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Did Curt Weldon Dodge the Draft?

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If you’re not familiar with Curt Weldon, he’s the guy who wanted to take his shovel to Iraq, and excavate the country in hopes of finding WMD nobody else could find. It earned him a little chiding and by inference the title of Indiana Weldon in the Philadelphia Inquirer. He was also the leader in the Able Danger campaign, doing blogger conference calls ad nauseam to drum up support for the now infamous group. Well, in the past months, something else has come to my attention that casts further doubt on Mr. Weldon’s credibility.

"Where is Weldon’s uniform? Why didn’t Weldon serve during the ’60s. There was a war on; there was a draft. … He wasn’t drafted. Why?"Rocco Polidoro, Republican co-chair of Veterans for Sestak

I got interested in the Weldon – Sestak race when Curt Weldon decided to swiftboat Joe Sestak, starting with a smear against his daughter, who just so happened to be fighting a malignant brain tumor at the time. Classy stuff in this race, because Weldon didn’t stop there, next swiftboating Sestak for wearing his uniform, which was quickly smacked down. Evidently Curt was a little jealous he didn’t have one. Which brings me to the point of this post. Why didn’t Curt Weldon have a uniform of his own?

As Rocco Polidoro asked back in July, why wasn’t Curt Weldon drafted? It’s a logical question given his birth date is July 22, 1947. That would have made him of prime drafting age when the first lottery was launched in December 1969. Why does this matter today?

Curt Weldon, in addition to swiftboating his veteran opponent Joe Sestak, is the second ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. He sits along side one of my other favorites Rep. Duncan Hunter who has been front and center in the swiftboating of Jack Murtha, which I chronicled for The Patriot Project. I’ve done many pieces on swiftboating, my most recent for Alternet. Weldon is also always trumpeting his support for the troops. But if Weldon is so supportive of the troops why didn’t he serve when he had the chance? And boy did he have a chance.

The following comes from a New York Times piece dated December 4, 1969 by David E. Rosenbaum, "Questions and Answers of Draft." As a blog reporter, one of the many hats I wear that includes radio host, I get lots of things slipped to me over the transom, while other things just fall into my lap. This was one of them, which is just a sampling of the material I’ve received over the last couple of months. Oh, and by the way, none of the information in this post was given to me by the Sestak campaign. Let’s just say Weldon has made some enemies, especially when he started swiftboating a veteran.

Since the draft lottery was conducted Monday night, the national Selective Service headquarters, local draft boards and newspaper offices have been deluged with telephone calls from persons with questions about their draft status.

Following are some of the most frequently asked questions and their answers:

Q. Who was affected by the lottery. A. Men born between Jan. 1, 1944, and Dec. 31, 1950. In other words, men who have had their 19th birthday by Jan. 1 but not their 26th.

(snip)

Q. What numbers are likely to be called?

A Pentagon experts say that the first third–numbers 1 to 122–are certain to be called; the last third, 245-366, certain not to be called; and the middle third not certain one way or the other. One expert who has done careful calculations believes the cutoff number will be somewhere between 165 and 195.

Q. Is the sequence applied nationally, or is it my place in the sequence within my own draft board that counts?

A. It is the sequence in each local board that matters. But the cutoff number between those who are drafted and those who are not will not vary much from board to board. …

Questions and Answers on Draft (Dec 4, 1969)
by David E. Rosenbaum – Special to The New York Times

According to the Selective Service System, using his birth date, Curt Weldon would have had number 153 in the first draft lottery held since 1947: "This event determined the order of call for induction during calendar year 1970, that is, for registrants born between January 1, 1944, and December 31, 1950." According to official records, 162,746 men were inducted in 1970.

Rep. Curt Weldon says he wanted to serve. According to the DelcoTimes the reason he didn’t was because his eyesight was so bad they wouldn’t take him.

Pete Peterson, a Weldon spokesman, said Polidoro’s position within the Sestak campaign proves that the Memorial Day parade was a political event in which a Navy uniform cannot be worn.

"That demonstrates right there that his invitation was political," Peterson said.

He added that Weldon, 59, "wanted to serve, but the military would not take him because of his extremely poor eyesight."

Pa. GOP rips Sestak for wearing Navy uniform

Here are the Medical Fitness Standards used back in 1969 for the Selective Service, for which I can’t provide a link, but I offer verbatim through section "2-13. Vision".

The causes for medical rejection for appointment, enlistment, and induction are listed below. The special administrative criteria for officer assignment to Armor, Artillery, Infantry, Corps of Engineers, Singal Corps, and Military Police Corps are listed in paragraph 7-15.

a. Distant visual acuity. Distant visual acuity of any degree which does not correct to at least one of the following:

(1) 20/40 in one eye and 20/70 in the other eye.

(2) 20/30 in one eye and 20/100 in the other eye.

(3) 20/20 in one eye and 20/400 in the other eye.

