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After the whole bin Laden thing this spring, Democrats thought for sure the whole liberals-are-too-wussy-to-be-commander-in-chief thing was out of style. Nope. Brand-new presidential candidate Rick Perry is bringing it back in. At his speech before Iowa Republicans Sunday night, he said, "One of the reasons, one of the powerful reasons, that I'm running for the presidency of the United States is to make sure that every young man and woman who puts on the uniform of this country respects highly the president of the United States." NBC News' First Read wonders, "Does that mean he doesn't think the U.S. military respects its current president? That's quite a charge from someone who isn't the commander-in-chief."
Signs suggest this is exactly what Perry is suggesting. Earlier this month, before the Texas governor got into the 2012 race, the Houston Chronicle
's Peggy Fikac
reported that two political action committees had been formed to raise cash to push Perry's cause: The Jobs for Vets Fund and Veterans for Rick Perry. The groups--which legally can't coordinate with Perry's campaign -- were founded by Dan Shelley, a lobbyist and former Perry staffer, and several other Perry allies serve on the groups' steering committee. One of those allies is Texas land commissioner Jerry Patterson, who told Fikac, "I think a commander in chief with military experience is usually better than one without, particularly considering we are a nation currently at war, and my Marine son is a participant in that war."
Perry served in the Air Force from 1972 to 1977; he flew a C-130
in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East. Perry called the aircraft "trash haulers," as he told the Abilene Reporter News
' Sarah Kleiner Varble
, describing his service as one in which he had to expect the unexpected: "There was no telling what you were going to haul around on any given day, from high value cargo like human beings to the colonel's kitty litter."
The governor did not mention getting shot at, because one of the places he did not fly was Vietnam. As a military man, Perry surely knows that the Great American Manly Man Contest is not merely between those who went to boot camp and those who did not. There's a manliness hierarchy within the military, too. If Perry's going to argue that a wartime commander-in-chief must have military service, couldn't you also make the case that the commander-in-chief must have had that military service in a war? And if he has to have served in a war, shouldn't he have been combat arms? And if he's combat arms, shouldn't he have been in the infantry, to understand what it's like kicking in doors? And if he were an infantryman, shouldn't he have also served in one of the two wars we're fighting right now?
Your humble aggregator would merely like to point out that flying cargo planes doesn't make you an action hero, and being an action hero doesn't make you ready to be president. Otherwise some of her favorite people--who just so happen to have spent a couple years as infantrymen in Iraq and came home with a few anti-war tats--would be on the ballot.
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is the former politics editor for The Wire