I keep seeing this story pop up on social media and I’m a bit surprised to find myself wanting to help the Democrat:
U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly appears to be borrowing a page from fellow Democrat Jim Moran‘s playbook in suggesting that his Republican opponent is unfit for duty in Congress.
Connolly, defending his seat against Army Col. Chris Perkins, said military deployments prevent service members from putting “sweat equity” into the districts they hope to serve in Congress.
Alright, that sounds like something a flag-burning, apple-pie screwing leftist asshole would say. Great for a viral story. So far so good, right?
But that’s not what Connolly said. In the video, Connolly was responding to the criticism that he’s simply a career politician who has never really done anything else. That’s fair play on Murray’s part and Connolly has the right to justify his value.
Far from bashing veterans, Connolly pointed out that his opponent, Patrick Murray (Ret Colonel, US Army), has been so disengaged from the community affairs of the district he wants to represent in the the years since he got out of the Army that he didn’t even vote in 2010. The relevant portion of the speech starts at about 6:30.
You may like the Iraq War hero more than the community activist turned politician who never had a real job (who does that remind me of?), but it’s dishonest to say that Connolly claimed that Murray is somehow unqualified because he served in the military. I don’t know how anyone gets that from watching the video.
Now, I could (and probably should) stop there, but can I say that an experienced career politician can make a better case for being a member of Congress over a career military officer? Where does this notion that military experience automatically translates into being an awesome lawmaker come from?
When I was in the Army and encountered commissioned officers, I noticed that those assholes were pretty much completely disengaged from the lives of their troops and really didn’t do much of anything ever. When we went to field, our lieutenant went to class. Not to bash anyone here who was a commanding officer, but to this day I have no idea what you guys did all day that the NCO’s weren’t doing.
Military leadership is different from the private sector and even government service. In fact, you don’t need any leadership ability to be an officer. You tell the grunts what you want done and they do it, or else. They can’t refuse or they might get locked up and they can’t put in two weeks notice. Anywhere else, leadership is defined by your ability to get people to buy-in and voluntarily work toward a common goal. Knowing how to bargain, negotiate, inspire, motivate, and comprommise is essential. I’m not convinced that leadership by fiat is really leadership. In fact, I think it’s the opposite of that.
That’s not to say that military leaders do not frequently possess these skills, but they are not necessary for a successful career. You can advance far within the military by going to the right schools, serving a few tours, putting in time in service, and avoiding making a tough decision that gets you in trouble. I knew one great leader whose career was destroyed because he stood up for one of his soldiers to a two-star general. Contrast him with the senior military commanders who cravenly sat on their hands and watched the consulate in Benghazi get sacked because they knew that if one Marine died in a rescue mission, their careers would be shot and they’d probably be court-martialed. The Army breeds that mentality, sorry to say. Do I know that’s what happened? No, but I’d wager it based on what I know about senior officers.
I know pretty much nothing about Connolly’s or Murray’s record or positions and I don’t live in their district so this isn’t an endorsement either way. I also hate to say anything nice about the careerist politicians who have screwed up our country.
BUT…I think Connolly makes a good point that he deserves to be re-elected because of his ties to the community he represents rather than the guy who has never been interested in local affairs until he wanted the community to give him a job. If I lived in that district, I would certainly question Murray’s motives for running and ask what’s in it for my neighborhood.
Service in the military does say a lot of positives about a candidate’s character. You sacrifice a great deal for it. But what we need right now in Congress are people who know how to work with people who disagree with them for the common good and prioritize the interests of their own constitutents above their own job security.
Again: I’m not saying Connolly is that guy, but he does make a good argument for his own background.