Chicken-hawk and a hypocrite

By Salon

In an article published last year  in the New York Daily News, Wayne Barrett, a biographer of Donald Trump, is quoted as saying that Trump’s evasion of the draft “fit a pattern of avoidance that was commonplace in his generation.” I saw that referenced in a piece this week on Media Matters by Eric Boehlert, one criticizing the coverage of Trump’s lack of military service against the background of scalding press depictions of Bill Clinton and even of Al Gore and John Kerry, both of whom served in Vietnam.

As Boehlert noted:

(I)n the Rolling Thunder rally coverage, there was little press attention paid to the fact that Trump himself actively avoided the draft during the Vietnam War, which seemed relevant considering he was speaking to so many Vietnam vets at an event dedicated to honoring America’s prisoners of war and military members who are missing in action. Typically the campaign press lingers over issues of awkward optics like that. But not for Trump and Rolling Thunder.

While writing “the blunt-spoken Mr. Trump” “likes to stress his desire to strengthen the military and improve how veterans are treated,” The New York Times made no reference to Trump’s Vietnam avoidance.

The “pattern” that Barrett refers to is a bit more complicated than he lets on. For one thing, it was only “commonplace” among those of certain economic classes. The working class and the poor had no clue, for the most part, about how to go about getting the 1-Y classification that Trump was given.
Among those trying to avoid the draft, it was gold-star status, but it was only one of many ways of getting out of serving—all of which were options for the rich, not the poor.

Phil Ochs catalogued these in his scathing satiric song “Draft Dodger Rag,” ending the last verse with:
So I wish you well, Sarge, give ’em Hell!
Kill me a thousand or so
And if you ever get a war without blood and gore
I’ll be the first to go.
Not many who were evading the draft were doing so out of conscience. Maybe they threw a word or two in that direction, but their primary concern was themselves. As Trump’s was, and Clinton’s.

Most of us boys, on graduation from high school in the 1960s and turning 18, registered for the draft and were, fairly soon, classified 1-A—or prime cannon fodder. Each draft board was given a number it had to meet from those in the 1-A category. That meant each deferment shifted the burden onto a smaller group of potential draftees. Each time a Trump or Clinton got out, in other words, another had to go.

The same was true for those who went to Canada. It wasn’t entirely a victimless crime: Someone had to go into the Army instead.

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