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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:
But Broun’s spokesman John Kennedy contended that taxpayer dollars are involved — “used to pay military salaries, so taxpayer money is, in effect, being used to buy these materials,” he said.
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
Nothing builds up my morale like some know-nothing busybody congressman checking up on conditions at military bases and being able to see the lack of adequate and affordable housing, reduction in base services like affordable childcare, or the various pawn shops, strip bars, and “E-Z credit know money down payday loan” places lining both sides of the entry to a military post, and can see it’s nudie mags in the PX that is the big threat facing “our boys and girls” in uniform.
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
On April 13, Frawley’s son, Sgt. Jeff Frawley, 22, returned stateside from a 15-month deployment in the mountains of Afghanistan. Along with the parents of other soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division’s Charlie Company, his father was on hand to greet him.
Following a brief initial greeting session when the troops landed at Pope Air Force base, the families were invited to meet with their soldiers back at the barracks at Ft. Bragg.
“All of the families got to the barracks about 10:30 that night on April 13,” Frawley said. “They put them in the day room. ... It was nasty. I felt so bad for these parents. You could see all of them looking around.”
It was at that point that Frawley toured the rest of the building, taking photos along the way. What he found was peeling lead paint, open drains leaking sewer gas, missing and molding ceiling tiles and rusting bathroom fixtures.
“The more I looked the madder I got,” he said...
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
I think I speak for a lot of vets that I'm not too keen on the leadership this administration has provided in the last 8 years, but I'm not running with open arms to the Democrats either. Since military personnel are a small portion of the population, and government is for sale to special interest groups or whatever can turn out a large bunch of voters (free health care anyone?), it follows that military folks/vets will see their benefits slip away in favor of social programs that can tip the scales to either the Repubs or Dems. This is what happens when you have a small portion of the population involved in the actual war when the country is supposedly at war. The Dems like to use things like Fort Bragg and Walter Reed as a political tool, but I don't see it getting any better in the future.Posted by LT Nixon at May 3, 2008 09:04 PM
I think the perception of where the military vote is going might be more important than the (admitttedly small) military vote itself - at least in an election year with a nation at war. Serving GIs aren't going to endorse candidates, obviously, (but add veterans to the equation, and you've got a large - and vocal - voting block) so that perception will be mostly (outside of miltary communities) a product of media coverage.
In '04 they couldn't make Kerry into a bonafide war hero - in '08 they won't attempt to with McCain. (And McCain, actually being a bonafide war hero, won't do so either.)Posted by Greyhawk at May 3, 2008 10:41 PM
I'm not in the military however I have tried as much as possible to do what I can to support the troops and their mission.
After hearing Democrat politicians bash, thrash and accuse our men and women serving in the military with every insulting 'gulag' or 'they're poor, stupid people who are forced to serve' remark possible I will NEVER vote for a Democrat again.
I really do not like McCain's politics nor his maverick associations with the very media which is sabotaging our military efforts every chance they get. The only reason I am willing to pull the lever for McCain is because I love our troops and support the mission.
If it were not for our troops I would have no problem with a Clinton or Obama returning us to the High Index Misery days of Jimmy Carter since many Americans have forgotten what a really bad economy is like; sometimes the best lessons learned are from hard core experiences.
I live in the city attacked twice over an 8 1/2 year period and am now realistic about the war we are in however I also realise that many Americans have gone back to sleeping their Happy dreams; it is only a matter of time before the nightmare comes again.
I am surprised and frankly dispirited that those serving in the military would be even consider a Clinton or Obama or any Democrat running for office (Murtha comes to mind) since Democrats will decimate military funding in order to pay for their big 'entitlement' ambitions; Murtha has an entire PA city to fund with federal monies!
Read Andy McCarthy's "Willful Blindness" it is Democrats who want to fight this war through law enforcement which only ends up protecting the very enemy determined to destroy us.
All Sen Webb is doing is buying the military vote with illusions that they care about our men and women serving; if Democrats really cared they would not have spent the last six years sabotaging, demeaning,and demoralising our men and women serving in the military.
The Democrat Party cannot and will never again be on the side of the military; their base of supporters will not allow for such recognition.
Don't be fooled by the goodies Democrats are offering in order to get your vote; beware, the Democrat's candy is full of hide razors.
I don't have children and can survive a High Misery Index however I am not in this for myself, I am in this for my country and its' future.
