Congress's Military Spouse

Politico has a great profile of Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) today that covers everything from her marriage to Navy officer and astronaut Mark Kelly to the last time she changed a tire in Arizona. I've met Rep. Giffords on a couple of occasions, including a military readiness roundtable in her district last year -- her office asked me to talk on the state of America's ground forces. She's one of the sharpest members in Congress, by far. But what impressed me was the depth of her respect and compassion for America's servicemembers, and her currency on defense issues.

And now, after reading the Politico article, I understand part of the reason: Giffords is the only military spouse in Congress. There are military parents in Congress, and there are many staffers who are part of military families. This is important. Part of this is gender-driven, of course: most military spouses are women, because most military personnel are men, and women are underrepresented in Congress. And there are fewer veterans in Congress today, too, for a variety of demographic reasons.

The result is a diminished human connection between Congress and the military, yet another sign of the civil-military divide.

By Phillip Carter |  July 11, 2008; 12:39 PM ET  | Category:  Civil-Military Relations
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It is another facet of the diminished connection between our "representative" government and a section of the citizenry whose profession is military.

Posted by: Bill Keller | July 12, 2008 9:25 AM

We don't have many congressmen married to waitresses either, or Wall-Mart employees, gas station attendants, night clerks at the seven eleven, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, pay roll clerks, toll booth collectors, counter staff at the McDonalds.They mostly seemed to be married to rich lawyers or be rich lawyers themselves... you don't imagine that's the problem, do you?

Posted by: Dijetlo | July 12, 2008 10:07 AM

What that means is for all but one congress person, "military and foreign policy" information flows through only one or two, easily filtered (controlled), channels.

Posted by: IntelVet | July 12, 2008 11:50 AM

Re: the civilian-military divide....While America and Western Europe all went to volunteer armies, the Federal Republic of Germany (after a lot of debate) has insisted on maintaining conscription (the draft). The main reason is to preserve a connection between the broader society and the military, to never let the military become a professional caste separate unto itself. The Germans have certainly learned this lesson from their history. Are we going to have to learn that lesson the hard way?

Posted by: fg42 | July 12, 2008 9:25 PM

The German example is not a good one, historically, though it may apply now. The German General Staff tended to oppose Hitler before WW II (von Fritsch). Hitler created the Waffen-SS and filled the staff with toadies like Keitel. Bush has done something similar with Blackwater and by making sure that nay-sayers like Shinsheki and Taguba are cashiered. But a government composed of people without military experience (Cheney, Rice, Wolfowitz, Feith, et al) should not be permitted to send others to war. It's our fault, though, and that of the craven Dems who caved on the use of force resolution. Think of Eisenhower ending the Korean conflict, even if in stalemate, but being able to build our highway system instead. Think of Powell being outmaneuvered and shamefully used by the armchair hawks. Torture, incidentally, is another disgraceful byproduct of the lack of any link between personal military experience and policy. I speak as a veteran.

Posted by: H R Coursen | July 14, 2008 9:35 AM

The military industrial complex eats up half our federal budget already. If the relationship between the military and Congress gets any closer we'll be handing over 100% of our federal budget to the military.

Despite the massive amounts of money being poured into the M.I.complex...not much of it goes to support the troops with health care, mental health support, education, etc.

Posted by: Jaydee | July 14, 2008 1:09 PM

Concerning the Military Industrial Complex, it will be really fascinating to see how Obama will face up to them. I think a lot of top-brass, like Petraeus and friends are cheering wildly for the change of regime in the secrecy of their hearts. John McCain must stand as a realists nightmare to them. Obamas policies with a gradual redeployment to Afghanistan is fraught with danger in itself, but at least in accordance with Fallon (prebooting) and Mullens actual military assessments on economic use of force.

Posted by: fnord | July 15, 2008 11:15 AM

Well now, Phil, don't forget Elizabeth Dole, the Veteran Spouse! Bob Dole is a veteran, so that makes Elizabeth a military spouse as well.

Of course she got onboard after WW2, but still.

Posted by: Jimmy | July 15, 2008 12:15 PM

Elizabeth Dole is the wife of a veteran, not a military spouse. Nothing wrong with that status - it's just that she was not married to him while he served in uniform (she was under 10 years old during WWII).

Posted by: Sam | July 22, 2008 3:37 PM

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