An exclusive Military Times poll of nearly 2,000 troops shows that most view the presumptive candidates for president to be, in the parlance of the more colorful of the two, total losers. The takeaway is whomever is the next commander in chief, that person will have to work smart and hard to gain the respect of the broader military community.
To be sure, the support for that candidate, Republican Donald Trump, is significantly stronger among those in uniform than it is for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
However, the military vote mirrors the popular vote in that it's largely a ballot cast against one candidate, rather than a vote for a candidate. The respondents who answered they were either dissatisfied or strongly dissatisfied with the candidates registered 61 percent for Trump and a staggering 82 percent for Clinton.
A love fest this ain't.
Both Trump and Clinton slouch toward the November election under the weight of much baggage. Trump has made statements viewed as racist and sexist and has offered few details on his vision for, well, anything. His policy positions on national security, foreign policy and other key topics are typically expressed in only the broadest strokes and reflect a lack of understanding of the complexities of the nation and the world.
Clinton, meanwhile, is viewed as dishonest, owing largely to suspicions that as Secretary of State she failed to protect the Americans killed on the terror attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and that she covertly set up a private email server with the express purpose of circumventing her legal obligations to conduct all official communications as part of the public record.
To be sure, the military in general tends to bend conservative, as do respondents to the Military Times poll. This is a community in which no service chief has been a woman; one that has been slow to open opportunities to women. It also is a community, however, not prone to put a woman in any position, let alone as commander in chief, just for a feel-good moment. Like the broader society, many in the military are sick of the blow-dried political phonies that Clinton to them epitomizes.
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Like the current president — and the vast majority of Congress and America — neither candidate has military experience. Well, Trump attended a private military academy, which is about as relevant to serving as playing Whiffle Ball is to playing major league baseball. There is no substitute for serving in uniform. In order to earn good standing with the military community, the next commander in chief will have to learn what it means to serve – to weather physical hardships, to endure long separations from loved ones, to be willing to die for your country.
It will require listening to everyone from an E-1 to the chairman of the joint chiefs and an ability to deliver to troops what they need to do their jobs in protecting the country and in taking care of their families.
It's not to be taken lightly, or given lip service. Everyone has had enough of that.