By Brent Budowsky - 06/16/08 05:23 PM EDT
Many leaders in the national security community are delighted that Barack Obama may be considering retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones for vice president.
Gen. Jones is admired throughout the military by his peer commanders, troops who served under him, high-level diplomats who have worked with him, military families who trust him and leaders of both parties in Congress.
Gen. Jones is a war hero, scholar and strategist with a degree from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, a military leader who served as Marine Corps commandant, and a skilled diplomat promoted to Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.
Let’s set aside the parlor game about the vice president and focus on the damage done to our military and intelligence capabilities under George Bush, and the long list of high-level veterans who could give Obama the strongest national security team in decades.
John McCain, like Bush, is so consumed by the Iraq war that our force structures are dangerously weakened, our deterrence is dangerously eroded, and military personnel face crises of lowered standards and retention losses of mid-level officers. Afghanistan is challenged; Pakistan deteriorates; bin Laden survives; al Qaeda regroups. Even the nuclear chain of command fell short.
Military healthcare suffers, vets’ centers are overloaded, readiness has collapsed, military equipment faces catastrophic deterioration, military families are unfairly burdened and long-term vets’ programs are badly underfunded.
When McCain, like Bush, summons the young to give lives and limbs in combat while he panders to the wealthy with tax cuts, he guarantees escalating military shortfalls. To break with this continuing mismanagement of security, Barack Obama could promise that at least half of his 10 senior national security posts will filled by senior retired military and veterans.
A short list of candidates is extraordinarily impressive: Retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni, Supreme Allied Commander of NATO Wes Clark, retired Adm. William Fallon, and retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki.
Among congressional veterans, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) is a national treasure. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) is a widely admired legislator and former Army Ranger. Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and John Warner (R-Va.) would make superb post-partisan Cabinet members.
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is an Air Force veteran who served as an intelligence officer with the Strategic Air Command.
Sen. McCain is a good man with dangerously bad ideas. He is a hard-line neoconservative with an obsession about the Iraq war that robs from all other military priorities and would worsen the deterioration of key military, intelligence and counter-terrorist capabilities.
Like Bush, McCain demeans wiser views that contradict his own. His comments about Obama are contemptuous, with scorn, ridicule and disrespect unworthy of one nominee addressing the other.
Like Bush, McCain lowers the level of discourse, describing those who disagree with him with trite talk of waving white flags, surrendering and appeasing.
When Sen. Obama supports more generous veterans’ benefits, McCain is reduced to saying Obama never served in the military — a short-pants McCarthyism and the last refuge of a politician losing the debate.
Change is coming. At the forefront will be retired military leaders called to service again, elevating our politics and enhancing our security with the nonpartisan leadership of duty, honor and country.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then-chief deputy whip of the House. He can be read on The Hill Pundits Blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.