Former Commissioner Dan Sullivan, who is running in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, sent out a Veterans Day message outlining his plans for, among other things, better health care for vets, reducing the backlog of veterans’ benefits, and creating more jobs for vets. (Read the plan here.)
If it were sent in a timely manner, his plan and his candidacy might have gotten some attention. As it was, it arrived in my inbox at 11 p.m. on Monday night, though the campaign says they sent it out earlier that day. In any case, it missed deadlines and was a missed opportunity. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who is also running in the primary, has not listed veterans’ issues as a priority on his website. To mark the day, he only put out a cursory thanks to vets message on Facebook. Sullivan’s other opponent, Joe Miller, is an Iraq war veteran, but he didn’t himself make mention of vets on Monday.
The country is hungry for stories about vets on Veterans Day, and Sullivan has a good one. He is a former active Marine and is still in the reserves. As a reservist, he was sent to Afghanistan on a counter-terrorism mission as recently as July.
According to the Washington Post, there will be only 12 U.S. senators who have been in active duty in the Congress. During the Cold War, 70 percent of the U.S. Congress were veterans, and in 1977, 80 percent had been in active duty.
The Post highlights some research suggesting why it might matter for policy making:
— On issues that concern the use of force and the acceptance of casualties, the opinions of veterans track more closely with those of active military officers than with civilians.
— The U.S. initiates fewer military disputes when there are more veterans in the U.S. political elite (the cabinet and the Congress).
— The U.S. uses more force in the disputes it initiates when there are more veterans in the U.S. political elite.
— Veterans are less likely to accept U.S. casualties for interventionist uses of force than for “realpolitik” uses of force.
I’ve been told that Sullivan has been reticent to turn his military service into a campaign issue. If true, it’s understandable and if he’s doing it in fear of staining the honor of his uniform, then it’s even admirable. But there’s a fine line between being admirable and being lofty. Politics is its own war and it’s one fought in the mud. If Sullivan is truly hungry to be senator for the right reasons, like those vets, then he’ll get down from his perch with the rest of the pile and use whatever he has to fight.
Or he can continue to go to fancy D.C. fundraisers and send out plans and policy initiatives that nobody reads.
CLARIFICATION: The text has been changed to reflect that the campaign said that the release was sent earlier that day.
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