Staying non-partisan in a political world.

 
« Previous story
Next story »
 
nec_101110 ART II Section 2. The American Legion shall be absolutely nonpolitical and shall not be used for the dissemination of partisan principles nor for the promotion of the candidacy of any person seeking office or preferment. I’m going to start this post in a way you should never start a post: by telling you what it ISN’T! First off, this post is not an attempt to kick the VFW while they are down, or to disparage its PAC endorsements. I’m going to give a cursory look at the situation, and then analyze the internal tension that VFW has between the main organization and its Political Action Committee. Then I am going to show why that won’t happen with The American Legion (TAL). Additionally, I’ve noted in the comments sections of various blogs people taking swipes at TAL saying (essentially) that we “do the same damn thing.” I want to address some of those chestnuts so that we can be on record regarding the issue. This all started last week with a rather incendiary post from my good friend Mr. Wolf of Blackfive who was rather perturbed to glance over the list of endorsements issued by the VFW-PAC (which you can read here.) From Wolf’s post:
Last night, we received an interesting email from Bev Perlson, who heads the Band of Mothers group. She's got an awesome email list that is good for keeping up on what's going on around the country. What was so disturbing was the email listed someone we all know- LTC(r) Allen West, and how the VFW, of all people, THE VEE-EFF-FRICKING-W, was ENDORSING HIS OPPONENT. You read that right. His opponent? Democrat Ron Klein. WHO HAS NEVER SERVED IN UNIFORM. You read THAT right, too. People, I've been pissed before. Mad, even. Upset. But this? THIS is treasonous to me. For a 'so called' veterans organization to pick a NON-SERVING, NON-VETERAN over one of the MOST PROMISING veterans running in politics is heinous. Disturbing. And shows just how far off-track the VFW has become. As you may recall, when I returned from Iraq one of the first things I did was join VFW and Legion as 'life members'. Now, it seems, the time has come to rip, burn, and toss my Lifetime Membership for the VFW. I feel like they have completely left us at the station here.
My occasional co-blogger and always good friend Jonn Lilyea at This Ain’t Hell was equally perturbed to get the email from Ms. Perlson, and after noting some of the endorsements opined:
So I have to ask, as a life member of the VFW, who the Hell is running that place over there? I remember the VFW wasn’t all that concerned about the Homeland Security estimate that veterans are a threat to our national security and now I see this. Me, personally, I wouldn’t endorse Alcee Hastings, the impeached judge, for town drunk…so what the hell is the VFWPAC thinking?
It’s interesting the way things move through the internet. One day no one is discussing it, and the next EVERYBODY is talking about it. Almost every person who commented on those posts was mad, and those who called the VFW got an answering machine, which didn’t make them all that much happier. Now, it is important to note that the VFW, and the VFW PAC are two entities. Here is how the VFW PAC is billed:
According to Federal Law [sic], the Veterans of Foreign Wars cannot legally endorse candidates. To overcome the legal challenges of influencing on Capitol Hill, the organization established a Political Action Committee— a separate, nonpartisan organization charged with the single task of working in Congress to support candidates who share our views about key veterans’ military and defense issues. The VFW-PAC is established to promote and facilitate the accumulation and distribution of voluntary contributions from employees and members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its subordinate units, (Posts, Districts, County Councils, Departments, Ladies Auxiliary and Military Order of the Cooties) for the support of various candidates for election to federal office in the United States. The established endorsement criteria not withstanding, no Presidential candidate will be endorsed by the VFW-PAC Board of Directors. The VFW-PAC is dedicated to the support of candidates who have taken responsibile [sic] positions on issues involving national defense and legislation pertaining to our nation's veterans.
Anyway, the endorsement kerfuffle got even more interesting later in the week, as first the Department of Florida, and then the National Headquarters of VFW, both issued statements largely antagonistic to the PAC. From the HQ alert:
KANSAS CITY, Mo., Oct. 8, 2010 - The national line officers of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) are at odds with the VFW Political Action Committee (PAC), calling the methodology process used by the PAC “seriously flawed at best this year and in immediate need of extensive review,” in the wake of the recent congressional endorsements made by the committee. “Even though the law requires that VFW-PAC be a separate organization, the acronym ‘VFW’ is attached to the committee and the natural assumption is that the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is somehow making the endorsement decisions. Nothing could be further from the truth, but perception is reality,” said National Commander Richard Eubank. “Obviously, an organization's political positions have to reflect the opinions of its members. But those opinions can't be perceived as ‘off the wall,’ and the methodology used this year to grade candidates obviously is skewed in favor of the incumbent. That isn’t fair, and it actually subverts the democratic process.” Because of the controversy surrounding the endorsements, VFW line officers have decided to bring the question of continued existence of the PAC to the floor during the 112th VFW national convention in August. (2011)
Again, I am not bringing this up to bash the VFW. In fact, we work with them all the time on stuff, most recently when many of their brown-cappers appeared outside the Supreme Court building in support of Al Snyder in his case against Westboro. I used to be a member of VFW when I was in Virginia, and the vast majority of my friends are dual members. A rising tide lifts all boats, and something like this will (alas) probably lower them as well. Veterans’ involvement and advocacy isn’t generally a zero sum game: you can belong to many groups, as I do. The inherent problem here was obviously the PAC. I loathe PACs. I particularly hate them in the context of veterans’ issues. It just brings confusion to a place where none need truly exist. Vets For Freedom endorses 10 candidates for Congress who support the War on Terrorism*, and Vote Vets endorses 10 who oppose. So, who supports troops more? Is it the former 10, or the latter 10? I have an answer to that, but that is because I am part of an informed electorate. My answer almost certainly differs from many others. My answer is an opinion, and yours should be as well, one made after looking at the totality of the positions of the candidates in your area. *(It should be noted that I was a VFF Founder, although I am no longer active, so caveat emptor.) And that is why scorecards also annoy the hell out of me. Last year IAVA did a scorecard, and I thought it was positively dreadful, just as I thought the VFF one was equally horrid. One vote IAVA had on their scorecard was on something that IAVA billed as “Funding Veterans’ Health Care, 2008.” It wasn’t actually titled that, but nonetheless, the sole vote against that bill was Senator DeMint of South Carolina, and I have a close friend who works for that senator, so I asked him to look it up for me. Turns out his opposition wasn’t to funding Veterans Health Care, but rather to a $4 Billion earmark in that bill that would create a park in Beverly Hills, as he made clear in his statement at the time:
