In the last three debates we heard talk about which candidate best fits Commander in Chief. The truth be told, the candidates with the most military experience have dropped out of the race. So since none of the front runners have ever worn a military uniform, what should we look at to decide who qualifies as Commander-in-Chief?
The candidates have their ideas. Clinton pointed to her stint as Secretary of State. Trump insisted he was the only Republican to say we should not go into Iran. Cruz, with a backhanded jab at Trump, asserted that the American people would decide who was the most “level headed” then went on to repeat his mantra about Ayatollah Khomeini’s “Death to America” which, frankly, does nothing to bolster the image of calm, practical leadership. When confronted by Christie’s warning, to avoid repeating the mistake of electing an inexperienced first time senator, Rubio had little more to say than, “I’m proud of my record and I’m not Obama. Kasich, Carson, and Bush were less vocal on the subject, which was probably wise since it is difficult to talk about experience you don’t have. Then there’s Bernie Sanders. Sanders readily admitted Clinton’s hand’s on experience in the area of foreign affairs is greater than his own. (Though his experience equals any of the Republicans). Then he said something which would be good for all of us to remember: “Judgement matters as well.” Sanders has proven–with his votes as a senator–to be a pragmatic thinker, pro-veterans, and capable of making unpopular decisions for the right reason. He has looked at the evidence and has demonstrated sound judgment. These are the qualities I want my president to have.
In order to know how candidates without military records might lead America militarily, we must understand their priorities and listen to how they say what they say. The Republicans, in the words of Donald Trump, want to “make America great.” No plan just a lot of bravado. Based on the ideas they have advanced during their run for the White House, the rest of the field think Americans should be worried and afraid. We should close our boarders to all but Christian refugees. We must let everyone who wants to carry a gun carry a gun anywhere they want to carry gun, just in case we are attacked. We must build a more massive military, and bomb the hell out of any foreign country (especially in the Middle East) that refuses to do what we want it to do. In other words, the top Republican candidates equate greatness with force, intimidation, and power. They would give the bully on the playground a gold star so long as he wears red white and blue and attends an Christian fellowship on Sunday morning. They ignore the fact we already spend more on our military than the next 10 nations combined and have a military presence in more parts of the world than any other nation. The reality that BIG and BAD is not necessarily more efficient, more successful, or more cost effective remains a mystery to the GOP, just like defending our continued use of and dependence on coal and oil keeps them, and ultimately us, bound to 20th Century thinking.
So, what is expendable to the GOP? Again looking at their rhetoric and their record paints a telling picture. In 2014 Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz both had an opportunity to reveal their hand. The Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act, sponsored by Bernie Sanders, came before the Senate. Both Cruz and Rubio voted against the bill. So while Cruz and Rubio would have no problem putting boots on the ground as Commander in Chief, as senators they are unwilling to care for those boots once they return home. Additionally, all four GOP front runners–Trump, Cruz, Rubio, and Carson–have shown a worrisome disregard for the Constitution when it comes to religious freedom and a near palpable distain for the Supreme Court and the executive office (they so desperately want), by clamoring that they will over turn or ignore SCOTUS rulings, and repeal presidential orders and treaty agreements “on day one”. The only “right” they honestly seem willing to defend is the Second Amendment.
As a final look at which Democrat might make the best Commander in Chief, one exchange during the most recent debate especially caught my attention. When asked which leaders they most admired, Bernie Sanders picked FDR and Winston Churchill. He credited FDR with navigating the US through a financial crisis which impacted the entire world. He pointed out Roosevelt’s willingness to change the face of government and of politics. And, he compared Roosevelt’s message to his own, imploring the American people to not give up on politics and to get and stay involved. Then, though he was careful to point out that Churchill’s politics were not his own, he declared his admiration for how well Churchill rallied his countrymen at a time when Great Britain stood virtually alone against Hitler. Hillary Clinton’s politically correct choices of FDR, saying she agree with Sanders, and Nelson Mandela for his “generosity of heart and recognition of need for reconciliation” were quickly swiped away as she replaced them with her least flattering attack of the evening. Clinton attempted to slam Sanders for his criticism of the Obama administration. Her jab, however, missed its mark as Sanders reminded the audience which person on the stage had endorsed Obama and which had run against him. Still telling, the exchange gave us a small window into each candidate’s character.
Even so, I firmly believe either Democrat–Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders–would bring more reason, diplomacy, integrity, and problem solving capabilities to the office of the President than any Republican currently running. Both have demonstrated as much by their words, and even more importantly with their actions. So please, take a serious look at every candidate’s record. Then ask yourself–who represents the America I most admire?