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How Relevant Is Military Service to Elected Office?

Jason Ravnsborg's latest campaign video claims that he is the "ONLY U.S. Senate candidate with relevant military experience." Ravnsborg drove supplies around combat zones and now does intel as an Army Reservist. Fellow Republican candidate Rep. Stace Nelson chased and prosecuted criminals and taught fellow soldiers how to shoot. Independent Larry Pressler served two tours of combat duty in Vietnam.

Each soldier had very different experiences in very different places and different decades. Ravnsborg's claim can only mean that recent work in logistics in Iraq and Afghanistan and intel in Minneapolis can inform a United States Senator's policymaking decisions but that law enforcement in Japan in 1990s and combat in Vietnam in the 1960s cannot.

The simplest reading of Ravnsborg's ad is that he's just being a jerk, either lying about or insulting fellow veterans as a desperate attempt to win votes. But let's be generous. Let's assume that Ravnsborg was actually mustering the brainpower to pose useful civic questions: Does military service better qualify a citizen to serve in elected office? If so, does some military service make one a better candidate than other military service?

Veteran and conservative blogger P&R Miscellany says no to the former question. He says he has more "chest candy" from his combat service than either Jason Ravnsborg or Stace Nelson:

So, on the basis of military service as described by both Ravnsborg and Nelson, I have perhaps better qualifications to be senator than either.

The patent absurdity of that statement should tell you all you need to know about using one's military service as a basis for choosing among candidates ["Military Service Does Not Qualify One for Elective Office," P&R Miscellany, 2014.05.09].

Military service does not certify than any veteran is smarter, braver, or more patriotic than any other citizen. Soldiers do important, difficult work for their country, but so do firefighters, police, doctors, teachers, ranchers, construction workers, database programmers, and moms. In any profession, the military included, we can find a share of dweebs, hotheads, scammers, simpletons, and sociopaths who shouldn't be trusted with taxpayer dollars. And in any profession, we can find a share of honest neighbors who can listen to their fellow citizens, explain policy clearly, and make good decisions.

Soldier versus civilian, supply truck driver versus MP versus combat infantry—do those distinctions tell voters anything useful at the ballot box?


  1. Troy 2014.05.10

    This entire discussion has been extremely offensive to me.

    The military is a team with quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, blockers, etc.

    The irony is that both Nelson and Ravnsborg were in support positions. It's like arguing is a guard or tackle are more valuable blockers.

  2. John Tsitrian 2014.05.10

    This is probably the weirdest pathway to self-aggrandizement I've ever encountered. Ravnsborg's service is nothing to sneer at, but his thinking that it compares favorably to the service of others as a qualification for elected office is just plain delusional, if not altogether megalomaniacal.

  3. Steve Hickey 2014.05.10

    And some of us are "soldiers" in a different "army." ;-)

    What matters is character, conviction and philosophy of government, knowledge of issues, leadership and a capacity to selflessly serve. Also important how they treat people – can they work with people, and an ability to communicate. I want to know what they've built, who they've served (military and civilian), what contribution they've made. The US Senate isn't the place to get started with any of these things. Business sense, law degrees, money and military, as you say--chest candy-- come further down my list. Frankly, I'd rather know a person has an iron will and depth of ethics and constitution to not shoot back. Decoration is honorable and it is so at EVERY level of military service. However, diplomacy skills are what we need in statesmen, not decoration alone.

  4. mike from iowa 2014.05.10

    Saw a cartoon years ago in a leading mens magazine(Playboy for the uninformed) that showed a US and Soviet tank nose to nose. On top of each tank was a pile of the latest,most sophisticated weapons both sides had. At the top of the pyramid the two tank drivers were arm wrestling.Would either have made a pimple on a decent politician's butt? Who knows? Seems that politicians that have actually been in combat and lived through the horrors of it all are more compassionate towards others and less likely to jump America into any foreign entanglements. Military service is like one's faith. You have every right to be proud of what you did or believe,but not everyone you meet is gonna feel the same way about it.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.10

    And there's the thing, John: if it were just skinny civilian hippie me saying soldiers are dopes, I'd catch hell from all corners. But here we have one soldier fragging his comrades without really answering the question: what about Ravnsborg's service is superior to that of his fellow soldiers?

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.10

    Mike, on combat and compassion, you make a point that Larry Pressler mentioned in an NPR Talk of the Nation interview in 2010, that some of the folks he worked with in Washington who were most eager to go to war were those who never served.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.10

    (Steve! I'm glad you got through the spam filter! :-) ) Pastors do useful work as well. But then you have Jim Bakker and Joel Osteen. Every crowd has its goofs.

  8. CK 2014.05.10

    May I add that you also have to take into account how that person served. Many in the enlisted ranks would rather work with someone who served in the enlisted ranks, rather than going straight through OCS or ROTC. Ravnsborg is a product of ROTC, and seems to carry the haughtiness that goes along with that process.

    Enlisted men are usually like everyone, and usually seem to carry less of an air of privilege.

