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Ex-Generals : Why are they so desired as candidates?(8 posts)

Ex-Generals : Why are they so desired as candidates?PdxMark
Aug 26, 2003 11:30 AM
Colin Powell & Wesley Clark...

Both are clearly accomplished, bright, articulate... but why do they generate such a political buzz? I have a few ideas...

One thing is the natural "patriotic" authority of being a former general. That seems like it is deemed to carry alot of potential weight with voters. Maybe they are deemed inherently trustworthy by voters.

Another is that they seem reasonable, downright moderate. Not sure if that's characteristic of all senior military officers, resulting from lifelong modern military service, of it's just those two.

There is no political baggage from past political dealings. Each a virtual political tabula rasa. If I remember corently, people weren't even sure whether Colin was a Dem or a Repub, but both sides wanted him.

Finally, they aren't Admirals, which seems not to have the same luster as Generals. Any thoughts on this one Scott? How far are you from your first star?

Any other thoughts?
They're all a bunch of pri........sn69
Aug 26, 2003 12:28 PM
OKAY, not really. I just finished my supposed "career broadening" tour as a flag aid, whereby the Navy in its infinite wisdom thinks that pilots need to get out of the cockpit at the peak of their tactical proficiency to do something different. Yeah, uhm, right.

In any case, I've had a LOT of exposure to the "X-rated" world of the DOD inside the beltway, more in fact that I ever could have wanted. That said, I'm of the opinion that flag and general officers have certain traits in common. First, they are among the smartest people I have ever met with many high-level geniuses in the group. For real, like, you know (insert immature, inane tounge rasberry here). Second, they are extremely amibitous. To make the jump from O-6 (CAPT or COL) to O-7 (RADM or BGEN), you've got to have the ambition to craft and guide your career towards very specific milestones from an early professional age, family and friendships be damned. Third, they have a great many peers within DOD, but very few friends. The amount of back stabbing I bore witness to was apalling. While they typically worked honestly on behalf of their troops, their relationships with one-another were quite different, particularly as they reached the jump from O-8 to O-9 (two to three star). At the four star level, to which I had VERY LITTLE exposure, those people are on par with senior Senators and Congressmen in terms of their position within the federal government. Finally, over 90% of them came from the service academies, which speaks volumes to the good ol' boy network that Annapolis, West Point and Colorado Springs breed. ROTC and OCS officers typically need not apply, although there are exceptions.

Through the nature of their jobs, they become politically astute and highly skilled resource managers. I think the Vietnam-era Westmoreland image of flags is inaccurate in today's world of resource limitations, global dynamics, etc. These people are like CEOs and COOs of their respective eschelons of command. Still, there are some that I saw and stared at in dumbfounded horror, thinking they never should have made it past where I am (O-4), much less to flag. But those were few and far between. ...One needant be kind or nice to be an effective senior executive, unfortunately.

Now, here's where I'm really going to go out on a limb with conjecture and my foolish, amatuer opinions, so be forewarned. I think that you see fewer Admirals seeking public office than Generals because we--the Navy/Marine Corps team--have far fewer flags per capita than the Army or Chair Force. Likewise, Annapolis is the most self-assuming elitist of the service academies, and I think that lends to an over-exaggerated sense of hard core conservatism. You don't meet a great many politically moderate Boat Schoolers. (By way of comparison, being a U of Florida drunken retard, I'm positively pinko-commie compared to some of my Canoe U peers.)

Clark and Powell have long been known to be politically moderate. I'd like to think that their exposure to the abject, institutionalized moral corruption inside the beltway (where the lefties and righties play tonsil hockey behind the scenes and script their vitriolic bs in concert with each other) has given them a healthy sense of cynical reality. They know that the working soldier, sailor, marine or airman is, in essence, every working stiff in America. In turn, they have to balance the needs of their people against extreme resource limitations while also satisfying the fickley political wills of their elected leaders. It's a hard juggling act to master.

Clark (one of MY people incidentally...see? he also broke his mother's heart) and Powell go way back, with a shared history of assignments. Likewise, Clark was a student and ardent believer of the Powell Doctrine, and it was his adherence to it that flew in the face of Clinton's seemingly arbitrary use of armed force to intervene in the Balkans and elsewhere. It's wha
Aug 26, 2003 12:29 PM
It's what got him fired. He's also very critical of the current administration, for many of the same reasons as well as for several others, all of which are well-documented. Also, he's not a big fan of that pontificous fool Hackworth.

Do I think he'd make a good president? Hell, I don't know. Ask me after I deploy to the kitty litter box later this year. I'll expand on some of my silent observations then.

Do I think he's what the Democratic Party needs? Perhaps. Their last persona with undeniable patriotic, red-blooded, All-American-Boy charm was/is Glenn, whose record of service is undeniable. Carter was a submarine officer, but that fact is overshadowed by the post-Vietnam mess he inherited and the Iranian implosion. Gore was a vet, but his cardboard, monotone dribble combined with his censoring wife's nonsense didn't make him much of a colorful character (although I think he should keep the beard). If the Dems want to redraw the middle, they need someone who is Clinton-smart, Carter-aware/compassionate and has an undeniable sense of accomplishment, service and Reagan-esque charisma (only speaking to the charm-factor). They don't have that, nor have they in some time. Their most well-known, voiciferous people in the past have often been as far left as the right's wackos are to the opposite end. Schroeder versus Bucchanon and such.

