Most people assume veterans’ organizations reflect their membership — principled, traditional, and right-of-center. After all, veterans should put country before party and veteran welfare before partisan interests. While that once may have been true, it no longer appears to be.
Instead, many prominent veteran service organizations (VSOs), military service organizations (MSOs) and veteran advocacy groups, most headquartered in Washington, either have outsourced their higher education agendas to the extreme left or have been infiltrated by Democratic strategists — and may not even know it. Either way, when it comes to the GI Bill and veterans’ educational choice, the truth is staring us in the face: Many veteran groups now primarily support a leftist, anti-choice higher education agenda.
America’s largest veterans’ organization, the American Legion, quietly changed its position from being skeptical of anti-veteran educational choice policies in higher education to now carrying the partisan banner of the left. I suppose this is not a big surprise. After all, in a recent media profile, one member of the American Legion described it as once having led on issues but now riding the coattails of others.
The flip-flop may be an extension of the Legion’s anti-President Trump staff. Many veterans’ groups lose credibility because of their lack of balance and ridiculous claim of being nonpartisan. If that were true, they would actively listen to all veterans, instead of backing partisan views. But they stay in their Washington headquarters and, lately, have been taking their marching orders from Democratic sources.
Carrie Wofford, a self-described Democratic strategist and one of the lead staffers behind a partisan Senate Committee report that violated “a long history of bipartisanship and collaboration,” founded Veterans Education Success (VES) in 2013. Predictably, the report condemned the taxpaying sector involved in career, technical and trade education — labeled as “for-profit colleges” by the left and their friends in the liberal media. Clear-thinking Republicans described the effort as nakedly partisan, one conducted in a way that “undermined the credibility” of its findings. This report, however, became a launching pad for a crusade against the taxpaying education sector that now exists under the banner of VES.
One glance at the VES leadership reveals the group’s leftist ideology. Three out of five board members have previous Democratic affiliations. Another unsuccessfully ran for elected office in California as, you guessed it, a Democrat.
The most disturbing arc in this development is not the creation of a left-leaning front group by a non-veteran Democrat, but the blind allegiance to this organization by longstanding veteran groups led by actual veterans. Too many of these groups are endorsing partisan letters credited to the left-leaning VES.
VES and its coalition of veteran groups recently criticized Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderAuthorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (R-Tenn.) for his bipartisan efforts to advance higher education legislation and called for the inclusion of a partisan policy endorsed exclusively by Democrats. These same groups, however, remained eerily silent as Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenFederal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE (D-Mass.) proposed to eliminate choice for veterans at private career, technical and vocational schools.
Think about that. Veteran groups criticized a Republican leader for being bipartisan but did not utter a word when a progressive politician, seeking the Democratic nomination for president, put forth a proposal so extreme it is doubtful even her fellow Democrats will get behind it.
Mission creep is something we learn about in the military. Going off mission, or outside of your core competencies, hurts the overall focus of a unit or military campaign. The VSOs and MSOs get away with this kind of mission creep by rubber-stamping left-leaning, anti-veterans’ choice letters because the general public is not paying attention and the left-leaning mainstream media will never call them out for it.
This leads to a leftist groupthink that now pervades the VSO/MSO community and is incredibly problematic, leading to a partisan approach on higher education policymaking. This approach ignores the needs of veterans and elevates the special interests of partisans. Veterans want choices. They are smart enough to choose. It is time for Congress to listen to veterans instead of the D.C.-based groups drunk on the swamp.
Pete Hegseth is a veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and the co-host of Fox News’s Fox & Friends Weekend. He is the author of “In the Arena” (Threshold Editions, 2016). Follow him on Twitter @PeteHegseth.