Oct. 11 editions of Military Times publications (Navy Times, Army Times, Marine Corps Times, Air Force Times) carried an astounding story not likely to get much coverage in the establishment press.
Staff writer Gordon Trowbridge wrote as follows:
President Bush retains overwhelming support among the military's professional core despite a troubled mission in Iraq and an opponent who is a decorated combat veteran, a Military Times survey of more than 4,000 readers indicates.
Bush leads Democratic Sen. John Kerry 73 percent to 18 percent in the voluntary survey of 4,165 active-duty, National Guard, and reserve subscribers.
Although the results of the Military Times 2004 Election Survey are not representative of the opinions of the military as a whole, they are a disappointment to Democrats who hoped Kerry's record and doubts about Bush would give their candidate an opening in a traditionally Republican group with tremendous symbolic value in a closely contested election.
Officers and enlisted troops, active-duty members and reservists, those who have served in combat zones and those who haven't, all supported Bush by large margins. And the survey hints that Kerry's emphasis of his decorated service in Vietnam may have done more harm than good with those in uniform.
Duke poli-sci prof Peter Feaver, noting Kerry "has wooed the military more ardently than ever before," says of the survey: "Frankly, the margin (for Bush) greatly exceeds anything that I or any other analyst had expected."
The Military Times survey, with its yawning 55-point chasm between support for Bush and support for Kerry, confirms much about two cultures in America: one military and insistently conservative; the other civilian and far less so.
Specifically, the two cultures agree on little regarding the defense of the nation and the role of the military in it. And they share increasingly few values about life - especially the values inherent in political ideology as it spills into their daily routines - in these United States.
The survey may say greatly more about the effects of efforts by Kerry and his enthusiasts to garner support in this important segment of a broadly conservative electorate. Such as:
- Vietnam, as John McCain advised Kerry last spring, remains a third rail in American politics: touch it and you get a potentially fatal jolt. A vast segment of the electorate still regards peacenik activities then - including Kerry's - as repulsive, even anti-American, now.
- The Swift Boat veterans raised troubling questions about the very activities Kerry made central to his convention and campaign. The sheer numbers of Swiftees who oppose Kerry's performance in Vietnam and on the barricades with Jane Fonda thereafter overwhelm the "band of brothers" Kerry regularly trots out as campaign props.
- The bogus CBS memos, for which Dan Rather has yet to apologize to President Bush, did little to enhance the Kerry cause - and, particularly among the military, may have shined an unwanted bright light on suggested embellishments in the military record of Kerry himself. (Questions: Why won't Kerry sign Pentagon Form 180 authorizing release of all his military records? Indeed, why won't he authorize republication of his peacenik book "The New Soldier" that first appeared in the early 1970s?)
Finally, the Military Times survey may be telling Kerry and the Democrats that a hefty military majority sees through the careful veneer of moderation to the deeply ingrained leftism that drives him.
Kerry has been hostile to the military; probably since Yale - and certainly so since he returned from Vietnam, led peacenik demonstrations, decried the American military as reeking with war criminals, and first ran for Congress. His 20-year Senate record - marking him as the Senate's most liberal member - is one of uninterrupted hostility to almost every military weapons system and almost every military enterprise proposed during that time. (A 1984 Kerry campaign memo has the candidate saying: "We are continuing a defense buildup that is consuming our resources with weapons systems that we don't need and can't use.")
Kerry voted in 1991 against the first Gulf War; he voted a year ago against $87 billion to continue funding - and backing troops in - the second one. Again and again he has voted to slash, by many billions, appropriations for an intelligence community he blames Bush for undermining. Repeatedly - perhaps most recently in the second debate - Kerry states that Bush fired Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki for saying the U.S. needed additional troops in Iraq, when Shinseki's retirement was announced 10 months before he called for more troops.
The left detests the military, and the military knows it - and reciprocates, as the Military Times survey overwhelmingly testifies.
A functionary in the Clinton White House told a military aide to Colin Powell to leave his uniform at home the next time he visited. The story goes that Hillary Clinton wanted such aides to help pass out appetizers at White House parties.
And despite Kerry's conflicting attempts to reinforce his leftist base while simultaneously seducing the military, the latter obviously isn't interested. It spurns him. Those in the military resent the prospect of risking their lives with him as their commander in chief in a war he terms "wrong" and "a grand diversion" - with allies he terms "coerced and bribed."
Understandably, none of it computes for the military. And little of it translates into military votes for Kerry.