07/22/08 — Who should lead? The important question is: Whom do you trust?

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Who should lead? The important question is: Whom do you trust?

There is a lot of talk this election about who would make the best commander in chief -- a critical part of the next president of the United States' new job.

And in keeping with the need to convince the nation that they can fill the bill, both candidates are busy trying to look like military leaders and foreign policy experts.

This week's foray into military leadership involved a trip by Sen. Barack Obama to the Middle East, meeting with generals and others on the battleground, reviewing the troops and what they have accomplished so far.

Before he left, Obama said he was going on a fact-finding mission -- to see for himself if the surge is really working or if the reports of better conditions in Iraq are simply political spin.

And after some tours and talks with commanders, he announced that he remains convinced of his own theories on the surge and what is best for the future of the Middle East.

OK.

Well, of course, Sen. John McCain jumped at that one, calling Obama's trip less of a fact-finding mission and more of a public relations stunt.

And McCain has not been shy about making his own trips overseas to analyze the lay of the land -- and about proclaiming what he thinks is the next, best step for the Middle East.

But amidst all the speeches and photo opportunities is the real answer to what kind of commander in chief this nation needs as it moves forward in not only its military efforts, but its diplomatic efforts as well.

The United States needs a commander in chief who gets he is not the one with all the answers.

The truth is that the people we should trust to run the war are the men and women who are there every day facing enemy fire and interacting with civilian personnel. We should listen to those who are training the Iraqis who will take over and those who man the outposts that are attacked by insurgents. We should listen to the men and women who are leading the troops in theater -- and to what they think about the progress that is being made and the timetable for withdrawal. They, more than anyone else, really know what the next step should be and whether what we are doing is working.

So while Obama's trip to the Middle East might capture a glance on the evening news, and McCain's theories might be worth considering, the nation's attention should be on the people who have volunteered their lives to protecting our freedoms.

They are the ones who have the most to contribute, and the most to lose.

The next, best commander in chief will know that.

Published in Editorials on July 22, 2008 11:41 AM