One of the first times I saw Mitt Romney speak was on television during his 2007 campaign in Iowa for the Republican nomination. Now I try to give all Republican candidates the same chance as Democratic or Independent candidates, though it doesn't take long before a Republican's views or policies start to rub me the wrong way.
By the time the clip ended I could tell that Romney was not going to get my vote.
At a campaign stop Romney was asked by a anti-war activist why none of his five sons were not in the military, given Romney's support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Romney's response was that his sons were doing their part by getting him elected.
Romney also mentions that we thankfully now have an all-volunteer army. I'm sure Romney remembers the terror of wondering when his draft lottery number would come up and hoped to spare his sons of the same ordeal. Romney applied for and received four deferments during our conflict in Vietnam. One of his deferments was for a 31-month missionary tour in France for his church, though the Mormon Church was a supporter of the war. As an undergrad student at Stanford, Romney didn't protest against the war, he was FOR IT.
It's one thing to say "my boys are grownups and they can do whatever they want" but it's quite another to suggest that driving around Iowa shaking hands is as important to their country as driving an IAV Stryker through Iraq. It is insulting to every fallen service member and every veteran who has served this country. It is insulting to every family member who has lost a loved-one in the military or spent months worrying that theirs comes back safe. Unlike Joe Biden, John McCain, Jim Webb and Sarah Palin and countless other American parents or spouses, Mitt and Ann will never have to worry about a knock on their door when they're not expecting company.
Romney is out of touch on so many things but his views on the military are nothing short of callous. We’ve already witnessed his omission of the military in his nomination acceptance speech in August, using the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi to score cheap political points and Ann’s comparing military service to Mormon missionary service. But these aren’t gaffes, they are the way Mitt Romney sees the military: faceless employees doing the dirty work that enrich him –or if he were to become president- make him look good. He would no doubt treat the military as The Help, becoming indignant if veterans demanded more benefits. His support of expanding the Pentagon’s budget is not a desire to give them the very best weapons but to keep his defense contractor donors happy.
Of course, you don’t have to serve in the military to be Commander in Chief. President Obama didn't serve in the military, but he has been given accolades by military leaders for his handling of the our country’s efforts against terrorism. Michelle Obama has also advocated for military families and veterans.
I was canvassing door-to-door in Virginia this weekend and saw a house with a large "Veterans for Romney" sign in the yard. I myself have never been in the military but it struck me as ironic that someone identifying his or herself as a veteran was supporting someone who went out his way to avoid military service while actively supporting the war he was avoiding. As we saw with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (five deferments), there are enormous consequences when power is given to someone without at least an understanding of the military and an appreciation of why they serve.
If Romney wasn't campaigning to keep our troops in Iraq or Afghanistan indefinitely or start a new war against Iran and Syria, his attitudes about service and sacrifice would be unfortunate. Instead they're uninformed and if guiding the hands of a Commander in Chief they can prove tragic.