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May 3, 2008
How Republicans "lost" the Military VoteBy Greyhawk
That headline isn't accurate yet. But it will be soon, and here's why.
"And they wonder why 73 plus percent of military members are registered as Republicans" - that's the headline at Blackfive on the story of the new DNC anti-McCain attack ad.
I'd be surprised if that figure is accurate (and regardless of how they register or vote in any given election I believe the majority of military members would declare themselves independent). But I have no doubt that a majority (though perhaps slight) of military members who voted in the 2004 elections voted four more years for George Bush. That's certainly conventional wisdom, as it was four years previously when attempts to dismiss absentee ballots in Florida were attributed to the Gore campaign's concern that the overwhelming Republican vote from military members would tip the disputed results there to his opponent. Both issues are history - and not the focus here. But right or wrong, that conventional wisdom will re-appear in new and different ways during election coverage this fall as variations on the form of the headline I've chosen for this post. And the fact that the Republican candidate is a respected veteran will be noted in the first paragraph of each story.
But first, back to the ad. (And first, read this entry for additional background.) Obviously, from the viewpoint of the Democratic National Committee it's perfect - and these sorts of things are heavily market-tested before they are used. It conveys their message to voters about John McCain - he's George Bush - and his military 'victims'. It's also an outright lie and deception from start to finish, and the juxtaposition of a half-quote with video of an explosion near two uniformed GIs (bonus: They're black!) presents exactly the opposite of what McCain actually said.
Which means it's marvelously effective propaganda. And while that deceptive use might infuriate some military members, this ad is not directed at military members - it's for consumption by civilians. But it will play well for other military folks - the vast majority of whom, like their civilian counterparts, have never been that close to a boom and imagine it happens every hour to everyone in Iraq.
But seven years after 9/11 many have been deployed - if not into combat. And even those who've never left Kuwait or Qatar still experience the real cause of the weariness that births the longing for conflict's end - separation from those back home. It's a more widespread burden than combat. We're winning in combat, and soldiers aren't afraid to fight. So even if American soldiers heard (and believed) McCain's assurance that his 50-100 years is without combat some might not be able to summon the energy to cheer out loud. Pay no attention to the fact that Senators Clinton and Obama would - if elected - simply relocate them from Iraq to Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar, or somewhere else nearby from which they could spring quickly from isolation into action...
That's war. At least an element thereof, and it's an element the political opposition gets to use against the current leadership. The willingness to do so (and to what degree to do so) is the stuff of 21st Century market research. With or without the DNC ad, American service members are well aware of the dangers of combat and the loneliness of separation. Some, upon seeing this ad, might say it's no wonder that most military members are Republicans. Others might feel the DNC "understands" them. And still others might simply be worn down one more notch by yet another of the relentless messages that a significant percentage of their fellow Americans want them out of Iraq, and they are therefore wasting their time. For the Democrats, it's a winner.
Meanwhile, back in America, a Georgia congressman is trying to ban the sale of "porn" on military installations.
Exchange officials noted that tax dollars are not used to procure magazines in the system’s largely self-funded operations.Actually, his new legal definition of porn would ban magazines like Maxim and Cosmopolitan and anything else that might feature women wearing "less than opaque" clothing. As he and his 16 Republican co-sponsors were swapping triumphant fanny-pats, a commenter here was saying:
It’s good to know that those 16 backers have taken care of all the other problems the military faces and are now taking care of this issue.Sure enough, within days
Ed Frawley is mad as hell — and thanks to a video he recently posted on YouTube, so are a lot of other people. What has the Menomonie man so hot under the collar are the “embarrassing and disgusting” — and downright unsafe — conditions he discovered in an aging barracks at Ft. Bragg, N.C.A new barracks was under construction but not ready, but it's too late for excuses. These conditions are certainly not the fault of Republicans in any way shape or form, but if I were planning the next round of campaign videos for the DNC, I'd quickly make one showing Congressman Broun
But if you think those are issues - you aint seen nothin' yet. The debate over the new GI bill - just getting underway in congress - is likely to become a major issue, one in which Republicans are eagerly (and pointlessly, and needlessly) setting themselves up for complete destruction.
I urge you to read this entry (and the links therein) for more details. In a nutshell, Senator Webb (D-Va) has introduced legislation to replace the anemic current GI Bill with a new version that rivals the original post-WWII bill in benefits for the troops. How good is it? So good that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has expressed his concern that the troops might actually use it:
Gates also restated long-standing Pentagon opposition to GI Bill educational benefits that are too generous, making it more likely for service members to leave the military to attend college. “Serious” retention issues are expected if benefits exceed the average monthly cost for a four-year public college, including tuition, room, board and fees, Gates said.There's a great degree of absurdity here, as Gates' comments can also stand as an acknowledgement that the current bill isn't strong enough to attract a significant number of military members to give up combat for a life in academia.
Clearly an overhaul is years overdue - but election years are better than others for some legislation. In fact, Webb's bill (S 22) was introduced over a year ago, and has been going nowhere ever since - until now. (But "better late than never" is an applicable cliche here.) Regardless of motivation, the bill has been dusted off and is now a topic for debate in the Senate. (Along with related legislation in the House.) In an age when the percentage of Americans serving their country is ridiculously low, this effort seems to be a no-brainer - one would expect congressional delegations from both sides of the aisle to get on board and make it happen. And in fact, the bill has strong bi-partisan support.
But suddenly, a Republican counter-bill appears. A "senior Pentagon official, speaking on condition of not being identified" declares it “...is retention friendly. It gives education benefits a big boost, but not more than average national costs. We can manage retention at those levels, but S 22 is a retention killer.”
And in all fairness, it too is an improvement over the current Montgomery GI Bill - but it falls short. But even if it was superior to Webb's offer, if you think that a Republican counter-bill has a chance to make it through a Democrat-controlled congress you're living in a fantasy world. Likewise in fairness, it should be noted that Democrats might attach Webb's bill to another that will be strongly opposed by their Republican counterparts and likely vetoed by the President - on other grounds. However, while that scenario would be a loss for Americans serving, as with the video that opened this post it will be a huge publicity boost for Democrats, who will be handed a golden opportunity to paint their opponents as anti-military throughout the upcoming campaign season – and (in this case) rightfully so.
The media set-up has already begun. Not content to stick with the simple facts (which in this case already heavily favor the Democrats) news stories are presenting the Republican bill as McCain's. While he is a co-sponsor, the bill is actually from Lindsey Graham. McCain may be convinced that the Webb bill's potential to damage military retention outweighs its benefits to individual servicemembers, and he's certainly not acting in complete disregard for the troops, but he's just as certainly going to leave himself wide open to accusations of just that. A long sit-down with Webb and other veteran members of congress might go a long way to dispelling that rumor - even if McCain remains committed to the hopeless Republican alternative bill. But McCain's public endorsement of Webb's bill (perhaps with conditions that it not be submitted with other legislation and instead pass on its own merits) could completely eliminate the threat.
It's certainly far too early to declare a winner in the 2008 Presidential elections. But it's worth noting that in the 2004 elections an incumbent wartime president narrowly defeated a challenger (who tried to portray himself - rightly or wrongly - as a war hero) in part because of the perception (correct or incorrect) that his opponent had betrayed the troops (see "Winter Soldier"). The 2008 election could see a similar result.
You can bet that we'll be watching developments in this story very closely here.
Next: Update: The New GI Bill
Posted by Greyhawk / May 3, 2008 4:09 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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