The most important thing to consider about James Breazeale’s attempt to unseat Adjutant General Bob Livingston in the June Republican primary is rank: Mr. Livingston is an honest-to-goodness general; he had that title before he ran for office four years ago. But as I explained in my column today, after 24 years in the military, Mr. Breazeale, a commercial airline pilot from Florence, is just a lieutenant colonel, and so the only way he can become a general is by being elected.
The second most important consideration is what Mr. Breazeale is a lieutenant colonel in: Not the S.C. Army National Guard, which he would command. Not in the S.C. Air National Guard, which he also would command. He’s a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves.
Which means he’s asking us to do the equivalent of putting an Air Force lieutenant colonel in charge of the Marines.
But you could reasonably argue that there is something admirable about his trek through three branches of the military in the past 24 years. Consider his explanation for his very short stent in the S.C. National Guard between his four years in the regular Army and nearly two decades in the Army Reserves.
Fresh out of the Army, he told me, he joined the National Guard in 1994 in Easley, “where (Adjutant General) Eston Marchant was leaning on his officers to give or get out. It was that blunt. I said, ‘Really? A general wants a lieutenant to give money or he won’t get promoted?’ So I got out and went to the federal Reserve.”
To his great credit, Gen. Livingston is doing everything he can to clean up that system that Mr. Breazeale encountered two decades ago. But a strong argument can be made that anyone who succeeds in a military system that is inherently corrupt must himself have participated in the corruption. And a military system that requires its leader to collect campaign contributions and votes from his underlings in order to be the military leader is the very definition of corruption.
So Mr. Breazeale does get my respect for refusing to participate in such a system. He gets my respect for his determination to continue his military service, even though that meant starting over a third time.
What he won’t get, because he is not militarily qualified to be a general and doesn’t even think he needs to be, is my vote — or our newspaper’s endorsement.