THE BIG QUESTION: Do we need a Commander in Chief with military experience?
There's an awful lot of folks these days thinking that the only kind of leadership experience a President of the United States needs is military. Just scan the comments sections in political blogs. You'll find it, I guarantee.
But is there any truth to this idea? Let's look at one former President - Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln is, I think unarguably, our finest President. Tall, funny, smart, ruggedly handsome (stretching the definition of handsome a bit), politically acute and a military hero. Helluva guy!
Wait, I mis-wrote. Abe was never a military hero. I must've been thinking of Hillary.
So what was the ultimate War President's military record? Well, during the Black Hawk War, Lincoln was the elected Captain of a militia band that never really saw any heat, any action. More like a bunch of drunks with guns in reality (except for Abe, who was always the odd-man out when it came to drinking in the 19th century). What kind of experience did this give him to lead the country during its darkest hour? Lincoln experienced an incredible insight, that he could inspire and command the respect of his peers. It was an eye-opening revelation for the aspiring young Abe. Personally, I think this is the kind of experience a leader can gain in almost any situation. Obama's work on Chicago's south side as a community organizer is as good if not better than Lincoln's military record when it comes to standards of leadership.
An interesting corollary to this question of military service: Can one only serve one's country by serving in the military? If this is again to be a benchmark for the Presidency, then I think it's time to change the Constitution. Henceforward, only veterans can run for or be elected to the Office of President of the United States of America. Hallelujah - we're all saved!
Sound good? No, of course it doesn't. Pretty damn stupid. McCain has a lot of medals and has served honorably in the military. Bush supposedly had some kind of military experience. Bill Clinton sure as heck didn't. Hillary doesn't. Neither does Obama. How many medals would qualify as "military experience"? How many years? Does getting shot in the face by a sitting Vice President count?* Does the Coast Guard?
Jokes aside, if we look at the non-military records of the candidates, I have to say that each one has met or exceeded the "service to one's country" Presidential benchmark. All have served, in many ways, to do what they have thought best for this nation and its people. I don't agree with a lot of the things two of them have done, but that's beside the point right now. And the example of Lincoln is enough to teach us all that military experience doesn't count for squat. Leadership counts. Inspiring others to do and be their best counts. I think there's only one candidate right now that meets these benchmarks.
* BTW, our current VP has absolutely no military experience. In fact, he went out of his way to get deferment after deferment. Class act all the way, our Cheney, class act.