Candidates Should Consider Their Kids in Military Matters Commentator and military father Frank Schaeffer wants the candidates to consider their own children as possible service members in future military interventions.
NPR logo

Candidates Should Consider Their Kids in Military Matters

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/18288220/18288306" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Candidates Should Consider Their Kids in Military Matters

Candidates Should Consider Their Kids in Military Matters

Candidates Should Consider Their Kids in Military Matters

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/18288220/18288306" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Commentator and military father Frank Schaeffer wants the candidates to consider their own children as possible service members in future military interventions.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

The current presidential hopefuls have children ranging in age from infant to adult. Commentator and military father Frank Schaeffer wants the candidates to consider their children as possible service members in future military interventions.

FRANK SCHAEFFER: My son served in Afghanistan for many long months that stretched into years. As this presidential campaign unfolds, I've been thinking about how military parents like me should think about this election. Here's what I came up with. Where will each potential commander-in-chief's children be when our troops are ordered to make additional sacrifices?

I was resentful when my son was deployed while President Bush's daughters seem to be on a perpetual spring break.

This country doesn't have a draft. The freedom not to volunteer extends to presidents children too. I don't want to suggest supposedly ambitious parents should push their offspring to serve. That said, presidents and potential presidents are free to encourage or discourage their children to volunteer and voters have every right to demand an especially high standard from those claiming they're fit to lead our country in war time.

So, how do the candidates stack up? My question doesn't apply to Senator Obama - his children are both too young. Senator Biden, who withdrew from the race, has a son in uniform, that he would be willing to serve in a war his father disapproves of, shows that service trumps politics in the Biden family. Senator McCain has two children in the military - 19-year-old Jimmy is a Marine and 21- year-old Jack is at the Naval Academy. The fact that his sons are willing to fight a war McCain has vowed to win lends moral credibility to his words no matter what you think of his stand on the war. Governor Romney has five military-age sons. They're all helping with his campaign. And when CBS' Mike Wallace asked them whether any of them had thought about serving, the answer was a universal no.

I feel guilty having not done it, said 32-year-old real estate developer Josh Romney. His 29-year-old brother Ben admitted, I've seen a lot that has made me say, my goodness, I hope I never have to do that.

Governor Huckabee has three grown children, John Mark, David and Sarah. None serve in the military. Senator Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, has had a similarly privileged and protected life. And Clinton, like Romney and Huckabee, also talks tough on national security and seems prepared to send other peoples' children to war. So where is Chelsea?

Now 27, exactly my Marine son's age, she works as a hedge fund manager and make cameo appearances with her mother's campaign.

There's nothing wrong with Chelsea Clinton, the Huckabee children or the Romney sons making a buck instead of serving their country unless Clinton, Romney and Huckabee are going to ask other peoples equally gifted children to sacrifice. Maybe it's time we take a page from Eleanor Roosevelt. She wrote, I think my husband would have been very much upset if the boys had not wanted to go into the war immediately, but he did not have to worry very much because they either were already in before the war began, or they went in immediately.

If the next president has military-age children, it will be easier for military parents like me to take the president's inevitable call for sacrifice seriously if he or she can honestly say we're all in this together.

BLOCK: Commentator Frank Schaeffer is author of "Keeping Faith: A Father-Son Story About Love and The United States Marines Corps."

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.