Rick Perry strayed from a tribute to military service to tell an audience in Waterloo, Iowa, that he's running in part to restore the respect of the military to its civilian leaders.This reminds me a bit of a line from George W. Bush's 2000 GOP convention speech when he talked about restoring honor to the Oval Office. Without mentioning Bill Clinton or Monica Lewinsky, Bush reminded the voters of what had been going on the Oval Office for the last several years, and more or less implied that Al Gore wouldn't be an improvement. It was a line that worked very well (and given Gore's recent history, the implication was probably correct).
"One of the reasons that I’m running for president is I want to make sure that every young man and woman who puts on the uniform of the United States respects highly the president of the United States," he said.
The line is a reversal of the usual pledges of respect for the military from politicians, and Perry seemed to suggest that Obama lacks the qualities of a commander-in-chief in being able to command the troops.
The line could be taken either as a slur on the military -- they're pretty much obligated to respect the president, or at least the presidency; or as a sort of validation of military doubts about civilian leadership, which isn't exactly standard issue politics in the developed world.
But if the line is close to the edge, it may also resonate, capturing discontent with Obama that's common among soldiers, and serving as a reminder that Perry's the only leading Republican to have served.
Perry's line reminds people that the military was a pretty big fan of President Bush, and not so much of Obama. Although the military is sworn to serve the president regardless of how they feel about him, having a president they respect would probably make us all feel a little bit more comfortable about where he might lead them, and certainly would help in the retention of officers and enlisted personnel.