Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown asks why "neither one went to Vietnam, when they were clearly of Vietnam age."
Topics: Politics News
As the GOP Convention devoted itself Tuesday to national security issues, a former Clinton administration secretary of veterans affairs launched a scathing attack against the enemy camp.
Jesse Brown, who served in the Clinton Cabinet from 1993 until 1997, slammed both members of the GOP ticket — both of whom took steps to avoid being drafted into military service during the Vietnam War — for what Brown deemed inadequate explanations as to why neither served.
“We want to know the circumstance of why neither one went to Vietnam when they were clearly of Vietnam age,” Brown, 56, said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “Too many people died during that period of time … for us not to ask those hard questions.”
Brown, who enlisted in the Marines and was disabled by a gunshot to his right arm in combat near Danang, served as executive director of the Washington headquarters of the Disabled American Veterans before President Clinton named him to his Cabinet in 1993. He stepped down in 1997, and is a consultant in Washington as well as a co-director of veterans for Gore.
“It appears that there’s widespread panic in the Gore campaign,” responded Bush campaign spokesman Dan Bartlett. “It shows you the lengths the Democratic Party will go to, to attack a ticket that is obviously resonating with the American people.”
Bartlett added that it was “highly hypocritical to attack Secretary Cheney and Governor Bush when he served for a president who didn’t serve in Vietnam and, by most accounts, avoided the draft himself.”
But Brown was careful in his criticism of the GOP ticket. “Both of them are honorable people,” Brown said of Bush, who served in the Texas Air National Guard, and Cheney, who despite having served as Bush’s father’s secretary of defense, five times sought and received three different types of deferments from military duty throughout the 1960s.
“However,” Brown said, “I think it is very, very important that the American people have a better understanding of their lack of military service during the Vietnam period.”
Clinton, Brown acknowledged, also avoided service the way that many wealthy, well-connected or industrious white men did at that time. “Absolutely,” Brown said. “And he paid a price for it.”
But unlike Cheney and Bush, Brown argued, Clinton’s draft-dodging was thoroughly and comprehensively covered by the media during the 1992 campaign, when his various obfuscations and manipulations were hashed out during the primaries.
“Scrutiny of his avoiding the draft became a matter of public record,” Brown said. “Every piece of information became available to the American people … And then the American people were able to judge based on all of the facts. We have a right to know what was in their minds when they were called upon to serve their nation.”
Specifically, Brown asked about a report that first appeared in the Boston Globe that a one-year gap — from May 1972 until May 1973 — exists in Bush’s National Guard service. Having transferred to Alabama to work on a Senate campaign, he was to have reported for duty at the Alabama Air National Guard. But no records exist in Alabama of his having reported for duty as ordered. He was to have reported to Lt. Col. William Turnipseed, but Turnipseed told the Globe that “To my knowledge, he never showed up … He was never a part of my unit.”
Bush disputes Turnipseed’s account, though he has said that he can’t recall specifics about what he was doing during that time.
“I fulfilled my duty, and I was honorably discharged and I’m proud of my service,” he said in June.
“No one knew where he was,” Brown said Tuesday. “How can you be a commander-in-chief if you are not keeping your commitment to the Houston Air National Guard at a time when people are still dying in Vietnam? The American people need a full accounting of his circumstances. It’s time for him to come clean.”
Bush spokesman Bartlett replied, “One thing that Secretary Brown needs to do is to get all his facts straight. Governor Bush met all of his requirements, and for him to say otherwise is a complete distortion of fact.”
Brown then tore into Cheney for saying to a reporter, in 1989, “I had other priorities in the ’60s than military service.”
Cheney received four 2-S draft deferments — granted to students — from 1963 through 1965 while he was a student at the University of Wyoming. He married Lynne in 1964, and was thus banned from the draft.
But in October 1965, the Selective Service announced that married men without children could then be drafted. Exactly nine months and two days later — on July 28, 1966 — his first child was born. Cheney hadn’t waited until her birth before he sought a 3-A deferment classification — given to those with dependents. He did so when Lynne was only 10 weeks pregnant.
Cheney’s “other priorities” didn’t seem much of an excuse to Brown. “As a former Marine who was wounded and nearly lost his life, I personally resent that comment,” Brown said. “I resent that he had ‘other priorities,’ when 58,000 people died and over 300,000 returned wounded and disabled. In my mind there is no doubt that because he had ‘other priorities’ someone died or was injured in his place.”
Bush spokesman Bartlett responded to Brown’s attack by saying that “Secretary Cheney had received deferments just like many Americans did. He has said that if he was called, he would have served.”
Bartlett called Brown’s comments a “desperate attack on the Bush-Cheney ticket.” He pointed out that Brown didn’t speak out against Clinton during the 1992 campaign — though Brown’s silence then, it can be observed, is not unlike the hush heard now from those Republicans who were once offended by Clinton’s activities during that era.
More Related Stories
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Guantánamo prisoner on hunger strike cries for help on Twitter
- 3 possible solutions to international tax avoidance
- “I just want the U.S. to send my father home”
- Army weapons engineer tied to white nationalist organizations
- Ted Cruz against the world
- David Vitter's hypocritical, punitive, horrible new amendment
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- Could hackers destroy the U.S. power grid?
- Democrats may be even worse than Republicans at regulating Wall Street
- Eric Holder versus journalism
- A progressive defense of drones
- There's no substitute for government disaster relief
- Holder signed off on search warrant for reporter
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- Closing Gitmo is not enough
- Murkowski: Palin too disengaged to run for Senate
- In IRS scandal, new GOP tactic is ignorance
- Code Pink activist berates Obama at national security speech
- Cuomo: "Shame on us" if New York City elects Weiner
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11