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Old 09-17-2018, 06:50 AM
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Arrow Military service doesn't give politicians like Duncan Hunter license to break the law

Military service doesn't give politicians like Duncan Hunter license to break the law
By: Ross K. Baker, Opinion columnist Published 4:00 a.m. ET Sept. 17, 2018
RE: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opini...mn/1288976002/

Military service is an asset for a candidate, but not all veterans are noble. Duncan Hunter and other politicians who served are not above the law.

Most Americans correctly believe that military service is deserving of respect and gratitude, especially in time of war. The “thank you for your service” acknowledgment heard when someone in uniform is encountered by fellow passengers on a plane or by a supermarket checkout clerk may seem small recognition, but it does suggest a public awareness that something more than a token greeting is called for.

At the same time, military service, however ennobling, does not confer lifetime immunity from obedience to the laws of the land. And when veterans — even those with distinguished combat records — run afoul of the law, their transgression is in a way worse: It is disillusioning because it causes us to ponder the sad possibility that behind the heroism, there might lurk knavery.

The latest sad example is Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a former Marine who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He now stands accused of massive fraud that includes using campaign funds for personal expenses — everything from foreign travel to his wife’s cosmetics. Worse, much of this illegal use of campaign money was concealed as charitable donations, such as the purchase of golf balls fobbed off as a contribution to the Wounded Warriors Project. He also apparently attempted to conceal a pleasure trip to Italy as an official visit to inspect U.S. naval facilities.


Beware esteeming heroes' virtue too highly

The Hunter case is sadly reminiscent of the case a dozen years ago of congressman and former Navy Cmdr. Randy “Duke” Cunningham. A hero by any measure, he abused his position on the House Appropriations Committee by directing government projects to companies that supported his opulent lifestyle.

What was especially distressing about Cunningham was his chest full of medals for valor. These were not participation trophies. They included the Navy Cross, the Silver Star and a Purple Heart. Even heroes can get drunk on power, and Cunningham went on a moral bender that lasted from his election to the House in 1991 to his resignation in 2005 after pleading guilty to a variety of offenses ranging from tax evasion to bribery.

Nothing so haunted the late Sen. John McCain, another hero, more than his association with Charles Keating and his Lincoln Savings and Loan Association. McCain and a group of his Senate colleagues, including another heroic pilot, John Glenn, were found to have intervened improperly with federal banking regulators on Keating’s behalf. Although he was let off with a slap on the wrist, in his 2002 memoir, McCain admitted to being consumed by the idea that anyone could even suspect him of having acted dishonorably.

We have a tendency to impute to people who have served their country valiantly a kind of moral perfection, that heroism in combat must surely have its counterpart in other areas of their lives. For most people so situated, that is true. For others, the attribution to them by the public of superhuman virtue could lead to arrogance, entitlement and a sense that they dwell on a plane so lofty that it is safe to succumb to temptation without consequences.

The belief that the guardians of our national security are capable of venality was dashed dramatically earlier this year in the “Fat Leonard” scandal that resulted in criminal charges against 60 Navy officers of the 7th Fleet in Asia for accepting bribes from a port operator in Singapore in exchange for inflating the cost of dockage services. The bribes included lavish banquets and the services of prostitutes. The scandal reached the flag officer level with criminal charges against a retired rear admiral.

Veterans are accountable like everyone else

Still, both political parties view military service as an asset — a stamp of character— in a candidate. There are an unusually large number of veterans seeking seats in Congress this year, and they quite properly point to their service as a qualification for political office. Our support for them is a token not merely of our identification with their party or the issues that they champion, but also of our respect and gratitude for their service.

We may hope if they win their elections that because of their time in the service of the country, they will be able to soothe the national mood and elevate our politics. Even so, respect them as we do, we must hold them to the same standards as any other elected official. Military service is not a lifetime free pass to cut ethical corners or act with impunity or arrogance.

Hunter may have been a fine Marine. But he has proved himself a wretched public servant and is all the more contemptible for wrapping himself in the colors while enriching himself.

Ross K. Baker is a distinguished professor of political science at Rutgers University and a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.

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Personal note: Much of what was said above is true. The few that do cross the line make the good ones pay the consequences or put them under suspicion. No one is above the law and that's the way it should be. We all know when we are breaking the law and we tend to believe most of us can get away with it. But in reality every dog has there day its been said and if you play you will pay and all the the good one did - is for naught - and you will discredit those who've played by the rules. Temptation is great today as there are
many longing for better life styles. This is a weakness in mankind. It goes against the moral aspects of prior teachings - and yet many get off the straight an narrow - and for many reasons it seems.

No one is perfect - No One! Easy money - better cash flow - better everything seems to be the under-lining views of those who've gotten away with it for years only to suffer the ramifications of the fall when caught. They say honesty is the best policy but so many cross the line and that's why our prisons are full of bad guys and gals. The good book say you reap what you sow - crossing the line means more time!

Boats
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O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

"IN GOD WE TRUST"
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