The Campaign Spot

A Rude Question About Romney’s Sons Yields An Off-Key Answer

I’m as tired of the “chickenhawk” line of attack as anybody – who knew so many liberals were closet fascists who believe that only those with military service have the right to opine on whether to go to war? And are all of those folks who think Afghanistan is a just war but who aren’t in uniform fighting it, are they chickenhawks, too? – but I suspect this response from Romney seems a little off-key:

BETTENDORF, Iowa (AP) _ Despite his call for the nation to show a ‘’surge of support’’ for U.S. forces in Iraq, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Wednesday defended his five sons’ decision not to enlist.
The former Massachusetts governor said his sons were showing their support for the country by ‘’helping get me elected.’’
Romney, who did not serve in Vietnam due to his Mormon missionary work and a high draft lottery number, was posed the question by an anti-war activist after a speech in which Romney saluted a uniformed soldier in the crowd and called for donations to military support organizations.
Last week the presidential candidate donated $25,000 to seven such organizations.
’’The good news is that we have a volunteer Army and that’s the way we’re going to keep it,’’ Romney told some 200 people gathered in an abbey near the Mississippi River that had been converted into a hotel. ‘’My sons are all adults and they’ve made decisions about their careers and they’ve chosen not to serve in the military and active duty and I respect their decision in that regard.’’
He added: ‘’One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I’d be a great president.’’

The first part of the answer strikes me as fine – we’ve got a volunteer army, and while we ought to salute those who volunteer, if we’re critical of those who don’t, we’re critical of… let’s see, we have about 1.4 million active duty personnel, out of 300 million Americans, subtract those who are veterans and retired military… We’re still looking at an argument that hundreds of millions of Americans are somehow morally deficient for not serving.
While participating in our democratic elections process by volunteering for a campaign is often a good thing, I don’t think it ought to be compared to military service… Seems like comparing apples and oranges, to me.
UPDATE: Team Romney writes in: Governor Romney respects his sons’ career decisions, but he is certainly not equating their assistance on the campaign with service in our Armed Forces. I think listening to the full audio makes this clear:

Question:  “Hi, my name’s Rachel Griffiths, thank you so much for being here and asking for our comments.  And I appreciate your recognizing the Iraq War veteran.  My question is how many of your five sons are currently serving in the U.S. military and if none of them are, how do they plan to support this War on Terrorism by enlisting in our U.S. military?”
Governor Romney:  “Well, the good news is that we have a volunteer army and that’s the way we’re going to keep it.  My sons are all adults and they’ve made their decisions about their careers and they’ve chosen not to serve in the military and active duty.  I respect their decision in that regard.  I also respect and value very highly those who make a decision to serve in the military.  I think we ought to show an outpouring of support just as I suggested.  A surge of support for those families and those individuals who are serving.  My niece, for instance, just to tell you what a neighborhood can do and how touching it can be.  My niece, Misha, living out West, her husband I think he got a call on a Tuesday.  He’s in the National Guard.  He got a call on a Tuesday that he was going to be called up and shipped overseas on a Thursday.  And they just bought a home – they hadn’t landscaped it – but the rules in the neighborhood were that unless you got your home landscaped within a year of the time that you bought your home, they began fining you, because they didn’t want people having mud holes in front of their homes.  And she was very worried and just before the year expired, she woke up one morning and looked out the window and all the neighbors were out there, rolling down sod, putting up trees, getting it all done.  It’s remarkable how we can show our support for our nation and one of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping to get me elected, because they think I’d be a great president. My son, Josh, bought the family Winnebago and has visited 99 counties, most of them with his three kids and his wife.  And I respect that and respect all of those in the way they serve this great country.” 

Eh. I realize equating campaign work and military service wasn’t necessarily Romney’s intent, but he did describe his sons’ work as “showing our support for our nation,” and that statement, or at least its wording,  leaves me a little cold. I don’t think working for a political candidate or cause – no matter how great the candidate, no matter how noble the cause – is synonymous with support for the nation.

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