You might think that a prominent veterans organization like the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) would actually reserve its political endorsements for, you know, veterans, or at least those politicians that actually demonstrate some level of respect for the military. But you would be wrong. And the problem is not just the VFW; rather, the VFW’s current lobbyist-driven fiasco simply serves to illustrate how out-of-touch the Washington in-crowd is with the feelings of us benighted souls dwelling outside the beltway.
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In the Florida 22nd Congressional District race, incumbent Democrat Ron Klein is running against Republican challenger Allen West. Actually, he’s properly addressed as Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Allen West, a decorated combat veteran who commanded a battalion in Iraq until he was forced to retire after making a 9mm suggestion to a captured terrorist that it would be a very, very smart move to give up some information about future attacks against LTC West’s men. Now, that’s not to say Congressman Klien does not have a distinguished military record of his own – to be fair, apparently he saw most of Saving Private Ryan on AMC once, though he found it pretty scary.
After due consideration- which apparently means the VFW’s lobbyists told it to do so – the VFW endorsed Klein.
Okay, sometimes an organization makes a mistake. I mean, it’s not like the VFW decided to endorse, say, a liberal Democratic senator who tried to humiliate an Army general testifying by demanding that he call her “Senator” instead of the perfectly appropriate “ma’am,” or who allowed her fundraisers to be hosted by the likes of Hanoi Jane. That would be, well, crazy.
Oh, wait. The VFW is endorsing leftist Senator Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). Yeah, the same Barbara Boxer who voted to undercut us troops as we sat out in the desert waiting for Operation Desert Storm to start. Yeah, the same Barbara Boxer who undercut the troops by voting to cut and run in Iraq. Yeah, that Barbara Boxer – the one who will be running around using the VFW’s shameful endorsement as a shield against the truth of her track record of contempt for our military.
(Disclosure: I am listed as a “Veteran for Carly Fiornia,” though my activities on her behalf have been limited to receiving countless campaign emails every day).
In fact, as Blackfive points out, the VFW has endorsed the wrong candidate in lots of races this year – and its members are getting mad. Sadly, this great American institution is going to pay a heavy price as angry vets cut their ties and its potential future membership, swelled by nearly a decade of war, take a look at the roster of anti-military incumbent hacks the VFW chose to anoint over decorated vets challenging the status quo and decide they would rather light their dollars on fire than give it to another self-interested lobbying machine designed to do nothing more that fuel the political careers of the very people who created the mess this country is in in the first place.
The VFW’s rank and file membership consists of the best of America. These heroes served their country in the past and continue serving today. Where a veteran needs an honor guard to render final honors at his funeral, the VFW’s members are there. Where an injured vet needs help, the VFW’s members are there. And their humility about what they have done is amazing – I was speaking at a VFW post on Memorial Day in 2009 and the gentleman seated next to me answered my question about where he served with a nonchalant “Normandy,” like that was no big deal. That’s the reason – until now – that I never joined the VFW. I’m eligible twice over for membership, but while I did my job adequately while deployed I’ve never felt I had a right to hang out with these guys.
But that isn’t going to be a problem now, as I’d sooner just save the time going to the VFW meetings and write a check to MoveOn.org directly.
Like so many institutions, the VFW’s connection with Washington has dragged it away from its roots. The organization’s relentless lobbying on behalf of veterans for more and more benefits has meant cozying up to any politicians who will trade their votes for the credibility the VFW’s endorsement provides. But now, the VFW’s Washington operation is only about getting more and more benefits, and this has created an unholy alliance with politicians who detest the military yet crave the ability to play the veterans card.
Vets are certainly concerned with making sure they get the medical care they need for the wounds they suffered defending the country, but even more important to them – as the out-of-touch VFW leadership is starting to realize in the wake of the current disaster – is that the VFW stand up for our country and its defense. Being a vet isn’t about getting goodies thrown at you from the public trough. It’s about still serving your country even after you’ve gotten too old to do it in combat boots. And the VFW’s leadership has forgotten that.
But they are being reminded, all right. The National Command, knocked on its heels by the outrage of its members, has started back-peddling:
KANSAS CITY, Mo., Oct. 8, 2010 – The national line officers of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) are at odds with the VFW Political Action Committee (PAC), calling the methodology process used by the PAC “seriously flawed at best this year and in immediate need of extensive review,” in the wake of the recent congressional endorsements made by the committee.
“Even though the law requires that VFW-PAC be a separate organization, the acronym ‘VFW’ is attached to the committee and the natural assumption is that the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is somehow making the endorsement decisions. Nothing could be further from the truth, but perception is reality,” said National Commander Richard Eubank.
“Obviously, an organization’s political positions have to reflect the opinions of its members. But those opinions can’t be perceived as ‘off the wall,’ and the methodology used this year to grade candidates obviously is skewed in favor of the incumbent. That isn’t fair, and it actually subverts the democratic process.”
Because of the controversy surrounding the endorsements, VFW line officers have decided to bring the question of continued existence of the PAC to the floor during the 112th VFW national convention in August.
Note how they blame the legally-required disconnect between the VFW itself and the VFW’s political action committee. If one ever had any doubt that “campaign finance reform” was anything more than a poorly-disguised scam meant to protect incumbent hack politicians by limiting political speech, look no further.
Now, the VFW is not obligated to endorse only the hardcore conservative Republicans I prefer. It should do so, as everyone should, but it is conceivable that in certain races the Democrat might be the best fit for its membership’s goals. And it is not obligated to always select the veteran in a particular race – there are some veterans who have such a track record of contempt for their comrades that the VFW should endorse the opponent even if he’s a cross-dresser whose political positions come via the voices in his head.
But what the VFW should not be is part of the incumbent protection racket that has helped knock this country on its tail. If there is a good non-vet incumbent and a good vet challenger in a race, the VFW should point out that both are friends of veterans but it should not intervene. Yeah, that means its influence in D.C. might wane a bit with some of its fair-weather friends, but this isn’t some public employee union working hard to pillage Uncle Sucker for every cent it can steal. This is the VFW, and its members don’t give a damn about how much harder doing the right thing is going to make its lobbyists’ jobs. Vets want to do right for their country, not for themselves.
If the VFW’s leadership wants to keep their jobs, they best put their lobbyists, consultants and other Washington insider parasites “at ease” and start listening to their members. And if you want to sound-off, you might want to drop the leadership an e-mail letting it know just how you feel – especially you former non-commissioned officers. I know from personal experience how much you enjoy undertaking your critical responsibility of letting the command know when it’s screwing something up. Just try not to use too many profanities.
You can also let Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) West know that maybe the VFW is not behind him, but that we veterans are by donating here.
Of course, the phenomenon of the VFW’s leadership siding with incumbent politicians and its own lobbyists over the desires of its membership in order to “protect its influence” is not unique or unusual. It happens all the time. For example, every election year we see some police union leadership embracing some liberal hack who thinks (and votes like) crime is caused because gangbangers are not getting enough hugs but is willing to go the union’s way on pensions.
The fact is that when an organization gets wrapped up in the Washington political game its priorities get screwed up and it loses track of the true focus of its members because it is so busy chasing influence for influence’s sake. That leads to fiascos like the VFW endorsing Hanoi Jane’s pal Barbara Boxer and overlooking a war hero like Allen West in favor of an incumbent big spender who thinks Hamburger Hill is a hip new Georgetown bistro.