AS POLITICAL scientists and pundits poke around in the remaining mulch of last Tuesday's election for new insights, is it a stretch to suggest that a candidate's military service has been sharply downgraded as a political asset? There are a growing number of instances in which the candidate with no military experience has advanced to the Oval office over a bona fide veteran.
Some evidence: Ronald Reagan, whose "active duty" amounted to no more than strutting about in uniform in California and making war movies, defeated Jimmy Carter, who served commendably on submarine duty, and Walter Mondale, an Army vet. In 1992 and again in 1996, Bill Clinton, who never put on a uniform, knocked off two authentic military achievers: George H. W. Bush, a WWII Naval pilot, and Bob Dole, a decorated veteran with lasting scars. And didn't Dubya Bush manage to avoid the service and later slip by two war veterans, Democrats Al Gore and John Kerry? Yes, he did. Finally, except for some aged veterans groups, John McCain's widely touted POW experience wasn't of much value against Barack Obama, with no military service. There were other issues in these campaigns as well, and they prevailed. And as the younger generation moves farther away from the old Selective Service System, it will likely stay that way.