This is an appalling earmark that takes $4 Billion dollars which should be used to care for the brave men and women who fought for our country and turns it over to build a park for Beverley Hills 90210. We should all be able to agree that a community with an average household income of $125,000 has a sufficient tax base to build a park and doesn’t need a $4 Billion hand out from the federal government. The men and women who wore America’s uniform need the money a lot more than the men and women who wear Prada. [Sen Demint's link on this is no longer active.]
Anyway, I bring this all up because of various commenters who assert various things about The American Legion. Let me address each of those comments in turn: 1) "The American Legion does the same thing." This one lacks specificity to know exactly what is meant, but I know we don’t do a scorecard. In fact, a resolution from this past National Convention calling for one failed to get the needed majority. It is simply too difficult to adequately score veterans votes. Where one Congressman might vote against the VA Appropriations Bill because it is too expensive, another might vote against it because it doesn’t provide enough money. Do you score a “no” vote equally then? Is a member of Congress who disagrees on the funding because it is too much the same as one who disagree because it is not enough? While Congress does “Yea” and “Nay” votes, it’s not always clear from either exactly why the person voted that way. 2) "The American Legion endorses candidates too." This is just untrue. We never have, and we never will, and the Constitution of the American Legion is pretty clear on this one:
ART II Section 2. The American Legion shall be absolutely nonpolitical and shall not be used for the dissemination of partisan principles nor for the promotion of the candidacy of any person seeking office or preferment.
In addressing this post, I was forwarded the sage words of advice from our Past National Adjutant, Mr. Spanogle, who told my boss that he should look at the remarks of a man from Maine made during the early 1920’s with regard to this issue. When Mr. Spanogle suggests something like that, it is generally worth your time, and so within minutes of arriving at work this morning I made the trek up to our library where our Librarian quickly located the colloquy in question. It actually is even more interesting that I had anticipated. I hope you will forgive me for this side trip from our major topic, but I found it interesting. Rather than disrupt the flow of this post and my enumerations of various Urban Legends with regards to politics and The American Legion, I am moving the historical underpinnings to the end. I encourage you to read it, as the comments there are just as apropos in 2010 as they were in 1920. 3) "Look at this picture; see, I told you they endorse people." sign_101110 This is a specific one that I am still looking into. We know it is Chesterfield Post 408 in Indiana, and I have an email into the Department Adjutant. So, why am I bringing it up? Because my email is at the top of this page, if you see something that you think violates what I am saying, by all means send it to me. If, as I suspect, these signs are both on private property, and the Legion has no control over the candidate’s sign, I will tell you. If, on the other hand, this is on post property, and insinuates endorsement, I will make sure the National Judge Advocate is alerted; and I will bug him until I have an answer for you. If there is something that violates our Constitution and/or Bylaws, we will take steps to quickly correct it. You have my promise on that. 4) "The American Legion is too [right/left] wing. They even [supported/opposed] Obamacare." This one is shocking in its prevalence. I’m regularly accused of being either a full-blooded acolyte of the vast right-wing conspiracy, or a mouthpiece of the Obama Administration. And last week I got an email saying we were (at various times) either in favor or neutral on Obamacare, while another emailer lamented that we opposed Obamacare. Let me address each. The American Legion has around 2.5 million members. If you lined them up based on their political philosophies, it would run the gamut. I know Legionnaires who served in Republican gubernatorial administrations, some who served in Democratic ones, and some who served under Independents. In fact, I know one Legionnaire who served as a cabinet official under a Dem Governor, a GOP one, and a third-party governor. We just aren’t that easy to pigeonhole. Do we support efforts to curb illegal immigration? Absolutely. Do we support legal immigration and volunteer on Naturalization classes? Again, absolutely. Then again, do we also support the largest existing government health-care provider in the VA? Again, absolutely. Now, the first is largely associated with a GOP goal, the second is largely non-partisan, and the third is associated with the Democrats. We are more like a smorgasbord than a Chinese lunch buffet. If you don’t like one position or resolution we have, just move on to the next one. We have positions that run the gamut because they represent the views of a disperse membership. The only thing that all of our positions have in common is that they were deemed relevant and germane to the Organization, and were passed by our National Executive Committee or at the National Convention. As for Obamacare….I tried to explain it all in this post here, but let’s give it one more shot. The American Legion neither opposed nor supported Obamacare, as I think the statement from National Commander Hill at the time reads if you look at it.
“I have been assured personally by the President, Secretary of Defense, VA Secretary, Speaker of the House, Majority Leaders, and numerous other Senators and Representatives – as has National Commander David Rehbein before me – that nothing in the national health care reform legislation will change current DoD and VA health care eligibility or practices,” said The American Legion National Commander Clarence E. Hill concerning the outcome of the health care vote on Sunday. “As late as 9 pm last evening, I was on the telephone with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and we spoke candidly about The American Legion’s concerns. Based on that conversation, the transcripts of hearings, assurances from the President and Secretary themselves, I am 100 percent confident that Congress will act responsibly as regards the nation’s veterans and their families,” Hill said. […] While the entire health care reform legislative package is extremely controversial and contentious, The American Legion has taken a position on one aspect only: maintaining the autonomy of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Defense’s health care delivery systems. “It is going to be a long, drawn out legislative process, but America’s veterans can rest assured that their benefits will be protected. That I personally guarantee,” said Hill.
I actually went a little further in my two posts on the subject. In the first one I stated that:
TRICARE and NAF are not certain to be approved under the existing bill about to be signed. Now, why is this? They’ve been working on these bills for in excess of a year, and this is the first we are hearing of it? Well, no, actually, Representative Buyer has been talking about the effects for quite a while, but no one really listened. This is not really to praise Representative Buyer as much as it is to say that no one on the Hill seems to be listening to anyone. Think back on all the important bills that Congress has passed in its days. The Civil Rights Acts, Medicare creation, some of the New Deal Bills. How many of them had one party voting exclusively one way, and the other party splitting its vote and yet the party that voted together lost? I’ve never heard it. Not one Republican broke ranks on this bill, and some Dems, fearful of the vengeance of their constituents voted “No.” What we have here is a failure to communicate.
