Presidents And Military Service

WSJ.com – Kerry’s Own Words
Thanks to Chrees for reminding me to post about this.

As I expected, Bob Dole has jumped right into the question of President Bush’s military service — and the service of Presidents in general (no military pun intended) — and he comes down against using that as a singular measure of a person’s ability to be President.

I know Kerry has an entourage of veterans at all of his events, but you can expect the same when President Bush starts campaigning and they’ll be no less sincere. Bob Dole is exhibit one. We could end this now by getting a ruler, but after the Janet Jackson boob incident I think the country has been sufficiently traumatized.

Ultimately military service is one value among many and the deciding factor will be issues. As Bob Dole pointed out, if military service were a deciding factor he would have wiped out Bill Clinton in 1996. In addition, our greatest wartime Presidents have had little or no military experience — I think Lincoln did a little time in the Illinois militia. Also, one of our worst Presidents, U.S. Grant, was an excellent general. Lousy President. Lousy.

As for the charges lies that Bush was a deserter or was AWOL, it’s bullshit. Bill Hobbs is all over it.

Sen. Kerry did make a judgment, in 1992, when Bill Clinton — who did not serve — was running against Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Vietnam veteran. After Bob Kerrey criticized Gov. Clinton, John Kerry said, “We do not need to divide America over who served and how.” He should stick to his previous position by acknowledging the honorable service of President Bush and the hundreds of thousands of other National Guard members defending America every day. The president piloted an F-102 in the National Guard and received an honorable discharge when his requirements were met.

Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe also said last Sunday that service in the National Guard wasn’t service “in the military.”

These attacks are offensive. Service in the National Guard is one of the finest things any citizen can do, and there are tens of thousands of guardsmen and women serving our country today all over the world. Thousands are serving in Iraq, and some of those have made the supreme sacrifice in the service of their country.

It should be incumbent upon presidential candidates to disavow accusations that have no proof or substance behind them. Gen. Wesley Clark learned the price of irresponsibility the hard way as thousands of voters deserted him in the weeks since he intimated President Bush might have been a deserter. Enough.

Sen. Kerry is a war hero, but if campaigns were about war records, I would have won easily in 1996. Campaigns are about issues, and the candidates of both parties owe the American people a compelling vision for the future of America.

I like Kerry. His war record is one of the reasons I can stomach him, but he won’t coast into the White House on that alone. He’ll need to explain why the war on terror is more of a legal and intelligence gathering exercise than a military affair. He’ll have to explain how you deal with asymmetrical threats using defensive, rather than offensive, measures. He might even win if he explains it well enough.

I’ve said a couple of times that I think this will be one of the most important elections since WW2 the start of the Cold War. We’ll be deciding, in essence, whether terrorism is to be dealt with defensively or offensively and the stakes are great. I hope we make the right choice. If Kerry wins I hope he is willing to use the military when, or if, it becomes apparent that defensive measures are failing.

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