  9. mike from iowa 2014.05.10

    Cory-Dick(wad) Cheney comes to mind as one who was absolutely bloodthirsty-for someone else's kids blood,of course. Cheney must have been having multiple wet dream orgasms. Haliburton-through offshore shell companies was allowed to do work for Hussein in Iraq's oil fields while everyone else was prevented from aiding and abetting Iraq. Plus he got a war him and his neocon buddies had been lobbying for for years. Make money,make hundreds of thousands of new corpses and do it all from the security of the one nation that ruthlessly protects its own mass murdering war criminals while screaming for every other tyrant's head. Ain't Cheney's America great?

  10. Dave Baumeister 2014.05.10

    Yes, I noticed that "relevant military service" while I watched his ad, all the while Stace's "Send a Marine ad" was glaring back at me. I gave Jason a lot more credit than that. Seems to me it was a blatant insult to his fellow veteran, Stace Nelson. After all, he is the only one Ravnsborg is running against in June. But I would contend that as far as "relevant" military experience, Pressler has them both beat by a mile. What is relevant to lawmaking? History shows us that Vietnam was a bad war. Serving in such a situation gives a lawmaker insight on not letting it happen again. I would hope Pressler uses his experience in an ad to bolster himself. I think in his case, it is very "relevant." But Pressler would never make the same cheap shot claim as Ravnsborg.

  11. Ryan Casey 2014.05.10

    Military service alone is neither a necessary nor a sufficient qualification for public office. One big reason it tends to be very appealing to voters is that--much like political party--it instantly communicates a set of values to voters who may not know much about the candidates in a race. These values are typically very desirable qualities like honor, courage, commitment, loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, integrity and excellence. So naturally, veterans will often highlight their military service to voters in a campaign for public office.

    At the same time, though, we notice that the veterans who have displayed the greatest gallantry and interpidity in battle, and shown the most grace and courage under fire...tend not to feel the need to nitpick and denigrate the service of fellow veterans--whatever their rank, position, or role. And that is what is most disappointing and revealing, I think, about the character of Jason Ravnsborg. It is hard to imagine, after all, men like John McCain, George McGovern, John F. Kennedy, or Dwight Eisenhower belittling the service of their fellow veterans. I think Jason Ravnsborg just gave us a glimpse into his character, and it is unbecoming.

  12. TG 2014.05.10

    I took Ravnsborg's message to say he has more relevant experience (happens to be military based where he received that experience) for the position of US Senate. I didn't take it as overall he thinks his service is more superior than anyone else's. He has foreign experience in negotiating, not just having been in a foreign country.

    To me, this is no different than when Nelson was extremely angered that Rhoden who was an NCO (NRO? something like that) in the SD National Guard. When people who have served our country were asked to stand, Nelson didn't think that Rhoden should stand. That's a slap in the face to SDNG as if their service means nothing.

    In the end, it's a tit for a tat, I guess.

    And Dave is right above. Nelson has been using the fact that he's a Marine as a staple his entire campaign. Why should Ravnsborg be any different to point out his relevant military experience that he feels qualifies him for the position also?

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.10

    TG, I don't think Ravnsborg gets to dance that line. Wouldn't Nelson have had to work with foreign officials in Japan just as Ravnsborg did in Afghanistan?

    It's fine for a soldier to mention his soldiering as part of his résumé. But then he can't say other soldiers don't have soldiering on their résumés.

    Larry was in the Guards? Cool. Then we have four soldiers of some sort in the race. That makes Ravnsborg's comment all the more false/insulting. And if Nelson is denigrating Rhoden's service, then paint Nelson with that brush, too. But whatever the intellectual/philosophical shrapnel on this argument, Ravnsborg does not escape cleanly. He has made an error.

    Now tell us, is Larry's service in the Guards just window dressing? Or is there substantive experience he gained from his Guarding that makes him a better Senator?

  14. mike from iowa 2014.05.10

    As a non-vet,I can denigrate with the best of them. In Ravnsborg's case,he hauled supplies which makes him uniquely qualified to carry water for the koch bros,on the off chance he gets elected. See how that works? Military service isn't a prerequisite for me. The koch bros,otoh,would certainly aspire to make a tool out of a former military truck driver.

  15. Bill Fleming 2014.05.10

    To the degree that military training conditions a person to take orders, not ask questions and to kill on demand, I'd rather not see that behavior in politics. But hey, that's probably just me.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.10

    Fleming sounds like another one of those darn hippies. We could use more hippies in government.

  17. Liberty Dick 2014.05.10

    Once you become the cannon fodder for foreign policy you begin to understand it's importance.

    Bottom line is Jason has been purposely misrepresenting his service since day one! The A-10 picture causing people to think he was a pilot. Then they (his facebook page handler) made a facebook post likening Jason's run for Senate to "special operations" like the ones he undertook in the war. (That is paraphrased since the post was taken down immediately after I said something.) This weekend warrior is desperately trying to paint himself and his service as something that it blatantly isn't. If I see or hear of one more thing I am reporting him to the guys at Stolen Valor, they would have a field day with a U.S. Senate candidate.

    Jason if you read this here is my advice: Wear what you have earned with honor and be honest about it! What did you do to earn that bronze star? Rank based merit badges are exactly that. Air on the side of humility. Criticisms about honorable service have no place in this process.

