Global Politics

The candidates and the military

On day two of the Republican Convention, this Vietnam POW delivered a salute to a Navy Seal who was posthumously awarded a medal of honor after throwing himself on top of a grenade in Iraq. Two of the soldier's team members were present and were trying not to draw attention themselves. But then the Vietnam POW went off script and introduced them, and the victim's sister. The soldiers obliged but by being identified as Navy Seals it appeared as if they were there to endorse McCain. This is not the only example of a mix between soldiers and politics. At one Obama speech, a navy soldier made his way through the crowd to shake Obama's hand. The captain then appeared to cover his nametag with his hand as he felt his actions could have been misconstrued as support for Obama. This armed forces expert says the rules are straight forward: servicemen and women must not appear to support a particular candidate or issue while in uniform, but can do so while out of uniform. Why is endorsement while in uniform such a concern? This political science professor says one doesn't want an idea that a military office wouldn't obey an order from a President they didn't agree with, or that the military was trying to get its favored candidate in office. Likewise, candidates shouldn't be allowed to use the military as a campaign prop. McCain has been accused of that for distributing pictures of him with General Petraeus, and Obama has been accused of the same for his high profile visits with troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Campaigns routinely have retired officers as advisors, but it gets tricky when candidates use members of the military as eye candy. Still with wars being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's hard to keep the military and politics separate, especially when McCain has military background.

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