"Commander in Chief? Let's Ask the Military"

Retired General Tommy Franks, former commander of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, recently commented “I know a commander in chief when I see one and there’s only one on the ballot.” The vast majority serving in uniform agree.

The Military Times, the parent company of the Air Force Times, the Army Times, and Navy Times, the weekly publications for current and former members of the Armed Services, conducted a poll. If the election were held today, 72 percent of active duty military members would vote for George W. Bush while only 17 percent support John F. Kerry. (Guard and Reserve respondents favored Bush by 73 percent to 18 percent). That’s a 55 point margin! Media reporting of the results, as expected, was minimal. The Public Broadcasting System’s NPR framed it this way, “Military Times Poll Gives Bush the Edge.” An edge? It’s a bludgeoning!

It’s about leadership and our folks in uniform know it. From self-aggrandizing months with Swiftboats in Vietnam, to anti-war testimony in the halls of Congress in 1971, to twenty years of liberal votes and opposition to military systems and people on the Senate floor, John Kerry is unequipped to lead our forces??¢â???¬ ¦and our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines now it. Military service is about wearing the flag proudly, about selfless service, about loyalty to country and to the fellow next to you in the cockpit.

Why does it matter? Because it’s our military whom we send to fight our wars and they deserve the best we can provide them and because they vote. There are 1.4 million personnel in active duty service today. There’s an additional almost 900,000 in the National Guard and Reserves. Military members vote in higher percentages than the general American public. In the presidential election of 2000, approximately 70 percent of active duty members voted compared with about 51 percent of the general public, according to federal election figures.

Last week, the Annenberg Public Policy Center released a long-awaited study of the opinions and voting habits of service men and women. The conclusion: service members are upbeat on Bush, the war in Iraq, the economy and they intend to vote. The polling sample was comprised of 655 adults who have either served on active duty during this year or family members of those who served this year. The results are equally revealing.

Sixty-nine percent of those polled had a favorable opinion of Bush and 23 percent an unfavorable opinion. Only 29 percent had a favorable opinion of Kerry, while 54 percent had an unfavorable opinion. When asked who they would trust more in handling the responsibilities of the commander in chief, 69 percent preferred Bush to only 24 percent for Kerry.

Our folks in uniform want leadership. They deserve a commander who says what he means, and means what he says. They don’t particularly care for nuance. They don’t want to defer the fight; they want to take it on. While they are fighting for a just and noble cause, Kerry tells the New York Times, “We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance.” Our troops think of many things when Al Qaeda and the Ba’athists come to mind, many of them unprintable, “nuisance” isn’t one of them.

While they have liberated two nations from oppressive regimes, Kerry calls their efforts, “the wrong war at the wrong time.” While they prepare Iraq for democracy and have eliminated another haven for terrorists, Kerry calls it a “grand diversion.”

Liberals live in a September 10th, 2001, world. The tragic next day was an aberration. They want a return to the days of Bill Clinton and Richard Clarke when terrorism was something that happened overseas and generally to our military or our diplomats in embassies. Our troops deal with the life-and-death realities every day and they know better.

Our troops don’t want a return to the failed leadership of Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter. That’s what they see when they see Kerry. In fact, the Clinton hangover lingers. Our troops will have their say. This November 2 will be Veteran’s Day. It’s obvious and particularly troubling for liberals–our troops have a strong and popular commander in chief in Dubya–and they don’t want to serve Kerry.