We have a lot of loose ends from yesterday’s first post to tie up before moving on to new business.
First, even by blogospheric standards, my assertion that only four generals (Washington, W.H. Harrison, Grant and Eisenhower) had graduated from the ranks to the presidency was sloppy and moronic. Several correspondents wrote in to set me straight.
First of all, I left off Andrew Jackson, which was an odd oversight given that he’s one of my favorite historical figures. As a matter of fact, during this blog’s first week in existence I penned a brief look back
at Old Hickory’s famous duel with a foe widely regarded as the best shot in Tennessee. Unless you’re an immediate family member of mine, it’s highly unlikely that you read the piece. If you follow the link, scroll down to where it says “history lesson.” And be charitable – I was very new at the blogging game back then.
The other general whose service was a proximate cause of his ascension to the White House was Zachary Taylor who was widely perceived as being the hero of the Mexican-American war although Winfield Scott was probably more deserving of the press clippings that Taylor received. (Scott is now probably best recalled as a doddering old Civil War general who was serving nobly but ineffectively in that struggle being at the time well past his prime.)
Other generals who made the White House (who an insightful correspondent refers to as “incidental generals”) include Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, and Benjamin Harrison. The same correspondent points out that even Chester A. Arthur was quarter master general of New York during the Civil War. If the unthinkable should occur and Clark becomes president, Arthur would probably be the most appropriate historical parallel to Wes.
Speaking of Clark, I also solicited some commentary from armed services members of the 90’s regarding Clark’s assertion that President Clinton was a beloved figure amongst the military’s rank and file. The feedback was voluminous. Below are three letters that are representative of what I received. I should note, before you begin, there wasn’t a single dissenting letter that expressed a contrary view. In the interests of fairness, if a military member from the 90’s cares to compose such a missive, I’ll be happy to post it. (Maybe someone should tell Kos – he’s begun mentioning his military service and the fact that he “wore combat boots” more often than John Kerry did.)
Without further adieu, the letters:
1) It's my experience that most military personnel, officer and enlisted, had a low opinion of Clinton. I deployed with the Kitty Hawk carrier battle group to the Western Pacific and Persian Gulf on Nov. 3, 1992. Why is that significant? Because it was election day 1992, and during our first day underway from San Diego, we knew that a former naval aviator and World War II veteran had been defeated by childish man-boy who had no apparent appreciation of the tradition martial virtues.
Sure enough, aircraft patrolling southern Iraq were getting shot at by Iraq air defense units. After days of provocations, Carrier Air Wing Fifteen (decomm'ed in 1995, BTW) launched strikes against numerous sites throughout southern Iraq. The surface shooters also fired scores of Tomahawks. This continued until 20 January when we were ordered to stand down with an airstrike manning up. In short, we were authorized to get shot at, but not take planned action. (Note: self-defense was still authorized.)
Back in the States, the big issue of the day was not our troops in harms way in the Gulf. Rather, it was Clinton's promise to allow homosexuals to serve openly in uniform. I don't necessarily have a problem with that. However, it was a slap at the services that he never spoke with any level of uniformed leadership about the wisdom of such a policy change. To Clinton and his deputies, the military was a play thing for them to mold as they, and they alone, saw fit.
I left my squadron in November 1993 (I wasn't flying then, I was the squadron Intelligence Officer) and reported for duty in Washington DC. I was considering volunteering to be a White House escort. The responsibilities included wearing Mess Dress uniforms to White House social events and escorting the guests into the proceedings. Very cushy duty, got to hobnob with the highest level decision makers, attend some very lavish shindigs, you probably know the drill.
It came out that the Clinton White House used these military officers as the wait staff carrying trays of hors d'oeuvre. I can remember reading that one officer so degraded was actually told by a VIP at such a function that the guest was embarrassed for the officer! (I left DC in August 1995, and reported for flight school the following month.)
Clinton was the Commander-in-Chief. The Commander-in-Chief will always be respected. Every officer in the chain of command I've ever worked with upheld our loyalty to our civilian leadership. Even when that leadership held us in contempt.
