Monday, December 17, 2007

Kernels of Wisdom for VoteVets.Org

VoteVets.org stoked their troops in response to my blog about Lt. Col. Andrew Horne entitled "The Paradoxical Colonel." Their comments prompt a few observations:

First, they assume that because Horne is a veteran, he should not be criticized for advocating immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq. However, it has never been the case in American politics that having military service on a resume immunizes a candidate's foreign policy views from scrutiny. Nor is military service a prerequisite for great political leadership.

Indeed, consider what the founder of the Democratic Party (which appears to be the only party to which VoteVets.org's candidates belong) had to say in this regard. In the early years of the Republic, Thomas Jefferson (who never served in the military) and his fellow Democrats sided with France, while the opposing Federalist Party favored England in the ongoing rivalry between those countries. Jefferson called the Continental Army veterans who populated the Federalist party -- including General George Washington, General Alexander Hamilton and Captain (later Chief Justice) John Marshall, who also wrote the poem about Kentucky Colonels -- "apostates who have gone over to . . . heresies" and "men who were Samsons in the field and Solomons in the council, but who have had their heads shorn by the harlot England."

While I do not wish to sink to the level of Jefferson's put-down of military men, it does show that VoteVets.org is in no position to call someone "unpatriotic" for questioning a veteran's foreign policy views in political debate. Such discussion dates from the days of the "dead white men" on our currency, and it has continued in the years since.

For example, as has been noted, we are much better off that American voters in 1864 rejected the military "wisdom" of General George B. McClellan; his Democratic supporters (called "Copperheads") wanted the Union Army to beat an exit from the South just as hasty as VoteVets.org wants the American Army out of Iraq today.

And who can forget the classic Jib-Jab video poking fun on Senator John Kerry for continually touting "I won three purple hearts" as his chief qualification for the presidency. Or his goofy "Reporting for Duty" line at the Democratic convention.

Second, one's status as an ex-military commander does not necessarily make one a good political leader. To be sure, our nation has been blessed by great military men who have served just as ably in the political arena. Presidents George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and, more recently, Senator John McCain come to mind. But there also have been notorious flops for former military leaders elected to political office, including the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant and the "malaise" years of Lieutenant Jimmy Carter (ret).

So the fact that Horne is a retired Lieutenant Colonel does not, in and of itself, qualify him to be a good United States Senator. If so, then the Democrats presumably would have joined with Republicans to elect that other retired Lieutenant Colonel who ran for a U.S. Senate seat in the 1990s -- Oliver North.

Third, VoteVets.org members insist that they are not "militant" or "verminous," an assertion belied by their own rhetoric. On Capitol Hill, they taunt their political opponents as "cowards" and "draft dodgers" and then throw the verbal grenade that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is "aiding the enemy." VoteVets.org may be officers, but they are not gentlemen.

That fact was no more evident than in the ad hominems hurled against me in the comments sent to this post and on the VoteVets.org web site. One VoteVets.org member wrote: "This article is one of the most shameful, disrespectful, and downright cowardly things I [sic] have ever written." The VoteVets.org web site linked my post by calling it "chickenhawkish hilarity." (By the way, thanks for the link!)

Another VoteVets.org member wrote that "if we weren't in a mental health crisis already, I would encourage them [i.e., me] to seek care." A kinder and more erudite VoteVets.org member wrote that I and others who oppose VoteVets.org's partisan agenda "widdle away . . . [our] time with banalities."

Fourth, the comments of VoteVets.org members confirm that this out-of-state organization has no clue about Kentucky or its voters. Consider one post that speculated that my blog intended for "Kentucky Colonel" to imply derogatorily that Horne was KFC's Colonel Sanders -- perhaps a "chickenhawk." But Kentuckians understand that to be called a Kentucky Colonel is not an insult but an honor in the Commonwealth, and it has nothing to do with fried chicken.

Even if I had intended to compare Horne with Colonel Sanders, which I did not, that's hardly an insult. The Colonel, as in Sanders, is widely honored in Kentucky for his business acumen -- and deft touch with a fryer. I've eaten a lot of KFC in my day, enough to know that Andrew Horne is no Colonel Sanders. The fact is, Horne leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

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