Also, you may want to consider these fact before you make the switch.
Traditionally, the left has always had an inferiority
complex about military experience. In Britain, Ted
Heath (a wartime artillery colonel) used to patronise
Harold Wilson (who spent the war in Whitehall) on the
subject. Here in 1996 Bob Dole (badly wounded in the
second world war) played the same card against the
unheroic Bill Clinton. But as the Bush administration
paints itself into an ever-tighter corner with its
Iraq rhetoric, it is instructive to note the
astonishing extent to which those so anxious to stage
the next war managed to be absent from the last one.
The US is now mainly governed by men in their mid-50s,
ie the Vietnam generation - except that this lot
missed being the Vietnam generation. The
enterprisingly original New Hampshire Gazette
(www.nhgazette.com) maintains a "Chickenhawks"
database to tell their stories. Most of the
allegations fit with facts recorded elsewhere.
Not everyone is implicated: Colin Powell's military
record is solid, of course, which may help explain his
distaste for fighting; and Donald Rumsfeld , an older
man, was a naval aviator, albeit in the undramatic
mid-50s. Otherwise, it starts with the president, who
missed Vietnam by securing a cushy number in the Texas
air national guard after (so everyone assumes) his
congressman father pulled strings to get him in. It is
less well-known that Dick Cheney avoided the draft by
getting deferments, first because he was a student,
then because he was married. "I had other priorities
in the 60s than military service," he has said. Fine.
Me too, Dick. Some people have got other priorities
now. How about you?
Consider Washington's two most prominent superhawks:
Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld's deputy) and his adviser
Richard Perle. Who's Who in America is curiously vague
about their precise whereabouts in the late 1960s,
though it is fairly clear where they were not. As the
shrewd and sceptical Republican senator Chuck Hagel
said last week: "Maybe Mr Perle would like to be in
the first wave of those who go into Baghdad."
The two Democrat leaders in Congress, Dick Gephardt
and Tom Daschle , served; their Republican
counterparts, Trent Lott and Dick Armey , did not. Tom
DeLay , the most powerful hawk in the House of
Representatives, missed Vietnam too: he was working as
a pest exterminator. Reportedly, he once complained
that he would have served; but, he said, all the
places were taken up by ethnic minorities.
There are similar stories about almost every other
prominent rightwing Republican of recent vintage. Newt
Gingrich, ex-Speaker of the House, went the Cheney
route; Kenneth Starr , Clinton's legal nemesis, had
psoriasis; Jack Kemp , Dole's running mate in 1996, was
unfit because of a knee injury , though he heroically
continued as a National Football League quarterback
for another eight years; Pat Buchanan had arthritis in
his knees, though he soon became an avid jogger.
The best story concerns Rush Limbaugh , the ferociously
bellicose radio personality, who allegedly had either
"anal cysts" or an "ingrown hair follicle on his
bottom". It is not my custom to mock others' ailments,
but anyone who has listened to Limbaugh's programme
can imagine the dripping scorn he would bring to the
revelation that a prominent Democrat had skipped a war
over something like that. Also, in his case, a pain in
the arse is peculiarly appropriate.
Bring back the Concorde