Friday, February 24, 2006

Cunningham's Military Training Led Him to Lie, Cheat and Steal

Convicted felon (and former San Diego) congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham's propensity to lie, cheat and steal were, in part, the result of his military training. That's the theme of a psychological report on Cunningham prepared for and distributed by his legal defense team.

The full report is here. The summary from the San Diego Union Tribune is here.

A psychiatrist says Randy “Duke” Cunningham's fall from Vietnam War hero to corrupt politician grew out of “an outsized ego and a mantle of invulnerability” that allowed him to rationalize his behavior.

That mindset evolved from a military career in which Cunningham was taught to embrace aggressive tactics and ignore danger signs and enabled him to perform heroically during the Vietnam War, the doctor said.

Those traits, imperative for fighter pilots, were so engrained in Cunningham that although he was expected to behave differently in Congress “the psyche cannot make such a U-turn easily,” said Dr. Saul Faerstein.

Faerstein said Cunningham's “extraordinary deeds in the service planted a subconscious sense of entitlement which fed his rationalization to accept these gifts for his sacrifices.”


“He recognizes now that Wade and others in Washington were part of a culture of corruption and that good motives may lead to bad decisions when that corruption infuses the relationships of the people involved in the process,” he said.
OK. Here's the deal. Everyone in the military - every branch and every military occupation specialty is trained first as part of a fighting force. And, fighting in the military sense is all about doing things that your brain say are bad ideas - avoiding "danger signs" (being shot at and bombed) and "aggressive tactics" (attacking instead of running away).

If the psych report on Cunningham is accurate, then why are we not in the midst of an extraordinary crime wave as former soldiers, sailors, marines, airman, etc. run wild exercising their "subconscious sense of entitlement?"

I'll tell you why. Because, every office and non-commissioned office in our military is trained to accept responsibility, both for their own actions and for the actions of their subordinates. Second, because every officer and non-commisioned understands that the welfare of their subordinates is their primary duty.

Duke Cunningham was a good fighter pilot. He was not a good officer. He never understood the part about taking responsibility and, in congress, he put his personal welfare above those he was elected to serve.