You know something? I no longer give a shit about what any Presidential candidate did during Vietnam. Do we really care whether someone dodged the draft 30-40 years ago. Hell, I’m not even the same person I was 30-40 minutes ago. People change. They realize their old ideas were wrong. I care about what a Presidential candidate wants to do to me today, not what he might have wanted in 1971 (when I hadn’t even been born anyway). Bill Clinton was a draft-dodging, war-protesting peacenik who used the military more often than his two predecessors combined. Jimmy Carter was a navy golden boy who couldn’t even extract hostages from Iran.
I realize it’s a hot-button issue for the Baby Boomer generation. I realize that for Vietnam Vets who went, the idea of appointing a dodger to the top office is offensive. But the war has been over for a very long time. There are more important issues to worry about.
The whole military service thing is a gigantic red herring anyway. It’s only trotted out to support or condemn the candidate of the commentator’s choice. As far as the Right is concerned, George Bush’s military service was exemplary while McCain’s and Kerry’s are irrelevant. And as far as the Left is concerned, Clinton’s draft-dodging meant nothing while Kerry’s service made him a hero. You don’t have to be an astrophysicist to see what’s going on here.
And here’s something that’s going to destroy what’s left of my conservative credentials: military experience does not necessarily a great President make. Teddy Roosevelt charged up San Juan Hill and was a terrible President. U.S. Grant was a great general whose reconstruction divided the South for a hundred years. You give me George Washington or Ike or Lincoln. I’ll throw back Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter. Many navy personnel thought Carter should have stayed in the navy and become a great admiral. They were right.
Here’s some great Presidents who had no military experience whatsoever: Thomas Jefferson, who fled Monticello as the British closed in (and was therefore branded a coward in the election of 1800). Calvin Coolidge presided over the second-best economic expansion in American history. FDR worked for the Department of the Navy in WWI and was paralyzed by 1921. Reagan technically served in WWII – making training films.
That Rudy Giuliani may have dodged the draft – and a one-year deferment isn’t exactly running away to Canada – is irrelevant. This is not 1972. This is 2008. Actually, it’s 2007. But it will be 2008 when this issue comes to fore.
I’m very happy that the Baby Boomers are getting too old to run for President. Hopefully, by 2012, we’ll never have to hear about what someone did during ‘Nam again.
Of course, by then, we’ll be hearing “I served in the Gulf War”!