Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Sestak vindicated?

Well, yes, no and maybe. Let’s look back at the post from a few weeks ago where I ask if he is Out of Uniform, Out of Order, or Out of His Mind. But, before we go there, a review is in order. Since I posted the above with a cross post to MilBlogs, I have had fun at those locations as well as those so kind to link back on the subject at Bubblehead's place, GatwayPundit, PoliPundit, and ArmyofCurt reading the standard reply put out by the Sestak campaign. They don’t dig deep enough, pulled the standard issue bloody shirt, etc, etc, etc. It was quite fun, in that I first posted about Rear Admiral Sestak back when he was fired by the CNO and had no idea he would run for anything. Not a PA voter, and I would know Rep. Weldon if he tried to break in line for a Slim Jim at Smoker’s Express. The core of the issue has always been, for me, what was a retired RADM doing wearing a VADM uniform while he was running for Congress?

Why is a publicly declared candidate for Congress in a middle of an election in a parade in uniform? Why would someone with over three decades in service to the Constitution not see, for whatever reason, the gross cultural, historical, and moral issues around a person in uniform marching at the same time running for office? Discretion is the better part of valor; that action was a far from discrete as one can get.

Ok, let’s get to the issues in hand. Got my NavyEnquirer in the mail, and what do I see, a bit about RADM Sestak and his three-star fun day. It is mostly a rehash of Sestak campaign emails, and interviews with Sestak supporters. Let’s start in the middle and work our way out. Is he “Out of Uniform?” Well, lets look at DOD Directive 1334.01 dated 26 OCT 05’s direct quote:
3.2. Former members of the Armed Forces, unless under another provision of this Instruction or under the terms of Section 772 of title 10, United States Code (reference (d)), who served honorably during a declared or undeclared war and whose most recent service was terminated under honorable conditions may wear the uniform in the highest grade held during such war service only on the following occasions and in the course of travel incident thereto: 3.2.1. Military funerals, memorial services, weddings, and inaugurals.
3.2.2. Parades on National or State holidays; or other parades or ceremonies of a patriotic character in which any Active or Reserve United States military unit is taking part.
That’s what we are looking for. 772 doesn’t give you what 1334.01 does, as bolded above. He gets a green light, here, but wait, if we want to play this game of chasing sub-paragraphs, let’s look above that paragraph. Mmm, he can wear 3-stars on “special” days, though he is a Rear Admiral not a Vice Admiral, though he can dress as a Vice Admiral on special days - but let’s move on to “Out of Order.” Can he wear it on that day, at this time?
It is DoD policy that:

3.1. The wearing of the uniform by members of the Armed Forces (including retired members and members of Reserve components) is prohibited under any of the following circumstances:

3.1.2. During or in connection with furthering political activities, private employment or commercial interests, when an inference of official sponsorship for the activity or interest may be drawn.
Chew on that some. As any political advisor will tell you , once you declare your candidacy, you are “in connection” every time you step out your front door, talk to or at anyone; you are at a campaign event – especially when a photographer is there. RADM Sestak is a very smart man, he knows this. He may be clever by half and try to SeaLawyer his way to the lighter side of a gray area where others won’t engage him, but I will. I remember before I left for DESERT SHIELD/STORM, in the elections of 1990, there was a dust up in Jacksonville, FL because some guy, running for School Board or State Rep. or other lower office, wore his SDBs to his kid’s home football game that was honoring parents who were in or retired from the military. He was a LCDR ‘Chop in the Reserves I believe. Anyway, they were all over him for the same reason.

Anyway, back to 3.1.2; everyone knew he was a candidate. The uniform, in wartime, on a man running for office allows for enough “inference” and “may be drawn” that a prudent man wouldn’t wade into the grey area. In the end, if you need a lawyer to tell you under the following subparagraphs you can for a distinct period of time get away with wearing 3-stars then when not marching change clothes or put the 2-stars; then perhaps you should think twice. Oh, I like this quote:
Sestak did serve during wartime, having commanded the George Washington Carrier Strike Group during the early stages of Operation Enduring Freedom as a two-star admiral and continuing to serve during the ongoing war on terrorism as a three-star.
….after serving a follow on tour as a 2-star in a Staff Job in D.C. and then getting a third, though not long enough to retire as one because he was fired by the CNO. If that is the excuse he wants to use….

That leaves us to the cheeky phrased “Out of His Mind” part. To the NavyTimes bit;
But Sestak says he wasn’t campaigning at the time, had his uniformed participation in the two events vetted by the Navy and did nothing out of the ordinary.

“I’ve marched in many parades over the years,” Sestak said. “I’ve been asked numerous times to wear my uniform, and I’ve always declined.” But the opportunity to do it in Memorial Day events in his home town of Springfield and nearby, he said, was too much to pass up.

But before agreeing to wear his uniform, he said, “We made sure we got a copy of all the regs, and called the Navy … and made sure we did it just right. There was absolutely no conflict — it was exactly what the book said to do.” He said he was honored to take part and was surprised to get any criticism for wearing the uniform.
”Always declined,” until you were running for office. Can’t pass that up. Oh, as for vetting with the Navy, I can hear that conversation right now. “I’m not going to come out against this guy when he is in a grey area like this. Give him the benefit of the doubt as he will stay in the grey area if he is smart, and if he doesn’t someone else can go after this guy who is a heart beat away from being a Congressman.”

Once again, if you have to expend tons of staff work to make sure you can squeak in a day of dress-up, and you have to get a lawyer to tell you it is kosher.
A retired Navy captain who practices law in San Diego and who did the uniform regulation research for Sestak, Wade Sanders,…
..don’t tell me your campaign wasn’t going to take advantage of this opportunity for the reason of “furthering political activities” as per para 3.1.2. Oh, and the staff protesteth too much. Non-political event?
Marcus Hook is Weldon’s home town, and Weldon appeared in the same parade.

Sestak said he did do some campaigning in Marcus Hook after his appearance there, changing into civilian clothes and knocking on doors and introducing himself to residents.
So, what do we have in the end. As Skippy and others have stated, RADM Sestak has certain personality issues. Some of these are very human, and some that I share with him. Ego, pride, arrogance, and an inflated sense of your own cleverness and intelligence.

As he stated, he didn’t expect to be called on this. He thought he had covered all his bases and could bluff his way out of any attacks. At best, it is tacky. At worst it is what it looks like, a man running for office finds a way to dress up in a rank he does not hold, in a uniform that, in a time of war, gives the visual of “I am Joe Sestak, Vice Admiral. You know I am running for Senate. Don’t dare question my military opinions or experience.” Image planted, time to move on. Sad.

Funny, when I started typing this, I though “OK, he isn’t out of uniform, but he is out of order, and suffers from a bit too much ego.” Having looked at it some more, I am back to square one. Others have given him the 51% white in the grey area he knowingly waded into. Me, no. 75% dark. He had no place wearing that uniform. The very image of a retired guy in military uniform, wearing it in the middle of a campaign, is so South American that it makes everyone else in uniform a little cheaper by association. If you are a member of the VFW Joe, wear a garrison cap and business suit like the rest of them.

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