Man Without Qualities

Friday, September 03, 2004


One of John Kerry's more pathetic answers to the firestorm that is the inevitable and oft-predicted consequence of his having made his essentially irrelevant 4 months of Vietnam service the centerpiece of his Presidential bid is his criticism of Vice President Cheney's five draft deferments:

"The vice president called me unfit for office last night," Mr. Kerry said. "Well, I'm going to leave it up to the voters to decide whether five deferments make someone more qualified than two tours of duty."

Mr. Cheney received five deferments and did not serve in the military..

Voters should be free and informed to decide whether they care about Senator Kerry's charge - although I don't think it makes much sense (or has much force) as a campaign argument. But what about those "five deferments?" Why would anyone even need five deferments? Why did Mr. Cheney need to request five deferments?

Well, it turns out that Mr. Cheney mostly seems to have changed schools as a college student, and simply needed to make additional requests to accommodate the move. Mr. Cheney was born in Lincoln, Nebr., January 30, 1941; attended public schools in Lincoln and Casper, Wyo.; attended Yale University 1959-1960; Casper College, Casper, Wyo. 1963; B.A., University of Wyoming, Laramie 1965; M.A., University of Wyoming 1966; Ph.D. candidate, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis. 1968. Here's the apparent story, as gleaned from various sources on the web - some of them violently anti-Cheney:

1. While Mr. Cheney was at Yale the military was taking only older men and he therefore needed no deferment at that time.

2. Mr. Cheney enrolled in Casper Community College in January 1963 he turned 22 that month and sought his first student deferment on March 20, according to records from the Selective Service System.

3. After transferring to the University of Wyoming at Laramie, he sought his second student deferment on July 23, 1963.

4. Just 22 days later, Mr. Cheney married his high school sweetheart, Lynne. He sought his third student deferment on Oct. 14, 1964.

5. Mr. Cheney obtained his fourth deferment when he started graduate school at the University of Wyoming on Nov. 1, 1965.

6. On Jan. 19, 1966, when his wife was about 10 weeks pregnant, Mr. Cheney applied for 3-A status, the "hardship" exemption (his fifth deferment), which excluded men with children or dependent parents. It was granted.

In January 1967, Mr. Cheney turned 26 and was no longer eligible for the draft.
So it seems that three of Mr. Cheney's deferments cover only his undergraduate career. Senator Kerry also requested and was granted a deferment for his undergraduate education - but only one deferment was to cover that period in his career only because he didn't change schools.

Then Mr. Cheney requested and was granted a deferment to cover his post-college education. When the "married man" deferment was ended, Mr. Cheney was granted an exemption based on his being a "married father." This seems entirely technical - the two deferments are essentially a single deferment.

Senator Kerry also requested a post-college deferment to allow him to study in Paris - but it was denied. Senator Kerry then enlisted in the Navy rather than be drafted. He and his his supporters have characterized that enlistment as "volunteering," which it technically was. But the Senator could not have avoided service by not "volunteering" - contrary to what was squarely and falsely asserted by Bill Clinton in his Boston convention address and what the Senator has often attempted to induce the public to believe.

In sum: Mr. Cheney requested two substantively separate deferments from the draft - both were granted. Senator Kerry also requested two separate deferments from the draft - one of which was granted and one was denied. He then enlisted in the Navy to avoid being drafted.

So what's the big deal? The differences between Mr. Cheney's requests for deferments and Senator Kerry's seem to be entirely technical - except for differences arising solely from the Senator's second request for a deferment being denied by his draft board. It seems a stretch to argue that one is entitled to be President because of something one's draft board did thirty-some-odd years ago.

POSTSCRIPT: One may be able to view these deferments another way: Mr. Cheney obtained deferments for four years of his life (ages 22 through 26). While I have not been able to definitively determine the date of Senator Kerry's deferment, he seems to have obtained a single four year deferment for his four years at Yale. Senator Kerry then tried to obtain further deferment, which would have secured for him more total deferment in excess of the four years of deferment both he and Mr. Cheney had obtained. But Senator Kerry's draft board denied that second request.

This is heroic patriotic intent on John Kerry's part? I don't think so. The man should just pipe down about draft deferments and make the best of what he's got. What he's doing now is embarrassing ... for him, the Democratic Party, veterans everywhere and the country as a whole.

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