GOP HOUSE CANDIDATE PRETENDS TO BE A NAZI…. I don’t generally begrudge politicians’ leisure habits. We all have hobbies and various recreational activities we enjoy, and who’s to say which leisure pursuit is better than the other?

That said, when a congressional candidate chooses to spend his weekends pretending to be a Nazi, just for the fun of it, there may be a problem. Josh Green had this rather remarkable scoop.

An election year already notable for its menagerie of extreme and unusual candidates can add another one: Rich Iott, the Republican nominee for Congress from Ohio’s 9th District, and a Tea Party favorite, who for years donned a German Waffen SS uniform and participated in Nazi re-enactments.

Iott, whose district lies in Northwest Ohio, was involved with a group that calls itself Wiking, whose members are devoted to re-enacting the exploits of an actual Nazi division, the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking, which fought mainly on the Eastern Front during World War II. Iott’s participation in the Wiking group is not mentioned on his campaign’s website, and his name and photographs were removed from the Wiking website.

When contacted by The Atlantic, Iott confirmed his involvement with the group over a number of years, but said his interest in Nazi Germany was historical and he does not subscribe to the tenets of Nazism.

Now, I’ve heard about Civil War re-enactments, and I’m certainly not inclined to criticize those who “fight” for the South in these make-believe scenarios to be slavery-loving traitors. But Iott dressing up like a Nazi isn’t quite comparable.

Indeed, reading Green’s piece, it seems Iott and his fellow Nazi re-enactors had a certain admiration for Hitler’s Germany, and its fight against “Bolshevist Communism.”

In fairness, it’s worth emphasizing that the re-enactors’ website includes a disclaimer noting that they “do not embrace the philosophies and actions” of the Nazis, and “wholeheartedly condemn the atrocities which made them infamous.”

On the other hand, Iott’s little troupe also said it exists in part to “salute” the “idealists” and “front-line soldiers of the Waffen-SS” and their “basic desire to be free.” It also characterizes Wiking volunteers as “valiant men,” overlooking the minor detail that they also rounded up Jews to be slaughtered.

Green spoke to one historian who noted, “These guys don’t know their history. They have a sanitized, romanticized view of what occurred.” Another scholar said, Iott and his buddies have an understanding of World War II that is “so unhistorical and so apologetic that you don’t know to what degree they’ve simply caught up innocent war memorabilia enthusiasts who love putting on uniforms.”

Iott is not, by the way, just some weirdo who managed to somehow win a GOP primary — he’s a member of the NRCC’s “Young Guns” Program and a party favorite against incumbent Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D).

I know Republicans are likely to have a very good year, and will likely even take back at least one chamber of Congress. But I continue to marvel at the caliber of GOP candidates who’ll be on the ballot this fall. Win or lose, many of these major-party nominees are a national embarrassment.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.