By Joseph Sabino Mistick
Published: Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, 8:59 p.m.
When Mitt Romney talks tough to other nations, as he did last week at the Virginia Military Institute, he sure sounds like a coat holder. If you remember the streets of your youth, you know about that guy who talks a good game, always quick to incite a fracas, but never one to throw a punch.
In fact, just before the fight starts, he tells his pals, “I'll hold your coats.” Then, he steps back, retreating from the very fight that he promoted, proving that tough talk is cheap, especially when someone else has to pay the bill.
That's how Romney approached the Vietnam War. He supported the war while a freshman at Stanford, as was his right, protesting against those students who had occupied the president's office in a demonstration against the war.
But in 1966, Mitt passed on the chance to fight in the war that he supported. Again, that was his right, and he opted instead for a religious deferment that allowed him to spend 1966 to 1968 working as a missionary in France. Those were also among the deadliest years of the war.
It was a confusing time. Americans were deeply split between those who believed that patriotism demanded that they volunteer, or go when called, and those who thought it was their patriotic duty to oppose the war, some even leaving the country to avoid the draft.
Romney was the rare young man who publicly supported the war, then left the country, avoiding military service. Every young person has youthful misjudgments, some born of confused idealism and others rooted in fear of the unknown, and most try to learn from those early lessons.
But there Romney was again, giving a jingoistic speech at VMI that seemed out of character for a guy whose only big battles have been around a corporate negotiating table, not in a rice paddy or behind a sand dune. He chastised President Obama for being soft, claiming that U.S. troops left Iraq too soon, sounding like Dick Cheney and the neocons who got us into that war on a ruse.
And he talked tough about Syria and Afghanistan, saving special threats for Iran. Like the patriarch of a military family that will not hesitate when called to duty, which he distinctly is not, he sounds too eager for war.
Neither major party has a veteran on its ticket this time. And because our Founders wisely provided for civilian control of the military, we will always have leaders without combat experience sending other Americans off to war. But sober judgment is required of those leaders.
In our system, saber-rattling should be left to those who are actually on the battlefield, not the civilian leader in a well-pressed suit. It is the blood of others that will be shed.
When Romney rattles his saber, he starts to sound like he will too easily trade it for the coats of those he is sending off to fight.
Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (SabinoMistick@aol.com).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Mail for IRS delivered to Squirrel Hill home
- North Versailles, Murrysville families still waiting for report on 2011 chopper crash that killed couple
- State Police: People injured in Parkway crash resulting from police chase
- Pirates notebook: Catcher Stewart activated; Sanchez demoted
- Bunt singles are rare, but can be effective
- Penguins’ Bylsma wants Cup version of Letang
- Pitt QB Savage turns down NYC invite to NFL Draft
- Philanthropist helps waitress become nurse
- Festival shares Mozart’s secrets
- Youngster falls over hillside in Churchill
- Drug crime reclassification to help ex-cons get vote rights