How Important Is a Military Record?

United States
April 9, 2007 8:04am CST
Does a military record, or lack thereof, influence your voting decisions? Most '08 Candidates Lack Military Record WASHINGTON (AP) - The 2008 presidential campaign is long on war rhetoric and short on warriors. Of the top tier of 2008 candidates, only Republican John McCain has been to war and served in uniform. "It teaches you certain things, but I don't think it makes you a better candidate for higher office," said Navy veteran Edward Ferrari, 76, of Randolph, N.J. "It teaches you honor and duty. I guess you can get that in other places, too." Polls indicate that while having a military background can be helpful to presidential candidates, a majority of adults don't see it as essential. Many people say candidates who've served as a governor, member of Congress or business executive are better prepared for the Oval Office than a general or admiral. More broadly, an AP-Ipsos poll last month indicates leadership traits or experience are far less important to voters than character attributes such as honesty. To some, like Richard Land, head of public policy for the Southern Baptist Convention, a war record still counts. "When you're a war hero, you have less to prove on the character front," he said, comparing McCain with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the front-runner in national popularity polls, who did not serve in the military. And Vietnam veteran Audrey Birgstresser said presidents with military experience understand the sacrifices of deployed soldiers and how to deftly resolve conflicts. "They know how to make decisions under pressure because that's what their life is all about," said Birgstresser, 59, of Harrisburg, Pa. Fred Greenstein, a political scientist at Princeton University, doubts that even the few veterans in the race will make much of their service given the situation in Iraq. Since at least the 1992 election, being a war hero hasn't been a ticket to the White House. Former President Clinton, who was never in the armed forces, defeated two World War II combat veterans - former President George H.W. Bush in 1992 and former Sen. Bob Dole in 1996. President George W. Bush's National Guard duty helped keep him out of Vietnam, yet he defeated three veterans of that conflict - McCain in the 2000 GOP primaries, Democrat Al Gore in the 2000 election and Democrat John Kerry in 2004. Of the current Democratic front-runners, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, 45, was too young to have been drafted during the Vietnam War. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, 53, had a draft number that was never called. And, Sen. Hillary Clinton, 59, like most women her age, would not have been expected to serve. Women weren't subject to the draft. Among the other candidates in the Democratic race, Sen. Chris Dodd, 62, of Connecticut, served in the Army Reserve from 1969 to 1975. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico received student and medical classifications that probably spared him from service in Vietnam, including one for a deviated septum. Richardson had a draft lottery number of 131 in 1970, a year when men with numbers as high as 195 were called. Among the leading Republican candidates, only McCain, 70, has a military record. The Arizona senator spent more than 20 years in the Navy, almost a quarter of it in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp. Draft deferments kept Giuliani, 62, of out Vietnam while he attended law school. In 1968, as the Vietnam War was escalating, he was classified 1-A, or draft eligible. After going to work for a federal judge, he received an occupational deferment. He was classified 1-A again in 1970, but had a high lottery number. Another Republican, Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, received student deferments. He was available for service in 1969, but was reclassified in 1970 because of stress-related anxiety. Congress has also seen a drain in the number of members with military experience. Even if a military background isn't essential to voters, a sense that a candidate can handle the role of commander in chief remains important to most Americans. http://story.news.ask.com//article/20070409/D8OCUS2G1.html
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9 responses
• United States
10 Apr 07
I have to confess that it does make a difference to me, but not a complete difference. Put it this way... I take the COMBINED attributes of the candidates. There is never going to be ONE perfect candidate for you and you have to weigh the pluses and minuses. If it comes down to a candidate being close in the running to another, I definitely prefer the veteran. I think it is very important to KNOW the ins and outs of our military when you are the supposed "man in charge" of it! It's like asking someone who's never gone to culinary college to suddenly become the head chef at a 5 star restaurant. Sure, it CAN be done but not very well and not with a lot of issues, problems and failing.
