Defense & National Security

Inside Romney’s binders (and binders) full of generals

Inside Romney’s binders (and binders) full of generals

If the poll showing that active-duty troops will vote for Mitt Romney by a 2-to-1 margin didn’t make a point, maybe this will: a small galaxy of four-stars and other generals and flag officers declaring support for Romney in a self-sponsored full-page ad.

Among the 500 retired generals that endorsed Mitt Romney in the Washington Times Monday are the well-known and revered: Gen. James Conway, the immediate past commandant of the Marine Corps; Army Gen. Tommy Franks, architect of the first invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001; Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

More remarkable, though, are the generals and admirals who left the spotlight after their military careers and have only returned now because of a personal sense of urgency.

Army Brig. Gen. Joseph Stringham is one of those.

In the past, Stringham told Human Events, he has gone out of his way to avoid partisanship and political endorsement.

“I’m an independent voter, and any time there’s been a third party candidate, I’m voting for him,” he said.

Click here to go to Human Events’ interactive election results map.

But this year, citing concerns about a weakened American foreign policy and a Defense Department facing untenable cuts, Stringham threw himself into the process. He accepted the chairmanship of the political action committee Special Operations Speaks, a group of retired military operators galvanized against Obama following a series of alleged White House security leaks and perceived slights against the special operations community following the assassination of Osama bin Laden. He signed on to a military advisory panel for the Romney campaign featuring over 300 other general officers. And he didn’t hesitate to publish his name in Monday’s ad.

“I got an email from Carl Smith that said would you be interested in signing up for this,” Stringham said. “I wanted to be accounted for and I want to be accounted for again.”

Smith, a retired Navy lieutenant commander who flew missions with John McCain, is the reported organizing force behind this sounding endorsement.

He did not return a phone call from Human Events, but told PJ Media that after the Romney campaign announced its well-staffed advisory panel, 140 or more retired generals responded to say they wanted to show their support too. Smith helped to round them up.

“They see in Gov Romney a man of integrity, competence, and a solid record of achievement–someone who can be trusted with the awesome responsibilities of the Office of the President,” Smith reportedly said.

One general who has not welcomed this development is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, who expressed disappointment at groups of former Navy SEALs taking action to defeat the president.

“If someone uses the uniform for partisan politics, I’m disappointed in that,” he said in an August media briefing. “I think it erodes that bond of trust we have with the American people.”

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Hugh Overholt strongly disagreed.

“We have every right to be heard,” he said. “You can disagree with it and get your own list and put it together, but I can certainly take any position that is important to me.”

Overholt wasn’t on the advisory panel organized by the Romney campaign, but willingly added his name to the ad on Monday, saying he worried about budget cuts to the defense department under Obama.

“This was spontaneous; There was certainly no arm twisting,” Overholt, now a lawyer in New Bern, N.C., said. “It was just one call to ask how I felt.”

While Overholt said he had generally supported Republicans in the past, he wasn’t a party-line voter. But the prospect of the Defense Department losing $500 billion from its budget under sequestration–a development sure to directly affect the military communities near his home–made the decision an easy one for him.

“I think it’s time for a pro-defense administration,” Overholt said.

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