Is Sarah Palin Politicizing Son's Military Service?

Gov. Sarah Palin is in Alaska today attending a deployment ceremony for her son, Private First Class Track Palin, whose Army infantry unit is heading to Iraq next week.

In this election, the Iraq war is a major issue, and a deeply personal one, for both the Republican and Democratic tickets.

Three of the four presidential and vice-presidential candidates have sons headed to Iraq or who have been there -- but the candidates are dealing with the deployments in drastically different ways.

Sen. Joe Biden's son, Capt. Beau Biden, will also be deployed to Iraq in the next few weeks.

John McCain's son, 19-year-old Marine Lance Corp. Jimmy McCain, just returned from a tour in the Anbar province of Iraq after a six-month deployment.

Children of Candidates
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The younger McCain's service in Iraq went largely unnoticed because, unlike his running mate, John McCain never mentions it on the stump.

That's in stark contrast to Palin's comments about her son during her vice presidential acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last week.

"One week from tomorrow, September 11th, he'll deploy to Iraq with the Army Infantry in the service of his country," Palin said to a roaring crowd.

John Nagl, a senior fellow at the Center for New American Security, said that kind of public announcement can be a double-edged sword.

"It is the mark of an enthusiastic and proud mother, but it does pose conceivably some risk on the soldier and the unit," Nagl said.

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There are no military restrictions about what family members can say about their kids, but many candidates say they don't want to politicize military service and have held back on specifics, like deployment dates, because of safety concerns.

"There is always risk when you talk about troop movements," Nagl said. "There is risk that terrorists could take advantage of the fact they know when flights are leaving."

As for the soldiers themselves, they are not supposed to discuss details of their deployment, which explains Beau Biden's "coded" speech at the Democratic convention.

"But because of other duties, it won't be possible for me to be here this fall to stand by him the way he stood by me. So I have something to ask of you. Be there for my dad like he was for me," Biden told the crowd.

About a dozen members of Congress have children who have served in Iraq, and military officials said they did not receive special treatment nor will Palin or Biden's kids.

Whichever ticket wins the presidential election this fall, the military will have to take into account the risks that come with having a child of a president or vice president in service.

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