The Generals Might Say to the Press: What Do You Know About the Military? You Never Served Your Country.

The war between the press and the generals serving in the White House and Trump cabinet is heating up with more stories and comments saying military officers don’t belong in politics.

Politico says there are “growing worries that Mattis, Kelly and McMaster are most recently showing that military officers are ill-suited for positions that require years of nuanced political experience and a deft handling of public opinion….Perhaps we are expecting too much. Or perhaps Mattis, Kelly and McMaster are, to use a military phrase, ‘out of their lane.'”

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin: “Let’s not staff a White House with generals ever again.”

The spirit of Dwight D. Eisenhower might caution journalists to not overgeneralize about the skills and minds of military officers, and it’s also worth noting that one of the weaknesses of journalism today is that in all the laudable attempts to broaden its perspective by hiring and promoting more women and minorities the hiring of  military veterans is pretty much ignored.

Wouldn’t it help Politico, the Washington Post, and other websites and newspapers to hire some people who have served in the military to broaden and improve their coverage?

There’s been no survey that I know of to see how many journalists at the top media outlets have served in the military, but my guess is the number may be close to zero.

I attended three Gridiron dinners, an annual event that brings together the media and political elite at the Washington Hilton. At the dinner a military band plays the anthem of each service and those serving or have served in that branch of the military stand when their anthem is played. Each year fewer and fewer of those at the dinner stand—the most recent estimate I got was that fewer than 30 of the 650 people at the Gridiron dinner now stand and most of them are not journalists.

As a reader, I’d be interested in more stories and columns that had some perspective based on knowing what it’s like to actually serve in the military. Anyone looking at the top newsrooms in Washington might easily think that the military is a lot more diverse and representative of the country than journalism.

P.S. My perspective on journalists and the military may be affected by knowing several Washington journalists who in the 1960s proudly maneuvered to avoid the draft, one by getting a mostly useless advanced degree at Harvard.




  1. Rosann Heinritz Sexton says

    The “nuanced political experience and deft handling of public opinion” has, in my opinion, gotten us into the mess and almost gridlock in DC today!
    A more disciplined, common sense approach to governing, I think, is what this country needs right now.
    I feel the generals with their no nonsense approach are necessary to accomplish that.
    I’d much rather have them running the show than the intellectuals from the academic world in the last administration who had no business or “common man” experience.

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