As usual, I am undecided about my support for any candidate this early in the race. Frankly, I am always undecided … or uncomfortable … right up to, and including, the moment I cast my ballot for the candidate who seems to be the lesser of all evils.
Finding a true Constitutionalist who believes in protecting the freedoms and liberties of everyone, regardless of agenda is as difficult as finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. Therein lies my quadrennial problem.
That is not a criticism of Rick Perry, or any other candidate. Nearly all are respectable, good people. And nearly all bring to their candidacy strongly held beliefs and agendas about what is good and right for America. And, in truth, nearly all would do whatever is necessary to further these agendas and strongly held beliefs, including trampling on the Constitution.
Now, I don’t know that Rick Perry would trample on the Constitution. He may end up being the candidate, the lesser of all evils, that I support next year…who knows. But in his address announcing his bid for the presidency he made a couple of statements that are problematic.
Remember for a moment, that during Perry’s 2012 bid for the presidency, he stumbled badly. I tend not to be too critical of him for that. The error that unleashed the fury of the leftwing press on him was that during one debate he could not name the third of three federal agencies he would close if elected. From that point on, they painted him as a clown …unfairly, in my opinion. It was a mistake, made under pressure and the hot lights of television cameras. Ever make a mistake…said something you wished you hadn’t…or wished you had said something better? I have.
Now, to Mr. Perry’s current bid for the White House. Understandably, he is trying to differentiate himself from the plethora of Republican candidates. To do so, he is focusing on two issues that separate him from many of the rest.
1. He was a governor – By most standards Rick Perry was a very successful governor in a state with an economy that boomed when the rest of the country was experiencing crushing recession. Fair enough…I’ll accept that.
2. He served in the military as an Air Force pilot of C-130 cargo planes. Only a person with equivalent military experience is qualified to serve as the nation’s Commander-in-Chief…Nope. You lost me.
Mr. Perry has made the point repeatedly, and will continue to do so, I imagine, that these two life experiences qualify him for the Oval Office over every other candidate running. Regarding military service, I must take some exception.
Okay, to his point, some very notable presidents distinguished themselves in military service. George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush all served with distinction and heroism. I mention these because they are examples of presidents who actually served in the line of fire during their military careers.
Of course, there are others. Many of those served in rear echelon areas performing administrative staff duties, making training films, writing copy for the Stars and Stripes newspaper or scheduling dances and receptions to improve troop morale. Some of these include Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan.
I can hear the Reaganites jump to their feet in an uproar at the implied slur to their leader. Well, calm down. I voted for Ronald Reagan … twice … and I’m glad I did.
My point is that military service, and the nature of that military service, is not the dominant qualifier for the presidency, in my mind at least. Military service to be president? Take that Mr. Lincoln.
That’s right. Abraham Lincoln never served in the active duty regular military of the day. He did serve in the Illinois militia for three months to put down an Indian uprising. He enlisted as a private and then being elected by the other privates to Captain, he was reprimanded for not controlling his men who had a tendency to steal liquor. Lincoln said in his own inimitable way that the only combat he saw was fighting off mosquitos.
Other presidents without military service include, Calvin Coolidge, one of my favorite presidents, championing smaller government and self-reliance, along with John Adams, Thomas Jefferson (two of the nations Founders and framers of the Constitution) John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, Millard Fillmore, Grover Cleveland, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt and William Jefferson Clinton.
You might want to argue about the presidential exceptionalism of some on the list of non-military presidents, but certainly there is someone there whom you feel served in the office with distinction. And whether you do or not, each of those presidents was elected by the people…not the military.
While I honor and deeply respect all those who serve this nation I also honor and respect the principles of Liberty upon which it was founded. We should remember that the founders established a government of and by the people … all of the people.
Additionally, they ensured that the military would remain under civilian control, subject to the will of the people and their elected representatives.
Military service may be, in fact, one measure of a person’s qualifications for the presidency and the rank of Commander-in-Chief, but it is not the only one … nor the most important.
Will I support Rick Perry for president? Too early to tell. One thing is sure … the candidate I choose, among all of the imperfect ones out there, will be the one I believe is most dedicated to the Constitutional principles of Liberty, regardless of their personal beliefs, ideology or agenda.