In the second I talked about some of the indirect effects that the Healthcare Bill would have:
Anyone who has ever viewed martial arts movies (even just Kung Fu Panda) or some sort of Science Fiction TV series knows that even small actions have ancillary effects on things you wouldn’t imagine. In the former genre it’s usually the butterfly principle where some solitary butterfly in search of nectar flaps his wings three times and 2 days later there is a tsunami in Portland, Oregon. In the latter genre it’s usually the Grandfather Paradox, where you can’t change the past because doing so alters everything after that, and thus you couldn’t have gone back in time. Anyway, the point of both of these is that no solitary event occurs within a vacuum, and this is what accounts for the discrepancies in macro-economics. And so it is with the recent Health Care Reform law.
People are going to see what they want to see I think. If they want to be mad at us, they will find some proof of us being too [right/left] wing: it is the nature of being an advocacy group. But, just having a position identifiable with a specific party doesn’t make it partisan. We address the issues, not the people. So, there you have it. I know that people are going one of two ways about the VFW: either they are quitting in disgust, or they are urging folks to stay in and right the ship. I’m not here to say which you should do, that is up to each individual person. We’ve had folks drop their TAL membership on account of something I have said, and then it was based on a resolution passed at convention. I was pretty upset about it until my National Adjutant pretty much told me that when people complain like that, it’s generally best to pay them no mind. I don’t try to turn folks off on the Legion with the blog, I try to get them engaged. So, stay with the VFW and fix it, or “Turn on, tune in, drop out”; it is up to you. But, at one point the Legion fought this same fight, and as you will read below, even though outnumbered 33-3, those 3 changed the course of American Legion history. ______________________________________________________________________ The scene is the 1920 National Convention, discussing a resolution that would clarify Art II section 2 for the following purposes: Resolved, […] that the Legion is not prohibited by its Constitution and Charter from supporting and promoting those policies and principles within the purposes enumerated in the preamble to its National Constitution, as interpreted by acts of its National Conventions and rulings of its National Executive Committee; and be it further Resolved, that the Legion through its organization has the right under its Charter and Constitution to ascertain for the information of its members the attitude of candidates for public office towards such policies and principles. Now, this resolution before the debate was favored by 33, while opposition was limited to three votes. And, apparently, conventions were A HELL OF A LOT MORE FUN back then. Just read this discussion:
Mr. Chandler (Georgia): It was only a few weeks ago when the principles enunciated in the preamble were dragged into the mud and attacked by – I can’t mention his name. We called upon you for an interpretation as to what we could do. He said, “I can call your organization a Republican organization; I can say that it is a sectarian organization; I can name it and call it anything any you are impotent to do anything about it.” We submitted to you, Mr. Chairman a telegram setting forth the fact that this man was advocating un-American policies to the people of our State, that he had attacked – [Cries from the audience of “Name him!”] Mr. Chandler: [Name redacted by Mothax] is the man I speak of. We said he had attacked these principles; we asked if under this Constitution we could go before the people and oppose him. We didn’t ask for the privilege of advocating either of his opponents; we desired merely to oppose him. He used this Section in our Constitution on the stump against us. He turned the people against us by his slanderous remarks. [Cries from the audience of “Why didn’t you hang him?” followed by laughter and applause.] Mr. Chandler: We didn’t hang him because in Georgia The American Legion stands for the enforcement of law and order. [Applause.]
Anyway, so now you have a resolution with an initial 33-3 favorability, with a rather vehement and tenacious advocate asserting the need for the resolutions passage. Two men took to the floor in opposition, James L. Boyle (of my birth-state of Maine) and a Mr. Herbert (of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts where I grew up.)
Mr. Herbert: The American Legion owes immeasurably the success of its growth and the respect in which it is held by the people of the United States to the fact that it stands for policies not politics. (Applause) The people believe in and respect The American Legion because it lives up to its declaration of principles. We are told that the resolution is simply clarifying, that it is simply explanatory. I tell you, gentlemen, that in my belief, and in the belief of many in this Convention, that resolution is a tinkering resolution. It is only a shoepeg now possibly, but it will ultimately grow into a wedge that will split open this body in which the people of this country now believe.
But it was the words of Mr. Boyle of Maine that truly would be the death knell of this resolution:
Speaking for the Department of Maine and making the motion that the minority report be accepted, I realize the vast confidence which the public has in us and the great respect in which we are held, but I say that we view with disapproval and we look with disfavor upon any resolution or any interpretation, as they may call it, which would attempt to throw the American Legion into the uncharted seas of political jingoism. [Applause] Our Constitution is brief so far. [Recitation of Art II, Section 2] Again, it says, each member shall perform his full duty as a citizen according to his own conscience and understanding. What more do we want? The whole gist of the resolution, the clarified resolution, as they call it, says the Legion through its organization has the right under its charter and constitution to ascertain for the information of its members the attitude of candidates for public political office toward such policies and principles. But, my comrades, who is the judge as to what our attitude is on some of these policies? Americanism, we say, a hundred per cent. Americanism, but from Maine to California, the Department officials will vary as to what their attitude is going to be on many questions, and that is going to be our situation. We have the confidence and the respect of the people of the United States. Our Constitution says that we are non-political. Go no further. I think that that is sufficient.
In the end the resolution failed by a wide margin. One Department even changed it’s vote…
Mr Lindsey: Mr. Chairman, I have just gotten the consent of the Texas Delegation to change its vote to “No.” I desire to state to you gentlemen that your action meets the approval in principle of the vast majority of the Committee that brought in the report that you disapproved. It puts this Convention on record permanently, I think, as opposed to entering party politics. We don’t care about the method that is pursued, just so it goes out throughout the world tonight that the American Legion is irrevocably opposed to entering party politics.
And so it was that a few brave men set the path for The American Legion.
Posted in Uncategorized, the burner | 28 comments
 
