Does Our President Need to be a Veteran?
By: Craig Chamberlain
The left is trying to make an issue of the fact that Mitt Romney didn’t serve in the U.S. military, instead of going to the jungles of South Vietnam he went to France to be a missionary. Steve Peoples, of the Associated Press, is trying to make the argument that having not served his country in uniform means that Romney is somehow unfit for office, and that not being a veteran, he has no right to speak out on foreign policy or military issues. It’s an argument that the left will trot out more and more during the next five months but once examined it doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
First there is the constitutional argument. Nowhere does the constitution say that our President, our Commander in Chief, has to have had military service. All that is required is that the President is at least 35 years of age and a native born citizen. Out of our 44 President about half have had military experience. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, John Q. Adams, Van Buren, Tyler, Polk, Fillmore, Buchanan, Lincoln, Johnson, Arthur, Cleveland, Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover,FDR, Clinton, and Obama never served a day in uniform. There’s no correlation between having been in the military and being a good President. Some of our non veterans were outstanding Presidents. Lincoln, comes easily to mind. Then there’s no guarantee that having been in the military makes you a good President. LBJ served in the navy yet was an awful President and Commander in Chief.
James Madison, with no military experience led the country to defeat in 1812. While Lincoln with no military experience himself was able to the lead the union to victory in the Civil War. FDR never served in the military yet got us to victory in World War Two. Truman, who served in World War One, got us stuck in a permanent stalemate in Korea. Jimmy Carter, who graduated from the Naval Academy, allowed the Soviets and their allies to run roughshod over us. Reagan, whose only military experience was making propaganda movies during the second world war, brought the USSR to its knees.
Secondly there is the double standard. The same people who blast Romney for not having served in the military see nothing wrong with Clinton and his draft dodging, or Obama not having been in the military. Either military service is a requirement for being President or it’s not. You can’t demand that GOP candidates serve in the trenches while defending the rights of Democrats to be life long civilians. I don’t remember anyone at the AP saying in 2008 that McCain was more qualified to be President of the United States because he served in the navy. It’s ok for a Democrat to choose not to enlist, but borderline criminal when a Republican makes the same choice.
Thirdly there is the “chicken hawk” argument. It basically goes something like this: if you never served in the military you have no right speaking about military affairs, foreign affairs, or the state of our military. Sit down and shut up hippie. Only those who have seen the horrors of war can speak about it, and you have no right supporting a war you are not fighting in. That’s the gist of it. The first amendment, however, would disagree. You have the right to say anything you want about military affairs whether you’ve served in the military or not. And doesn’t this argument cut the other way? Shouldn’t you be prohibited from protesting a war that you’ve never served in? You never hear the left say that. After all, they’ll tell you that dissent is the highest form of patriotism.
Having been in the military doesn’t make one an expert on military affairs. Both of my grandfathers served in World War Two, they served honorably, but you wouldn’t have wanted my grandfathers planning the D-Day invasion or serving as Secretary of Defense. Conversely, Dick Cheney, who had no military experience was an outstanding Secretary of Defense during the first Bush administration.
It would be nice if all politicians had some military service under their belts, but it’s not a constitutional requirement, and it’s not necessary to understanding the military situations of the United States. Mitt Romney has the same military experience as President Obama, but there’s no doubt to me that Mitt Romney has a better grasp of foreign policy than our current “lead from behind” commander in chief does.