For all the stupid things Republicans do they are not as evil as what Democrats are ie. wolves in sheep's clothing.Posted by syn at May 4, 2008 10:46 AM
I forget the exact quote that's commonly used to say this. Basically, how veterans are treated and rewarded for their selfless service has a direct bearing on how the American public (including potential young recruits) regards the military - more specifically, the actual prospect of joining the military. Moreover, the better that veterans are equipped to compete with their generational peers who haven't served, the more attractive military service will look in the long-term life planning of people considering military service. After all, a veteran may honorably serve 2 years, 4 years (as I did), 10 years or even 20 years, but he or she will be a veteran for the rest of his or her life and reside in the public for the rest of that life as a tangible product of the decision to serve. If the issue is cost/benefit analysis, how about the smart, experienced E4 or E5 who is considering re-enlistment, but doesn't plan to make a career of the military, and worries about his not-yet-started post-military career? What can convince him that a later start to that civilian career is affordable after all?
On the flip side, all the Army Strong ads in the world can't counter the 1st hand evidence of a recent veteran entering the competitive civilian marketplace who, while proud of his service, has received a 'raw deal' from the military and little to take away from his time in uniform beyond lost prime working years.
Finally, I'm a graduate of Columbia University and a founder of the US Military Veterans of Columbia University (or MilVets; see http://www.alumni.gs.columbia.edu/owlnet/Owl_Spring08_web.pdf to learn more about the group). After WW2, veterans flooded Columbia with the GI Bill. Today, Columbia still boasts the largest number of veterans in the Ivy League but it's nothing like what it was 60 years ago. Unfortunately, the current GI bill amounts to no more than petty cash; it hardly dents the Columbia tuition, which discourages most otherwise-qualified veterans from even applying. The question then is, in a competitive civilian world where an Honorable Discharge only goes so far, do we want our recent veterans reasonably financially equipped to consider degree programs like Columbia?
MilVets' current President is Luke Stalcup and an advocate for the updated GI Bill. Luke is a former Army SSG, EOD team leader, and OIF veteran. I recommend you look him up (try his Columbia e-mail or email@example.com); gather the input of a student-veteran leader who's in the thick of this debate.
You're right, it's the perception. That's where McCain went wrong. The opposition was able to use the perception that he opposes GI benefits against him since he wasn't clear and forceful about what his position was.
Graham's sliding scale, i.e., correlating benefits to time in service, is fair to all -- the taxpayer, the soldier, and the country's defensive needs.
There's no reason why Webb, McCain, Graham and Gates can't compromise on such a bill. Presumably Webb (and Rieckhoff) are not opposed to the idea of retention, so I think we the people can rightly demand it of them.
The Webb version supported by Rieckhoff is more in line with Obama's plan for an overall drawdown in defense programs by subordinating legitimate security interests to the doling out of maximum benefits. Obama has outlined his plan for the drawdown of defense programs in a TV spot already. Google: Youtube In 52 Secs Why Obama Cannot Win a General Election.Posted by jordan at May 4, 2008 06:21 PM
Is there an effort to make sure that there's no hitch with absentee ballots this time? Hope someone's watching that, too. Despite the decrease in military identifying themselves as Republican, from what you're saying the majority tendency is still there.
McCain just has to make clear where he stands, and point out that the opposition is distorting his position.Posted by jordan at May 4, 2008 06:26 PM
Finally, (sorry, last one) there's no reason why recruitment, readiness and moral obligations can't be met within the confines of retention needs. It doesn't have to be either/or, as Rieckhoff suggests.Posted by jordan at May 4, 2008 06:30 PM
I'm not really sure why anyone joins the military. It seems pretty clear that our military is never going to have the support of the majority of the country for anything it does, at least not for very long. Why put yourselves in harm's way for a country where the majority of the citizens don't support your missions, unless they're out of sight and out of mind (Korea now, for example), and ultimately don't really care to support you, whatever platitudes they mouth for public consumption? Our military represents a bygone code of integrity and honor, a way of thinking and behaving that isn't shared by hardly anyone and ultimately isn't even respected by the majority of Americans.
This is wrong, it shouldn't be this way but it is. We have something like a 1.2 million Americans (and immigrants) carrying the load for 300 Million mostly ungrateful and uncaring fellow citizens. So maybe the Democrats will get the military vote, why not? It's what our military's been told for the last 7 years, you're playing a loser's game, your sacrifices aren't worth it. The military might as well join (most) everybody else.Posted by Sadie at May 4, 2008 06:41 PM
Supporting a party that doesn't understand you...
or one which hates your guts, and takes contributions and makes photo-ops with people who want to see you dead.
