There it was again -- and again -- last night. How many times have we heard "boots on the ground"? The phrase is nearly as common as the once popular "thinking outside the box" though with far more serious implications.
Americans at war, taking direct fire, risking their lives is the reality behind the expression "boots on the ground." Wearing those boots are men and women, often very young, in harm's way, who bravely and voluntarily protect their own and other countries while families wait and worry.
Words matter. Talking about "boots on the ground" distances sitting politicians from the reality of their decisions -- from who is actually wearing those boots. It sounds tough. "I'll put boots on the ground!" presidential candidates often boast, as if this qualifies them to be commander-in-chief.
"What does 'boots on the ground' mean to you -- personally?" That's what journalists should ask. Then perhaps would-be commanders-in-chief might share their criteria for sending brave young men and women to war, on the ground, at sea, or in the air to protect and save the lives and liberty of others. They might tell us what those men and women can expect when they return home.
Anything else is irresponsible, tough-guy, empty rhetoric.
Kathleen also blogs here.