Military guys make lousy running mates

But the real question is why our next president feels he or she may need a retired general or admiral as deputy. Sure, Hillary’s national security credentials are iffy, while Trump’s are nonexistent, but are generals and admirals the best way to strengthen that important issue?

This is hardly a new temptation. Back in 1968, the third party sensation George Wallace selected Curtis LeMay as his running mate. A retired air force four-star, the fire-breathing LeMay was famous for heading up Strategic Air Command, our nation’s main nuclear force, at the height of the Cold War, and he publicly pondered dropping atomic weapons on North Vietnam while “bombing them back to the Stone Age.”

Things went only marginally better for James Stockdale, the running mate of Ross Perot in 1992. A retired navy three-star who received the Medal of Honor for his conduct during almost eight years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, Admiral Stockdale was a bona fide war hero plus a military intellectual of sorts. Smart and self-deprecating, he rhetorically asked during a veep debate, “Who am I? Why am I here?”—which only confused much of the American public.

If Trump and Clinton are serious about choosing a military man as their running mate, the past suggests the proposition may be risky. Our military remains an object of veneration by many Americans, who see it as one of our few national institutions that remains fully functional and dependable. Yet it includes plenty of time-servers, pedants and bureaucrats, too—including in the top ranks. Be careful which general or admiral you choose, since that person could very plausibly be our future president.