Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Times editorial on Sen. Graham

Following up on The Washington Post's story about Sen. Lindsey O. Graham's military career, The New York Times has an editorial on the subject this morning. Bottom line:
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.
Not so fast. Is there really nothing wrong with federal legislators serving in the reserves? Whether or not the Incompatibility Clause gets in the way, either in letter or in spirit, is conflict of interest unavoidable? Won't every branch of the service inevitably cotton up to legislators who serve in their reserve component? Is it worse in the case of senators, who have to vote on all but the lowest-ranked officer promotions? On the other hand, it's obviously desirable in the interest of civilian control of the military to have legislators who are familiar with military matters and, perhaps, won't be unduly swayed by the importunings of senior officers. And why should reservists be forced to abandon reserve careers when they decide to enter elective politics?

So what's the answer? How about an independent body -- and no, not the DoDIG -- to monitor the actual ongoing military service of reservists who are federal legislators, to make sure in advance that abuses are not occurring.

And note to the reservist-legislators: you do gain an advantage by wearing both hats, but by the same token, you will be running the risk of exposés like Sen. Graham's current kerfuffle, which presumably will adversely affect his vice-presidential aspirations. Maybe that won't affect your legislative job security, but maybe it will. Beware of/stand by for military-resumé arms races: "My 15 years on active duty, with n combat tours trumps [ouch!] your weekend warrior Satisfactory [ or not] years." Comments welcome; real names only.

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