« Previous story
Next story »

 

* To comment without a Facebook account, please scroll to the bottom.

Comments

I'm absolutely befuddled by your comment sir. Am I to understand that the Big Q, which we write at the office and try to come up with 4 compelling answers to, is somehow indicative of taking a partisan position? You are aware I assume that Senators Reid and McConnell both agreed with the position of The American Legion on that issue? You do know that 40 Senators signed on as Amici for the brief that they filed, right?

Perhaps you want to write the Big Q's? Please feel free to submit one to me, and I will run it by our Editor.

Saw with interest a political ad with Past National Commander Hill, shaking hands with Nancy Polosi, after her speech at the National Convention, it is coming across on the political ads for endorsement.

First off, I would like to say that I am a fan of the BurnPit and Mothax in particluar, and I do agree with him on the subject of the original post. However, I would also like to say that I agree with Jack Cain on the Big Q questions and the voting options. Most if not all of the Big Q questions and options are heavily slanted. As I recently posted on one of the questions, if the AL ever intends to use the Big Q to ascertain the ture opinions of members, they will need to work on how those are written.

I do have a question and concern with the American Legion being non-political. I see it each and every year on the television, either by the Dem. or Rep. candidate of having American Legion members on stage or in the audience showing their support and endorsements for them as a candidate. Yes I realize we are not able to control the actions of all our Legion members all the time, yet we should strive to enforce the ideals that has kept the American Legion the great organization that it it has become. If these members wish to endorse a candidate they may do so of their own free will but please remove your Legion covers and do so as an individual and not as a representative of the American Legion.

As far as I can see, the idea that there's someone out there who's advocating for an ideal and not for a partisan party is quite refreshing.

The Legion promotes the fundamental ideal at the core of American government...go out there and participate.

Become educated about civics, and apply that knowledge and dedication to service to your country to the choices you make as an active citizen. The Legion promotes active citizenship, what could be better?

The scary thing is when you start telling people what to do and think with that active citizenship. Intelligent people can disagree about the proper solution to the nation's problems, but they shouldn't disagree about the foundation of that government, and that government is founded on a private citizen's right to make up their own mind about politics and voice it.

You CAN take an active stand when you're for the voice and neutral on the words spoken by the voice.

"While rampant jingoistic politics would surely break the legion, for it to sit idly by whilst enemies of our way of life call white black in Washington is a betrayal of an oath I took which has no expiration date."

Be specific, what do you mean? What is there out there that is germane to us that we aren't weighing in on? I think you misinterpreted how we operate, we are VERY POLITICAL. What we are not is partisan. We weigh in on just about everything. We have lobbyists on the Hill every day. Don't you think that people should be smart enough to vote for who the best person is without prompting? If we (as a constitutional republic) are predicated on the voting by an informed electorate, shouldn't we just count on them to make the right decision?

Perhaps you can name for me a fight which is germane to veterans that we stayed out of. Look, the bridge to nowhere probably had veterans that might have driven over it, but that doesn't make it a veterans issue. War of Terror? We weighed in. VA Budget, we weighed in. Just tell me where you think we should be wading into a fight that we currently are not.

Maybe I danced around something here, so let me say it straight: The American Legion should be about more than "Veteran's Issues." The Legion is a patriotic organization that should concern itself with what is good for America as a whole, not just some self-serving slice of it. We didn't serve our country to become a protected group (Minority, Female, oh yeah! Veterans)

We served our country because we love her and what she stands for. We served our country because we were willing to sacrifice ourselves to make her stronger. Not because we wanted to have some benefits, or access to the VA, or whatever the Veteran's cause of the week is.

We are men and women of noble patriotism, who cherish our freedoms and the Constitution that guarantees them. When I see the Constitution challenged over and over again by self serving politicians and unelected bureaucrats who are willing to shred her for their own agenda, I remember my oath. We all took it. So why should an organization that is made of entirely of those who have taken that oath shirk from taking a stand?

