Vets for President

A faithful friend asked me recently if this was the first presidential election without a Christian on the ballot. Obviously, my friend both questions President Obama’s religious loyalties and considers Mormonism an unacceptable deviation from Christianity.

Since both Mr. Obama and Mitt Romney call themselves Christians, I chose not to wade into that debate.

I did wonder: Have we ever had a presidential election without a military veteran on the ballot? (Neither Obama nor Romney has served in the armed forces.)

We have, but not since World War II, ironically, when Thomas Dewey took on FDR.

Since then, every president has served his country militarily except for two: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Both those men defeated distinguished and decorated, even disabled, veterans of foreign wars: George H. W. Bush, Robert Dole and John McCain.

While Dwight Eisenhower’s service would be most revered and George W. Bush’s most ridiculed, how does the armed forces prepare a person to be president, a.k.a., commander in chief?

I speak from observation, not experience, though I long to stand when branch fight songs play at Memorial Day concerts.

1. Veterans learn discipline under pressure. Adversity defines and refines one’s core beliefs. The U.S. Presidency is obviously a unique crucible. So is boot camp, not to mention combat. Military service reveals character and would help prepare a person for the heavy weight of world leadership.

2. Veterans understand authority. Some answer to you; you answer to some. No one is outside the chain of command. As president, the military may answer to you, but you answer to Congress, the American people, the Constitution, the rule of law. Therefore, proceed cautiously. Move slowly on society-changing issues. Make sure you understand your orders.

3. Veterans have a firm knowledge of good and evil. Those who engage in war understand its stakes. They face evil incarnate, mad minds who seek to destroy the goodness our predecessors have built. Veterans know the unreasoning character of freedom’s enemies. A president should, too.

4. Veterans sacrifice. They lay down their desires, even their lives, for their comrades, their country. They are proud types, sometimes arrogant. But their confidence drives them to serve something greater than themselves. It’s about us, not me. Our agenda, not mine.

5. Veterans are committed to unity. No place binds brothers together like a foxhole. Veterans understand that a front divided cannot stand. They’re not going to push a far out ideological agenda at the expense of what made – and makes – us great: the U in U.S.A. Semper fi. E pluribus unum.

Our present commander in chief has had it backwards. He’s shown deference to dictators and sketchy characters around the world but vitriol to fellow leaders in Washington.

Who can forget his huge fraternal grins with Hugo Chavez? Or his off-mic “I’ll have more flexibility after my election” to Vladimir Putin?

Meanwhile, he invited House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan to the front row of his 2011 budget speech only to slam his plan to reduce the deficit.  And this after Democrats’ electoral “shellacking” in the 2010 mid-terms.

I wish we had a vet on the ballot this year for commander in chief. In lieu, I’ll take the business chief executive officer over the global community organizer.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at

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