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Democrats Try To Pull An Immelmann Turn

I've been following presidential politics for the large majority of my life. I remember arguing in my classroom in favor of Jimmy Carter in 1976 (I wasn't even ten years old at the time -- what's YOUR excuse?), George Bush in 1980, Reagan in 1984, (resignedly) Bush again in 1988 and 1992, Dole in 1996, Bill Bradley in 2000, and Bush in 2004. And as I've grown older and more astute, certain patterns have emerged in the campaigns.

I think the first time the military records (or lack thereof) of the candidates really became significant in recent times was in 19888, when it was war hero George H. W. Bush vs. Michael Dukakis. Bush's record was largely irrelevant, though; his resume' (easily the most impressive of any president I can recall) overshadowed his wartime experiences. In the 40+ years since World War II, he had been an oilman, a Congressman, ambassador to China and the UN, director of the CIA, and finally vice-president. The only time I can recall it coming up was when Michael Dukakis took that infamous ride in that Abrams tank.

A brief word in Dukakis' defense: while he may have looked a little ridiculous, he was dressed entrirely appropriately for that event. Tanker gear is designed with a purpose, and Dukakis actually had a good physique for a tanker. As bigh as they are on the outside, tanks are incredibly cramped on the inside. The best tankers tend to be short and wiry men, and Dukakis -- either 5'6" or 5'8" -- was a good size to work a tank. It was the dichotomy of his policies and the aggressive power of the tank that made the incident so laughable, and his trademark big nose and bushy eyebrows and bright red necktie were the icing on the cake.

Things really heated up in 1992, when the first Viet Nam - era candidate made a credible play for the White House. Bill Clinton had not only never served, but had actively avoided service. "Draft dodger" was tossed around, and a smidgen unfairly -- he gamed the system and pulled strings and talked his way out of service. When he was called on it, the cry was that it was time to "get over" Viet Nam and that it was, by and large, irrelevant.

That argument helped carry the day, as the draft evader beat the established war hero.

Then, in 1996, Clinton faced someone whose record of valor was even stronger than Bush's. Bob Dole earned the Bronze Star with the combat "V" for valor and two Purple Hearts on the battlefield, and is crippled to this day from those injuries. Once again, though, military records were deemed less significant than other factors, and Bill Clinton was swept to re-election.

In 2000, both candidates had service records. Al Gore had been an Army journalist in Viet Nam, while George W. Bush had flown fighter jets in the Texas Air National Guard. Neither had really distinguished themselves, but that didn't keep folks from arguing that Bush had pulled strings or quasi-deserted and was not qualified for the presidency. It would have been interesting to see if that had come up had he been running against Clinton, but he wasn't -- and squeaked by to win the White House in a race that many (stupidly) think was stolen.

In 2004, though, the pendulum swung fully in the other direction. Bush's mediocre service record was brought up again, this time far more prominently, because the Democratic nominee had a bunch of medals. (Medals that he had thrown over the White House fence in protest. No, he didn't, he threw someone else's and kept his. Or something. I've forgotten what story is currently the official one.) John Kerry built much of his campaign around his service in Viet Nam, largely by default -- he didn't want to remind people of his Congressional testimony accusing American soldiers of widespread atrocities and war crimes or his meeting with Vietnamese leaders in Paris while the war was still going on, and his Congressional record was astonishingly skimpy. His backers went into the history books, dug up all the things said about Bill Clinton in his races, and adapted them to attack Bush. And it almost worked.

Now it's 2008, and the boot is quite snugly on the other foot. The Republican nominee presumptive has a military record that dwarfs any president or candidate since Eisenhower, a five-star general. (That's "General Of The Army," for the purists out there.) John McCain served in the United States Navy for 22 years, five and a half of them as a prisoner of war, before retiring as a Captain. He fought in the air over Viet Nam, led men into combat, and commanded a bomber squadron.

In contrast, neither of the leading Democratic candidates ever served in the military. (Although Hillary Clinton did, at one point, tried to enlist in the Marine Corps. Honest.)

So, what's the response to this? Gloria Steinem and Wesley Clark seem to be leading this charge: McCain's service is "irrelevant."

According to these two leading Hillary Clinton backers, her experience of eight years as first lady and five years on the Senate Armed Services Committee make her more of an expert than a man with 22 years of active duty service and 20 years on that same Committee she touts as her major credential.