While we wore the uniform, our rights of free speech were somewhat curtailed. The military serves the nation in an nonpartisan fashion. It must in a free society. But afterward, why should we be content with a policy which has us gag ourselves?

Splitting hairs between endorsing candidates and endorsing policies is fine on paper, but in reality it is ludicrous. Candidate A is a jerk, went to Canada, and stood at SFP in 1969 spitting on troops coming home from Vietnam. But Candidate A supports increased VA funding because it supports his socialist agenda. Is that support for a Bill sufficient for the Legion to turn a blind eye to Candidate A's past???? Because we are about "issues" not candidates?

Baloney.

Conversations with those who follow politics and the progress or lack of progress in Washington identifies a common factor from whichever side of the aisle you talk to, the partisan atmosphere in DC contributes a great deal to the lack of anything happening in DC. Little problems that could be handled when they are little are pushed aside by partisan political considerations until they become big problems. Then the partisanship kicks in big-time and any solution is completely impossible.

I really have trouble understanding how The Legion becoming more partisan can help the partisan situation in the government. Don't make it personal by becoming partisan. I haven't seen that much advantage given to any organization that endorses candidates. They endorse people that they already have a strong mutual relationship with. So did the endorsement bring any extra advantage or did the endorsement just run the risk of being wrong and irritating the actual winner?

Way better to work with both sides, get as much our our program into their platform as possible and forget about being partisan and giving endorsements. Too much potential for bad things to happen in relation to the little good that comes of endorsements.

To say the AL should not support issues and the politicans who foster them that affect active duty and veterans is sad. This organization is composed of leaders, a lot of whom are not afraid to stand up for what is right. Why are we being a bunch of PC fense sitters on serious issues. Set on a fence long enough and you'll get splinters in you butt.

I cannot but concur with Mr. Lyons. The party should not determine who we vote for. No! the principles and policies of the citizen running for office should. Yes it is very difficult to know what the truth is but, in my mind, seeking the truth is never a waste of time. We as citizens have a responsibility to vote and to vote intelligently. If the American Legion or any other organization can help us to be better aware of the candidate's qualifications, standards of conduct and political platform I applaud the effort. IMHO PAC's are not the way to go. When all else fails and you cannot reach a decision on whom to vote for: vote for the Veteran.

West is nuts- the VFW is right in backing his opponent. Too many here have made it seem that someone who served is automatically the better candidate- I'm really sick of those "fans"- people with no brains.
Do you people know that West is black? Most righties are anti-Obama because he's half black- West is 100% black
and talks about solving issues with guns. You want a moron like that in office anywhere in this country? If you do you're not an american even if you served 50 years.

I have seen too many things recently to think that the American Legion national leadership is non-partisan.

I'll bet that you started writing that scathing response in your head before you even really recognized what I just said. Go back and read it again. What exactly was it that tripped your trigger? For most of you, it is your assumption that I did one of two things. Either I meant to say that the American Legion Headquarters carries out partisan activities, or that I think that the national leadership, as individuals, should be non-partisan. If you go back and re-read my first sentence, you will realize that I said nothing untrue or that should be untrue.

We are in an age of the exponential decrease in the amount of content transferred per transference of information (OK - that means that we've moved from long speeches to short letters to email to tweets). The American public is no longer capable of gathering and comprehending the amount of information necessary to form a reasonable view of a candidate's true position on any topic. Therefore, people have the desire to get a scorecard from some organization to tell them how to vote.

MOTHAX said earlier, "If we (as a constitutional republic) are predicated on the voting by an informed electorate, shouldn’t we just count on them to make the right decision?". He hit the nail on the head. That is the only way a constitutional republic can survive. For some reason (hmm...maybe because the big organizations don't want you to think for yourself) we are told that we are, and that we fought, for "Democracy" (Insert fanfare and ticker tape here). Wow - the right for every individual's voice to be counted. Sounds good, eh?

Now, let's go back to last week, where our National Headquarters Leadership (or was it an unelected person? Do you know? I'd bet you don't. I don't.) put a question in "The Big Q" that asked if First Amendment rights should be curtailed near military funerals. Now, you and I know that this question revolves around those folks who have a different concept of respect than most of us. I believe that 91% of people who responded said it was OK to deny a Constitutional right to individuals who did not believe the way they do. How many of the people who voted that way substituted "Westboro Church" into the question and answered accordingly? Did those 91% actually THINK about the ramifications of restricting the Constitutional rights of citizens of this country? Imply or assume as you may, the words of that question do not change meaning to a court judge. Next time, it will be YOUR voice that is silenced when the time comes to deny First Amendment rights to someone. Respect is different than public safety for those of you ready to use the "yell fire" argument.

With that recent example, do you really think that any group can define "what is right for this country" when the very people who fought for it think it's OK for the government to deny the rights in our Constitution? Do you want members of that 91% to interpret the complexity and breadth of a candidate's actual or potential actions for the range of issues they will be confronted with during their term in office?

I'm with MOTHAX. Think for yourself. Educate yourself. Vote for yourself. While you are at it, make sure that YOUR part of the American Legion, as a Post, District or Department, conducts official business in a non-partisan fashion.

Respectfully,

Jack Cain
"Bucks, blisters or blood - every American should pay for the freedoms we enjoy"

Sorry for spelling errors. It's hard to spell correctly when your blood is boiling.

I am a life member of VFW.

