Rudy and Romney: Artful dodgers

When the most belligerent Republicans start to beat the war drums, it's important to look at what they're trying to hide.

Topics: John F. Kerry, D-Mass., Mitt Romney, John McCain, R-Ariz., Rudy Giuliani,

Rudy and Romney: Artful dodgers

Nothing unites the Republican candidates for president or excites the conservative base more than their bellicose barking about war and confrontation. The GOP presidential debates often sound like a tough-man competition, with Rudolph Giuliani denouncing the “cut-and-run” Democrats, Mitt Romney demanding a double-size Guantánamo detention camp, and the rest of the pack struggling to keep pace with the snarling alpha dogs.

Yet while their rhetoric is invariably loud and aggressive, none of these martial orators has seen a day of military service — except for John McCain, whose prospects are rapidly deflating, and Duncan Hunter, whose campaign never got enough air for a single balloon. Unfortunately for those two decorated veterans, their party seems to prefer its hawks to be of the chicken variety.

None of this may matter much. Most of the Democratic candidates lack military experience, too. But when the most belligerent Republicans start to beat the war drums, it’s important to look at what they’re trying to hide.

Consider Giuliani, the former New York mayor who has remained among the most vocal supporters of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. He never hesitates to suggest that politicians with differing opinions simply lack guts. When he spoke at the 2004 Republican convention, he gleefully insinuated that Democratic nominee John Kerry lacked the fortitude to combat terrorism. Now he denigrates the supposedly spineless Democrats running for president in 2008.

But he has always confined his enthusiasm for war to podium speeches and position papers. Born in 1944, young Rudy was highly eligible for military service when he reached his 20s during the Vietnam War. He did not volunteer for combat — as Kerry did — and instead found a highly creative way to dodge the draft.

During his years as an undergraduate at Manhattan College and then at New York University Law School, Giuliani qualified for a student deferment. Upon graduation from law school in 1968, he lost that temporary deferment and his draft status reverted to 1-A, the designation awarded to those most qualified for induction into the Army.



At the same time, Giuliani won a clerkship with federal Judge Lloyd McMahon in the fabled Southern District of New York, where he would become the United States attorney. He naturally had no desire to trade his ticket on the legal profession’s fast track for latrine duty in the jungle. So he quickly applied for another deferment based on his judicial clerkship. This time the Selective Service System denied his claim.

That was when the desperate Giuliani prevailed upon his boss to write to the draft board, asking them to grant him a fresh deferment and reclassification as an “essential” civilian employee. As the great tabloid columnist Jimmy Breslin noted 20 years later, during the former prosecutor’s first campaign for mayor: “Giuliani did not attend the war in Vietnam because federal Judge Lloyd MacMahon [sic] wrote a letter to the draft board in 1969 and got him out. Giuliani was a law clerk for MacMahon, who at the time was hearing Selective Service cases. MacMahon’s letter to Giuliani’s draft board stated that Giuliani was so necessary as a law clerk that he could not be allowed to get shot at in Vietnam.”

His clerkship ended the following year but his luck held firm. By then President Nixon had transformed the Selective Service into a lottery system, and despite Rudy’s renewed 1-A status, he drew a high lottery number and was never drafted.

Today Giuliani’s problem is not avoiding military service but explaining how and why he avoided it. A spokesperson for the candidate recently told New York magazine that he “has made it clear that if he had been called up, he would have served,” which doesn’t quite expiate his strenuous efforts to make sure that never happened. Giuliani opposed the Vietnam War for “strategic and tactical” reasons as well, according to his flack. Of course, that sounds much like the bipartisan dissent against the Iraq war that he now dismisses so contemptuously.

If Giuliani has a draft problem, Romney’s may be even worse. The former Massachusetts governor, whose supporters object strenuously to any discussion of his religious beliefs, got his military service deferred thanks to the Mormon church.

Like Giuliani and millions of other young American men at the time, Romney started out with student deferments. But he left Stanford after only two semesters in 1966 and would have become eligible for the draft — except that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Michigan, his home state, provided him with a fresh deferment as a missionary. According to an excellent investigative series that appeared last month in the Boston Globe, that deferment, which described Romney as a “minister of religion or divinity student,” protected him from the draft between July 1966 and February 1969, when he enrolled in Brigham Young University to complete his undergraduate degree. Mormons in each state could select a limited number of young men upon whom to confer missionary status during the Vietnam years, and Romney was fortunate enough to be chosen. (Coincidentally, or possibly not, Mitt’s father, George W. Romney, was governor of Michigan at the time.)

