Rs and Ds at all levels, but especially among those competing to be the next Commander in Chief, constantly fight over which party is the champion of our armed forces.
The Rs claim that title by dint of massive and reckless appropriations and a belligerant, wooden-headed foreign policy that gives the armed forces plenty of opportunity to ply their craft.
The Ds claim the honor by lavishing as much attention and money as possible on veterans benefits, trying to improve the conditions and equipment the soldiers must endure during active duty, and, of late, madly shoveling money in the maw of the Iraq occupation in the vain hope that no Republican will be mean to them.
It is deeply ironic, therefore, that the odd man out in the Presidential race, the Republican who advocates for a much more limited and humble foreign policy than any Democrat dares, and who demands an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, and who levels an even harsher criticism of the policies that led us there than most Democrats can (because he actually voted against the invasion), leads by a very wide margin in fund-raising among armed forces personnel.
In fact, one can clearly see that the more of a "surrender-monkey" the candidate is on Iraq and foreign policy in general, the better our men and women in arms likes him (or her).
Paul: $286,764 (1349 donors)
Obama: $81,037 (466 donors)
McCain: $79,597 (413 donors)
Clinton: $49,523 (181 donors)
Romney: $29,250 (140 donors)
Huckabee: $24,562 (94 donors)
Nor is this a one-time anomaly, it is an established pattern. Ron Paul is the bottom-line choice of the active duty military.
The one exception to the trend is McCain, who obviously gets points and well-deserved respect from the troops for his biography. Were it his position on the Iraq occupation that soldiers were rewarding, he would be bracketed by Romney and Huckabee, who also support the continuation of the failed Iraq occupation, rather than Obama and Clinton.
If McCain would have reversed himself on Iraq earlier, he wouldn't have wandered in the political wilderness until GOP primary voters got panicked enough to turn to him, and he would be a much stronger Presidential candidate for it -- and likely the top pick of the military instead of Paul.
As Democrats running for Congress carefully triangulate to ensure that they "don't abandon the troops" by cutting off funding for Iraq to bring Bush to the bargaining table, they might keep Ron Paul's overwhelming military support firmly in mind.
That means you, Gabby Giffords and Harry Mitchell -- as well as you hopefuls, Bob Lord and Ann Kirkpatrick. The troops want brave leadership willing to bring a misbegotten war to close every bit as much as most other Americans.
Our troops have tremendous esprit de corps and a steely determination to accomplish the mission - even if it is an impossible one. It's their job to lock their jaws and squeeze the life out of our enemies.
The job of the political leadership is to have the wisdom to know when and where it is prudent to unleash the dogs of war -- and when to put them back in the kennel. Our troops clearly recognize and value the kind of political leadership needed to end this mission-less war, even as they say they are determined to stay the course when the pols come wandering through like baby ducklings on yet another fact finding tour through the international zone.