  18. Loren 2014.05.10

    CK, you can stick your ROTC/OCS "haughtiness" comment in your pipe! There are jerks in all ranks! Also good, solid leaders from all ranks. It has to do with CHARACTER and not ROTC background or officer vs. enlisted.
    Loren / ROTC / USAF / AFANG / AFRes and I met 'em all!

  19. Bree S. 2014.05.10

    TG - provide evidence that Stace ever denigrated Rhoden's service. You repeat that claim a lot and have always failed to back it up with any evidence.

    Meanwhile it is a fact demonstrated in Rhoden's voting record that he voted to protect businesses that hire illegal immigrants in the legislature.

  20. Bree S. 2014.05.10

    I am sick to death of the lying smear tactics of NRSC paid trolls.

  21. Bree S. 2014.05.10

    That lie you just told is a take on the story about how Mike Rounds remains standing when veterans are honored, giving the impression he's a veteran. Try to be original TG.

  22. grudznick 2014.05.10

    Mr. Rhoden is the most effective conservative in the legislatures. Mr. Nelson is the least effective of anybody in the legislatures. Scorecards prove this.

  23. grudznick 2014.05.10

    The world could use a couple more fellows like my good friend Bill, indeed. But maybe not in elected offices.

  24. Roger Cornelius 2014.05.10

    And then there of those that are serving in elected office that seldom mention their military service, often times they have served with honor and distinction. They don't give you the details of their service, their humility is heroic itself.

    To diminish anyone's service or compare it to your own isn't patriotic. The army cook is as valuable as the general that leads.

    When I heard Jason's "relevant military service" announcement, I thought that South Dakota maybe under some military threat that would require us to have that "relevant military service".

    Is South Dakota at war again with North Dakota?

  25. Dave Baumeister 2014.05.10

    Ryan Casey, God love him, hits it out of the park. Military service can show a type of service and commitment that appeals to many voters, but those who have served and understand the meaning of service and sacrifice would NEVER use it to belittle others. Ryan, you must have had some good teachers. Where did you go to school? (And don't say Annapolis!!)

  26. David Newquist 2014.05.10

    Bill Flemings' comment is borne out by my experience as a guided missile crewman. Our system was designed to be fired by instrumentation without anyone having to say a word. We knew what was happening and when to throw the proper switches from reading light boards, meters, and monitor screens. We did have three communications networks. As field grade officers came up for proficiency reviews, they saw the operating procedures as a place to make "improvements." Five or six times a year we received scripts with verbal commands transmitted over the commo system to be used in and firing procedures. We kept them in loosse leaf notebooks with their authors names on the outside. These authors had authority travel to the bases and order alert drills to assess how the crews reacted and carried out their duties. The key people in these alerts were the guards on the gates who had to get the name of the officer ordering the alert so that we could pull the script with his name on it. When we went through the drill, we read the scripts but actually followed the electronic displays as we worked through the procedure.
    Some line officers were aware of how the system actually operated and understood and supported the charades we engaged in with the scripts, knowing that the crewmen knew what was required for a successful launching and engagement with a target. We kept the chain of command at bay by nominally following their orders while doing the work that actually would make a successful mission.
    If military service can be used to assess a qualification in a candidate, it would be to distinguish those who posture with authority and claimed expertise from those who actually did the crucial work and understood the need for cooperation that transcended the inequalities of rank and the necessity for every person from supply, transportation, and line duty to contribute and cooperate to meet the demands of a mission.
    Military service can say much about the character and competence of a candidate as it would apply to a political office. But the only way to make that determination is to interview some people the person served with.

  27. Rorschach 2014.05.10

    What's most important for some voters is whether the candidate fights in the culture wars. Do they fight against equal rights for gays? Do they fight against minorities? Do they want to take food away from poor people? Do they want to put government in control of women's bodies? Do they want to disenfranchise voters based on whether they have a certain picture card in their wallet or purse? Some voters don't give a rat's arse whether a candidate served in the military as long as they are willing to put their foot on their fellow American's throat.

  28. Rhino Lynn 2014.05.10

    Jason Ravnsborg and his handler Ken Crow turned me off right away with the photo of the A-10 making it look like he served as a pilot. That photo would be cool sending to friends but definitely not as a campaign photo. There is nothing wrong with serving in a supportive role being in transportation! Transportation units suffered casualties in Iraq too!

    My job in the military was clerical being part of supply but I would never ever claim or imply to be something I wasn't.

    Now he states ONLY U.S. Senate candidate with relevant military experience."

    When my uncle came back from volunteering for two tours in Vietnam he rarely talked about "nam". One day while cleaning his house I came across some award signed by Nixon given to my uncle for helping to rescue a pilot while under fire. He was more concerned about quietly helping his fellow vets and never talked less of those who served in other branches of the military being active or in a reserve component.

    As mentioned above many of those who have served and have seen the horrors and sacrifice of war rarely speak of it and I cannot remember any of those ever boasting of their service and definitely never putting down others that served.

  29. mike from iowa 2014.05.10

    Hard to forget Georgia US Senate race where incumbent Max Cleland(a triple amputee compliments of service in 'Nam) was called unpatriotic by his wingnut challenger,non-vet Saxby Chambliss for not supporting Bushes soire into unnecessary,illegal and unconstitutional wars. Cut and run was one thing Cleland could not do,unless roll away in a wheelchair counts as running.

