Bob Dole Promoted to Colonel

He's a national treasure who has been appropriately honored for a lifetime of service and sacrifice. But this seems different.

Some news I missed from over the weekend:

AP (“Bob Dole Promoted to Army Colonel at 95“):

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas has been promoted from captain to colonel for his service in the Army during World War II.

The Wichita Eagle reports both chambers of the U.S. Congress have unanimously passed a bill promoting the 95-year-old Dole.

He earned two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars for valor for his service in the war. Dole was an infantry lieutenant in 1945 when he was wounded by German machine gun fire, which left him with limited use of his right arm.

Dole represented Kansas in the U.S. House and Senate for a total of 35 years and ran unsuccessfully for president in 1996.

The legislation to honor Dole was promoted by the entire Kansas delegation.

One hates to play the curmudgeon in circumstances like this but this strikes me as unseemly.

Bob Dole is a national treasure. He has endured unspeakable pain and inconvenience for nearly three-quarters of a century from his injuries fighting the Nazis. He continued serving his country quite honorably as a political leader. I voted for him for President in 1996 and think the country would have been better off had he won.

He has been honored for his service. Certainly, the Purple Heart and Bronze Star aren’t nearly enough for what he endured in combat. But he has been recognized with the three highest civilian honors our country offers: the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and the Presidential Citizens Medal. He deserves them all.

But it’s strange, indeed, to honor him with three unearned promotions in the officer corps. His service effectively ended when he was a first lieutenant; he made captain while in convalescence and was discharged.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Military Affairs, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. DC Loser says:

    You know what else is unseemly? Lindsey Graham getting all his regular promotion gates to Colonel in the Air Force JAG despite not doing any of his regular drills for years.

  2. Gustopher says:

    But it’s strange, indeed, to honor him with three unearned promotions in the officer corps. His service effectively ended when he was a first lieutenant; he made captain while in convalescence and was discharged.

    Did the rank of captain entitle him to additional pay when he was discharged? A gentle fixing of the books to ease a disabled veteran’s life would seem mostly fine (we should treat our disabled veterans uniformly better, but if the system sucks and you can game it… doing so to help a disabled veteran seems like the right time to do it)

    If he hasn’t been in the service in decades, though, I’m not sure a promotion makes any sense. Is there a history of honorary promotions, like honorary doctorates, that I’m just unaware of? And why stop at Colonel? 50 star general, one star per state.

  3. Jay L Gischer says:

    I can endorse “Bob Dole is a national treasure”. I can even maybe speculate that if he had won in 1996, then we might not have ever had GWB in the White House, and avoided the really terrible consequences of the Iraq occupation. And we probably wouldn’t have heard so much about Monica Lewinsky, either. So, those are all good things I can agree with.

    I really wonder where this is coming from. And I think there are probably quite a few retired Army Captains with disabilities who aren’t getting promoted to Colonel, and wonder just what it takes to get Congress interested in their welfare. Actually, they probably don’t wonder at all. Still, I would rather they all get good treatment rather than Bob Dole get his taken away.

  4. rachel says:

    One hates to play the curmudgeon in circumstances like this but this strikes me as unseemly.

    Not nearly as unseemly as rejecting and/or sabotaging Senator Dole’s work to help disabled people in the US and worldwide.

  5. DrDaveT says:

    @Gustopher:

    we should treat our disabled veterans uniformly better

    Let me take a contrarian stance here.

    We could not possibly treat our disabled veterans better. The benefits available for disabled veterans are insanely generous. What’s more, the definition of ‘disabled’ is insanely generous, based as it is on 1940s standards of what kind of physical limitation might make it hard for you to earn a living. Do you have diabetes that requires insulin injections? You’re 50% disabled! Do you have sleep apnea for which a CPAP machine has been prescribed? You’re 50% disabled! Do you have both of those? You’re 70% disabled, and potentially entitled to 100% benefits if you’re unemployable. Oh, and all of those benefits are federal tax exempt.

    America is guilty of many sins, but not treating disabled veterans generously enough is not one of them.

  6. James Joyner says:

    @DC Loser:

    You know what else is unseemly? Lindsey Graham getting all his regular promotion gates to Colonel in the Air Force JAG despite not doing any of his regular drills for years.

    Yup—I wrote about that at the time. In both cases, it’s preferential treatment. In Graham’s case, it was driven by the Air Force’s desire to have a powerful Senator on their side. In Dole’s case, it’s just fondness for an old man–and coming from his former colleagues, not the Army.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    One hates to play the curmudgeon in circumstances like this but this strikes me as unseemly.

    Speaking as one curmudgeon to another, I agree.

  8. Timothy Watson says:

    @rachel:

    Not nearly as unseemly as rejecting and/or sabotaging Senator Dole’s work to help disabled people in the US and worldwide.

    Good point, how many of the same Senators refused to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which Dole fought for?

  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Colonel?
    Does that mean he is qualified to sell shitty fried chicken?

  10. Neal J. Fisher says:

    @DC Loser: Senator Graham has fulfilled his drill obligations. If you have proof he hasn’t the burden is on you to prove that.

  11. James Joyner says:

    @Neal J. Fisher:

    Senator Graham has fulfilled his drill obligations. If you have proof he hasn’t the burden is on you to prove that.

    I wrote about this pretty extensively in August 2015, based on reporting by WaPo’s Craig Whitlock. Graham met his drill obligations because, as a sitting Member of Congress, he was placed in a special status that essentially waived his drill obligations.

    After he was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1994, Graham was designated by the Air Force Reserve as a “key federal employee,” a category for a small number of lawmakers and senior government officials.

    Over the next 10 years, he rarely put on his uniform. According to his personnel file, between January 1995 and January 2005 he received credit for a total of 108 hours of training — the equivalent of less than a day and a half per year.

    During that span, however, the Air Force kept awarding him promotions. In 1998, he attained the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Six years later, he was promoted to colonel by President George W. Bush.

    He simply should not have been promoted to lieutenant colonel, much less colonel, based on that record.

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  12. Neal J. Fisher says:

    @Gustopher: President Washington was promoted from Lieutenant General to General of the Armies (Six Star) on July 4, 1976 by Congress. President John Adams had already promoted him to Lieutenant General on July 4, 1798 and appointed him Commander-in-Chief of the Armies as part of the nation’s preparations for a possible war with France also known as the quasi-war. During the actual Revolutionary War Washington was only a Major General. http://mentalfloss.com/article/65227/george-washington-historys-only-six-star-general-sort

  13. James Joyner says:

    @Neal J. Fisher:

    President Washington was promoted from Lieutenant General to General of the Armies (Six Star) on July 4, 1976 by Congress.

    Yes. I think this is kind of silly but at least the purpose was military. That is, Pershing’s rank during WWI and the creation of a number of 5-star officers during WWII (to achieve parity with European field marshals) meant that Washington no longer held primacy historically. Given his status as the general who won our independence, it was natural to establish him as the highest ranking American general of all time.