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 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • 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>