doing that speaking in public while in uniform has gotten him in hot water with the Army, which bans soldiers from politicking as representatives of the force.
Getting in trouble with the government for expressing your political beliefs is exactly the kind of thing Paul's supporters love, so we expect to see more of this guy. But who is he?
Thorsen has a pretty slim online presence outside of a perfunctory Facebook fan page, but here are a few facts we've picked up: He's six feet tall, a Scorpio, has a tattoo of the twin towers on his neck, works as a bricklayer when he's not in the Army, and he has been arrested in Tampa, Fla., for burglary. That information comes from Mugshots.com and Florida.arrests.org, which published Thorsen's record. GQ's Rob Fischer actually broke the story of Thorsen's burglary charge earlier on Wednesday and got a quote from Thorsen's lawyer, who said it was not serious. "Generally if someone's not going to prison for burglary of a dwelling there's real extenuating circumstances, like it's probably just a trespass or whatever."
Thorsen introduced himself to CNN's Dana Bash as a 10-year Army veteran, but that wasn't exactly accurate. He's been in and out of the Army for 10 years, but has only served six of those. He reenlisted in 2007 when a judge offered to end his probation early if he did so, Fischer reported.
Paul fans were impressed by Thorsen's comments to Bash on Tuesday, and then howled with disdain for the network as an apparent technical glitch cut the interview short. But the brief interview was enough to let Thorson show off his Sept. 11 neck tattoo, and to get Paul supporters firmly on his side. Those same supporters accused CNN of cutting Thorsen off because of his politics. Paul then had Thorsen speak at his own rally, and that's what seems to have rankled the Army brass, The Washington Post reports. The Defense Department orders its members to "avoid inferences that their political activities imply or appear to imply official sponsorship, approval, or endorsement." This Youtube video shows both of Thorsen's appearances:
On a Ron Paul Forums message board on Wednesday, commenters were already taking the Pentagon firmly to task for its policy against political speech while in uniform. "SUPPORT THE TROOPS! But don't let them talk about something that matters," wrote one. "Something tells me Jesse is going to get a lot of flack for speaking there. The military tells everyone in their ranks, not to talk to the media. They told us that back in the 60s," wrote another.
At Time, Rajiv Sirinivasan explored what made Thorsen's speech so attractive -- after all, he didn't say much outside of calling Ron Paul a "rock star." But the very symbol of a soldier breaking regulations in order to support the candidate is pretty powerful, and one thing Thorsen does have is poise. "I didn’t see naïveté or an ignorance of military law. I saw a grown man. I saw confidence. He was brash and cavalier. I saw a man who knew exactly what he was doing with little concern for what consequences might come."