During Pennsylvania congressman John Murtha's last campaign for office, the VFW(now I guess it most likely was their PAC) gave it's endorsment to his campaign. The official position of the VFW on our military operations in Iraq and Afghaniston which I agree with, and the position taken by Congressman Murtha were completely opposite. Upon learning of this, I notified the VFW that if they did not withdraw their endorsement of congressman Murtha's campaign, I in good conscience would no longer be able associaite/participate with the organization and it's activities. They didn't and I don't. Perhaps the VFW didn't have any direct influence on their own PAC. If so, they should have said so.

The point here is, in this case, VFW was completely ignoring their own position on policy by allowing their PAC to make the endorsement. Staying out of the race completely would have been the smarter course.

Hearing now about the VFW PAC's scorecard endorsements absolutely comes as no surprise to me. Somebody at VFW's national level needs to get a grip on this situation.

You have to stand for more than healthcare and disability checks if you expect to get significant support from our military veterans.

Living the Dream!

"I find it insulting that you think we are sitting the fights out when we lobby every single day to get veterans what they have earned. "

I think that is my point. I don't think that's enough, that's all. And I have no respect for neutrality. I just don't. Switzerland during WWII? Please.

We argue all day long about not "understanding" the Legion's position. But frankly I understand it. I just don't buy it. It is that same disconnect that leads to the kind of "no one is responsible" decision making that lead to the VFW's PAC endorsements. The American Legion, in my opinion does a much better job - The Legion fired back at Homeland security when they characterized Vets as a threat. But "better than the others" isn't really good enough.

Anyhow, look, I don't mean to be insulting, but rather to question if this non-partisanship is really relevant in the politics of the 21st Century. Our Nation's future is being decided not based upon issues, but on the demagoguery created on the TV news show circuit.

If newspapers can endorse candidates in their editorial pages, and not lose their credibility to report the news, I see no reason the Legion can't do the same. (Now they may have lost credibility for other reasons, but not for their editorial support).

Am I advocating the Legion to pick a dog in every fight? No. But I think there are times it should step forward and say, "This man here is a hero, and he should lead" or "This other man here is a goat, and you are a fool if you support him"

Anyhow, I'll stop gnawing on this bone.

Regards,

/Jaeger

I have received numerous e-mails stating that VFW is endorsing Sen. Barbara Boxer from California---I hope these e-mails are incorrect.

The ability of The American Legion be effective on Capitol Hill regarding issues of importance that run the gamut has been and will continue to be our mandate to work with any administration and both sides of the ailse to educate , inform and lobby on behalf of that issue. The Burn Pit thread is worth reading and the 1920 Convention debate serves as a primer for serving and preserving the Ideals for which this organization was founded. I dismiss calls for the Legion to endorse individual candidates as self-serving and antithesis to the vision of those who founded the organization following WWI. That vision was clear then and its clarity remains today.

The American Legion takes a stand on issues every day and shares our position. We exercise needed, meaningful, oversight on government agencies, agents and elected officials; said oversight is possible ONLY because of our history of non-partisanship.

MOTHAX -

Since you did not specify what "sir" you are replying to, and since I used a Big Q question for an example, I will assume that you are referring to me. If not, please correct my mistake.

Now that is over, I must say that your post is a brilliant example of the point of my message. My first request is that you go back and carefully read every word of what I wrote, slowly and carefully. My second paragraph speaks to the fact that Americans have lost the ability to READ and UNDERSTAND written words longer than a tweet.

In the mean time, I will address your questions. You won't be able to respond correctly if you did not go back and read what I wrote - not what you THINK I wrote.

Here is what I said: "Now, let’s go back to last week, where our National Headquarters Leadership (or was it an unelected person? Do you know? I’d bet you don’t. I don’t.)". I say that I do not know who writes the Big Q and that I don't think most readers here do either. Exactly what faults do you perceive? Is there a tag on the Big Q that says who wrote it? Even if there was, would most of us readers know if that name was elected at a convention, is a staff position, an appointed position - whatever? I say no. Can you show me where I am wrong?

Here is what I said: "put a question in “The Big Q” that asked if First Amendment rights should be curtailed near military funerals." OK - what is wrong here? Can anyone deny that this question existed? Did I misrepresent what the question said? If so, correct me.

Here is what I said: "Now, you and I know that this question revolves around those folks who have a different concept of respect than most of us." Can you tell me that this question was not written to be timely regarding the Westboro Church issue before the Supreme Court? Can you dispute that the majority of readers here have a different concept of respect than the protesters at military funerals? If you can, please do!

Here is what I said: "I believe that 91% of people who responded said it was OK to deny a Constitutional right to individuals who did not believe the way they do." Here I stated my belief. Can you dispute what I believe? You can argue that my belief is right or wrong, but you cannot tell me what I believe. Past that, can you dispute the statement that I made? Was it 91% that voted that it was OK to curtail Constitutional rights near military funerals?

Here is what I said: "How many of the people who voted that way substituted “Westboro Church” into the question and answered accordingly?" I asked a question. Exactly what is wrong with asking a question? You are free to answer the question as you feel fit.

Here is what I said: "Did those 91% actually THINK about the ramifications of restricting the Constitutional rights of citizens of this country? Imply or assume as you may, the words of that question do not change meaning to a court judge. Next time, it will be YOUR voice that is silenced when the time comes to deny First Amendment rights to someone." I'll put this together because I think this is where you had the biggest problem. I do not care what legislative officials agreed with the question as worded. What I have clearly stated is that I believe that the readers of that question answered the CONCEPT, not the actual words of the question. In the spirit of full disclosure, I wrote earlier that I felt that the writer of that question needed to go back and get remedial Americanism training. I stand behind that statement, no matter who wrote it. There is NO circumstance where the Constitutional rights of a citizen of the United States should be hindered in any way by any branch of our government. That's why they are called RIGHTS. The ability to dissent is part of the core of our freedoms - the ones that we fought for! I don't agree with the Westboro Church actions. I think the methods of the Patriot Guard Riders are the proper way to deal with the issue. You can agree or disagree with me on that part.

