As Memorial Day passed and the 4th of July approaches, we are reminded of our nation’s greatest leaders. Presidents Washington, Eisenhower, and Truman all had one thing in common – they were veterans.
Their legacies were not defined by any sort of political gamesmanship; rather, they were decisive leaders who made tough decisions. They built trust then lead with every intention to succeed.
The same cannot be said today. Washington seems far more concerned with political gain than trustworthy leadership. Look at the scandals surrounding the Obama White House. Benghazi, the IRS targeting of conservatives, journalist intrusions, each scandal illustrates Washington’s obsession with political spin.
Rather than making tough decisions, telling the truth, and holding government accountable, the American people are left with smoke and mirrors designed to provide political cover. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said it best: “…all raise serious questions about whether some public servants in Washington are putting short-term political gain ahead of their obligations to the American people.”
This is shameful. Our government should not be tangled in perpetual scandals that rip apart the trust of the nation. “The American people should be able to put their faith and their trust in their elected leaders. These four incidents have shaken that trust in ways that will reverberate for years to come,” Portman said. The vitality of our democracy depends on American citizens trusting the government they elected.
After the 2012 election, Congress is now comprised of the fewest number of veterans since World War II. Just 19% of our elected leaders in Congress have served in the military. This is down from nearly 80% in 1977.
Veterans understand the vast difference between military leadership and Washington politics. When they served in our military, they had two goals with every mission. First, they fought to succeed. Second, they had to earn the trust of the men and women they led.
Elected veterans do the same in Washington. They are not worried with the political implications, the negative polls, or special interest groups’ reactions. Rather, they earn the trust of their constituents and fight for the success of the nation.
Veteran leadership is not relegated to past presidents like Washington, Eisenhower or Truman. We have seen elected veterans make their mark on Washington. Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole recently did an interview with Fox News Sunday. His commentary is a reminder why he is known as “America’s Veteran.” His leadership and service blatantly contrast with the Washington of today.
When asked about the chronic failure to solve our nation’s problems, Dole replied, “It seems almost unreal that we can’t get together on a budget or legislation. We weren’t perfect, but at least we got our work done… Nobody got everything, everyone gave something. That’s the way it has to work or the country’s going to suffer.”
He went on, saying, “It takes leadership. It takes someone standing up and saying ‘We’re going to do this.’ The leader takes the heat. There’s a penalty for leadership. One is you take a lot of heat.” What a contrast from our leaders today! In each of today’s scandals, each “leader” passes responsibility off to everyone else. They take no heat. They strive only for their own success. As a result, we do not trust them, and the country is suffering.
So how should we respond to the mess we are experiencing today? Apathy is not an option. It is imperative that we rebuild our veteran leadership. Washington is in dire need of trust. There is light at the end of this tunnel. A new wave of veterans is rising.
In 2012, nine Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were elected to the House: Reps. Cotton, Duckworth, Gabbard, DeSantis, Wenstrup, Bentivolio, Bridenstine, Perry, and Collins. It is heartening to see this bipartisan group making a mark on Washington.
Meanwhile, Gabriel Gomez, a former Navy SEAL is running for Senate in Massachusetts. Even in this blue state, voters are responding to his true and tested leadership qualities. Rob Maness, a retired Air Force Colonel with 30+ years of service, is running for Senate in Louisiana. Ryan Zinke, former Commander at SEAL Team Six, may be considering a run in Montana; the Afghanistan Iraq Veterans for Congress PAC is currently trying to draft him for the race.
Each member or candidate is different. They represent different facets of political ideology, but it is heartening to see our veterans step up and serve again. They are not driven by politics, party leadership, or special interests. When asked about his potential run, Ryan Zinke simply stated, “I always stand ready to serve and keep America strong.” The motivation is love of country. This will benefit every American. Washington does not need more liberals, more conservatives, or more moderates. Each would be politically motivated. Rather, we need trusted leaders who continually seek to serve our great nation.
When asked what he would like on his tombstone, Sen. Dole replied, “Veteran. He Gave His Most For His Country.” That is the mindset of our veterans. These are leaders we can trust. These are the leaders we need.