The Democratic party needs someone who can appeal to the masses on many levels, not the least of which is to assure a sketchy, gun-shy American public that their military will be used APPROPRIATELY (sh!t...Ed, can I share a cell with you in the detention camp?) and effectively to fight WW4. There are soooooo many levels to this, but the Dems need that particular characteristic at the moment in addition to so many others.

As for the paucity (I love that stupid word) of admirals; well, perhaps the retired ones are all busy making ridiculous gobs of money in industry, where they are sought as "consultants" and frequently command entry salaries in excess of $300-$400K. I'm not making that up. Do you remember ADM Bill Crowe, however? He was CJCS under Reagan. He was an "out of the closet" Dem, and he did quite well, although I've never seen him in the political arena.

My old boss was a good person, a good officer and politically realistic. He did, however, share the typical flag traits that I told you about before. I thought it amusing, then, that he thought that Clark was "full of himself." I actually had to leave the room when he said that because I couldn't stifle my laughter. ...And that, my friend, should tell you how far--how very far--I am from EVER earning a star.

Any experience with and/or what's your impressionSpecialTater
Aug 26, 2003 1:36 PM
of Gen. Myers? Just curious.
Unfortunately, none.sn69
Aug 26, 2003 1:44 PM
Like I said, I rarely had any exposure based on my boss' position beyond the three star level, and what little four star exposure I had was limited to the Navy/Marine Corps.

One thing to remember is that the Joint Chiefs are not the head war-fighters. They are the head resource allocators/managers. The four stars formerly known as Theater CINCs (a term now banned by SecDef) are the head military war fighters in the country. Today we refer to them as the Unified Combantant Commanders--people like GEN Franks at CENTCOM.

Thus, it's hard to tell if GEN Meyers is filling his role, or if he's being pushed down by SecDef. That's WAAAAY beyond my meager scope.
And they have experience with profligate waste, too.cory
Aug 27, 2003 8:41 AM
Keeping in mind the difference in our politics and military experience (I rose to the lofty rank of E-5 in 2 years, 11 months and 22 days), I have to agree w/Scott. I had some exposure to high-ranking officers because of my job, and I was much more conservative (and admiring) in those days than I am now that my brains have come in. A lot of them WERE very smart and effective--but relentlessly ambitious, too, to the point that their politicking interfered with their performance. I've heard from former friends (one just retired last year as an 0-6 in the Pentagon) that Powell was more politician than soldier, which fits w/Scott's description of being goal-oriented. You don't get those second and third stars by accident.
As for their political appeal...we'll see if there really IS any. It's certainly rebounded since Vietnam. If a military person were to become a serious candidate, though, AND if the press weren't afraid to report on his/her past (Powell has escaped scrutiny almost entirely; sometimes I wonder if that's one reason he's refused to run for office), who knows what might turn up? Waste in the military is legendary, and justifiably so, and the Navy (other branches, too, but I happen to know about that) is a huge and conscience-free polluter. Some digging into those two areas could make any career officer look bad.
And they have experience with profligate waste, too.sn69
Aug 27, 2003 11:20 AM
You brought up two interesting points.

First, regarding institutionalized waste, what a lot of the public don't realize is that its a legislative requirement. The acquisition process is a programmed mandate from Congress that ostensibly exists to provide the right gear at the right price. Unfortunately, it drags out acquisition processes and takes the control from the hands of the end users (us) and puts it into the etherial realm of corporate/contract law. Thus, the hammer that the DOD wants gets legislatively dragged out to become an aquisition program that takes 10 years to fund and results in a per-unit cost of $9,876. Likewise, the large programs are often split between so many legislative districts that DOD can't kill them if they fail to meet specification standards, such as the Osprey. The PPBS/WBB system is filled with loopholes and inadequacies that serves neither the public nor the uniformed DOD very well. It's amazing that most of the stuff we get works as well as it does. It's not amazing that we often end up using systems that are older than we are, however. Hell, the last B-52 is projected to be 80 years old when it's retired.

Regarding the Navy and pollution, that's a paradoxical issue. At one level and like any large industrial corporation, the Navy makes a lot of bad by-products that have to be disposed of. Along with that, our bases have been located in the same areas sometimes in excess of 100 years, long before the EPA and environmental protection protocols existed. Thus, the mess left behind at places like Mare Island and Alameda are horrid by any standards. Still, the other side of the coin is the fanatically self-imposed standards that we live to for environmental regulations. At NAS North Island, for example, we have isocyanate standards for aircraft painting that far exceed San Diego's Air Pollution Control District's, that, in turn, exceed those of the EPA. Similar standards exist at the ship and sub bases as well. Our ships dump trash at sea, but they adhere to international environmental standards with regards to HAZMAT and dump proximity to shore. If you ever want to see profoundly gnarly environmental waste, visit a foriegn port like Jebel Ali or Bahrain....
Not always true, for which I'm thankful--remember Haig?The Walrus
Aug 28, 2003 3:02 PM
He and my father were classmates at the Academy, and I can't think of too many people who inspired such a level of frothing disgust in my father. A classic example of the political animal, not especially bright or (militarily) gifted, but he knew just how to work the system to his advantage. I think one of Dad's lifetime favorite experiences was getting a phone call (as did most living West Pointers) from Haig when he was exploring the prospects for a presidential run, and thus having a chance to tell him what he thought of him....