I just can't see a lot of even one-termers signing up with the party that collects endorsements from CodePink.
That having been said: Yers, Gates is a puswad.Posted by DaveP. at May 4, 2008 09:41 PM
This article and comments are surprising. I had no idea that many in the Military had taken to "Bush bashing" also. We are turning into a truly divided Nation. This is SAD. God help us.
I want a Conservative as a President, that's why I supported Duncan Hunter. The only reason I am supporting McCain is to support the Troops. I guess I was wrong about who the Troops actually want as a President.
These are really eye opening times that we live in... sigh.Posted by ?intexas at May 5, 2008 02:40 AM
I missed the military Bush-bashing. Where was that?Posted by Greyhawk at May 5, 2008 03:53 AM
"We have something like a 1.2 million Americans (and immigrants) carrying the load for 300 Million mostly ungrateful and uncaring fellow citizens. So maybe the Democrats will get the military vote, why not? It's what our military's been told for the last 7 years, you're playing a loser's game, your sacrifices aren't worth it. The military might as well join (most) everybody else."
I would say it's been since the late 1960's (not the last 7 years) when useful idiots occupied Academia's Ivory Tower then indocrinated young Americans to hate not just the military but America in general.
Yes, there is a segment of the America population who are ungrateful however, I do belieive that there are more who are very grateful unfortunately this is not experienced in our national conscience; our media is not only sabotaging our military's moral, they are sabotaging citizen's moral.
I also beleive that the middle-of-the-road mentality in America (that moderate, so-called independent position) is something to be addressed; it isn't noble neither exhibits character when one stays in the middle awaiting to see which side is 'more popular'. I do feel that the middle position is a big problem in America because they muddle the message, are unable to decide where they stand and know no loyality yet are treated with great importance.
The middle-of-the-roader, moderate, independent really needs to decide which side they are on; they need to make a stand, decide whether they want America to achieve victory or whether they want America to lose in defeat.
THe Democrats want defeat, Republicans want victory; where does the middle-of-the-road stand. Make up your minds Moderates because we're running out of time!
That said; I will point out that between the Ivory Tower and the Military, the Military produces better people than does the Ivory Tower; the problem is professions require degrees to get jobs so Americans are forced to suffer inside the horrid confines of an idiotic educational system.
intexas, I hope my comments weren't taken in that light. I don't see an increase in military bashing or turning to the Dem Party in our neck of the military woods. The headline is a little startling, but GH goes on to explain that it might be war-weariness more than anger at Bush.
I would ask though, is it true? Is the Republican dedication to completing this mission not shared by the military anymore?
intexas, you may be misreading a few phenomena I've noticed. There's always been a healthy internal self-critical strain in the military, always alot more debates and disagreements than people think. You already know it's not the monolith people think.
But recently, there's been a trend by military leaders to be excessively critical of their own military, and even gratuitously abusive to their Commander-in-Chief and senior leadership. They're publishing Op-eds in major newspapers, and writing books that are enormously critical of the administration, it's strategy, and how the war was led.
Not that it's all undeserved, but this is all in public now, which suggests that perhaps the military is fracturing in terms of opinion, belief, and what they're willing to fight for. This is all poked apart by reporters, pundits, think tankers and candidates, as well as unsavory other groups for evidence of some deep pathology in the force.
That's disturbing. This is oversimplifying, but the dirty laundry should be aired in private, while the world sees a united fighting force that's hooah-driven.
It confuses people when they see soldiers publishing articles that excoriate their leaders and their President's strategy. What does this mean, should we not be there? I just wonder how far all this critical self-examination should go.
Lessons-learned examinations are fine, but we could be going too far. It's leading the citizenry to believe that it's most critical pillar of democracy, a loyal military, is perhaps fragmenting politically. It's a little scary.
And that's why during elections people are constantly asking, "Well, what are the military folks saying? What do they think?" as a guide for their own views, and to test the strength and soundness of the current course.
It's still our most trusted instituion. The military's still seen as a reliable, mostly objective, and trustworthy arbiter, but this perception of unrest and deteriorating faith is puncturing that image. It's a more critical problem for the nation than the Republican party's share of soldier/voters.
Does this public and often alarming criticism by our own soldiers threaten good order and discipline? Not saying they should be squashed, far from it, just rethink the guideposts a little. These blogs hit the right note by managing to be thoughful within the context of old-school military unity; maybe start there.Posted by jordan at May 5, 2008 03:30 PM
The troops should read this before they vote.Posted by Cannoneer No. 4 at May 6, 2008 02:00 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(14) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)