Jewish World Review Feb. 18, 2004 / 26 Shevat, 5764
The National Guard (again)http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Didn't we already fight the battle over the National Guard? It was 1988, and Dan Quayle had just been selected by presidential nominee George H.W. Bush as his running mate. At a news conference in New Orleans, Quayle was asked about his military service in the National Guard by ABC reporter Susan King. Quayle made what some reporters thought was a suspect defense of his motives for joining the Guard. The media accused Quayle of becoming a guardsman to avoid service in Vietnam.
Many of the assertions being made today about President Bush's Guard service were made against Quayle
in 1988. They included people's motives for joining the Guard and stories about those who avoided military
service through student deferments, high draft lottery numbers or string-pulling.
Could we please get back to issues, which are far more important than who did what and where more than
30 years ago? Does it matter now that John Kerry and Jane Fonda attended an anti-war rally and that a
picture of them has been circulated on the Internet and subsequently in many newspapers? I have a picture
of Jane Fonda and me together (though not at an anti-war rally). I also have pictures of me with Ted
Kennedy, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Walter Mondale, George McGovern, Norman Lear and Rep. Charles
Rangel (D-N.Y.). The gay congressman Barney Frank and I spent the night in the same hotel following a
debate (we were in separate rooms). Al Gore and I have been in each other's company. Does any of this
prove something about me? Only that I have a lot of liberal friends and acquaintances.
In 1965, I enlisted in the Army in order to avoid the draft because I was told the chances of getting a good
assignment (non-combat) were greater for enlistees than for draftees. I pulled some strings and was
assigned to Armed Forces Radio and Television in New York where I fought Commies at Broadway and
West 57th Street. When the bureau closed and moved to Washington, lower ranking enlisted men like me
were to be shipped to Vietnam, not to serve in combat roles but to broadcast to troops from Saigon, which I
was already doing from New York.
I was married with kids by then and had served about half the time I had promised the Army when I signed
up. I requested and received an early and honorable discharge.
Would this part of my life story disqualify me from running for president? Should it? Only if my opponents tried to spin it in a way that would damage whatever credibility I have today. And that is the line of attack Democrats, who defended Bill Clinton's crafty avoidance of service, are pursuing against President Bush. Credibility has been President Bush's strongest asset, especially following the Clinton years.
President Bush should quickly change the subject. What signal would it send to our highly motivated
enemies should America change leaders in mid-war? One of the reasons the United States prevailed in
World War II was the four terms to which Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected. Continuity at home helped
prosecute and win the war against Germany and Japan. The stakes today are higher. We cannot afford
trivial pursuits in presidential politics during wartime.
This isn't a game. It is about the survival of the United States of America and the values associated with
Western traditions. Rejecting an administration that has built a (so far) successful defense against terrorism
following 9/11 in favor of one with no such experience could give America's enemies a unique window of
opportunity to hit us again, and harder.
This is the line the Bush reelection team should take. We are at war, and we are likely to remain at war for a
very long time. Political games can be played after we win. They should not be played during the battle. Let's
forget the National Guard and what John Kerry did more than 30 years ago. These have nothing to do with
the current war, and pretending that they do will only make us more vulnerable in the crucial conflict to
ensure our survival.
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