Stanford: GOP's new conspiracy, 'Rangerghazi'
It's easier to explain how three women became the first women to earn their Army Ranger tabs than why Congressman Steve Russell suspects they got preferential treatment. The women passed Rangers School because they stuck with it until they did. The congressman doubts they passed honestly because he won't let go of his preconceptions about women in the military.
Russell is clear that he thinks women should not be allowed into combat positions just because they are women. "There are some things they simply cannot do. I know I run the risk of being called a chauvinist pig by saying that," he said, and he does.
So perhaps it should not have been a surprise what came next. When Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver graduated from Ranger School in late April, his office sent a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh demanding a full accounting as to how the women successfully graduated.
Russell's office also reached out to former Ranger instructor Michael "Bubba" Moore. Before he made his Facebook profile private, Moore posted an image of a nametag. Under the "Hello, my name is" part it said, "RANGER and I'm here to f*** b****es and kill terrorists." So he's nice. Moore put Russell's office in touch with People magazine, and suddenly we had "Rangerghazi."
The crux of their fever dream is that the women needed second and third chances to pass certain tests, opportunities, they incorrectly claimed, that male Ranger applicants did not get.
"Don't tell me that you didn't set these chicks up for success," said Moore.
God forbid women should succeed. Col. David Fivecoat, commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, said a third of the students get to "recycle" a phase of the training. He admitted that only about 15 students a year recycle every phase, but it does happen every year.
What Russell and Moore complain about is what we should be bragging about. Women were given chances to succeed just like men. If they failed, they got new chances. So did the men. Many women failed and quit. So did many men in Ranger School. The ones who did not give up succeeded, and now they wear Ranger tabs on their uniforms regardless of gender. Grit and determination to succeed are supposed to be good things.
Many people aren't happy that the military is opening combat positions to women, but it shouldn't be any surprise that Russell, an Oklahoma Republican, is the one who thinks he smells a conspiracy. When he ran for Congress after the invasion of Iraq, he angrily defended the intelligence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
"The record is there. We found evidence of it even in Iraq. That's a big misconception. Oh, there was no WMD, there was no nuclear program. That is false... They were clearly on a path to develop destructive weapons," said Russell in a 2012 campaign interview. When asked for his source, Russell cited his "good buddy."
This is, of course, balderdash. As the head of the Bush administration's Iraq Survey Group told Congress, "We were almost all wrong."
Russell is a no-kidding Iraq war hero, a former state lawmaker-turned congressman, and, as a matter of fact, an Army Ranger himself. But if he thinks the standards were lowered to allow women into his exclusive He Man Woman Haters Club, Army Maj. Gen. Scott Miller has an offer for him.
Miller gave a speech at the Aug. 21 Ranger School graduation where he addressed "noisy and inaccurate" suspicions that Griest and Haver got off easy during the week-long Ranger Assessment Phase.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the week has not changed. Standards remain the same," Miller said. "The five-mile run is still five miles. The 12-mile march is still 12 miles. The mountains of Dahlonega are still here, the swamps remain intact."
But if that wasn't convincing enough, Miller invited skeptics back to Fort Benning to "re-validate their tab."
"To date, we've had zero takers," said Miller.
What about it, Congressman Russell, care to re-take the test, or are you scared of getting beaten by three girls?
Sorry, three Rangers.
Jason Stanford is a regular contributor to the Austin American-Statesman and a Democratic consultant.