Now Romney echoes Giuliani by asserting that if he had been called, he would have served. “I was supportive of my country,” he told Globe reporter Michael Kranish. “I longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam and be representing our country there and in some ways it was frustrating not to feel like I was there as part of the troops that were fighting in Vietnam.” Perhaps. But it is hard to blame Romney for choosing missionary work over military service. After all, the Mormons didn’t send him to proselytize in the slums of the Philippines, Guatemala or Kenya.

They sent him to France.

Joe Conason is the editor in chief of NationalMemo.com. To find out more about Joe Conason, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 22
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Talking Heads, 1977
    This was their first weekend as a foursome at CBGB’s, after adding Jerry Harrison, before they started recording the LP “Talking Heads: 77.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith, Bowery 1976
    Patti lit up by the Bowery streetlights. I tapped her on the shoulder, asked if I could do a picture, took two shots and everyone went back to what they were doing. 1/4 second at f/5.6 no tripod.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Blondie, 1977
    This was taken at the Punk Magazine Benefit show. According to Chris Stein (seated, on slide guitar), they were playing “Little Red Rooster.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    No Wave Punks, Bowery Summer 1978
    They were sitting just like this when I walked out of CBGB's. Me: “Don’t move” They didn’t. L to R: Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field, Liz Seidman.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell + Bob Quine, 1978
    Richard Hell and the Voidoids, playing CBGB's in 1978, with Richard’s peerless guitar player Robert Quine. Sorely missed, Quine died in 2004.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bathroom, 1977
    This photograph of mine was used to create the “replica” CBGB's bathroom in the Punk Couture show last summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I got into the Met with a bathroom photo.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Stiv Bators + Divine, 1978
    Stiv Bators, Divine and the Dead Boys at the Blitz Benefit show for injured Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977
    “The kids are all hopped up and ready to go…” View from the unique "side stage" at CBGB's that you had to walk past to get to the basement bathrooms.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch – Bowery 1978
    Jarmusch was still in film school, Parker was starring in Jim’s first film "Permanent Vacation" and Klaus just appeared out of nowhere.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Hilly Kristal, Bowery 1977
    When I used to show people this picture of owner Hilly Kristal, they would ask me “Why did you photograph that guy? He’s not a punk!” Now they know why. None of these pictures would have existed without Hilly Kristal.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Dictators, Bowery 1976
    Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators with his girlfriend Jody. I took this shot as a thank you for him returning the wallet I’d lost the night before at CBGB's. He doesn’t like that I tell people he returned it with everything in it.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977
    We were on the median strip on the Bowery shooting what became a 45 single sleeve for Alex’s “Bangkok.” A drop of rain landed on the camera lens by accident. Definitely a lucky night!

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery view, 1977
    The view from across the Bowery in the summer of 1977.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977 – never before printed
    I loved shooting The Ramones. They would play two sets a night, four nights a week at CBGB's, and I’d be there for all of them. This shot is notable for Johnny playing a Strat, rather than his usual Mosrite. Maybe he’d just broken a string. Love that hair.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell, Bowery 1977 – never before printed
    Richard exiting CBGB's with his guitar at 4am, about to step into a Bowery rainstorm. I’ve always printed the shots of him in the rain, but this one is a real standout to me now.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith + Ronnie Spector, 1979
    May 24th – Bob Dylan Birthday show – Patti “invited” everyone at that night’s Palladium show on 14th Street down to CBGB's to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. Here, Patti and Ronnie are doing “Be My Baby.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Legs McNeil, 1977
    Legs, ready for his close-up, near the front door of CBGB's.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Suicide, 1977
    Rev and Alan Vega – I thought Alan was going to hit me with that chain. This was the Punk Magazine Benefit show.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ian Hunter and Fans, outside bathroom
    I always think of “All the Young Dudes” when I look at this shot. These fans had caught Ian Hunter in the CBGB's basement outside the bathrooms, and I just stepped in to record the moment.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Tommy Ramone, 1977
    Only at CBGB's could I have gotten this shot of Tommy Ramone seen through Johnny Ramones legs.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery 4am, 1977
    End of the night garbage run. Time to go home.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>