  30. PNR 2014.05.10

    I served with NSW for 3 years. One of the things SEALs take seriously is "One team, one fight." I never felt or heard from any Spec War operator anything that might possibly suggest my role as a chaplain was less valuable than what they did. In fact, a more humble, professional group of warriors would be hard to find.

    Ravnsborg is, I think, claiming that his experience with NATO in Afghanistan is more relevant than Nelson's with NCIS in Japan. Nelson's work apparently involved liaisons with Japanese and Filipino law enforcement (he lists Tagalog and Japanese among languages known in some degree). Understanding foreign law enforcement procedures, working within the SOFA with each country, maintaining proper deference to local customs and laws - all of that is as valid a foreign policy experience (and as relevant) as anything Ravnsborg did. The latter's claim that his was more relevant only indicates how little he understands of what others in the military do. It also betrays the "one team, one fight" ethos.

    And if Nelson really did tell Rhoden that his service in the Nat'l Guard doesn't count, then he also demonstrates a myopic ignorance of what others do - and betrayed the "one team, one fight" ethos. But then, Nelson's approach to the GOP in general has never been along those lines. Nelson is for Nelson and in a political battle, I would not want to have to rely on him.

    Ravnsborg has a thin resume, and he's trying to stretch what he has as far as it'll go. He seems to me to display a certain desperation in this. He would have done far better to win some local elections, maybe a state office of some sort, trying to position himself for the time when either Noem or Thune want to try something else. He is finding out the hard way that running for office is not as easy as it seems to those who've never done it.

  31. TG 2014.05.10

    Cory - Rhoden's experience in the SDNG isn't the topic here. He doesn't tout it and I don't think I've heard him even mention it in campaigning. He just stands when people that have served are asked to stand. That drives Nelson absolutely bonkers! Many have witnessed this and his verbal comments.

    Bree - I don't have time to go find a document for everything just as you don't and sometimes there isn't one but rather people, etc. It doesn't make it any less true. He's said it to SO many people, just ask around. And yes, he's also ripped on Rounds for staying standing to imply.

    If I had access to DWC's behind the scenes, I could prove those comments on Veteran's Day were from Nelson. Just take a look and if you know him, you'll already know they're his comments. But I think you already know that and are playing the same little games that I frankly don't have time for. He denigrated the SDNG and if he has any personal responsibility, he would just own it. But he won't at least not now.

    Bottomline, my opinion is that Ravnsborg was pointing out his relevant experience. I guess if you have it, flaunt it.

  32. TG 2014.05.10

    Just in case I don't get back here since it's such a beautiful day, thought I'd let you browse this pathetic exchange from Vet's Day. I'll let you figure out who the angry people are doing the denigrating. And I'm the one who put an end to the conversation as a timely email came into my Inbox from the VA showing all those who had sacrificed the month before. But looks like someone had to get one more comment in after that stating SDNG are not vets (which isn't always how the question is stated when asking people to stand).

    Bree - you always come up with one silly bill that you must throw in and assume I see a question when I don't always come back to the posts. I told you, I thought you weren't concerned any longer about that one since Nelson flopped back to the other side on that one in 2014 after some deep thought. Did you still want to discuss it? Or we could discuss the gun bill? I've got the link to that too.

    You'll notice this was a simple and nice comment and Rhoden didn't mention his own service whatsoever. And you can see what it turned into. Pretty sad. Keep in mind, Ravnsborg wasn't even a thought back then.

  33. Rep Stace Nelson 2014.05.10

    Very interesting to see so many experts on my service pontificating what I did or did not do. I dealt with high ranking intelligence agents, counter-terrorism agents, military officers, etc., from Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Turkey, etc., and been in numerous U.S. Embassies across Asia to include working out of the joint USA, USAF, NCIS Force protection office in the U.S. Embassy in Manila for a year. The last medal I was awarded was in 2010 for Force Protection and counter-terrorism efforts 2007-2008

    For 23 1/2 years I worked from the ground up, at numerous military bases CONUS and overseas, with members of all the services, and with numerous foreign agencies representing numerous major US Allies. With my major responsibilities for the majority of my service being with the agency responsible for counter-terrorism, counter-intelligence, intelligence, felony criminal investigations, and force protection of the United States Navy and Marine Corps.

    In that our national defense budget is the major expense of our country, and the top priority of what our government was empowered to perform, a wide breadth and understanding of our defense at home and abroad is a definite asset in a U.S. Senate candidate. Mr. Ravnsborg's ignorant comments appear to be a clumsy effort to diminish service that is immensely longer and more encompassing than his own.

    @TG I challenge you to back up your scurrilous claims. To be blunt, you are a liar. Current SD law stipulates who is and who is not a veteran, not me. You appear to be the one that claims Rhoden is not a veteran. My involvement in regards to Mr Rhoden and other national guard and reservists service? I testified in committee and voted supporting changing the law to have them considered as veterans:

    Your complaint appears to be with the Daugaard administration that looked for a reason to kill the bill that the current commanding general of the SDNG did not want changed.

