Home Virginia Politics Confusing Facts: Ken Cuccinelli and Julian Walker

Confusing Facts: Ken Cuccinelli and Julian Walker

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 photo 130718USMCflag_zpsf0c2c7fb.jpgThe Virginian Pilot article about Ken Cuccinelli’s military service is at the same time a cheap shot and of no significance other than to point out both Julian Walker and Ken should check their facts before going public. The sadder part is that this opens Walker’s veracity to criticism.

The real story here: shoddy use of facts by both parties. This has become a common theme regarding all reporting about the military. In my lifetime public perceptions of the military and veterans have swung from the post-Vietnam low point of near-disdain to the post-First Gulf War ascendency to near iconic perfection. While the perception is headed back toward the more accurate middle, the status as a veteran retains its luster…for now.

Maybe that is what Ken was reaching for when he allowed reference to his military service as part of his life vitae. But that invited scrutiny of the story he wove. Unfortunately, when filling the voids in this story, Julian Walker (who very well may have been fished this fable and is now regretting the regard he conferred a veteran and attorney) did not effectively fact check. Or, maybe he tried to contact someone like David Ashe, a reserve Marine Corps Judge Advocate and local Virginia Beach attorney and Ashe deferred. (I would call David, but I choose not to put him on the spot.)

You can read below the fold for the why, but in the end, I assure you that both Cuccinelli and Walker stretched the facts for their own purposes. It reflects more on Cuccinelli who has demonstrated time and again he sees the world through a self-serving lens yet claims to deserve our trust. But, shame on Julian Walker and the Pilot just the same.

I was a Marine Corps Officer Selection Officer (OSO) in the San Francisco Bay area for three years. We had quotas for three broad categories: aviation, ground, and law. Of those three, lawyers were the most difficult to recruit in my area. I once quietly flew into Cleveland in mid-winter to contract a law student I had begun processing while he was home on Christmas break from law school. Those quotas were very real for me, but they were a different matter for the Marine Corps. They were statistical projections for reserve officer requirements. All candidates went off to Quantico where they completed required training at Officers Candidate School (OCS) or decided to drop on own request or were directed to depart either for cause or for medical reasons.

While all candidates anticipated being brought onto active duty after completing OCS, their college degrees, and accepting their commissions, no candidate was obligated to accept the commission, thus to go on active duty. And as reserve officers, no new second lieutenant was guaranteed a date certain for activation. That activation date was based upon the needs of the Marine Corps. In years when there were too many who had made the grade, the wait could be long and excruciating. The numbers were science to the extent any extrapolation could be relied upon.

There was the rub. At the end of the ’80s we benefited from the “peace dividend.” I remember sitting in an auditorium at Fort Sill, Oklahoma when a Department of the Army representative came in and told the audience of 300 young motivated officers, “Look to your right…look to your left…in a year only one of the three of you sitting beside each other will be on active duty.” After the run-up to the First Gulf War we found ourselves in a similar situation or possibly worse. The Marine Corps just had too many officers. At about the time Cuccinnelli was waiting to go on active duty, end strength was being drawn down and it wasn’t happening fast enough. The Marine Corps offered early separation and retirement to officers; they could leave at 15 years instead of 20.

So I have no doubt that Ken was stuck in a long waiting line with life on hold during that time. And, who is going to hire a new lawyer who may leave at any time for an active duty obligation? I have no doubt that after he realized he was going to be a father, he went to see his OSO looking for an answer to the question of “when.” I also have no doubt that his OSO had no solid answer for “when.” In whatever exchange between Ken and the OSO I am sure dropping the law contract may have come up with the option of going ground; maybe with the OSO hoping it would shut Ken up. At no time would he have been offered a slot as an infantry officer; that is just not how it is assigned. But most neophytes interchangeably use the terms infantry and ground, so Ken might have sloppily used the term in his later explanation. Bottom line, many young officers waited a long time for the call. And if the needs of the Marine Corps are such, they may be released from their obligation to serve. That is a decision between the Marine and the Marine Corps. Good on Ken for at least having earned the commission.

Bad on Julian Walker for failing his obligation to run down the facts. When he is doing such a superior job with the story of Bankrupt Bob, it is a disservice to that important story that Walker does something that appears partisan. Worse on Cuccinelli for what looks like an attempt to bring his service to a luster that is a bit brighter than merited. But that really is what we have come to expect of our tempest in a teapot Attorney General. Come on, he wasn’t sharp enough to recognize a fraudulent veterans charity so there isn’t always clarity in his judgment. Unfortunately, this is the kind of bluster that diminishes the regard for veterans in general who as a result will receive a bit less goodwill when they identify themselves.

I am also a bit perplexed that the Marine Corps allowed its representative to release such sloppy and incomplete information. I’m betting someone in Quantico is too. Nevertheless, in this story there is no there.  

  • …Julian Walker is one of the best political reporters in Virginia, and I’m confident he wouldn’t print something – on any subject – before checking his facts. I’m also confident he wouldn’t use a story to take a “cheap shot.” Was this his tightest story? Definitely not. Does Julian have a great deal of integrity as a reporter? Yes he does.

  • Goldmanusa

    Very well written. I too have great respect for Julian, terrific reporter. Nonetheless, you were right to point out facts we needed to know. Also it takes intellectual courage to defend Cuccinelli in any way on a Democratic leaning blog. Politics is a tough game. So far, there are no heroes in this cycle. We have one stone cold political clown in Mr. Jackson. But his Marine service deserves respect.

    Cuccinelli makes a mistake if he puffs his service in any way. But so do critics if they try to unfairly denigrate it. He served, let it go. Robb and Wilder benefitted greatly from military medals in the 1980’s. It has not been a major factor since.

    Dems have the wind at their backs on the issues. They got the McD gift mess. Cuccinelli seems trapped by certain positions way out of the mainstream unless corrected soon. The only way DEM ticket guys lose is if they focus on the wrong stuff and produce a backlash among GOP partisans currently not inclined to vote.  

  • kindler

    …to a story that seemed suggestive but foggy to me.  

    If there’s nothing here, that just leaves us with the rest of Cuccinelli’s baggage to work with, which is roughly enough to fill Dulles to the rafters.