The Corner

Veterans’ administration

I confess I find it hard to keep up to speed with the Democrat view of military service.

As I understand it, when veterans like Bush Sr and Bob Dole are running against Bill Clinton, then military service is of no value and Vietnam draft-dodging is irrelevant if not, in fact, the principal qualification for being Commander-in-Chief.

On the other hand, when Bush Jr is running against John Kerry, then nothing less than a combat veteran who says he’s “reporting for duty” will do in the White House and a fellow who flew fighter jets over Texas in the Air National Guard is a contemptible draft-dodging chickenhawk.

Four years on, the term “chickenhawk” seems to have dropped out of the Dem lexicon and one assumes Senator Obama will not be “reporting for duty” at this summer’s convention. So what’s the party’s current position? From tomorrow’s New York Times:

There is a feeling among some of McCain’s fellow veterans that his break with them on Iraq can be traced, at least partly, to his markedly different experience in Vietnam. McCain’s comrades in the Senate will not talk about this publicly… And yet in private discussions with friends and colleagues, some of them have pointed out that McCain, who was shot down and captured in 1967, spent the worst and most costly years of the war sealed away, both from the rice paddies of Indochina and from the outside world. During those years, McCain did not share the disillusioning and morally jarring experiences of soldiers like Kerry, Webb and Hagel, who found themselves unable to recognize their enemy in the confusion of the jungle; he never underwent the conversion that caused Kerry, for one, to toss away some of his war decorations during a protest at the Capitol. Whatever anger McCain felt remained focused on his captors, not on his own superiors back in Washington.

Gotcha. By getting himself captured and banged up in the Hanoi Hilton, McCain artfully avoided the “jarring experiences” Kerry had to confront. He may not have dodged the draft but he dodged the anti-war movement, the hawk chicken. Anything else? Oh, yes:

Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s family background as the son and grandson of admirals has given him a worldview shaped by the military, “and he has a hard time thinking beyond that,” Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., said Friday.

“I think he’s trapped in that,” Harkin said in a conference call with Iowa reporters. “Everything is looked at from his life experiences, from always having been in the military, and I think that can be pretty dangerous…

“He’s running for commander in chief, and our Constitution says that should be a civilian,” Harkin said. “And in some ways, I think it would be nice if that commander in chief had some military background, but I don’t know if they need a whole lot.” 

Oh, okay. So it’s great if you were in combat for a couple of months like Senator Kerry but if you make a whole big career deal of this military thing, that’s just way over the top:

Harkin said that “it’s one thing to have been drafted and served, but another thing when you come from generations of military people and that’s just how you’re steeped…”   

Right. So unless you’re a draftee – and they seem to be a bit thin on the ground in Iraq – don’t even think about running for the Democratic nomination. At least until the rules are revised for the next election season. 

[UPDATE: More on Senator Harkin from Ed Driscoll]

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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