    If you would like to compare my efforts supporting SDNG members and veterans, and Mr. Rhoden's, you will find that my record on that issue is also better than Mr. Rhoden's.

  34. Rep Stace Nelson 2014.05.10

    @Chaps (PNR) You appear to put way too much weight on the scuttlebutt passed by disgruntled political opponents, you got a question and want the straight scoop? Give me a call 770-7461 The bill I "hid from?" I spoke on the bill twice, and voted on it once. Even with having to use the head because of issues with digestion issues related to my service-connect injuries, I have probably the best record on 2nd Amendment bills in the whole legislature:

  35. Jerry 2014.05.10

    I guess Stace Nelson wins with his last paragraph. It is clear that he supports us and that is a big deal. Marion supported us for political reasons with the convenient (election time) hoopla at the Memorial in Pierre. I thought that the memorial was a nice gesture, I did not think the timing of it was appropriate.

    So for all those who have served and those who have had loved ones who served, remember this. It does not matter where or how you served, the reason you served was above yourself. Don't try to cheapen it by taking down your fellow veterans for a cheap political stunt. The relevancy is that you understand what it is like to be put in a position of a possible life or death situation. You don't have to be infantry to get blown up or active duty instead of National Guard or Reserves, for that matter. Stuff happens.

  36. TG 2014.05.10

    I could give a rat's you know what. I merely mentioned that I think Ravnsborg's statement was misinterepreted. And I still believe it was. He was saying "relevant to being a Senator" not that anything else isn't as relevant as his experience.

    And Mr. Nelson, you know, as you've told many people that you have angst (that is being kind) when Rhoden stands when people are asked to stand if they've been in the military. I'm sure you're not going to deny that.

  37. TG 2014.05.10

    To my first point, I think Ravnsborg had a poor choice of words.

  38. Roger Cornelius 2014.05.10

    Don't you love it when supporters have to explain away what their candidate has said?

  39. Bree S. 2014.05.10

    "And Mr. Nelson, you know, as you've told many people that you have angst (that is being kind) when Rhoden stands when people are asked to stand if they've been in the military. I'm sure you're not going to deny that."

    You are a bald-faced worthless slimy troll liar, TG.

  40. Rhino Lynn 2014.05.10

    Just a heads up I registered as a Republican I believe for the 1st time ever last week thus posting as Rhino Lynn for the Republican Primary voting for Stace because I'm fed up with the corruption and am doing my part to keep Rounds from getting nominated. After the primary I'll go back to posting as Lynn.

    Ravensborg/Ken Crow won't be much of a factor in this primary anyways.

  41. TG 2014.05.10

    I came back in the house hopefully before anyone gets their feathers ruffled and one or two will because I said it, let me clarify my "I don't give a rat's..." statement. It pertains to the fact that I don't really care how this particular issue plays out. I think Ravnsborg's statement was misinterpreted due to a poor choice of wording. Many get into the military for the benefits, many others because they have no direction in life at the time and many others because they admire someone and probably many others.

    My point is that once you're in for whatever reason, you are doing something honorable that less than 5% (I think much lower) of the rest of Americans are willing to do regardless of branch, rank or location. What you do is based on aptitude and/or need. You don't always get a choice. But you're serving and have the potential to be in harm's way. I admire all that serve. Period. Now, some may get in positions that suit them well and better than others for non-military positions post-service. If that's the case then it should be noted as experience is experience regardless of who employed you when you got it.

    What's not OK is to act superior to anyone else who served, again regardless of branch or rank. There are people who do that, we are well aware of that. However, I don't think that was Jason's intention here. That's what the post was about essentially, the use of the word 'relevant'. ALL service is relevant but maybe not as a Senator.

  42. TG 2014.05.10

    Bree - I guess you don't think he can defend himself? Are you with him at all times to know what he has or hasn't said? He knows what he's said on that topic to many people.

    I don't lie. A pesky little characteristic my parents taught me at a young age. And not to throw stones and call names among other things. Now out to enjoy the great outdoors for sure!

  43. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.10

    TG, no explanation excuses Ravnsborg's words. He calls himself "uniquely qualified" and says he is the "ONLY U.S. Senate candidate with relevant military experience." He is very much saying his military experience is more relevant than that of Nelson, Pressler, or Guardsman Rhoden. By saying "uniquely" and "ONLY," Ravnsborg is saying their experience is not relevant at all. I don't need to spin at all to interpret those words as a lie and an insult.

    PNR gives an excellent, concise explanation of how both Ravnsborg and Nelson have service relevant to understanding certain aspects of foreign policy. (PNR, would you include Pressler's service in that equation as well?) But that leads to the headline question in this post: isn't saying, "I worked with NATO, so I'd be a great Senator" or "I investigated crimes in Japan, so I'd be a great Senator" about as relevant as saying, "I practiced medicine in Haiti and the Philippines, so I'd be a great Senator"?

  44. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.10

    TG, I haven't heard you lie to me or anyone on this blog yet. I do think that, in trying to give Ravnsborg cover for merely choosing poor words, you err. Ravnsborg meant what he said. He paid money to say it. His marketing guys chose those words, and Ravnsborg approved this message. Ravnsborg approved an obvious lie and insult. Ravnsborg thus joins Rounds (who lies about Medicare) and Bosworth (who lies about everything). Let's boil this primary down to Rhoden vs. Nelson, shall we? Two tough legislators, toe to toe?

