It has always annoyed me slightly when a politician decides not to run for national office “because of his family.” Are those who do run and serve any less devoted? Moreover, it seems like a bit of a dodge. (As in, “I’m leaving this high-level position to spend more time with my family.”) Run or not, but why drag your family into it?
This weekend, however, I saw firsthand why this reason (however true) is really not an appropriate rationale for politicians. My family and I spent the weekend in Norfolk. There are multiple Army forts and Navy bases in area. On and off base there are thousands of homes, filled with a single spouse and multiple children. Usually it is the dads who are gone six months, but often it is much longer. Having a spouse deployed is not reason for complaint. Life goes on, children go to school, mothers cope and there are no weekends home for the absent dads.
So if a pol doesn’t want to run for office, that’s fine. If he thinks his family is a higher priority than serving in Congress or the White House, many of us can relate. But they should save the sanctimony. Who’s more noble: the pol who decides not to run for the White House or the soldier, marine or sailor who goes overseas no matter how much he loves his family?
If a pol believes his country needs him, is the family dislocation — which involves no personal danger, comes with many perks, permits weekends and vacations with the family, and allows (if they so desire) relocating the family to Washington — justification for not serving? Patriotism, the extraordinary courage and everyday stress borne by our military and their families are something to admire. Many of us could not imagine undertaking it. So if a pol can’t tolerate a far more minor inconvenience, perhaps he should keep it to himself, lest the rest of us think worse of him.