Thursday, July 29, 2004

politicians in Vietnam

Derbyshire on Vietnam service:
Now look. We all know what happened when time came for George W. Bush to make his Vietnam decisions. His family, like 90 percent of well-connected elite families in America at that time, made a few phone calls & got him a stateside billet. This option was not open to most Americans. I don't know Cheney's situation, but I imagine something similar happened.

As I said, and still say: That, for me, takes some of the shine off the ticket. Sure, flying National Guard is tricky, dangerous, and -- yes -- useful. But you're not getting shot at by America's enemies, as John Kerry certainly was.

Bush and Cheney (and Bill Clinton, and Pat Buchanan, and many others -- far too many others -- of their generation) took a pass on Vietnam, and let someone else less well-connected go fight for them. John Kerry didn't. I won't be voting for the guy, but facts is facts.
I disagree on three points. First, I don't think it is settled that Bush's family got him the National Guard billet in order to keep him out of Vietnam. First, anyone could join the National Guard. You didn't need family connections. Second, you were more likely to go to Vietnam as a member of the Guard than as a civilian, even with the draft. Third, if there was any help from his family, it was probably to get him into fighter-pilot training, not to keep him out of combat.

Pilot positions are extremely hard to get in the Air Force, and fighter-pilot positions even more so. His dad was a fighter pilot and he wanted to be one too, so he used his connections. And it is probably a lot easier to manipulate the Guard politically than the Air Force. Maybe there is something blameworthy here, but nothing cowardly. Also, Bush volunteered for a unit that was in combat in Vietnam. I've never seen any evidence that Bush tried to avoid Vietnam, much less that he used family connections to do so.

Cheney had a perfectly legal exemption available to all Americans. He was married with a child.

John Kerry, on the other hand deliberately exploited the system. He gave himself three contrived purple hearts (along with other contrived medals) and then used them to get out of Vietnam after only a few months. I suspect he planned it that way from the beginning. John Kerry gets no credit for Vietnam in my book because he did it for purely cynical and self-centered motives.

Yes, he had the physical courage to go, but that's no big deal. At that age, boys think they are bullet-proof. I know I did (still do because I'm Doc Rampage). Heroes are heroes because they sacrifice for others. Taking a calculated risk to enhance your future political career is not heroism. It's not laudable in any sense.

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