  45. GeneK 2014.05.10

    I believe Ryan Casey said it best. I served for 28 years as both enlisted and officer (E-1 to E-6 and then O-1 to O-5). During that time I served as an aide to an Admiral who wore the Medal of Honor for action in WWll and later I served as deputy to a Viet Nam POW. I never heard either of these men use their service to gain advantage…but then they didn't need too. I cringe when I see fellow vets use their service in this manner.

  46. Donald Pay 2014.05.10

    Military service is as relevant to public office as any career experience. Generally, military service shows a person has served his or her country in a way particular to a branch of service and specialties he or she acquires. I think we all admire the dedication and service of people in the military for not very high pay. But that could also be said of lots of other folks, too, including teachers.

    Stace said something that does provide an edge for someone who has served: "In that our national defense budget is the major expense of our country, and the top priority of what our government was empowered to perform, a wide breadth and understanding of our defense at home and abroad is a definite asset in a U.S. Senate candidate." That's true. A candidate who served would have a deeper understanding, at least right off the mark, of the military, how it works, its needs, etc. That expertise could be developed over time in someone who hadn't served, though.

  47. Stan Gibilisco 2014.05.10

    In my opinion, military experience constitutes a plus for anyone who runs for the office of Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the strongest military machine on Earth.

  48. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.10

    As I read through all of the posts, It is amazing that the first two by Troy and John T were so poignant. Troy's could have been the last one instead of the first and would have made even more sense. Jerry's second paragraph at 3:18 hits the nail on the head.

    I went in, in December of '61 during the Berlin crisis, and just before the Cuban missile crisis. I volunteered for Germany and Clerk typist school. I found out at the end of basic that I could only have one of those two choices and took Germany, partially because that is where my family originated in the 19th century. I was an enlistee so I had an RA in front of my serial number and which also meant that I had to serve three years active duty. The guys who were drafted or volunteered for the draft, had a US in front of their serial number and served for two years of active duty. Was their service any less important or less honorable than mine? Hell no.

    When I gave up the clerk typist school, for theatre of operations, I ended up being trained in infantry, MOS 111 also called ground pounders. Had I ended up in Viet Nam, chances were 50/50 that I would have been killed or at the very least maimed for life.

    Am I any less proud of my service? Hell no, but I am so ashamed of my country for the way they treated my fellow troops when they came back from Viet Nam, which in a way is what this entire conversation reminds me of.

    During the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, I watched the Jim Lehrer Newshour on PBS every night and watched at the end as they would list the names and pictures of those killed in the two wars. It was heartbreaking and again the way the troops in Viet Nam were treated and dishonored came home to me each and every time I watched.

  49. TG 2014.05.10

    Lanny - if ever I was ashamed of being American and maybe the only thing for is the way the Vietnam vets were treated. It is sadly mind numbing to even think of it.

  50. John 2014.05.10

    All experience is relevant; some experience is more relevant than other for elective office. Yet Ravnsborg's add was ridiculous as he should have merely informed of his experience - letting its relevance stand or fall on its own.

    On another hand do not equate military service to "firefighters, police, doctors, teachers, ranchers, construction workers, database programmers, and moms" -- that's insulting. For the latter sleep in sheets every night, have civilian work order rules and protections, live in the luxury of having "hometowns" instead of globally moving every 24 months, do not give up some civil rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of association, expectation of privacy, etc. Of the latter only police expect to be shot at or bombed in the course of the day. None of the latter is subject to orders sometimes invoked on the military to only return fire but do not initiate fire. While most of the military are REMFs (rear echelon folks), properly trained, led, and motivated they often ride to the sound of the guns to such as the military police woman in Iraq who received the Silver Star or logisticians who fought off attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. One team, one fight.

  51. Joe Lowe 2014.05.10

    All service to this country is relevant. I really don't like you thinking that you did something more than any other member of the armed forces has done. Self-aggrandizement does not serve you well.

    My father gave his life for this country- He was a B-17 pilot on a heavy bomb run to Hanover Germany and he was killed when my Mum was 7 months pregnant with me. My Uncle Bill came back in a coffin from Viet Nam. He dove on a grenade to save his fellow troops. They made the ultimate commitment to keep this country free. I was an Engine Company Captain on a fire engine and was shot at during the Rodney King Riots.

    So please help understand why you are so important and your service is more relevant.

  52. larry kurtz 2014.05.10

    Honored to have you at Madville, Mr. Lowe.

  53. mike from iowa 2014.05.10

    I don't think this is going to end well. More police have died of disease from the WTC bombings than died during the attacks. An average day in the military is not necessarily anymore dangerous than any other profession. Unfortunately for our military,stupid decisions by stupid leaders necessitate troops being in harms way. And like I've heard any number of pols say,every one of those troops volunteered to go overseas and be placed in harms way. We don't need to divide America more by deciding one group is more exceptional than any other.

  54. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.10

    Mike, every drop of blood shed because of bad decisions by governments is one drop to many. Most people are not aware that there were more military and veteran suicides in 2012 than died in the entire war in Iraq.

