Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin isn't the only one suggesting that her civilian service gives her a kind of military cred. And I'm not talking about Hillary Clinton's imaginary ducking of sniper fire with Sinbad on the tarmac in Bosnia. Democratic Congressional candidate Darcy Burner has also taken flak for showing photos of herself as a teenage cadet in the Civil Air Patrol.
In 2006, Burner was criticized by local conservatives (see Sound Politics) for her scanty résumé and for overplaying pictures of herself in her CAP uniform (she joined at age 14). They resented the implication that she was some kind of veteran — the CAP is strictly civilian service.
Liberals, like blogger David Goldstein of Horse's Ass, argued that Burner was in fact "curiously" reticent to boast of her CAP involvement and seemed to grant it more importance than she did. Burner did give at least one lengthy interview about CAP that convinced one blogger that she had the right stuff. Burner won a national award for being Cadet of the Year in 1989. She still uses the CAP uniform picture in her campaign flyers.
And why not? Gary Locke was forever being touted as a former Eagle Scout. Burner isn't claiming "command" experience worthy of putting her a heart beat away from the commander-in-chief's office — at least not yet anyway. Still, I find it amusing that Republicans are now over-reaching on Palin while some liberals were previously wowed by a woman in uniform, even if that uniform was only a few notches up from Campfire Girls.
For my part, while I am not running for any office, I would like to state for the record that I was a Boy Scout, rank Second Class, during the Vietnam era. I supported my country by learning to make napalm from plastic tarps and booby trap camp fires with cans of Sterno. Yes, we in Troop XXX, Raven Patrol, gathered at our wilderness bootcamp in the Cascade foothills and had a great deal in common with the cast of Apocalypse Now.
While that did not prepare me for the Oval Office, it did qualify me to comment on campaigns.