Debra J. Saunders

Even though America is fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, members of President Obama's Cabinet are three times more likely to have attended law school than boot camp.

Only two -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki -- among the 16 Cabinet and six Cabinet-rank officials are military veterans. With last week's departure of National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones, a former Marine, the ranks of vets in Obama's national security inner circle just got thinner. Replacement Tom Donilon is another lawyer (and former lobbyist) with no military training.

The Democratic Party has come a long way since 2004 when party biggies were hitting President George W. Bush for serving only in the Air National Guard during Vietnam. Remember? Sen. John Kerry saluted the Democratic National Convention in Boston as he announced he was "reporting for duty." Democrats chastised Vice President Dick Cheney -- who enjoyed five draft deferments during that war -- as a "chicken hawk."

Now it's 2010. America is at war -- two wars. The commander in chief has never served in the military. Vice President Joe Biden received five student draft deferments during Vietnam. And you don't hear the term "chicken hawk" anymore.

I should note here that I never served in the military. I don't think that military service is an indispensable criterion for high office; it's a plus for a politician, just as deferments are a negative. All things being equal, it is preferable to have a president who personally understands what war means than not. Then again, all things never are equal.

Last year, as I recalled all the Democrats' demands for military service among the top Bushies -- because U.S. troops were fighting two wars -- I decided to check out the Obama Cabinet. I found only two military veterans, compared to six in the first (and by the way, prewar) Bush Cabinet.

At the time, the White House sent me a list of other prominent vets in the administration -- Jones, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, Matthew Flavin at the Department of Defense, Assistant Veterans Affairs Secretary Tammy Duckworth and foreign policy adviser Mark Lippert.

So when Jones stepped down last week, I thought I'd recalibrate. Flavin and Duckworth remain on the job. Lippert returned to active service in the Navy. His replacement, Denis R. McDonough, has no military experience. Blair's out; the new director of national intelligence, James Clapper, is a vet.

Monday, the White House sent four new names -- NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Deputy Veterans Affairs Secretary W. Scott Gould.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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