Two top candidates for the GOP nomination, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, raised some eyebrows among the military for comments this last weekends. As Barbara Starr reported on Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, the candidates discussion of the US military struck an odd chord with some of the troops and military establishment
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you say, both candidates talking about the U.S. military over the weekend, but their statements struck a bit of an odd chord with some of the troops and the people that we have been talking to.
STARR (voice-over): Two top Republican candidates are already using the troops as a talking point, but some wonder what it is they really are saying.
JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: They definitely are trying to appeal to their conservative populist base.
STARR: Michele Bachmann says she might bring back the ban on gays serving in the military.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: If you became president, would you reinstitute the don't ask, don't tell policy in the military, which said that gays could not serve openly in the military?
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The don't ask, don't tell policy has worked very well.
CROWLEY: Would you institute it then? Because it's been set aside.
BACHMANN: It worked very well and I would be in consultation with our commanders, but I think, yes, I probably would.
STARR: Do troops care?
AVLON: Right now the number one issue for veterans when they return home isn't whether they serve with gays and lesbians, but whether they can get a job.
STARR: Then there's Rick Perry.
PERRY: One of the powerful reasons that I'm running for the presidency of the United States is to make sure that every young man and woman who puts on the uniform of this country respects highly the president of the United States.
STARR: Did Perry seem out of touch with young veterans' concerns?
Todd Bowers has served three combat tours.
TODD BOWERS, SENIOR POLICY ADVISER, IAVA: These are not the major issues that vets are going to be watching. Right now, with a stifling economy and major employment issues for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as a whole, that's what they want to hear about. They don't want to hear the headline blurb.
STARR: A recent congressional report calculates unemployment for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans nationwide is 11.5 percent, in Perry's home state of Texas, 13.1 percent, and in Minnesota, Bachmann's home state, 22.9 percent. Not talking about that these days could be a problem.
AVLON: They are definitely playing politics. There's no question about that. Whenever you try to politicize the military, you are by definition playing politics and you are playing to the lowest common denominator.
STARR: Now, Perry says he thinks the troops want a president who has served in the U.S. military. And, of course, he did serve in the U.S. Air Force many years ago. Bachmann to be fair says she would consult with her commanders.
But, Wolf, many of the young troops, just like so many Americans, say, look, right now what concerns them is the economy, their health care benefits and a job once they get out of the military - Wolf.