This is what I said: "Imply or assume as you may, the words of that question do not change meaning to a court judge. Next time, it will be YOUR voice that is silenced when the time comes to deny First Amendment rights to someone." Tell me what is wrong with this statement. If that question, worded exactly as it was, came before a court and was implemented, it would steadily be used as a precedent for any recognized group to prevent the free speech of another group that disagreed with them. Courts don't assume - they use exactly what is written.

Finally, I will go back to the very first line that I wrote which was intended to show exactly what you provided - a perfectly fine sentence, saying something that is true and that SHOULD be true - that the American Legion Leadership is partisan. As individuals, they should be! Just because they are American Legion members, leaders, or anything else does not stop them from having individual opinions and the ability to vote accordingly. If you read my first paragraph, you will clearly see why I phrased the statement the way I did. Your response was exactly why I wrote it the way I did. You read into the question your concepts and beliefs instead of reading the actual words written.

There is NOTHING in my post that says anything that is false or untrue. I'll go further. It doesn't say anything that SHOULD be false or untrue. After carefully reading it again - slowly, making sure you understand exactly what is said, point out anything that is false. You can disagree with the opinions that I state, but you cannot dispute the facts.

Finally MOTHAX, you apparently missed the part where I agreed with you - I even quoted you as an example of the truth - we are a Constitutional Republic, not a Democracy - and I showed (and you proved) WHY we shouldn't be a Democracy. If you and others who seem to have replied to what I said can't even see that the entire post agrees with your point, then how can any person expect that any group will be able to produce a reliable scorecard that they should follow?

MOTHAX -

I separated this topic because it is completely off topic from what I actually wrote - and you challenged me to answer you.

YES, I disagree with the wording of the majority of the Big Q questions and the voting options provided. I am not alone in that feeling - it was only a few questions ago that someone else said the same thing.

YES, I feel that the wording of the questions and the responses provided show a partisan position beyond that of just supporting veteran's issues.

I STRONGLY feel that too many of the Big Q questions could be written by Henry Ford who said, "You can have it in any color as long as it is black".

It is my OPINION, which I have the right as an American Legion member to provide when you ask questions in a public forum.

Do I think that I could write better questions? It depends on what you think is "better". I do believe that I can word questions that will allow for a wider viewpoint to come through. I also believe that I could write questions that don't suggest that American Legion members want to disregard the Constitution of the United States, which we all swore to protect and defend. I don't remember any "un-swearing" ceremony when I got my Honorable Discharge.

Let's take today's question for example: "Will the federal court ruling on the unconstitutionality of DoD’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy put the issue to rest?"

Now what are the choices offered?

"No. The judge’s ruling was premature and the Department of Justice will step in to give the Pentagon time to complete its study." "No. The ruling only assures that any investigations into discharges based on open homosexuality be suspended for the time being." "No. A termination of the existing policy leaves the whole issue up in the air until a new one is approved." "Yes. This policy is unconstitutional and always has been, so it’s best to repeal it now and get it off the books."

How many "NO" options are there? How are the details of the options worded? How many "YES" options are there? How are the details of that single option worded?

Here is my OPINION. Of the three "NO" options only Option 2 even comes close to legality. Options 1 & 3 are certainly things that someone can believe, but they are not things that could actually affect the implementation of the judge's ruling. Because of this, those options dilute the opportunity for people to make choices that could actually become reality and cause change.

Here are details about the "NO" options.

#1 doesn't indicate how the DOJ could or would "step in". It gives an incorrect impression that the DOJ could just issue some statement and nullify the judge's ruling. A judge's ruling cannot be defined as "premature". Cases heard before a court take as long as they take. They aren’t supposed to be concerned with implications outside of the facts of the case as presented to them. It opens the door for similar lawsuits - all of which would take time to process and (possibly) appeal. A "better" wording could be something like "No, the Department of Justice will ask a higher court to grant a stay to allow the Pentagon to finish its study." I could refine it even more if I took a little more time – maybe use “the Appeals Court of the 9th Circuit” but that adds a lot of words.

#2 would be great, but it adds "for the time being". Why would it be "for the time being"? A more specific question would once again give respondents a reply with legally possible answers. As it stands, #1 and #2 say the same thing in different ways. #1 "allows time" and #2 is "for the time being". #2 should be a "YES". How about "Yes, the ruling assures that any investigations into discharges based on open homosexuality be suspended and is a step towards full integration in our military". I will compare the "new" #2 with #4 later in this post.

#3 is true, but doesn't really say anything. It's like saying "water is wet". How about something totally new, like this? "No, the judge's ruling will result in heterosexual lawsuits based on privacy issues unique to military service". That is just an example - the point is not to give choices that are obvious and that if given multiple answers almost everyone would select in addition to one that makes more of a positional statement.

#4 finally allows someone to select something that supports the judge's ruling. It does it, however, in a way that makes the person seem to be an extremist. You include one option - it's unconstitutional - but then you add "and it always has been", making the person out to be someone who only has one view and has held it since 1994. How about a more moderate choice like "YES" We are a country of laws and the court has decided that DADT is unconstitutional" (and don't add "for now"!!).

I hope that you will read this and get some insight into why I feel that your questions are partisan. You make people choose between options that have too many emotionally charged words and intolerant or extreme views. Someone outside the AL could look at many of those questions and conclude that as members we are all extremists - like the 91% who said that a Constitutional Right should be denied near military funerals. That question could just as effectively been worded with "support legislative changes that would make it illegal to protest within X number of feet of a funeral or funeral procession". Supporting legislation that doesn’t discriminate in favor of any group is much different than limiting constitutionally guaranteed rights.