And Barack Obama's major foreign policy achievement thus far seems to be in trying to convince the Canadian government that he doesn't really mean his heated rhetoric against NAFTA.

Personally, I think the whole matter is overrated. My support for John McCain is quite tepid, and based on a few elements: first, he's at least marginally better than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Second, if he's elected, he'll be out of the Senate, where he's caused me a great deal of aggravation with his "Gang Of Fourteen" shenanigans and loathsome McCain-Feingold law. Third, there's a hell of a good chance that he'll be out of national politics by 2012 at the latest.

But gosh darn it, right now his mere status as the Republicans' presumptive nominee is causing such grand contortions by the Democrats as they try to reverse all their pro-Kerry arguments now that the boot is on the other foot that I like him purely for the entertainment value.

(hat tip: Allahpundit at Hot Air)


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Comments (16)

Regarding the 1992 and 1996... (Below threshold)

Regarding the 1992 and 1996 elections, don't forget that both of them saw significant runs by an effective third-party candidate, Ross Perot, who drained enough votes from the Republican candidate to give Clinton the win.

As many of us pointed out d... (Below threshold)

As many of us pointed out during the 2004 election, liberals didn't really care about Kerry's service record, they only used it as a "we got one up on the other guys".

I personally pointed out that if military service of the candidate was a core value they held in a candidate then Clinton never would have been the Commander in Chief.

But in actuality liberals core values are about running with the herd and only mimic what the groupthink of the day is. Proof in the pudding is Obama's popularity based on personality rather than substance.

Another fake core value of the left is the "we support the troops" line. The left never did before but only say it now because of the potential political ramifications of not doing so. Expect that to dwindle over the next couple of years also as we see the Berkley lefties taking the lead in what will soon be wide spread distain for those serving in the military.

How do I know this you be ax'in. Just look at the lack of denouncing of the Berkley clowns from Democrats nationwide. Crickets chirping on the lefty blogs on the topic too.

Support of Presidential candidates with military credentials and support of the military from the left is merely smoke and mirrors as this election will make that abundantly clear once again.

That being said I think this is a perfect time to point out Obama and Clinton are chicken hawks that never served. (Oh that felt good) I will enjoy pointing that out repeatedly over the course of the campaign season.

That being said I ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
That being said I think this is a perfect time to point out Obama and Clinton are chicken hawks that never served. (Oh that felt good) I will enjoy pointing that out repeatedly over the course of the campaign season.

And if Obama or Clinton is elected I will be pointing out they are chicken hawks whenever the new President puts troops in harms way. I will also be using the lefty definition of "lie" and whenever the new President makes a mistake I will be calling it a lie. Both Clinton and Obama are anti-gun liberals, but any attempt to further limit 2nd amendment rights will now be termed an attack on civil liberties. You get the idea; criticism of a liberal president will use the standard liberals adopted to criticize Bush.

As a side note to McCain an... (Below threshold)

As a side note to McCain and the MF law. George Soros is about to steamroll McCain with the very laws they both helped create. I'd be laughing but I'm just too depressed about the whole election thing this time out.

Captain McCain commanded an... (Below threshold)

Captain McCain commanded an Attack Squadron, I believe it was Attack Squadron 174,NAS Cecil Field, Florida. 174 was the Atlantic Fleet A-7 Fleet Replacement Squadron. We in Naval Air called them RAGs(Replacement Air Group)
174 was stood down with the advent of the F/A-18 Hornet.

The left doesn't now, and n... (Below threshold)

The left doesn't now, and never did support the military, that's been made abundantly clear over time. McCain gripes me on several issues, but NOT his support for our military. That said, I'll reluctantly vote for him, because i feel there'll be a country left at the end of his term, unlike the other choice.

Demacrats can be so unethic... (Below threshold)
Spurwing Plover:

Demacrats can be so unethical at times its a wonder they havent called up investigations against some of them

"The Republican nominee pre... (Below threshold)

"The Republican nominee presumptive has a military record that dwarfs any president or candidate since Eisenhower, a five-star general."

I'd say Wesley Clark has a far superior record than any candidate since Ike. Kennedy was no slouch either.

