General Keith Kerr IS a general! Our purpose here at Newsbusters is to chronicle and expose the leftist media bias that infests their coverage of the news, that is true. But, I feel compelled to also urge that our efforts be as true and guided by integrity as possible. I want to take a case that many on “our side” are taking up, claiming that it is an example of media bias and leftist “lies.” Unfortunately, it is not a good hook upon which to hang our hat because, while it may be a confusing issue, it is not an example of any bias and if we insist on making this an issue it will make us look petty and uninformed. This is the case where people are claiming that the “gay CNN general” is not really a general. In fact, if his rank is that of general in the State forces, he is and can properly be called a general everywhere he goes.

General Keith Kerr was the Hillary Clinton campaign operative that CNN planted in the GOP debates last month. There has been raised some confusion on his “real” rank. Yes it is true that his official U.S. Army rank was never higher than Colonel. It is also true that he held the rank of General in the Army of the State of California and it is also true that he has no battlefield experience.

Here is part of his bio on SDLN:

Brigadier General Keith H. Kerr entered the U. S. Army as a Private at Fort Ord, California, on 21 September 1953. After completing basic and advanced training, he served with the 513th Military Intelligence Group in Germany during the Cold War. Upon release from active duty, he continued to serve in the U. S. Army Reserve and was commissioned a First Lieutenant in June 1960.

He retired from the U. S. Army Reserve in 1986 with the rank of Colonel and was commissioned in the California State Military Reserve (California National Guard) on 15 March 1986, where his assignments were Inspector General and later, Chief of Staff. He was appointed Commanding General, Northern Area Command, CSMR, with headquarters at Alameda Naval Supply Depot, Alameda, CA and promoted to Brigadier General on 21 February 1991. He held this position until reassigned to State Headquarters on 31 July 1995. General Kerr retired on 1 June 1996 after 43 years of service to the United States and the State of California.

Now, here is the thing folks. Kerr is rightfully called a general despite that his official Federal rank was never higher than a Colonel. It is true that he was not a General in the U.S. Army, it is true that his rank of general is only a State rank, and it might be true that he cannot officially wear his state rank of general outside the state of California. But, again, he is still a general.

There are at least two examples that everyone will be familiar with that will explain this fact. One from history, and one from current practice.

General George Armstrong Custer — example #1

George Custer was addressed as General from the time he became one of the youngest generals of the civil war until his rather untimely death at the battle of Little Bighorn. But, he was never officially more than a Lt. Colonel in the US Army. His rank of general was what they then called a “breveted” rank. That meant, he had the title, the duties and the respect of the position, but he never had the actual, official rank. The rank of general for George A. Custer was honorary and temporary. He attained it because of the need for someone to fill the role in a time of war and it was also bestowed for his exemplary work on the battlefield. But it was never made permanent.

Still, Custer was galled general for the rest of his life.

William Jefferson Clinton (and all ex-presidents) — example #2

Have you ever heard an interviewer address Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton as “Mr. president”? It might rankle you — but then the very fact they ever were a president should rankle any true American — but it is proper to call these men “Mr. president.” They were presidents, after all.

Highest position attained

Now, here is the reason Custer was always a general, even as his rank was never official, and why Clinton is still addressed as “Mr. president.” It is the practice of respectful, proper etiquette that a person should always be addressed by the rank and/or title of his highest station attained in life, even if he no longer holds that position. It’s just a matter of respect for the position, if not necessarily the person in question.


So, this means that calling Keith Kerr a general is a proper way to address the man, even if it isn’t an official Federal U.S. Army rank. We don’t have to respect the person to respect the position. That is why we still call Clinton “Mr. president” and why Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer was called general until that fateful day on the plains. It might be an ages old practice, but it isn’t one we should break just to make political points.

Now, outrage is a good and necessary thing. It helps us direct and marshal our forces to resist an enemy. But when we use our outrage it must be for real and legitimate reasons lest we become like our enemy. So, I would like to warn everyone that calling Keith Kerr a colonel only makes us look small and not very informed. There is no conspiracy here. Let this one go.

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