Paging Joe Klein...
It's rare to see a liberal pundit get his head handed to him (by another MSM outlet, no less), practically in the same news cycle.
We refer to Joe Klein of Time magazine. Appearing on Chris Matthew's syndicated show over the weekend, he opined that President Obama enjoys a better relationship with the military that George W. Bush. A partial transcript of his comments, courtesy of Newsbusters:
JOE KLEIN, TIME MAGAZINE: The other thing is there’s still tension between [President Obama] and Petraeus about what exactly, how exactly to close out Afghanistan. I'd say the relationship is pretty good, very, better than it was with Bush because the military hated the fact that he wasn't really doing the job in Iraq.
Unfortunately for Mr. Klein, the military apparently never got the message. Barely a day later, the Gallup organization released a new poll, showing that veterans and active-duty military personnel give the President lower marks than the general population. The poll was based on more than 230,000 interviews conducted for Gallup's daily tracking poll between January 2010 and April of this year.
According to the survey, President Obama's approval numbers were significantly lower among military personnel and veterans among all age groups. Among the 18-29 demographic, Mr. Obama has a 58% approval rating among the general population, but only 44% among military members and veterans in that age group.
Among Americans between the ages of 30-39, the president has a 51% approval rating in the general population, but that number drops to 41% for active-duty members of the armed forces and those who have previously served. The same gap is seen in the 40-49 demographic. Collectively, the three groups represent over 90% of the nation's military, and a significant portion of its younger veterans.
Clearly, the numbers don't back up Mr. Klein's assertion. So, how did he manage to get it so wrong?
For starters, there's been a lot of spin in Democratic circles about their "inroads" with the military vote. If you believe their operatives, members of the armed forces and veterans are no longer a lock for the GOP. As more women and minorities join the military, they reason, Democratic candidates will receive a greater share of the armed forces vote.
But if the 2008 presidential election is any indication, the Democrats still have a lot of work to do. On the eve of that election, a Military Times survey showed that Republican candidate John McCain held almost a 3-1 lead among "career" officers and NCOs serving in the armed forces. Final electoral results showed that Senator McCain received well over 60% of the military vote, while losing to Mr. Obama by more than seven percentage points.
We're also guessing that Mr. Klein doesn't spend much time with the grunts, who worry about things like operations tempo, deployments and how they're going to support their families. While the rank-and-file give the President due credit for his successes (i.e., the bin Laden raid), they're also aware the Obama Administration has been hacking away at the Pentagon budget.
Under a plan outlined by outgoing SecDef Robert Gates, the Army and Marine Corps will see significant manpower cuts--never mind that our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan will continue for years. Military members understand that math perfectly well; literally thousands of troops will be forced from the ranks in years to come, with middling prospects for civilian employment. Did we mention that younger veterans (under the age of 30) have one of the highest employment rates among all Americans? Those "career" and "pocketbook" issues clearly affect perceptions of the commander-in-chief.
We're also guessing that Mr. Klein's military interaction is probably limited to senior officers he meets on the cocktail party circuit in D.C. Officers at that level have a stake in the success or failure of an administration, and it's not too difficult to find a few cheerleaders with stars on their uniforms. Put another way: if you're a three-star in D.C. who's looking to reach the top of the military food chain, would you say something bad about the president (and his relationship with the armed forces) to a "friend of the administration" like Joe Klein?
Here's a suggestion for the Time columnist, who's actually been to places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Before making more generalizations about the military, spend a little more time with members of the armed services--not the generals and colonels, but the mid-level, career officers and NCOs who make things work. Their insights would prove informative--even illuminating, and give Mr. Klein a better idea as to why his assertion didn't match the Gallup poll.