  55. PNR 2014.05.10

    Stace - I go by news reports, and check them against a few other sources. I've reviewed your listing on "Together We Served" a few times, too. I respect all who earn the right to call themselves Marines and I count it a high honor that I was allowed to serve as chaplain to 2/2 during their work-ups and deployment to Iraq 2003-04.

    Where I take issue with you in particular is in what I perceive as a double standard. You ask for slack that you do not seem to give others. If that had been somebody you consider a RINO having to make a head call, would you have cut him the slack you're asking for? Given past public statements you've made, I can't help but doubt it. Similarly, you would expect the GOP in SD to back you fully if you win this primary, but have publicly stated you will not extend that support to others if you lose it. I find that stance objectionable on multiple levels. Indeed, if I were registered as a republican and voting in the primary, I would not vote for you on that basis alone. I don't want to go into combat with somebody who might just sit in his foxhole if the skipper (in this case, the voters) doesn't do it his way.

    As regards the military, you served honorably and well. You have nothing to be ashamed of. One team, one fight. Ravnsborg also served honorably and well. He also has nothing to be ashamed of. One team, one fight. Same for Rhoden. Same for Pressler. And none of you should be in the business of disparaging the others' service (other than the usual inter-service teasing and joking that goes on) no matter what the stakes. As the saying goes - all gave some, some gave all.

    Cory- I am not familiar with Pressler's service. I believe I saw somewhere that he had served in Vietnam. Certainly his experiences both in theater and upon return are relevant to how he views his work, the values he holds, the goals he'll strive for. If you like, I'll look into it a bit, but I suspect he's not the sort to do a lot of chest-thumping about it. He has other relevant experience that he thinks more appropriate to this contest.

  56. Rhino Lynn 2014.05.10


    This is off Larry Pressler's Campaign site. Lieutenant, U.S. Army: 1966-1968
    •Served two tours of combat duty in Vietnam
    •Awarded the following Vietnam Service Medals: Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with 4 Bronze Service Stars, Vietnam Campaign Ribbon with Device (1960), Overseas Svc Bars (2), and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross w/Palm Unit Citation Badge

    Not much chest thumping from Pressler

  57. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.10

    PNR, I would have a hard time agreeing or disagreeing with anything you wrote until you wrote this: " Similarly, you would expect the GOP in SD to back you fully if you win this primary, but have publicly stated you will not extend that support to others if you lose it. I find that stance objectionable on multiple levels. Indeed, if I were registered as a republican and voting in the primary, I would not vote for you on that basis alone. I don't want to go into combat with somebody who might just sit in his foxhole if the skipper (in this case, the voters) doesn't do it his way."

    I doubt that Stace would expect that support, since he has had so little support for his positions from the leadership of the party, in fact, he has received a lot of denigration, but I won't speak for Stace, he will have to speak for himself on that issue. My point of disagreement comes from your assumption be a team player, support the winner no matter who it is or what they have done. This whole thread is about military service or lack thereof and whose is more important. There is no way that I could support either Rounds or Rhoden because of things they did to dishonor our returning troops back in 2006. I won't get into it here because I am very hopeful that it is going to become an issue before the primary election. The PARTY DOES NOT COME FIRST. The people, the State and the Country come first.

  58. grudznick 2014.05.10

    That's it. It's over.

    Mr. Pressler wins the "best military record" contest.

  59. PNR 2014.05.10

    Rhino - I don't think that's chest-thumping. It is simply biography. Nor is he claiming it gives him some unique warrant for the job.

    Lanny- the disputes between Nelson and the SD GOP are legion. And no, party is not uber alles. But he cannot advance his principles apart from that party. There's a scene in the musical 1776 where Franklin is admonishing Adams - "These men are not ribbon clerks to be ordered about. They're proud, accomplished men, the cream of their colonies. Now either learn how to live with them or pack up and go home."

    I think Nelson could be similarly admonished.

  60. Bree S. 2014.05.11

    The SDGOP can kiss mine. If Stace doesn't win the General then I will support Gordon Howie, who happens to be a real Republican and not a fraud like all the rest.

    TG - The one elected Republican in this state who has demonstrated his integrity beyond a doubt is Stace Nelson and I will take his word over yours any day of the week.

  61. Dan Wyatt 2014.05.11

    It is important to recognize the efforts of America’s military veterans –- past and present -- because their contributions and sacrifices have enabled all Americans to enjoy the freedoms we have. Given the continuing importance of military service in American life, it is important to understand that our freedoms were not given to us by the politician, the teacher, the pastor, the farmer, the police officer or a piece of paper inscribed with the Declaration of Independence. Our freedoms were given to us by the American Soldier. It doesn’t matter if you were in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines. What matters that you realize that the price of freedom is not free; it takes the life blood from our brothers & sisters, our sons and daughters and ourselves. Veterans should not put down another vet in any way shape or form. Less than 1% of our great nation’s population right now is defending our rights. I am proud to be a veteran and I appreciate all veterans that want to keep serving our nation and us all.

