On public responsibility, accuracy and leadership

A few weeks ago, I was privileged to be elected as a voting delegate to the Colorado 18th Judicial District Republican Assembly, where the delegation selected the R-candidate for the district attorney race this fall.  I was pleased that the candidate that I supported, George Brauchler, won the party’s nomination handily (documented here and here).

I wrote a brief note about the experience and nomination in our “Walking A Walk” radio show Newsletter (Issue #169, Website of the Week), where I cited Brauchler’s nomination and mentioned a few of his credentials, including referring to him as “LTC George Brauchler.”  Coincidentally, that week’s guest on our show was Brauchler’s friend and colleague, LTC Steven Howery.

A day later, I received a rather indignant email via the radio station (MileHiRadio.com) from someone who signed with a pseudonym — here’s the email, verbatim:

Dear Lorin,

Major Brauchler has not been promoted to Lt. Colonel, he has only been selected for promotion.  I come from a military family and I can tell you that there is a big difference.  If Major Brauchler is allowing and/or encouraging people like yourself to refer to him as LTC Brauchler, this should give you pause about this man’s character.

Concerned voter

“…people like yourself…”?!  “…give you pause about this man’s character…”?!  Wow.  Hmm… So, I’d apparently made a minor error by referring to Brauchler as a Lieutenant Colonel rather than as a Major, and somebody called me on it.  I did some online research, especially with the candidate’s campaign website, where I expected to find mention of his current military rank.  At that point in time, this website did not mention Brauchler’s rank (it’s since been updated to do so), and the website sports a footnote which reads “The use of George’s military rank, job titles and photographs in uniform do not imply an endorsement from the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense”, as is appropriate for such material.

Trusting my erstwhile correspondent, I issued a Correction of the Week on this matter in the next week’s Issue #170 of the Newsletter — mea culpa, I thought.  But more corrective correspondence followed this issue’s release:  Both LTC Howery and LTC Brauchler emailed me with update news that then-Major Brauchler did receive promotion to Lieutenant Colonel in February of this year.  LTC Howery is an excellent authority on this matter, as he coincidentally received his own promotion to Lieutenant Colonel on that same day, in the same ceremony.  Can’t do much better than to have an eye-witness… and I was right the first time, Brauchler is indeed a Lieutenant Colonel, and was so at the time of the 18th Judicial Assembly.

So, this week’s Newsletter Issue #171 will include a Correction to the Correction. Hopefully, as far as the Newsletter is concerned, there is where the matter rests.

But all this gets me thinking… First of all, why did “Concerned voter” make such a big deal of this in the first place?  It’s easy to dismiss the writer’s indignant “correction” as just “sour grapes” — perhaps this individual was just a passionate supporter of one of the other candidates for district attorney who didn’t make it onto the fall ballot?  Clearly, he or she was no better informed about the candidate’s current military rank than I originally was.  Just a stickler for correctness?  Then perhaps the writer should have done sufficient research himself, rather than relying on his own recollection, raising a false alarm and a fuss.

Secondly, now-a-days, why are folks with something important to say, as this writer did, so insistent upon anonymity?  There was a day, or an age, when the parties engaged in responsible discourse, even if it involved disagreement, did so openly, signing their rightful, honest names to their opinions, ideas and other writings.  Yes, all the way back to the earliest days of our Colonies and our Republic, there were those diatribes which were ascribed to pseudonyms — largely for rhetorical effect rather than convictions about privacy, or lack thereof.

But today’s debaters seem mostly afraid to sign their names, to be identified with their statements, assertions or ideas.  Why?  What are we all so suddenly afraid of?  Identity theft?  I think there’s a bit of truth to this, although much of what’s feared is urban myth, misinformation and FUD.  Loss of privacy?  Increasingly, our rights of privacy are lost to our control; personally invoking anonymity is largely moot.  Reprisal?  From who?  Various government agencies are the most likely culprits, given the levels of distrust of government generally  — black helicopter theories abound.

Yet I’d much rather debate, honestly, with an individual who has an open, knowable identity, who names herself in the public forum.  It’s easy to take pot-shots from anonymous cover; it takes conviction in your own ideas to ascribe your name to them.

Thirdly, was I myself too quick with the correction, based only on a writer’s claim?  As someone with access to a significant public-facing forum (our radio show), I feel a strong obligation to accuracy, as well as to honesty, integrity and transparency, even in the small stuff.  This obligation brings with it a responsibility to our audience, listeners and readers alike  — a responsibility, too, to honor each of them, to respect their opinions, and to trust their input.  But this does not include being pushed around  — perhaps I pulled the trigger on admitting the original correction a bit too quickly?

Lastly, some have suggested that a candidate’s military rank, and therefore his or her military career, has no place in a campaign for elected office; that somehow touting one’s military experiences give the candidate an unfair advantage over opponents who don’t.  But how is a military resume any different than one based on private enterprise, business leadership or  experience in public office?  Obviously, a candidate with military experience cannot and should not either imply or claim endorsement from her military branch, superior officers or other colleagues, or the DoD itself.

A political candidate’s military experience, including his rank, achievements and expertise, is completely germane, and are essential credentials for the voters to know and understand.  After all, running for public office presumes that candidates are qualified, especially in terms of leadership — and what better preparation and proving ground for leadership exists than the Armed Services?

I’m hopeful.  Hopeful that we’re starting to see, in our great American men and women who are returning from the crucibles of Iraq and Afghanistan those who have the leadership qualities, the potential, to rise above what’s been plaguing our politics, both D’s and R’s, L’s and C’s, for decades — namely, integrity, honesty and trustworthiness.  And a responsibility to the People, those who elect them and who they serve… er, continue to serve.

In our military men and women, both those who are leaving active duty, or who have already retired from it, and those who remain in service as Citizen Warriors, our National Guardsmen and Reservists, we’re so much more apt to find the true leaders that our Country so desperately needs today.  Perhaps not all military men or women who’d seek public office are ultimately well qualified — their military resume does not give them an automatic assurance of winning an election; the voters will continue to decide, to choose.  But our odds, those of us citizens of this Country who are looking for our next Reagan, Eisenhower, Roosevelt or Lincoln  — the statesman leadership that we’ve not benefited from for two decades now  — those odds are likely better with candidates who have military leadership in their resumes than not…

I think we’re starting to see these kind of people entering the lists, doing what’s necessary to gain their party’s nomination to local, state and federal offices.  I’m hopeful… America needs ’em, and soon!

P.S.  Oh, yes… to be perfectly clear:  I openly and enthusiastically support both George Brauchler for 18th Judicial District Attorney and Matt Arnold, another Citizen Warrior, for University of Colorado Regent.  They’re both part of this new generation, and we’ll be much better off if they each are elected.

I’ve raised and asked a lot of questions in this article, and I’ll be pleased to read your feedback, ideas and opinions, and to discuss them herein.  Leave a comment, even if you disagree!

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