If you watched the top 10 candidates for the GOP nomination in their first national debate, it is worth nothing that not a single military Veteran was on stage to say nothing of an actual war Veteran. Let me go ahead and spoil part of the article for you by telling you that I do not think it is absolutely necessary for the President of the United States to have served in the military. My heart tells me that I would love this to be so, but I understand the constitution and our history enough to know that was never the intent. Our second President and first Vice President, John Adams, never served and if they guys who wrote the constitution wanted to weigh in on that matter they could have then. Yet, we have been fortunate throughout history to have had the majority of our Commander in Chiefs to have served in the Military in some capacity. However, I fear that trend is on the outs as I examine our society and the current field and I am here to render the official detailed political analysis that this sucks.
Remarkably, of all our Military Presidents, James Buchanan was the only one to have never served as an officer. The dude was a Private which explains why he was only elected to one term and served immediately prior to the Civil War. Most think that the Civil War was about slavery or state’s rights, but having learned that the man who preceded Lincoln was a Private, I now think it had something to do with the mid 1860’s equivalent to an MRE Jalapeno Cheese trade deal gone poorly. He probably sent Jeff Davis Peanut Butter and Charms instead and war was pretty much a given after that.
However, not all of our Presidents can be George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, or Dwight Eisenhower. There are a few Presidents with nominal military experience as to be honest George W. Bush’s Air National Guard experience is not too impressive considering there was an actual shooting war going on at the time. Yet, I miss the era where even the rich and elite rolled up their sleeves to fight. George Bush the senior came from an affluent family and yet he served with bravery even being shot down over the Pacific. John F. Kennedy’s family had a dollar or two as I recall and yet he was wounded in a PT boat during World War II. Whether they be rich or poor, the United States Military served as a common proving ground for so many of our Presidents and while politics might drive them apart, I think all of us who served know what a common and unifying experience this can be.
So as I look out at the likely contenders, I sigh with a little disappointment. For it appears that with the election of a non-Veteran president in 2016, we could go a span of 32 years without a Veteran as President with the exception of W’s ANG service. I’m not completely dismissing Bush’s service, just saying he could have gone done some real fighting had he so chosen. As I looked out at the current field getting ready to debate tonight, I wanted to try and peg which branch each contender would be in if they actually were to serve. However, I couldn’t get very far as the only one I could peg with certainty was Chris Christie in the National Guard. Feel free to play that game and see if you can get more than I did.
While I believe you can be a good President without having served, there is just so much that you can really understand about our military without it. To have stood side by side in combat with your brothers in arms will forever be a formative experience that is sure to weigh in on when you send them into combat as Commander in Chief. Again, it is not plausible for every President to have literally killed a man like Teddy Roosevelt or Andrew Jackson. Although I suspect border security would not a problem with either one of those men at the helm today as Mexico would probably be the 51st state by now.
But I am disappointed at the current field. Some of the far-reaching contenders with at least some service include Rick Perry and Lindsey Graham. Yet, the only candidate in this entire field with some bon-a-fide Military street cred is Jim Webb who is running against Hilary Clinton as a Democrat. The Marine led combat patrols in Vietnam, kicked butt, and slayed bodies. Political philosophy aside, Ooh Rah Jim Webb.
And with that, I simply think it is worth noting that the entire 2016 field, save a couple, have never put on the uniform, never heard the crack of a bullet zipping over their heads, and most disappointingly have probably never been told to shut their freaking cock holster by a man wearing a campaign cover as they are getting knife handed. And yet, America seems to place less and less value on such virtues today and that is mildly disappointing.
The Vietnam Vets are not getting any younger, sorry guys, and the Persian Gulf and GWOT vets are a remarkably small percentage of the population. So I just don’t see too many contenders with such experience emerging. The fact is, this is our future whether we like it or not. I have given up on the idea of a General Mattis Presidency as he keeps breaking my heart and insisting he won’t run. Part of me hopes that is just a tactic from his brilliant mind to feint and then outflank the White House, but I can’t say for sure.
I watched the debates more for entertainment than anything. After all, there was always the chance Donald Trump would accidentally let a “Sieg heil” slip out during his statements and Governor John Kasich might actually tell me who is? Honestly, no idea really. But as the 2016 President comes to be, it has become abundantly clear to me that for the foreseeable future, we will be led by men who talk the talk, but have most certainly never walked the walk. Not the end of the world, but hardly inspiring. Interpret it as you may America, but I believe the era of the War Veteran President has come officially come to a close.
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