National Security Watch: Can America's military preparedness survive the retirement of the man who won us the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Ooh, let's play dress-up! During a July 2013 visit to Parwan, Afghanistan, that's our Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), second from the right (with the pistol strapped around his leg), dressed up as an Air Force colonel, and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), dressed up as an adult human being with a functioning brain. With talent like this, it's small wonder that we won that war -- and the one in Iraq too, where Senator-Colonel (or is it Colonel-Senator?) Graham also "served."
"Since leaving active duty in 1989 and joining the Air Force Reserve, Mr. Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who is running for president, appears to have performed very little substantive work for the Air Force. Yet, he rose in rank to colonel and remained in the service until his retirement in June, which entitles him to a monthly $2,773 pension."
-- from the New York Times editorial today
"Lindsey Graham’s Curious Military Career"
"Lindsey Graham’s Curious Military Career"
In the Great Minds Think Alike Dept., imagine my surprise to see that the Editorial Board of the NYT was as intrigued as I was last night by Craig Whitlock's Washington Post inquiry into the Air Force Reserve "service" of Sen. Col. Lindsey Graham ("Sen. Graham moved up in Air Force Reserve ranks despite light duties"), in which there appears to have been little or no actual service but a heaping helping of self-servingness.
As I noted last night, it seems unlikely that this would even have become a story if Senator-Colonel -- or is it Colonel-Senator -- Graham hadn't made the hard-to-explain decision to throw his hat into the GOP presidential ring. (So far the closest I've come to an explanation is "why the heck not?," which seems to me a slightly better explanation than my next-best, the Disney World Paradigm -- i.e., that everybody should do it once.)
As I wrote in a note yesterday that I discover I didn't actually send, referring to Senator Graham's contention that "I didn't feel guilty because I wasn't getting any money": "I suppose, in a crazy way, he has a point. Although I imagine there was a financial perk or two along the way, not to mention the political hay to be made, usually people who perform these no-show services are getting paid, often quite a lot. You'll note from the bit I've extracted above that the NYT editorial writer takes note of the monthly $2,773 pension he's now entitled to, since his retirement from the Air Force Reserve in June, as financial corruption goes for a senator of the senator's standing, $33,276 a year isn't exactly big-time corruption.
But as corruption of power goes, it's a story. That Senate "standing" I just referred to, while intangible, has something to do with the senator's professed military expertise -- especially at a time when military service of any sort has become such a rarity among members of the houses of Congress. He has played his military career for all it's worth -- well, no, apparently for way, way more than it's worth.
Something similar might be said of his Senate bosom buddy Young Johnny McCranky. Unlike Donald Trump, I don't minimize the heroism of Young Johnny's Vietnam service, even if it was racked up principally as a POW. Considering what he endured, that he lived to tell the tale is something that a gutless worm like The Donald apparently can't begin to grasp. If, however, The D had instead made the point that Young Johnny's wartime experience doesn't qualify him as an expert on any military or national-security matters, he would have had a point. And then there's the problem that he not only lived to tell the tale, he never stopped telling the damned tale. How often in his political career he has claimed not to want to bring up his wartime experience, and in the process brought it up?
That's Sen.-Col. (or is it Col.-Sen.?) Lindsey Graham leaving his military retirement ceremony at the National Guard Memorial Museum in Washington on June 24.
ANYWAY, HERE'S THE NYT EDITORIAL
(This click's on me)
Although I think it's still worth looking at Craig Whitlock's full piece, for its nuts-'n'-bolts reconstruction of the "rise" of Air Force Reserve Colonel Graham, the NYT editorial writer has already done the job of shaking the basics out of Craig's inquiries, so I'm not going to retrace the ground. For links, see the piece onsite.
Lindsey Graham’s Curious Military Career
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, Aug. 4, 2015
By all accounts, including his own, Senator Lindsey Graham was a good military lawyer during the six and a half years he spent on active duty in the Air Force before he entered politics.
Since leaving active duty in 1989 and joining the Air Force Reserve, Mr. Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who is running for president, appears to have performed very little substantive work for the Air Force. Yet, he rose in rank to colonel and remained in the service until his retirement in June, which entitles him to a monthly $2,773 pension.
An article by Craig Whitlock of The Washington Post shows that though Mr. Graham did very little in the reserve, it was a mutually beneficial arrangement: He was able to keep the honor of the uniform intertwined with his political life and the Air Force got to keep a lawmaker in its ranks who had stature and sway on Capitol Hill. Mr. Graham, a conservative hawk, sits on the Senate appropriations, armed services, budget and judiciary committees.
The senator has peddled an embellished, and at times inaccurate, narrative of his service in the reserve. A campaign video, which features several photos of Mr. Graham in uniform, says he “served as a reserve duty officer in Iraq and Afghanistan.” In fact, Mr. Graham’s war zone tours consisted of specially arranged stints that lasted a few days and coincided with trips he made as part of congressional delegations.
Until early this year, Mr. Graham’s official biographies said he had served as senior instructor at the Judge Advocate General’s School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. In fact, Mr. Graham told The Post he never set foot at the base or taught there. “I never took time to change it,” he said of the biographies. “I probably should have.”
It was not a one-time lapse. In 1998, Mr. Graham was criticized for claiming to be a veteran of the Persian Gulf War, even though he never deployed as part of that campaign. The Post also found that from 1995 to 2005, he put in 108 hours of training, less than a day and a half each year, on average.
There is nothing wrong with lawmakers serving as reservists, but there is no reason they should be treated differently from other reservists. The extraordinary arrangement Mr. Graham enjoyed calls into question his ability as a member of Congress to carry out oversight of the military.