Radio and television ads for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have cost more than half a billion dollars, according to NBC News, and they ought to know. This amount is more than the advertising costs for the entire 2008 campaign -- and we have months to go on this one.
Military members and their families living overseas will be spared the questionable results of this pricey promotional binge, because they don't get many American commercials. They're the lucky ones, and they won't be missing much.
Current campaign rhetoric mostly ignores the military anyway -- at home and abroad -- including the hundreds of thousands of us who have a husband, wife, father or mother, a child or sibling in a combat zone. In America's longest war, military service has become multi-generational.
My best friend's husband has served multiple tours overseas. Their son is now deployed to Afghanistan. They've had several heart-stopping moments, courtesy of the recent news reports coming out of that country. Thousands of other military families suffer these moments and worse, while those on the campaign trail seem scarcely to notice.
Instead of presenting a candidate's plan to face our nation's challenges, campaign ads are fraught with scare tactics and political buzzwords. There are even commercials about commercials, as campaigns advertise to accuse each other of false advertisement. Someone should be ashamed, but apparently no one is.
Profligate promotion aside, the U.S. has real problems for candidates to discuss. Economic and employment difficulties affect all of us. These subjects are worthy of political debate, even commercials, but in financial terms our nation's martial involvements warrant consideration also. This decade-plus of war has cost trillions of dollars already. Addressing that flow of funds is apropos to deficit discussions, yet stump speeches give it a miss.
Meanwhile, military families continue to pay the personal cost of war in lives and health, both mental and physical, and to face an uncertain future. Will our country provide adequate health care for those who fight its wars? What happens to that care if automatic cuts take $500 billion from the defense budget next year? Add these to the tough questions avoided by representatives of both parties.
The Iraq War was a central issue in the last presidential election, but the ongoing situation in Afghanistan has not garnered anything like that level of attention in this race for commander in chief. Perhaps not coincidentally, this is the first time in recent memory that none of the candidates on either ticket has rank-and-file experience in the armed forces.
I realize the military community is a minor demographic, even if family members are included. As a voting block, we can't offer much to any presidential hopeful. Our politics are mixed and our numbers are small but our contributions, both current and historic, are considerable. Presidential decisions greatly affect our lives, perhaps more than any other single group of citizens. These realities should lend weight to the concerns of our community, even if we can't deliver electoral votes.
In the rush to get elected, our candidates for president may find it convenient to ignore the war in Afghanistan. Military families don't have that luxury. As with every war, we will feel the effects of these years of conflict for many years to come, and for us the cost goes beyond dollars -- or votes.
War is a fact of life for us, a reality the winner must face after the election, even if he manages to avoid it during the race. So why wait? I'd like to hear the candidates speak now about their strategies for this and future conflicts, about foreign policy and about recent events in Afghanistan. These are subjects crucial to our country, not just those who serve.
Whether or not politicians are paying attention, members of the U.S. military are carrying out orders, sometimes giving their lives in the line of duty. Some die fighting the enemy, and some die at the hands of those they thought were friends. All the while, the presidential campaign marches on, petty and inflammatory, full of sound and fury -- but for military families -- signifying nothing.
Cross-posted from Stars and Stripes