By a 2-to-1 margin.
It’s not as if Trump is universally loved in the military—one out of every five soldiers said that if forced to choose between these two candidates, they simply wouldn’t vote.
It is the first of those two statistics that is the most stunning, however. Why would soldiers prefer Trump over Clinton by such a wide margin? Or to look at it a different way, why is Clinton polling at a meager 25 percent amongst soldiers? Here are a few plausible explanations:
The email controversy. Nobody cares more about national security than our soldiers. It literally is their job, and often times, their lives depend upon our handling of our security on the political level. Thus, Secretary Clinton’s flagrant recklessness—and perhaps, lawlessness—with national security secrets disproportionately affects the military. Soldiers, especially those who work in or have any ties to military intelligence or the civilian intelligence community, know how profound these violations are.
A Navy sailor was just sentenced to a year of imprisonment for security violations roughly comparable to Clinton’s. General David Petraeus, perhaps the greatest American general in the present era, was prosecuted for infractions roughly—those imperfectly—comparable to Clinton’s. There is a good chance that Clinton’s exposure of secrets was more damaging, and the key difference in the two cases at this point pertains to the level of deceit employed. Petraeus intentionally lied. At this point, we are all employing Clintonisms—“misled,” “not truthful,” etc—to avoid saying that Clinton did as well.
The average soldier with knowledge of the case, as well as military regulations, knows that he or she would undoubtedly be in jail right now for doing less that what Secretary Clinton did. Do they want a Commander-in-Chief who is above the law that they seek to defend with their lives?
The Benghazi aftermath. Soldiers can generally extend a bit of grace for military blunders, accounting for the fog of war and the difficulty of making decisions in high-pressure situations. What is less forgivable, however, is deceit and abuse of victims’ families. There is still debate on what exactly Secretary Clinton told the victims’ families after the attack, but it seems fairly conclusive that she tied the attacks to a video when talking to the families, even as she was telling others that it was a pre-meditated terrorist attack.
Again, perhaps some of this can be excused by the fog of war, but there is no excuse for subsequent treatment of the victims’ families. Secretary Clinton asserted that the consistent and corroborating memories of multiple family members were confused by the fog of war, despite written notes from one of those encounters. Although this was not a direct military engagement, these are de facto Gold Star families. Soldiers want their families respected, especially in the event of their deaths. Donald Trump was rightly taken to task for his treatment of the Khan family. What about Secretary Clinton?
Eight years of embarrassment. For the past eight years—four of them with Secretary of State Clinton—the present administration has continually embarrassed the United States, and by extension, the military. Soldiers can trace trajectories, like the ludicrous reset button given to Russia and the subsequent string of Russian provocations and aggression—most notably its invasion of Ukraine.
A good number of our soldiers spent months searching for a misguided deserter, SGT Bowe Bergdahl, compromising their mission in Afghanistan and putting their lives at risk. When the administration exchanged terrorist leaders for Bergdahl, it described his service as “honorable”—a label that most soldiers deserve, but not Bergdahl. Such comments belittle the regular heroism of our soldiers.
In perhaps the most humiliating incident of the last eight years for our military, Navy sailors were detained by Iran at gunpoint and some disgraced themselves and our country by speaking freely with their captors and being used in a propaganda video. The administration’s response? They downplayed the severity of the incident and bad behavior of the Iranians at the expense of American service members, and payed (provided ransom?) the Iranians $1.7 billion in cash.
To the average soldier, there is a clear record of weakening abroad and deception at home. The former Secretary of State can violate national security and escape punishment. She can likewise deceive and abuse families of Benghazi victims, and show an incredible lack of respect for those who uphold our national security with their lives. The present administration can undermine our national security with naïve gestures, toothless responses, and hollow diplomacy.
The Military Times poll does not reflect a surge of pride in Donald Trump, but a clear disdain for the current administration and former Secretary Clinton in particular.