Defense Secretary Robert Gates has a message for the military: keep focused on the real enemies. "Today, I want to encourage you always to remember the importance of two pillars of our freedom under the Constitution—the Congress and the Press," he told graduates of both the Naval and Air Force academies in two recent commencement addresses. He went on to say that "the American military must be nonpolitical and recognize the obligation we owe the Congress to be honest and true in our reporting to them. Especially when it involves admitting mistakes or problems. The same is true with the Press ... The Press is not the enemy, and to treat it as such is self-defeating."
Many men and women in uniform wouldn't agree with him. An annual survey by the Military Times, conducted last November and December, found that service members were heavily Republican (only 16 percent said they were Democrats) and "convinced the media hate them," as the paper put it. Only 39 percent thought the media had a favorable view of the military, and just 23 percent thought Congress had the military's best interests at heart. Why is Gates trying to persuade them otherwise? A senior Pentagon official, who did not want to be named talking about his boss, said Gates had been "taken aback" by the Army leadership's defensive response to recent revelations in The Washington Post about conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. But the official did not believe that any particular incident or scandal led Gates to speak out. Nor did the official think that Gates was trying to distance himself from his combative predecessor. "He's not doing this to try to make up for perceptions that were left over from Donald Rumsfeld or anything like that," the official added. "This is just him." It's a seemingly weak explanation. But we won't complain.