Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Playing the military card can turn you into a joker

In October 2014, I wrote about how a local candidate for Manatee County Commission was trying to score points with the military-loving electorate by sort of saying that she kind of had served in the Army in Iraq.

Terri Wonder was the Democratic candidate running against a Republican woman who had not served in the military, and maybe Wonder saw a chance to exploit her experience in a different realm. She peppered her campaign website with photos of herself in “camo,” sprinkled her campaign materials with talk of having served “two tours” in Iraq and finally was forced to admit that, in fact, she had been recruited into the Army as a civilian. She may have been in camouflage utilities, but she was not a serving soldier, did not hold rank and was not subject to military discipline.

That’s not serving in the military, people.

Recently, the Washington Post revealed that South Carolina Senator and Republican presidential dreamer Lindsey Graham has had a rather interesting career in the Air Force. Despite having served less than two days of reserve duty in the past few years, he’s managed to get promoted to lieutenant colonel and bird colonel.

In the past, he’s made claims about his military service that didn’t add up, but of course he has attacked the Post for making things up in a political attack on him. Since he’s not even polling in the margin of error among 17 Republican candidates, we don’t have to worry about Graham lying his way to the presidency, but it’s disturbing how many people are willing exploit any association, even the most peripheral, with the military, to try to gain an advantage.

Of course, it’s really nothing new. In the South, many men claimed that they had been “colonels” in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and then took the title with them, even if they never served a day in uniform.

President Lyndon B. Johnson always insisted that he served in World War II and deserved that Silver Star, even though he basically got a commission as a Navy lieutenant commander as a “gimmie,” took a trip across the Pacific, flew on one mission on a B-26 bomber and then came home, where he demanded a medal.

So is it a surprise that we have presidential candidates exaggerating their military experience? It doesn’t seem to hurt them.

Even the family of Michael Brown, the Ferguson, Mo., man who was killed by police, played the military card, showing a picture of him in camouflage and reading to children. Despite my efforts, I have found nothing else about that photo or even what branch he supposedly was in. He might have been in JROTC.

It’s OK to have served and to be proud of your service, as I am of mine, but using it to try to gain an advantage over other people and claim patriotic or moral superiority puts you on shaky ground. I wish people would stop doing it.

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August 4, 2015 - Posted by | Living in the modern age, Politics | , , , , , ,

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