  62. mike from iowa 2014.05.11

    To hear all the saber rattling coming from DC one has to wonder if people in power learned anything at all from the Bush Doctrine debacles. Here, we have people arguing style points for bathroom breaks or something. little horse must think it queer to stop without a farmhouse near. Yup,tis a puzzlement alright.

  63. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.11

    Whoa, Dan. I'm going to take exception to that exceptionalism. A more religious citizen might say those freedoms are given to us by God, not by any human, and that we all simply work to secure those liberties to ourselves and our posterity.

    This secularist will say that soldiers would have no freedoms for which to fight without the civic efforts of politicians, teachers, pastors, farmers, police, and others who write pieces of paper and commit to the words and principles embodied thereupon. Soldiers serve an important role, but not a superior role, and certainly not a role that uniquely qualifies them to hold elected office.

  64. Rep Stace Nelson 2014.05.11

    @PNR I raise a bold banner, no pale pastels. The voters know where I stand on every issue, and it is backed up with a consistent voting record. The games that were played when I was excused off the floor were disrespectful and a disservice to the people of South Dakota, that is on Brian Gosch. It was the same day they took heat for killing my bill on the people' constitutional right to have open caucuses. There have been two times that I have made statements about others leaving the floor: when Gene Abdallah missed 10-25% of all votes in committee and the floor; and, when Spencer Hawley walked off the floor without being excused because he did not want to vote on a slate of resolutions AFTER Gosch played games with my excused absence from the floor and not a word about Hawley's unexcused departure.

    I have no problems with the SD GOP, you appear to confuse the SD GOP with elected Republicans, they are NOT the same. If I had the problems you claim with the SD GOP? I would not have won 3 elections nor would I have passed plank 3.18 into the SD GOP platform.

    If Rounds or Rhoden were actually conservative Republicans, I wouldn't be in this race and I would be supporting them. I did not want to run, I encouraged others to run. You and people like Pat Powers trump up criticism of me for being honest and saying I will not compromise my principles by supporting tax and spend "Republicans" like Rounds if he is able to buy this election. If I could support him now, I wouldn't be in this race. I have no desire to become the hypocrite politician that Rounds and Rhoden are. I will not compromise my principles for political expediency. Rounds and Rhoden campaign trying to fool voters into thinking they are what I am, an actual conservative. I campaign pointing out their records which show they are not and my record which shows I am. A loss in the primary doesn't magically change their record or who they are. The problem with the GOP is not that we don't have enough unprincipled elected officials, the problem is we have too many. I will not become that which I oppose and despise. My endorsement, my support, my vote, are not for sale nor will I be bullied into giving them for the sake of someone else's perverted idea of loyalty. My loyalty are to the people of South Dakota, not some bought and paid for corrupt politician and his political machine. Me? I wouldn't want to go into combat with anyone that would change sides the second our position was overrun by our enemies. Guess that's the difference in the Marine rifleman's mission "to locate close with and destroy the enemy by fire and close combat."

    I served from May 7, 1985-November 11, 2008 non-stop, in numerous countries and states, with the majority of that time with NCIS working to protect service members and their families from terrorism, espionage, sabotage, etc, for over 18 years overseas. I have not gone into great detail about my service and have made my campaign more about how I will serve South Dakotans if elected.

    Ravnsborg's comment was asinine and disrespectful of every veteran that served before him. It also showed a profound ignorance about the history and importance of the various missions the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Army units engage in across the world.

    But, thank you for pointing out I have nothing to be ashamed of for my 23 1/2 years of dedicated service, and my service connected injuries sustained therein. You too have nothing to be ashamed of.

  65. owen reitzel 2014.05.11

    I guess I'll offer my 2 cents worth on this. Of course being in the military is relevent, just as anyone's life experiences is relevant.
    Is military service mandatory for elected office? No. Rick Weiland has no military service but has worked with Tom Daschle and has been in government service. Does that make him more qualified? Not really.
    I thank all people who have served in the military. I was in the Air National Guard for 4 years. I'm proud of my service, but it was of no help after I got out or even now. I have applied for government jobs but couldn't claim veterans preference. While I shouldn't claim full veterans preference I should get some credit for being in the Air Guard. I also couldn't join the American Legion at one time. I can now but can't hold an office. Sorry, got off of the topic here.
    Anybody's life experience can qualify them for elected office. Whether its military service or not. One is not better then the other. It's the person and what he believes in and if other people agree with that person.
    Being in the military or having experience working in the government does not qualify a person for elected office-the person does.

  66. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.11

    PNR, You wrote, "There's a scene in the musical 1776 where Franklin is admonishing Adams - "These men are not ribbon clerks to be ordered about. They're proud, accomplished men, the cream of their colonies. Now either learn how to live with them or pack up and go home."

    Gosh, I would think that would pertain more to the things that the Tea Party has done in DC than anything that Stace has done in standing up for what is right. I am speaking about more than 50 votes to overturn the Affordable Care Act and not offering one amendment to change it. Another great example of which I am speaking, was shutting down the government last fall and nearly costing our SD ranchers their livelihood. There is a chapter in Ecclesiastes that says that there is time for everything. Similarly, Kenny Rogers admonishes, "You gotta know when to hold em and know when to fold em, know when to walk away and know when to run."

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