" General Wesley Kanne Clark, (born December 23, 1944) is a retired four-star general of the United States Army. Clark was valedictorian of his class at West Point, was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to the University of Oxford where he obtained a degree in PPE (Philosophy, Politics & Economics), and later graduated from the Command and General Staff College with a master's degree in military science. He spent 34 years in the Army and the Department of Defense, receiving many military decorations, several honorary knighthoods, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Clark was assigned a position in the 1st Infantry Division and flew to Vietnam on May 21, 1969 during the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. He worked as a staff officer, collecting data and helping in operations planning, and was awarded the Bronze Star for his work with the staff. Clark was then given command of A Company, 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry of the 1st Infantry Division in January 1970. In February, only one month into his command, he was shot four times by a Viet Cong soldier with an AK-47. The wounded Clark shouted orders to his men, who counterattacked and defeated the Viet Cong force. Clark had injuries to his right shoulder, right hand, right hip, and right leg, and was sent to Valley Forge Army Hospital in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania to recuperate. He was awarded the Silver Star for his actions during the encounter.[19]

In 1975, Clark was appointed a White House Fellow in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as a special assistant to its director, James Thomas Lynn. He was one of only 14 appointed out of 2,307 applicants.[24] Lynn also gave Clark a six-week assignment to assist John Marsh, then a counselor to the President. Clark was approached during his fellowship to help push for a memorial to the Vietnam War. He worked with the movement that ultimately helped lead to the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Clark took two commands with the 1st Armored Division based in Germany from August 1976 to February 1978, first over the 3rd Battalion 35th Armor and then the entire 3rd Brigade.[21] Clark's brigade commander while in the former position said Clark was "singularly outstanding, notably superb." Regarding his term as brigade commander, one of his battalion commanders called Clark the "most brilliant and gifted officer [he'd] ever known."[25] He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for his work with the division."

This just sounds like typic... (Below threshold)

This just sounds like typical Democrat politics to me:

Bush "stole" Florida but Christine Gregoire won the governorship of Washington State fair and square.

Jack Abramoff was the most evil man on the planet but Norman Hsu was just a poor sap who made a few bad decisions, none of which merited any press coverage.

Mark Foley was even more evil than Jack Abramoff, but Jerry Studds was a hero and a martyr for gay rights.

Deficit spending is the greatest evil of government -- but when Democrats control the White House or the Congress, it's no big deal.

Women like Anita Hill never lie about sexual harassment, but Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Gennifer Flowers, Elizabeth Ward Grayson, and Monica Lewinsky were all liars and whores.

Racism is wrong and only Republicans do it, but it's okay for Bill Clinton to use an updated "southern strategy" to paint Obama as the "black candidate."

Replacing the winner of a primary election with another candidate is a dirty trick, except when doing so guarantees that you win an election.

Et cetera.

While I find less and less to like about the Republican party, the pliable morality of the Democratic party makes it impossible for me to vote Democrat.

Mike - You missed Social Se... (Below threshold)

Mike - You missed Social Security. The system was broken and needed change under Clinton, but considered whole by the Democrats and not to be touched by Bush!

On Westley Clark, he was no... (Below threshold)

On Westley Clark, he was not qualified enough for democrats when he ran. Why of why? Because he is military and the left loathes the military. ww

The Thunder Run has linked ... (Below threshold)

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 03/04/2008 A short recon of what's out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Mike - you really nailed it... (Below threshold)

Mike - you really nailed it! Oh Brian, BarneyMoron, Herman care to refute?

jp2 - "I'd say Wesley C... (Below threshold)

jp2 - "I'd say Wesley Clark has a far superior record than any candidate since Ike. Kennedy was no slouch either.

Someone remind me who was fired by the then Commander-in Chief?

Thanks Gen. Shelton: "I've known Wes for a long time," Shelton said. "I will tell you the reason he came out of Europe early had to do with integrity and character issues, things that are very near and dear to my heart. . . ."

Mike - you really nailed... (Below threshold)

Mike - you really nailed it! Oh Brian, BarneyMoron, Herman care to refute?

Nope. When he said "I find less and less to like about the Republican party", I found myself nodding my head in complete agreement.

Seriously, if he said anything that actually represented anything most Democrats believe, then I might spend the time. But there's no point in responding to hysterical and false superlatives. Besides, he doesn't want a response. He just wants people like you to go "YEAH!"

Brian - "He just wants ... (Below threshold)

Brian - "He just wants people like you to go "YEAH!"

And people like you pointing at people going YEAH!






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