Monday, February 11, 2008

A Brief Thought

People enjoy mentioning Sen. John McCain's military service (especially his time in the Hanoi Hilton) a lot, but electorally speaking, does it matter? If history is any indication, it doesn't. In the last four Presidential elections, a person who actively avoided serving in a war defeated a war veteran. Clinton (who dodged) beat Bush I (a WWII fighter pilot) and Dole (injured in WWII). Bush II (avoided Vietnam in the Air National Guard) beat Gore (sent to 'Nam as an army journalist) and Kerry (decorated 'Nam vet). Of course, neither Clinton nor Obama actively avoided military service - Clinton couldn't be drafted for obvious reasons, and Obama was 12 when the Vietnam draft ended.

From the end of World War II to the end of the Vietnam War, only one election (1964) was won by someone who was not a veteran of a foreign war. Since then, only one election (1988) was won by someone who was a foreign war vet. So I guess it would behoove McCain supporters to not concentrate on his military record. (And to Mac's credit, so far he has avoided doing so.)

Oh, speaking of military vets, a fond farewell to Rep. Tom Lantos, who passed on today at the age of 80. Lantos was a Hungarian Jew who fought as a partisan against the Nazis, escaped from concentration camps twice, came to America to study after the war, and never left. Lantos, when he announced that he was going to retire, thanked America for the opportunities he never would have had back home. America thanks you back, Mr. Lantos.

1 comment:

Pierce said...

I agree with you that simply "being a war vet" doesn't carry as much sway as it once did.

However, this and 2004 are the only two elections since Vietnam that have occurred during a "hot" war, bringing military issues to the forefront.

Moreover, one of the high-profile debates in this particular conflict is the use of torture, and McCain's specific war experiences inform his opinion on it; which would be a great help to him, if he wasn't on the wrong side of his party's line on the issue. In the end I think it will still be a benefit to him, since his principled stand against torture will make him more palatable to liberals once he gets the candidacy.

As for 2004, well I think the republicans simply outplayed the Kerry campaign. They had enough solidarity and "community" to frame the debate however they liked. Flip-flopping? Waffling? Swift Boat Vets? It didn't matter how illogical, unfounded, or outright false the accusation; if it took more than a 30-second news bite to debunk it then no one cared. After all, if Rush Limbaugh says it, it must be true. He's a legitimate journalist. Fox is fair and balanced. Dan Rather is the one who forges evidence and commits slander.