Can Politician Who Did Not Serve Make Sound Military Judgments?

Hi, I'm Bill O'Reilly.  Thank you for watching us tonight.

Can politicians who did not serve in the military make sound military  judgments?  That's the subject of this evening's Talking Points Memo.  Thity-nine percent of all U.S. presidents had no military service.  Abraham Lincoln (search) served just three months in the Illinois militia, yet he directed the Civil War (search).  FDR was in charge of fighting World War II, but didn't serve because of his physical ailments.  And Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also didn't see combat, although President Bush served in the National Guard.

Last night during the Democratic debate we heard this.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I don't know how John Kerry and John Edwards can say that they supported the war, but then opposed the funding of the troops who went to fight the war that the resolution that they supported authorized.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Joe, I have seared in me an experience which you don't have.  And that's the experience of being one of those troops on the front lines when the policy has gone wrong.


All right.  Howard Dean's campaign says it's tired of Senator Kerry using his military service in public policy debates.  And indeed, this explosive subject is being discussed all over the country.

Talking Points sees it this way.  There's no question that heroism on the battlefield should be a plus on any American's resume, and that military service is a good thing.  If a politician has, that's some points for him or her.

But to eliminate everybody else from a military debate or policy is simply dumb.  Most Americans haven't seen combat.  Thomas Jefferson (search) didn't see combat, yet strong leaders can make responsible decisions without that experience.  There's no question about it.

So it comes down to this.  Military action should be vividly explained to the American people and debated, but our leaders are elected on the basis of many things.  Senator Lieberman has a right to criticize John Kerry (search) if he feels Kerry's policy toward Iraq is wrong.

Kerry's best defense is a good offense.  Let us know what you would do to fight the war on terror, including what you would do in Iraq.  If Senator Kerry would specifically answer those questions, he wouldn't have to raise his military record in this context.

Many journalists, including myself, have covered military action, but that  doesn't make us any more qualified to make judgments about them.  Yes, we have experience, but others who lack such experience may have brilliant insights  that we don't have.  So all well thought out opinions should be considered when it comes to war and peace.

Finally, those Americans who call other Americans chickens and the like are cowardly.  Their criticism is personal and hollow.  Courage is defined in many different capacities, the battlefield being just one.

And that's The Memo.

The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day

Time now for "The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day."

The final results of our poll, which asked the question: Are your movie choices affected by the politics of the actors appearing in them?  Ninety percent of you said yes!  Just 10 percent said no.  About 25,000 people voted on

A footnote: George Clooney's new film Intolerable Cruelty is not doing well.  And Mystic River starting Sean Penn and Tim Robbins is still a question mark at the box office.  Although it is said to be an excellent film.  You can take that for what it's worth.