I read my own post, the second one down. I did *not* like what I, myself, wrote. My apologies to "The Burn Pit", the commenters and of course, to Mothax.

My belief, simply put, The Organization should stay neutral. The Members should vote what they believe is best. [End Statement]

In reply to Jim Cerullo, you are the one who's nuts. First, West is running for congress, not sheriff. He is not talking about solving problems with guns. He served with honor and distinction while in the service and his retirement proves he cared more about his men than himself. You say righties hate Obama because he's half black, you are just bringing up democRAT talking points that have no basis in reality. Peopke hat Obama because he is sustematically destroying this country. His race has nothing to do with our dislike of him. He is an empty suit who is in way over his head. Lastly, who gives a damn what color Mr. West is, he has shown the content of his character and I only wish I lived in his district so I could vote for him!

"All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke

While rampant jingoistic politics would surely break the legion, for it to sit idly by whilst enemies of our way of life call white black in Washington is a betrayal of an oath I took which has no expiration date.

The world already has too many fence-sitters, and this constitutional prohibition against politics has emasculated the very people it represents. How ridiculous is it to have an organization of warriors who signed a blank check for a value up to and including their lives, sitting about wringing their hands like old maids? What more could the enemies of our Liberty ask than for the defenders of our Liberty to mute themselves?

Bah. The idea of a PAC for an organization for which it purportedly represents, whose sole purpose is to skirt the intent of a law through legal gymnastics is abhorent in any case.

The VFW should be ashamed of itself obviously for it's political strategy, and the Legion needs to rethink its self proclaimed 'neutrality.' I'm ashamed that anyone who thinks that staying out of a fight is a worthy goal. Might as well start calling ourselves the "Neville Chamberlain Society"

/Jaeger Out

@Mothax, You have shown the courage to guard a misunderstood position. You are guarding a perceived vacuum. Many would say, "Stand for something!" The question arises, "Is this, in reality, best for The American Legion, its individual members and even yourself?" This is like arithmetic and math. Where are they alike and where are they different? When you stop and think about it, what are the goals? Arithmetic is focused on answers and math is focused on extended process. Both are an absolute necessity. If you give your members, either part, in reality, you're stealing from them. They need to know absolutely everything, all of the factors used in making the selections on Election Day. Don't forget, they must live with the consequences.

In my grandfather's day, saying you are political but not partisan may have made sense. Today however, all politics are partisan.

Do I think that people should be smart enough to vote for who the best person is without prompting? Not any more. If that were true we surely wouldn't need 24/7 political ads for candidate A or B. I think the Legion SHOULD be out there actively endorsing candidates.

By trying not to pick sides, the Legion (and the VFW) have allowed themselves in the past to used to give legitimacy to some fools who have been crooked, duplicitous, and downright nasty. I have seen first hand people I wouldn't spit on if they were on fire, wrapping themselves in the flag at various Legion events, talking about "Taking care of Veteran's" then they go back to Washington, spit on the military, and sound like Che Guevara. As long as these politicians are willing to parrot the Legion line for a few minutes, the Legion is more than willing to act like a Lady of Ill Repute and sell them 5 minutes of soapbox time. Then these same Clowns use the photo ops to sell their brand of snake oil, and give the appearance of Apple Pie and Baseball.

If the Legion were to REALLY take a stand, they would tell these clowns they are unwelcome. Period. End of discussion.

THAT is what the Legion fails to do. What it should do. It SHOULD judge a politicians soul and character, and either approve of them or find them lacking, based at a minimum upon their morality, patriotism, and commitment to the US Constitution. Just cherry picking issues as the price for tacit approval just encourages the same sort of buffoonery that we have come to expect in the District of Columbia.

Call a scumbag a scumbag and be done with it. Don't give em a pass because they found it expedient to vote for some convenient bills to prop up their credentials as moderates.

Quite clearly there is no way we are going to agree on this. The American Legion has been successful for over 90 years because we don't do those things. There are plenty of organizations out there who believe that certain parties have the absolute right of it. We aren't them. The American Legion goes far beyond politics. We have programs for Children and Youth, we do Naturalization, and most of all, we represent veterans in cliams before the VA. If we start down the route of chosing one party over another, we abrogate all of those responsibilities.

I find it insulting that you think we are sitting the fights out when we lobby every single day to get veterans what they have earned. But it is certainly your right to believe that.

I have always considered myself to be a Democrat, but I never have and never will vote for the party and not the candidate. I have voted for Republican Presidential condidates, Repbulican Congressional Candidates, and will vot for a Republican Governor this fall simply because I felt that they were the best candidate. I also would never vote for a candidate simply because he or she served in the military. All retired military can probably tick off several dozen of military we have served with or for who were simply put, bad leaders. One of my bosses in Vietnam was an alcoholic who should never have been there and certaily should hot have been in a leadership position. So, why bash the VFW even if their PAC does support a candidate who did not serve...since when is that a condition for serving our town, state or country in an elected position. Come off it, and let's act like Americans.
CGL

Also, you do acknowledge I assume that the Constitution and supreme court cases have recognized equal rights to freedom of religion, freedom of association, and the penumbra of privacy that is in the Constitution, right? Also presumably you agree that Common Law dating back to colonial days should be honored? Or, would you contend that libel and slander for instance are unconstitutional?

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.
Have a tip for us? A link that should appear here? Contact us.
News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.