12 February 2004
Says you, John
Senator John Edwards was grilled (actually, sort of warmed over) by Katie Couric on NBC's Today show this morning, and in the wake of various Kerry and Bush stories, she asked him about his own military experience.
Which he didn't have; he pointed out that he's 50 now, and by the time he turned 18, the draft was pretty much done away with, so "I did not have to serve."
I'm 50 now, and I still have my draft card, and I still have my draft lottery number (which was twenty-five). John Edwards is not quite six months older than I am; I rather doubt that they'd cancel the draft for him and then bring it back for me.
(Update, 1:30 pm: I poked around the Selective Service System site and got Edwards' lottery number, which was 178. Certainly he was never actually called for the draft. Still, the way he answered this morning there's video on the MSNBC site linked above [requires Windows Media Player 9] could lead someone to think that he'd somehow gotten away with something. Or worse, that he thought he'd gotten away with something.) Posted at 8:38 AM to Political Science Fiction
» Well, Sen. Edwards, You Could Have Volunteered! from blogoSFERICS
Anyone buying John Edwards's claim that he was too young to be drafted needs to consult with somebody who wasn't......[read more]
» Edwards and the draft from The Interocitor
According to dustbury, John Edwards made a comment on the Today show to the effect that he never served in the military since "the draft was pretty much done away with" when he became eligible. Dustbury suggests that he has......[read more]
The explanation I heard before was that his draft number was very high. No mention of that this AM?
If John Edwards is 50, it was 1972 when he was 18. I didn't catch the show this morning; he said the draft was pretty much done away with when he turned 18?
Forgive me if I'm wrong; the only thing I really remember was the May 4 and being on Kent State's campus at that time in 1970, but if the war ended in 1975, wouldn't that make the draft fairly active in 1972?
The February 1972 lottery was for men born in 1953, which he was. (And which I was.) This was the last lottery held. And at that time, they were still drafting from the previous lottery; they weren't scheduled to start drafting from the '72 lottery until January '73. (By which time I was about to get my PFC stripe, but that's another story.)
On 1 July '73 the draft was put on hold indefinitely, mostly because Congress refused to give it the usual extension.
I was also born in 1953 and in said lottery my number was 256 :) The downside to that though was my liability was extended to age 35!
Edwards could also have had a 2-S student deferment. All I know is that with the lottery, if you were classified 1-A and you were not drafted in your eligble year, you were reclassified 1-H which pretty much meant they were taking women and children before you.
I turn 50 in a few days. While I don't recall all the details, the draft WAS pretty much over when my year's numbers were pulled. The draft (and the war) was winding down, and it was decided that they would draw numbers for several more years -- just in case -- but they did not expect to call up anyone (and did not call up anyone) starting with either the 71 or 72 draft.
Certainly anyone still in college with a student deferrment was never going to be called. People 50 today typically were in college from 1972-1976. One would assume that Edwards was in college at the time.
So, Edwards' comments are quite reaonable to me.
I don't think he was necessarily trying to be deceptive. However, he's going to have to do a better job of explaining himself in the future to the extent that he has a future as a candidate, which isn't all that much.
At least he didn't actually dodge the draft.
I'll be 51 in a month, and have clear and (I think) accurate memories of how the draft worked for people my age. I also still have my draft card -- very ragged because I kept it in my wallet for 20+ years and only took it out when the wear and tear had gotten quite serious. I think my number was 170: not very high, but high enough.
As I recall, everyone born in 1953 was subjected to the lottery, and those with numbers under 105 were given physicals, though only those under 70 or so were expected to have much chance of being drafted -- barring a military emergency, of course. One of my college classmates (draft number: 2) went on a crash diet and exercised heavily for months so he could flunk the physical by being under the minimum weight. He succeeded: I think his final weight was 108 for a height of 5'10" or 5'11". The guy who weighed him said something like "Keep up the diet, kid, and come back in six months and you're home free". Apparently for possibly-temporary conditions like pseudo-anorexia, candidates had to flunk the physical twice. But (as I recall) the draft was canceled between the two physicals, so he never had to go back. I'm pretty sure no one born in 1953 was actually drafted.
One side note: When Jimmy Carter (I think it was) restarted draft registration a few years later, the original plan was to register everyone from 18 to (I think it was) 27, so there would be plenty of candidates to choose from in case of a major war. They soon reconsidered, and decided that only 18-year-olds would have to register, though that would leave the available pool rather small to begin with. Anyway, according to the original plan, those of us born in the first 3 months of 1953 would have been the only ones to have to register for the new draft at 27 who had previously had to register for the old one at 18.
I guess I should have checked before writing my previous comment. My draft number was 152, not 170, though I did get the other guy's right: he's 8 days older than I and got a 2.
One of our other classmates had a single-digit draft number, but was rather smug about it because he also had 20/400 vision.