Twenty-two minutes into the October 10, 2012 debate between incumbent 5th District Congressman Republican, Robert Hurt, and challenger Democrat, John Douglass, a testy exchange took place regarding the challenger’s title:
RH: “…And in what my opponent has done in lying about this issue, about my interest in uranium mining, I have none. I have none. But what he has done is he has dragged this issue, an issue by the way, Mr. Douglass, as I think you know is a state issue. He has brought, he has shamefully brought this issue for one purpose: so that he can get elected, and people are tired of that. Mr. Douglass, people are tired of that.”
JD: “You know, it’s kind of funny that he keeps calling me “Mister.” My name’s General Douglass. Okay folks…”
The media panel at the event, who had been referring to Douglass as, “John” or “Mister”—a pre-debate agreement reached in discussions with the campaigns—was visibly dismayed at “General’s” outburst. Especially since the Democrat already had been referenced by his first or surname approximately 10 times by the moderator and panelists prior to the meltdown. (see video clip)
Obvious discomfort followed for the remainder of the discussion as panelists officially on a “first name” basis with the candidates, struggled with whether—or not— to accommodate “General’s” unexpected and contrary demand.
Boorish behavior aside, while Douglass emphasized his rank in the debate, he also has done so in the vast majority of his print and television advertising as well as his campaign correspondence. In doing so, he may have forgotten to follow Department of Defense Directive 1344.10, sec. 188.8.131.52, which places limitations on active and retired military candidates for political office:
4.3 Additional Limitations on Nomination or Candidacy and Campaigning
4.3.1. Members not on active duty who are nominees or candidates for the offices described in subparagraph 4.2.1. may, in their campaign literature (including Web sites, videos, television, and conventional print advertisements):
184.108.40.206. Use or mention, or permit the use or mention of, their military rank or grade and military service affiliation; BUT they must clearly indicate their retired or reserve status.
220.127.116.11. Include or permit the inclusion of their current or former specific military duty, title, or position, or photographs in military uniform, when displayed with other non- military biographical details. Any such military information must be accompanied by a prominent and clearly displayed disclaimer that neither the military information nor photographs imply endorsement by the Department of Defense or their particular Military Department (or the Department of Homeland Security for members of the Coast Guard); e.g., “John Doe is a member of the Army National Guard. Use of his military rank, job titles, and photographs in uniform does not imply endorsement by the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.” [emphasis added]
Leslie Hull-Ride, a DOD spokesperson, confirmed the potential violation in an October 19 email:
As you know, a disclaimer must be used so that it is clear to the audience that there is no implication of endorsement by the Department of Defense or any of the armed forces.
Photographs of the retired member in uniform are allowed, in keeping with the policy. Actual wear of the uniform for campaign purposes is not.
You are correct, the relevant instruction is DoDI 1344.10, para 4.3 on Political Activities.
The policy is clear that there should be a disclaimer to indicate that there is no DoD/Service endorsement.
We continue to inform and raise awareness of this policy. For example, we publish guidance to all service members during election years to remind Department of Defense officials and members of the Armed Forces they must avoid even the appearance of political partiality.
If there is any issue where an individual fails to follow this policy, we ensure they are reminded of the applicable rules, and that remedial actions are taken.
A perusal of Democrat Douglass’s campaign literature, web site, social media, and television/Internet commercials shows an absence of the DOD required disclaimer —an apparent contradiction to the referenced Department of Defense directive.
While General Douglass rightfully is proud of his military service and certainly has earned the use of his title, shouldn’t he be following delineated military protocol in his campaign efforts?