In 2008, I was pumped for the Iowa Caucuses. For me, it wasn't just political -- it was personal.
I had grown up in Iowa, but that year I was in Iraq, training Iraqi Security Forces to fight for their country in many of the places where ISIS has now taken over. Back home, a contentious primary season drove several states to try to upstage Iowa as America's first in the nation presidential contest. Thankfully, those efforts floundered. When the excitement of the Iowa Caucus was underway in 2008, I was half a world away, thinking of the Hawkeye State, and looking to come home from my second deployment.
I thought then, as I do now, about how the Republican Party got us into Iraq. Even now, only one word comes to mind: failure. The Republican Party had failed their responsibilities to the national security of the United States in every possible way. Not only did they send us to war without a strategy for victory; they sent us to war without plans to care for veterans when they returned home. This was and remains inexcusable.
Years later, it would be logical to think that the GOP would reconsider its policies. Unfortunately, during campaign season the crazy seems to come out of the GOP. Phrases like "carpet bombing" and comparisons between going to a military high school and actual deployment are all we hear from the GOP "clown car." Indeed, the only member of the GOP presidential field that had any understanding of sacrifice and service, Senator Lindsey Graham, was essentially laughed out of the race.
The GOP simply lacks any intelligent national security thinking, insisting that talking "tough" will frighten our enemies away. But it's not a surprise that Republicans don't have bright ideas today, given that they don't even understand yesterday. Take George Washington, for example. He understood that patience pays off and that smart leaders choose their battles. He didn't let the British goad him into unforced errors, but rather struck at the right place and the right time. Meanwhile, today's GOP wants to make the "sand glow in the dark" by "carpet bombing" indiscriminately, which is exactly what ISIS wants to take away any idea of moral authority the West might have against the jihadis.
The Democrats see the world a little differently, though there are real differences among them. I like Bernie Sanders. He's got some great ideas on education and the economy, and has done wonderful things for veterans. But I am concerned about his foreign policy and understanding of military power. I have seen no foreign policy plan other than to tell other countries to handle "it" -- whatever "it" might be. My friends who support Bernie seem very proud that he is an isolationist, but traveling around the world has convinced me that now, more than ever, America must be present in the world. Now is not the time for isolation. Whether it's fighting ISIS or beating back climate change, we must lead. If we do not, no one will.
This is why I support Hillary Clinton. I will happily confess that I've been a big fan for years, ever since she smiled a hello to me in 1994 passing from meeting to meeting as First Lady. Watching how she has handled herself in the past few months -- from absurd Benghazi hearings to the emails to Saturday Night Live -- there can be no question that she has been fantastic. My friends in Iowa tell me that she has done a masterful job balancing quality over quantity. Rather than being everywhere, she has taken the time to connect to people -- to understand their struggles and challenges. To me, she has clearly grown as a leader and is fully equipped to the President of the United States.
I'm also impressed from a policy perspective. She has continuously advocated for the measured and thoughtful, understanding the Art of the Possible and maximizing it to the benefit of the many rather than the few. On the national security side, she has supported a more active role for the United States in Syria, understanding that the humanitarian crisis there has made the entire region less stable. She knows that veterans and their families are not the playthings of trigger-happy politicians, but the men and women who wrote a "blank check to the United States of America for an amount up to and including their life."
There have been many criticisms leveled at Hillary Clinton: that's only natural, being in the public eye as long as she has -- but I have become more and more concerned with the vitriol that Bernie supporters have been putting out. I want to be clear here that I am not whining or crying; political contests in this country have been and should be tough, and I will be the last person in the world to say that Hillary Clinton is the inevitable Democratic Party standard bearer. I think such claims are incredibly insulting and ridiculous to those of us who caucus and vote in early states, as we have shown time and time again that we don't care about any such thing as an establishment candidate: we will caucus or vote for whomever represents our values. But this is what I would remind Bernie supporters, who are now saying that they will sit out the 2016 election if Hillary Clinton wins the primary: Hillary Clinton, no matter how much you may disagree with her on policy, will always represent your values better than Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or heaven forbid, Donald Trump.
I'm not deployed anymore, but my heart remains in Iowa. This is why, as a veteran and an Iowan, I will proudly caucus for Hillary Clinton. I hope you will too. For our neighborhoods and our country.