2008-10-16 / Letters to the Editor

Tired of political campaign tactics

All U.S. military offi- cers throughout their careers are promoted to higher rank each time on the basis of merit…including demonstrated performance in assigned mission, sound judgment and demonstrated leadership qualities and skills. A high standard of character, ethics and integrity is a core principle of military leadership, and is a key requisite for reaching the top military ranks of general or admiral.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the selection process of the president of the U.S. who, concurrently, serves as the constitutionally-designated Commander-in-Chief (CiC) of those same generals and admirals. In contrast to the military officer promotion process, characterized by prescribed protocol, rigor and integrity, the president, and hence CiC, is selected every four years via an increasingly lengthy, exhaustive, bruising, politicized, highlypartisan campaign process.

The ideal candidate takes a high road approach that is positive, that focuses on the substantive issues as well as the candidate's relevant qualifications, and that uses the campaign to articulate a personal vision and plan for this country in both foreign and domestic affairs. Unfortunately, some candidates choose to compromise their core principles, values and integrity to take the politically expedient low road, wallowing in negativism and gutter politics, in order to defeat his/her opponent and to win the election at all cost. Among other things, the low road includes various negative attack tactics such as blatant distortions, diversionary tactics, deceitfulness, untruthfulness, maliciousness, divisiveness, character assassination, and demonizing the opponent…. rather than sticking to a positive agenda focused on issues and merit. Furthermore, through overt or silent endorsement, the low road may also include the employment of sleazy "swift-boat" tactics by rabid partisan surrogates. Both the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates have been, and continue to be, guilty of employing low road tactics to various degrees.

However, no presidential candidate in recent memory has raised gutter politics to such a low art as our current CiC, President George W. Bush, did in 2004. Employing the blatantly dishonorable tactics prescribed by his political advisor, Karl Rove (a man who never wore the uni- form), plus the swift-boat tactics of scurrilous surrogates, President Bush was able to wrest the 2004 presidential election from a much more honorable opponent… one who better epitomized the desirable leadership qualities, demonstrated performance, and integrity of a good CiC. In short, President Bush became CiC in 2004 by unethically taking the low road during most of the campaign and sneaking into the back door of the White House.

Even now, I am troubled and disappointed by the recent tendency of some presidential candidates to compromise their principled values for the sake of political expediency, to divert from the core values of military leadership in order to win the presidential election at all cost. Sad to say, sometimes these candidates, or their partisan surrogates, even employ and/or sanction gutter-level swift-boating personal attacks against their opponent straight out of the Karl Rove playbook.

I believe that the vast majority of our troops do not want their prospective CiC to grovel in unethical gutter politics in order to reach the top of the military chain-of-command…one who resorts to taking the value-compromising low road to sneak into the back door of the White House. Instead, I believe that most Americans want a prospective CiC who is willing to take and stay on the high road throughout the entire presidential campaign in order to go proudly through the front door of the White House to serve the people.

I hope that for the remaining few weeks of this campaign, both presidential candidates strive to do their very best to take that high road, to let the will of the people be determined on the basis of relevant issues and merit, and to let the chips then fall where they may. Our troops deserve no less than an honorable national leader and CiC.

John G. Shannon, CAPT

(Ret), USNR Columbia Lane

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