…or if an ophthalmological consultation reveals a condition which is disqualifying. …

How bad do your eyes have to be before you weren’t accepted in 1969? I wasn’t able to find anyone to answer that question, but it seems the Army can always find something for a near-blind soldier to do. In fact, one eye specialist who would not go on record simply stated that you’d have to be almost blind not to go, using the vision guide above. The following is from another war, but an interesting anecdote to say the least.

I did have another ace, however. My eyesight was 20/ 400, far below minimum army requirements. I was, again, so sure the Army would not accept me that I told my New York roommate not to pack my things . . . I’d be back in a few days. At my physical exam the Army doctor asked me to read the top line of the eye chart. When I claimed, half in jest, that I couldn’t even see the chart, he laughed, patted me on the back and assured me that the Army could always find some job for a near- blind draftee. After all it was only for twelve months. Trying a different tack, I unleashed on the doctor my outrage over the Army’s carefree willingness to relax its high standards for service. But he was already examining the next recruit, and I was soon off to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, to join the Ohio 37th National Guard Division training there, accompanied by my dear childhood friend, Carl Ablon, who was not drafted but volunteered because he wanted to share this experience with me. A RELUCTANT SOLDIER

If Rep. Weldon did indeed have eyesight too poor to be drafted, he would have had an Armed Forces Medical Examination during his Induction physical in which he would have received a medical exemption . There is the other possibility that he was pronounced medically unfit, as a colleague said to me, prior to being called to report. If none of these things happened then Curt Weldon would have been drafted, because his number was low enough for Uncle Sam to reach out and touch him directly.

So if Weldon’s spokesperson Pete Peterson was correct, that Weldon "wanted to serve but the military would not take him because of his extremely poor eyesight," there should be records of what exactly went down, right? Has anyone in the media asked him these questions? To my knowledge no one has ever pressed Rep. Curt Weldon on the specifics of his draft story. Did Curt Weldon seek a medical exemption after drawing number 153 in the Vietnam draft of December 1969? If not, why wasn’t he drafted?

That would be the only question except that Weldon’s bad eyesight story is new. This really bothers me. Because whenever a politician has shifting rationale for something as important as why he didn’t serve in the Vietnam war, alarm bells always go off. This is especially true when the person in question is an avowed hawk and military cheerleader, while taking every opportunity to swiftboat his political opponent who is not only a veteran, but a Democrat. I lived through Vietnam and remember the panic, especially during the 1969 draft. No one wanted to go to Vietnam by 1970.

During the 2000 elections, when Curt Weldon was railing at Al Gore, a completely different reason was given for why he didn’t serve in Vietnam.

Weldon never served in the military. His office has said he used student and teaching deferments during the Vietnam era, and had a low number when the draft lottery was reinstated.

Curt demands count of military ballots

Obviously, the writer of the above article got something wrong, or was it a freudian slip by Weldon’s "office"? A "low number" is exactly what Weldon had in 1969 (number 153). The writer meant a high draft number, which would mean he wouldn’t be called. As for his deferments, they would have run their course and not covered the period after 1969, as far as I’ve been able to discern.

Why did Weldon say one thing about not serving in Vietnam in 2000, talking about deferments, then come up with the bad eyesight version in 2006?

So did Curt Weldon, an avowed war hawk and a man who drapes himself in the military dodge the draft? Reached for comment, no one was available, so I left a message with Weldon’s Director of Communications John Tomaszewski, who was with the congressman when I called. He has not gotten back to me as of this posting.

Maybe the DelcoTimes can get busy getting answers to these questions, which is their job. Because the voters in Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District need to know if a pro-war hawk who swiftboats Democratic veterans, but fabricates his own draft story that has changed at least once, is really a poser at heart. Draping himself in servicemen and women today shouldn’t let him off the hook for his shifting Vietnam draft stories.

Speaking of Weldon being a war hawk, there is a new development on that front. Mr. Weldon has presented a plan for Iraq "withdrawal". It’s called, Iraq: A Milestone Plan for Withdrawal. If Indiana Weldon, the man who trumpeted Able Danger, wants to withdraw from Iraq, Republicans must be indeed be getting very nervous.

But if you think that’s interesting, did you hear the one about Weldon using his congressional office to put together a "hit list" of people in the national security field who dare to contribute to his opponent, veteran Joe Sestak? It doesn’t sound very kosher to me.

to be continued…

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Taylor Marsh

Taylor Marsh

Taylor is a political commentator and radio personality who has been interviewed by C-SPAN's Washington Journal and all across TV and right-wing radio. She's been on the web for 10 years, going to blogging in late 2005. Taylor is affiliated with The Patriot Project, writes for Huffington Post, as well as Alternet. Her radio show debuted in 2002, which she now brings to her blog Mon-Thur, 6:00 p.m. Eastern or 3:00 p.m. Pacific. One of her passions is painting and creating political art. The graphic at the top of her blog is taken from the expressionist flag art that hangs in her home. She was born in Missouri, and has lived in New York City, Los Angeles and Las Vegas and some points in between.

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