- The Washington Times - Monday, October 30, 2000

The 1.4 million members of the armed forces are expected to vote in large numbers in the Nov. 7 presidential election, and indications are a majority will vote for Republican George W. Bush.
A recent study by two Duke University professors found 64 percent of officers describing themselves as Republicans and just 8 percent as Democrats.
Interviews with officers show they like the Texas governor's pledge to "rebuild the military," believe President Clinton has sent them on too many overseas missions while cutting the budget, and are leery of Democrat Al Gore's promise to open the ranks to avowed homosexuals.
Independent surveys show that the GOP base is increasingly composed of the armed forces' 205,000 commissioned officers.
"Definitely Bush," said an Army captain when asked for whom he and his colleagues will vote. "[Vice-presidential candidate Richard B.] Cheney is especially popular, at least in the circles I run in. We feel he walked the mile in our shoes being [secretary of defense]. The past years we've seen a pretty good deterioration in the military. I'd say the attitude runs more pro-Republican than Democrat among the officers my age who I talk to."
He, like a dozen other active-duty personnel, offered their opinions on military voting on the condition they not be identified.
Military bases in the United States and abroad encourage registration and absentee voting. At Fort Bragg, N.C., home to 41,000 airborne and special operations troops, the voter assistance office has handed out 130,000 registration forms for soldiers and spouses, a 3,000 increase compared with 1996. At Fort Benning, Ga., the site of infantry training, 65 percent of soldiers have registered to vote, compared with 51 percent four years ago, a base spokesman said.
The Marine Corps has not yet compiled voter registration statistics. But a spokesman, Capt. Landon Hutchens, said "we have seen an increase in telephone calls, e-mails and requests for voter assistance and in general more Marines are registering to vote and voting than they did in the previous presidential election."
Nearly 65 percent of active-duty personnel voted in the 1992 presidential election, followed by 67 percent in 1996, according to a Pentagon spokesman. In contrast, about 50 percent of civilians cast ballots in 1996.
The Bush campaign is actively seeking the military vote. A pillar of the Bush-Cheney ticket is that combat readiness has declined under President Clinton's watch.
The campaign formed a "Veterans for Bush-Cheney" committee co-chaired by retired Marine Gen. Charles Krulak, the former Corps commandant.
In a move reminiscent of Bill Clinton garnering the support of 21 former admirals and generals in 1992, Mr. Bush issued a list of 27 former flag officers backing his candidacy.
The drive appears to be paying off. The American Legion, the nation's largest veterans group at 2.8 million members, took an Internet poll of veterans. It found that 90 percent favor Mr. Bush over Mr. Gore on veterans issues.
"I can tell you that many of my friends in the [special operations] community are overwhelmingly for Bush," said a soldier at Fort Bragg. "One hundred percent of my company is voting Bush. Simply put, Special Forces was founded under the principles of exporting freedom to oppressed peoples all over the world. We see Gore as an oppressor, someone that wants more regulation, big government, reduced individual liberties such as gun control."
Pollsters do not survey military members as a separate group. But Scott Rasmussen, president of the national polling firm Rasmussen Research, said that among voters who consider national security a top issue Mr. Bush beat Mr. Gore 59 percent to 32 percent in an Oct. 16-19 national poll.
The military's apparent backing of Mr. Bush has spurred some complaints in the liberal press that the armed forces are being politicized not withstanding the fact that Mr. Clinton sought the backing of retired brass in 1992.
Gen. Krulak defended his political activity in a letter to The Washington Post. He wrote that, "To suggest that, having officially taken off our uniforms for the last time, we somehow are not entitled to the same right to enjoy full and active participation in the selection of our elected officials as other citizens of this great land is an insult to our service."
Mr. Gore has promised at least $100 billion in new Pentagon spending. Still, officers interviewed by The Washington Times remain suspicious. Some complain of eight years of "political correctness" in the form of mandatory sensitivity training and a fear of saying the wrong thing in front of the wrong person.
They cringed when Mr. Gore said during the primary campaign that he would appoint to the Joint Chiefs of Staff only generals and admirals who agreed beforehand to open the ranks to homosexuals. Mr. Gore later backtracked, but not from his promise to homosexual activists to allow them to serve openly. Homosexuals now may wear the uniform only if they keep their sexuality private.
Officers say they hear talk of colleagues resigning if Mr. Gore is elected.
"The pundits always say that the Republicans just automatically put more money into defense, therefore shoring up the military vote. I don't see it that way," said an Army helicopter pilot. "The military is big on character and honor. We haven't seen much of that in the current administration. Al Gore says that the military has no problems. We see the same sentiment from our military leadership. They echo, 'All is well on my watch.' Many soldiers are pretty fed up with that. The Army has serious problems."
Officers also say they and their brethren have become more politically aware the past 20 years. The all-volunteer military tends to attract patriotic and religious people seeking a disciplined, structured work environment. These same people naturally drift to pro-military Republicans, the officers say.
"The long tradition of an apolitical military has given way to a new reality in which the elite military is probably the most solidly Republican professional group in American society," said a study spearheaded by two Duke University professors for the Triangle Institute for Security Studies' "Project on the Gap Between the Military and Civilian Society."
Said a soldier stationed in Europe, "When I first joined the Army as a commissioned officer 22 years ago, you could not say that the military leaned to one party or the other. We've watched the process evolve these past 22 years to the point where those in the military freely discuss their party affiliation, the critical political issues that will affect the military, and the candidates that are supporting those issues."

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