For John, BLUF: We need balance. Nothing to see here; just move along.
One of the things I did while on active duty in the US Air Force was to register my party affiliation as "Declines to State".♠ When I retired and moved to Massachusetts I registered as a Republican, which is almost like having no party affiliation. The role of retired officers in politics is an important issue and the role of generals and admirals is particularly worthy of consideration. The idea of a professional officer corps, prepared to work for and with whoever the People choose, has been my ideal.♦
Addressing this issue is an article from the US Naval Institute, a private professional organization.♥ Thus, we have "Now Hear this - Admirals (and Generals) For Life", by retired Vice Admiral Doug Crowder.
Here is the paragraph that sets the issue:
As a middle-grade officer assigned to the Joint Staff in the early administration of President Bill Clinton, I would often be in meetings attended by both Joint Staff military officers and civilian officials from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).♣ At one of these an OSD staffer strongly urged agreement for a particular course of action. The senior Joint Staff officer at the meeting stated that the chairman was not going to agree to the proposed position. The OSD rep said, “Well, maybe it’s time we got some Clinton generals in here.” I was aghast at the accusation, and I told her so. “We work for the commander-in-chief, no matter who he or she is at the time.” Her response was equally disturbing: “I don’t know how you could change allegiances. . . . I know I couldn’t.”But, remember, this woman from OSD was a political appointee, not a professional military officer. She was there to oversee the military and provide civilian guidance with regard to the President's agenda. A job different from offering military advice, advice to be accepted or rejected.
And after some discussion of the issue in his article, this is how Admiral Crowder concludes:
As the 2016 election approaches, I humbly propose that we retired flags stay on the sidelines and away from public endorsements of presidential candidates. I fully understand we have the right to participate in these campaigns, but I am convinced it is not the right thing for the country. This plea is not meant to criticize any retired admirals or generals who have made such endorsements in the past. I merely ask that all of us consider the larger ramifications of doing so and settle for being admirals (and generals) for life.I agree in part. All of us who are retired should be free to express our views and even to write letters to the editor or make blog posts. Very important, we should feel free to run for office; any office. However, I think "Flag Officers"★ should refrain from endorsing candidates for President.
Regards — Cliff
♠ The term in California for what is Massachusetts is an "Unenrolled Voter". I like the California term, for its frankness.
♥ I have been a member of the US Naval Institute.
♦ This is an ideal put forward by the late Samuel Huntington in his book The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations. Originally published 1 January 1957, and rumored to have cost him a job at Harvard, at the time.
♣ Office of the Secretary of Defense, the civilian staff running the Pentagon. That said, military officers could be seconded to the OSD Staff, to help out.
★ "Flag Officers" because generals and admirals are issued their own flag, with the number of their "stars" sewn into it.