• United States
10 Apr 07
Having a military record is EXTREMELY ESSENTIAL if a person is running for office in the United States. For example: Look at BILL CLINTON; he didn't have a military record and had an absolute disdain for the military. I could name Congressman after Congressman who did not serve and who are, more often than not, the CUT AND RUNNERS of today. They want to cut provisions to the military so that we'll be forced to WITHDRAW. They do not understand the role the military plays nor do they understand the families who sacrifice their husbands and dads for the country; nor do they care. Then there are the ones mentioned in this article. They are Chickeners from H-H-double toothpicks. How can you trust people like these? Then again...you look at some of the people who did serve and lied like all get out or who lied for votes later. I am now referring to johnkerry and johnmurtha-to name a couple. HEY! and johnmccain. It looks like you just can't trust anyone in politics. AND IT'S THEIR FAULT. As you can tell POLITICS MAKES ME SCHIZOPHRENIC.!!!!!!!
• Indonesia
10 Apr 07
Possibly my article be not in accordance with topic. But I will give seldom commented. Why did America like that want to control the world? By using the strength of the military. The example in Iraq and afghanistan! Please was seen by us results of the American action in Iraq. Many civil communities that lost the life, the family, and his wealth. What uptil now that in wanted America? What the US the idea uptil now was unproven so whether the form of US responsibility? I now did not understand? Why did not use elegant diplomacy or avoided the strength of the military/the war as the end road. I did not know their train of thought?
• United States
10 Apr 07
I used to think that a military background did not matter. But with the last two Presidents sending troops into combat without having seen combat themselves, regardless of whether the decisions were right or not, I'm more inclined to trust a President who invokes the War Powers Act to have served in the military him or herself. I think former soldiers, especially those with combat experience are more likely to use the military as the option of last resort. While I will not rule out voting for a candidate with no military experience for President, it will be a major issue for me when I evaluate the candidates.
@lonewolfnan (4367)
• Canada
10 Apr 07
When it comes to voting in Canada,I try to look at what the leaders of the parties stand for and vote with my conscience.It seems in the US,alot more emphasis is put on a military background.
• United States
10 Apr 07
I don't think military service is essential. I would be more concerned about the candidates personal values and his overall leadership abilities. It has been many years since we have had a major military action, so it stands to reason that there will be candidates coming along lacking military service. Even those that enlist since there is no longer a draft are not necessarily combat trained and as such don't know anything about war. Wanting a candidate that has experience conducting a war is somewhat difficult if there is no war, and it is in a way just asking for touble.
@Tsferrets (421)
• United States
9 Apr 07
As far as to serve as our president I think it matters alot.. I don't know how someone with no experience can really understand what it will and does take to run a war whether it poticical or for other reasons.. Thats not to say its the only thing that makes a difference to a good candidate.. The list is to long to even start.. But I will trust a person that has been there and done thats opinion more then one who hasn't.. This upcoming election is going to be hugh with alot of ggod people running.. But it will come down to who everyone thinks can handle the position of president to run this country the best.. That is no small task for everyone to think about and try to come up with the correct answer.. I'm not sure the best person for the position of president will get elected.. Tammy
@nicolec (2673)
• United States
9 Apr 07
I don't think it is a big deal these days at it used to be. I mean in my parents generation and even my grandparents generation everyone went to war because there were drafts (vietnam and WWII respectively). So if you didn't go, there better be a good reason for it. And voters tend to look for some one who was there because if the government made voters go to war, then the government better be there too. Know what I mean? But as my generation gets older, we don't really think that way. True being in the military means some sort of discipline, training, ability to follow and ability to lead. But we also know how corrupt the military is becoming. And as I get older and meet more military guys, some are complete jerks, I don't really look for military service in a candidate. Some people will say, but that means they served their country. Well, isn't being the president the biggest service you can do for your country? I think also as people are getting tired of the current war, it just doesn't matter if any of the candidates have past war experience. Unless they were General McArthur, their military experience will be puny compared to what military agendas lie before them.
@Lakota12 (42681)
• United States
9 Apr 07
yes it dose help that someone has had military served. For they konow how to act under pressure also some one that survived a prison camp knows how that feels so they are more likely know more how to conduct a release if they have too. I dont know if McCain is rep or dem but I really think he is a good choice and hope his health is good