The military leadership is proving to be a solid ally of President Obama in political Washington, adopting his social revolution and willing to serve as backdrops to the White House’s campaign-style drive to win the budget battle with Republicans.
The armed forces have launched an unrelenting lobbying effort on Capitol Hill with a flood of briefing charts to defense staffers. They show the damage that automatic budget cuts called “sequestration” would do to the troops — and to jobs in congressional districts. The charts coincide with the White House push to blame congressional Republicans for the spending cuts, which begin Friday.
The fates of the military chiefs and the president are more closely tied than ever.
“If there is a single constant in the norm of civilian control, it is that the military instinctively submits,” said Ken Allard, a retired Army officer and columnist. “But they also recognize that presidents get exactly the kind of military advice they deserve. And he is ultimately responsible for failure or success.”
Mr. Obama has won them over on the social front, too.
The Joint Chiefs have applauded opening ranks to gays. They now are searching for ways to implement Mr. Obama’s other landmark decision — lifting a ban on women serving in direct combat jobs, the infantry and special operations.
When the White House complained about supposed anti-Muslim training in the ranks, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, put into motion investigations that led to the firing of a decorated Army officer as a staff college teacher.
Although the top brass have avoided appearing at Obama budget events, military aviators served as a backdrop Tuesday when the commander in chief landed at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., on his way to a Newport News shipyard where aircraft carrier work is in jeopardy because of sequestration.
“The president has been traveling all over the country, and today going down to Newport News in order to use our military men and women as a prop in yet another campaign rally to support his tax hikes,” said House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.
Mr. Allard said the military chiefs are realists.
“The chiefs would be crazy if they didn’t recognize that Obama has a near monopoly on power, reinforced by a compliant press corps,” he said. “One of the few exceptions is [Washington Post journalist] Bob Woodward, and just look at what the White House tried to do there.”
Mr. Woodward said in interviews Wednesday that a White House official warned him that he would “regret” reporting that the president keeps moving the goal post during budget talks.
The best-selling author called it “madness” that Mr. Obama would not send a carrier to the Persian Gulf, as requested by that region’s U.S. commander. The statement implies that the Joint Chiefs have acquiesced to a bad military decision.