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GOP presidential contender chickenhawks

Salon’s Joe Conason has a fun piece up today, Rudy and Romney: Artful dodgers, on the Yellow Elephant credentials of Rudy and Mitt, who went through great pains not to serve in Vietnam, but today are stay-the-course war hawks.

In Rudy’s case, for instance, he was quite eligible to serve, but he didn’t sign up. He received a student deferment while at  Manhattan College and then at New York University Law School, but when that status was changed after graduation and he was up for the draft. That clearly wouldn’t do, so after he obtained a clerkship with federal Judge Lloyd McMahon in the fabled Southern District of New York he tried to parlay that into another deferment.  The Selective Service System denied his claim, so he feverishly found another way out of serving his country.

Giuliani was a law clerk for MacMahon, who at the time was hearing Selective Service cases. 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.”

Of course now, Rudy he would have serve had he been called, but if you were constantly dodging the ability to be called, that doesn’t exactly sound like stepping up to the plate to serve.

Mitt’s problems are after the jump…Mitt Romney doesn’t like discussion about his religion being part of the political debate, but as Joe Conason reports, he didn’t mind relying on it to get out of serving.

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.

The problem with both of these guys — and the rest of the chickenhawks — is that they are symptomatic of the larger problem that the rich, powerful, or those with access don’t have to serve, and thus military misadventures are a price others have to pay. Until service is compulsory, they — or their children — will never have to sacrifice. What we are seeing is the kind of hypocritical “leadership” that continue will drag us into endless, unnecessary conflicts as political sport.

As we saw yesterday, the Young Republicans filmed by Max Blumenthal had no problem making excuses why we should keep fighting in Iraq while they sit on their keisters pontificating at home.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding