- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 14, 2008




Americans face a clear choice in November, between one candidate who has demonstrated excellence in one measure of responsibility and leadership, while the other candidate’s leadership and experience credentials are hard to find.

One candidate, of course, has proven his credentials through military service, not to mention his 25 years in Congress. From my own experience, I can attest that the captain of a naval ship or the leader of an aircraft squadron is a time-honored position. He is given extraordinary responsibility and authority earned through demonstrated performance, which is evaluated at every level of his professional career. He is responsible for maintaining his ship and squadron in a high state of readiness so it is ready to carry out any mission assigned in peace or war. Failure is not an option.

The ship’s and squadron’s operating performance will be a direct reflection on the leadership of its captain. He will be held accountable for the proper training and motivation of his crew to carry out any assigned mission. A key element for success is a high crew morale. A crew’s confidence in the captain, which must be earned, is certainly a key element.

Commanding a ship or a squadron requires clear direction. Experience gained through years of training gives the captain the confidence and judgment needed to make critical decisions that in many cases involve life-and-death situations. There is no Teleprompter or “bug” in your ear to tell you what to do. As captain, you cannot avoid these critical decisions by declaring “Present.”

The captain of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the most sophisticated naval ship in the world, has had at least 22 years of experience in demanding positions. He has proven to his peers and superiors that he is capable of being given the responsibility to command this multibillion-dollar ship with a crew of 5,500-6,000 men and women, including an air wing of about 85 aircraft.

One day a fresh-caught ensign who just received his commission from officer candidate school reports aboard for duty. He is well-groomed, bright and articulate. He holds a master’s degree from a prestigious university. He was editor of the school’s paper. As a junior officer he is assigned to the deck division for basic indoctrination and training. Because he is so personable, he is also assigned additional duty as the ship’s community relations officer. After 145 days aboard, most of which is spent off the ship doing community relations, he approaches the captain and informs him he believes he is now ready to relieve the captain and assume his responsibilities. If the captain agreed, you would say “have you lost your mind?” And rightly so.

So why after about 145 days in the Senate did the junior senator from Illinois announced he is now ready to become the next president of the United States and leader of the Free World and become embraced by millions of Americans as the next messiah? They basically know nothing about him or what he stands for, other than he is for “change.” You need to understand that Barack Obama’s use of the word “change” is a code word for a socialist redistribution of wealth.

While China and Russia are rapidly modernizing their military forces, including their nuclear weapons, Mr. Obama has made clear how he intends to cut our military budget, leaving us at a clear disadvantage. His past associations, which include leftist radicals and anti-Israel Islamic groups, plus questionable financial dealings, should be sufficient cause for concern. The Democrats are saddled with Mr. Obama. Let’s keep it that way.

The Republicans have John McCain, whose character has been tested many times and has never been found wanting. After coming home from the “Hanoi Hilton” in 1973, Mr. McCain overcame torturous injuries to regain his flight status, and in 1976 gained command of VA-174, responsible for training A-7 Corsair attack jet pilots.

During his yearlong command of this squadron with 1,000 personnel and about 75 jets, during the period of budgetary hardship following the Vietnam War, Mr. McCain succeeded in increasing readiness and safety. While this is just a footnote in the record of accomplishments for John McCain, there is just no comparative experience of command or responsibility in the other candidate’s record.

We need a president at this critical juncture who has the proven strength of character to lead this great nation and who can reach deep within himself to provide the moral leadership and courage to handle any crises this country and our allies may face.

The differences between the two candidates is stark. This presidential election should not even be a close call for the American voters.

James Lyons, U.S. Navy retired admiral, was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations, and deputy chief of naval operations, where he was principal adviser on all Joint Chiefs of Staff matters.

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