BTW, in a military operations school I attended (I won't get more specific than that), Wes Clark's prosecution of the Kosovo campaign is used as a case study in operational failure.
2) How the troops felt about Clinton?
Pretty much how you’d think. You know, you can’t bullshit a GI. (God knows I’ve tried.) They see right through it. So it didn’t matter how Clinton dressed himself up, you always knew what you were getting. What you were getting was someone who looked at you and your way of life sort of the way an anthropologist looked at the Anasazi.
Sure, anytime he pulled out troops as props for the photo op there were smiling faces all around. But it wouldn’t matter if it were a Republican or Democrat to most of ‘em. They’re ‘were just excited to be near *A* President, not necessarily that one. But Clinton’s reign hit the guys from the South pretty hard because they still grow up down there with concepts like duty and honor. Comes with the mother’s milk one of my Lieutenants used to say. To borrow a line from a Jack Nicholson character, Clinton used those concepts as a punchline. He said the right things and didn’t flub his lines but you always knew the deal. And you know what? So did he, he knew the joke was on us.
How the troops felt about him is pretty much summed up by this: in 20 years of service I never once had to attend a meeting to get a lecture from a senior officer about being a professional and not disrespecting the President. That is until Clinton took office. Then I got that talk (along with an auditorium full of folks) on at least 2 different occasions.
I was working in the Pentagon during those years and I worked on the 5 year defense budget plan – the Program Objective Memorandum. A budget is where you really have to put your money where your mouth is. It’s the only document a politician endorses where he has to say exactly what his priorities are, so I have a different perspective and was privy to a lot more than the average troop. I was the briefings guy in that office so I got told to make a banquet out of the shit sandwich of the President’s Budget (PresBud) on more than one occasion. Clinton’s talk about supporting the military was just that. Talk. We got pay raises. That’s it. No Research and Development, stalled infrastructure repair and upgrades, we raped operational accounts to pay for Bosnia with a long delay in the payback from Congress. I could go on, but why?
I also worked on a review of studies on the Selective Service System with some other folks. We recommended that we eliminate it since the data collection the government needed to support a possible draft could be accomplished by basically writing some software to cross reference Social Security, DMV and other data. We could do that with a 92% probability we were getting the exact same folks that the current Selective Service system gets.
Want to know why we still spend $25 million a year on it?
Because Clinton didn’t want to be known as the draft dodging President who eliminated the Selective Service System.
There’s a profile in courage for ya.
Sorry this has gone on too long, and I’m sure it’s unusable, but that ought to at least give you a sense of the frustration with Clinton and his ilk from those of us wearing the uniform. It’s OK if you’re not one of us, we defend you anyway. We honestly don’t want much. But we’d just appreciate it if you wouldn’t laugh behind our backs. We always got the sense that Bubba was laughing himself silly.
3) The military's view of Clinton: Where to start? I think I can summarize the attitude of Vietnam era officers, like myself, who are his age contemporaries, in saying that: Beginning with his draft dodging in the late 1960's, Bill Clinton has consistently shown that he is a man of no honor and no shame. He exemplifies most of the bad characteristics of our generation, one of the worst among them that he actually expects commendation for his never ceasing shameless and dishonorable conduct as a matter of entitlement.
He degraded the US Military through his casual disrespect towards its members, treating us as pawns for progressive academics, cheapened the office of Commander-in-Chief and seriously damaged our effectiveness through his relentless feminization of our Armed Forces. That such an obviously idiotic and opportunistic empty suit as General Wesley Clark ascended to four star rank during the Clinton Administration tells you all you need to know about how Bill Clinton ran the Pentagon and gives a strong hint of the lasting hidden damage that he inflicted.
I'd be happy to expand on how Bill Clinton exemplifies the elitist smug skaters of the '60's era and how much this still winds the watch of all who answered the call in some way or other during that time, but I dare say that it wouldn't register with anyone who was not part of said era. As a somewhat surprising sidebar, let me add that most of my military contemporaries don't have nearly the scorn for actual draft resistors who were willing to pay a price for their opposition to the Vietnam war as we do for the skaters who used their status and connections to avoid serving, all the while shrieking about how corrupt the system was.
Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
James Frederick Dwight