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Post Partisan
Posted at 01:29 PM ET, 08/16/2011

Perry is wrong on Obama and the military


There’s another rule I wish presidential candidates would agree to never violate. Never presume to speak for members of the armed forces. When they pledge to protect and preserve the Constitution of the United States, they willingly push their political views and affiliations aside for the good of the country. Gov. Rick Perry (R-Tex.) has been on the campaign trail only for a couple of days and has already violated this rule.

As the Wall Street Journal’s Danny Yadron reported yesterday, Perry suggested at an event in Iowa over the weekend that past and present members of the military would cotton to him over President Obama.

“I think people who have had the same experiences connect with people who have had the same experiences. That’s human nature,” he said. “If you polled the military, the active duty and veterans, and said ‘would you rather have a president of the United States that never served a day in the military or someone who is a veteran?’ They’re going to say, I would venture, that they would like to have a veteran.”

All presidential candidates surround themselves with former generals and other uniformed military folks to prove they are strong on defense. But if you listen to Perry, the United States would soon run out of people the military would want as commander in chief because most Americans are not in the armed forces.

Former defense secretary Robert Gates openly talked about his concern that too few Americans have any direct connection to the men and women fighting in wars on their behalf.  At a speech at Duke University last September, Gates said, “Indeed, no major war in our history has been fought with a smaller percentage of this country’s citizens in uniform full time – roughly 2.4 million active and reserve service members out of a country of over 300 million, less than 1 percent.”

Less than 1 percent.

According to Gates, also playing a factor in who serves are the locations of military installations and recruitment centers. And those locations are limited.

The military’s own basing and recruiting decisions have reinforced this growing concentration among certain regions and families.  With limited resources, the services focus their recruiting efforts on candidates where they are most likely to have success — with those who have friends, classmates, and parents who have already served.  In addition, global basing changes in recent years have moved a significant percentage of the Army to posts in just five states:  Texas, Washington, Georgia, Kentucky, and here in North Carolina.  For otherwise rational environmental and budgetary reasons, many military facilities in the northeast and on the west coast have been shut down, leaving a void of relationships and understanding of the armed forces in their wake.

So, given all this and Perry’s myopic view on whom the military wants as commander in chief, in the future men and women in uniform and veterans would only respect a candidate who hails from the less-than-1-percent who are serving.

Perry said something else odious at the tail end of his military riff. “The president had the opportunity to serve his country,” he said. “I’m sure at some time he made the decision that isn’t what he wanted to do.” This is a violation by inference of Rule No. 1 from my previous post: Never question whether the man or woman running for the privilege of sitting in the Oval Office would shirk from the duty to protect the United States.  

President Obama didn’t serve in the military. Yet I would argue that working as a community organizer, helping to improve the lives of fellow citizens, is serving one’s country. But this is an argument not worth engaging. Like I said earlier, love of country and a drive to protect should be an automatic presumption for anyone running for president of the United States. I presume that of Perry. That he doesn’t do the same for Obama is contemptible.

By  |  01:29 PM ET, 08/16/2011

 
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