Van Taylor, War Candidate

In many campaigns across this country this year, you hear of candidates running as fast as they can from the disaster in Iraq and the president who got us into it. But not in Bush Country.

Van Taylor, a Iraq War vet who wants to unseat Democrat Chet Edwards, must not have got the memo, or doesn’t think the folks around here are feeling the way Americans elsewhere are. He’s running hard on his vet status, and says he will be a War Senator, so sorely needed to help Bush, the War President. This rather curious stategy is probably his only recourse, though, since he has no other discernable qualifications for office and isn’t even from around here — apparently something pretty important to the locals (I’m new myself and that’s what I hear — I think it has something to do with college football).

Today’s Waco Trib included the following guest editorial by Waco resident Hal Ritter on Taylor’s battle plan for getting elected in George W. Bush’s congressional district. Ritter doesn’t seem to think Taylor’s paying attention either.

Interestingly, though the Trib found the piece worthy of publishing on their editorial page, they did not think it quite worthwhile enough to make available on their web site. Since their guest column is basically a long letter to the editor that got promoted, and all the lte’s are printed — even the absolutely idiotic ones that blame CBS for the death of their Iraq crew — this makes no sense whatsoever. But then this is Waco; they do things there own damn way down here, in case you haven’t heard. At any rate, I paste in full, with no link, and no apology to the Trib.

So now warriors are needed?

Why is Van Taylor’s military past more important than others?

The relationship of the military to the elected, constitutional, civilian government in the United States continues to be an evolving struggle for “top gun,” or “who’s on first?”

In the past 50 years we have had warrior presidents, such as Eisenhower, Kennedy and Bush I, and non-warrior presidents, such as Nixon, Johnson, Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Bush II.

Currently, there is a bickering about who and how to run the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Are the Pentagon and the military in charge, or are the president, the secretary of defense and Congress in charge?

Because it is true that “all politics is local,” this national bickering has a way of trickling down to our local political climate. Currently, Van Taylor, a Republican, is running for the federal Congress against Democratic incumbent Chet Edwards.

Taylor’s campaign has made for some interesting political posturing. He continues to say that his status as a war veteran uniquely qualifies him for Congress, because the country is at war. Taylor’s campaign claims that Chet Edwards is not a warrior, even though Edwards has extensive experience and influence in the positions he holds in Congress. But, Edwards should be removed. A wartime president needs a warrior congressman.

When George W. Bush was running for president, the Republicans went out of their way to ridicule the combat service of John Kerry in Vietnam. The Republican position was that a warrior president was not necessary. The president, in this case George W. Bush, managed to avoid Vietnam altogether with some kind of limited military enrollment. Nevertheless, the Republicans say he is fully trained and capable for the job of wartime President.

However, Van Taylor is now saying that his veteran status uniquely qualifies him for federal government work.

Is this a Republican “flip-flop”? First, attack a Vietnam veteran’s military service when it serves the purpose of winning an election. Now, promote a veteran’s military service when it serves the purpose of winning an election.

So who’s on first? Is it political convenience? The Republicans either use the military or bash the military for their election to a constitutionally established civil government position.

Is it political expediency? George W. Bush cannot claim warrior status, so the Republicans attack John Kerry’s Vietnam service. The Republicans claim Kerry’s veteran status contributes nothing to the skills needed to be president of the nonmilitary, civilian government.

But now, the Republicans are lining up behind Van Taylor as a warrior veteran.

I, for one, am very comfortable with having a nonmilitary, nonwarrior, nonveteran serve in the civil government. For me, the relationship of the military to the civil government is similar to the balance of powers provided in the Constitution for the three branches of the civil government. They need each other, but they also restrain each other.

Nevertheless, as commander in chief, the president is over the military, and the military has a direct responsibility to the Congress.

I would take the same position if Van Taylor were running for U.S. senator. Our two Republican Senators have civil government experience, and his warrior-veteran status does not qualify him to run against either of them.

So who’s on first? The military or the civilian government? The veteran or the congressman? Van Taylor or Chet Edwards?

Hal Ritter of Waco is a behavioral science educator with Scott & White.

[A similar post made on Texas Kos]