Where are our Swiftboaters?

Mitt Romney, who ducked the war in Vietnam and thinks his five sons are defending the country by working for his re-election, didn’t mention the troops in Afghanistan during his acceptance speech. The ad writes itself.

It’s news to me that Romney had four deferments to keep him out of Vietnam, but apparently it’s true. And the claim that his missionary work in France was somehow heroic doesn’t pass the giggle test. Of course I knew that he had five able-bodied sons, none of whom saw fit to serve, and that he’d said they were defending the country by working on his campaign. Add that to Romney’s failure to say a word about the troops in Afghanistan during the Convention, and you’ve got the basis for a pretty nice attack ad to be run by some SuperPac. Shouldn’t be too hard to find a couple of veterans to star in such an ad, which could be more viral than on-air. The point would not so much to win over independents as to keep some Republicans home.

Of course, unlike the Swiftboat attack ads in 2004, these ads could be 100% accurate.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

16 thoughts on “Where are our Swiftboaters?”

  1. So he’s a chickenhawk. Besides McCain can you name a major GOP pol who isn’t? The GOP base don’t care about substance. If they did they wouldn’t be the GOP base. Tough talk they like but the real thing is not required or expected.

    1. Not many I can think of, but here are a few:

      Alan West — Tea Party kook, but a 21-year career of military service, including several combat tours.

      Ron Paul — General all-around kook, but served on active duty as soon as he finished his education.

      Chuck Hagel — Not a kook at all, but perhaps also not a Republican any more, he has two Purple Hearts from his service in Nam.

  2. They slammed Kerry for slights imagined and ignored Cheney, who had five(?) deferments. I do think the Democrats are dropping the ball by not making this campaign about national security, that debate ends with one name.

  3. First, Romney really only had two deferments, the deferment for his missionary work and then a series of 2-S deferments when he was an undergraduate. The “four deferment” number comes from the fact that the 2-S deferments get renewed each year. However, I would think that most people would consider all of the 2-S deferments to be really only one deferment.

    Finally, like me, Romney was a “winner” in the initial draft lottery.

    The real point is not whether he was entitled to the deferments (as best as I can determine, he was), but why he didn’t volunteer? After all, Romney followed his father’s position. And, while his father withdrew his earlier support for the initiation of the war, he continued to support the Nixon Administration’s continuation of the war effort. In that respect, perhaps, there is an analogy to the Obama Administration’s continuation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    There is, however, a more apt comparison or contrast, namely that of Bill Clinton’s conduct. Like me, Clinton opposed the war. Thus, his seeking and obtention of a draft deferment was entirely consistent with his political beliefs at the time. He was roundly criticized by the right as being a draft dodger. In contrast, Romney’s actions were inconsistent with his political beliefs at the time unless one takes into account what we might consider his loadstar principle: What’s best for Mitt Romney is what I [that is, Mitt Romney] should do.

    1. In a sense, the perfect comparison is not only to Clinton, but also the other candidates who’ve faced that choice: George W Bush, Gore, and Kerry:
      George W Bush loudly supported the war, recognized the potential impact of ducking out on the war for his own later political ambitions and for his family’s – and used political influence to duck out on the war (by defending Texas from Viet Cong air attack, a commitment he later ducked out on).
      Al Gore Jr. opposed the war, recognized the potential impact of ducking out on the war for his own later political ambitions and for his family’s – and volunteered as an enlisted man.
      John Kerry opposed the war, recognized the potential impact of ducking out on the war for his own later political ambitions – and volunteered as an officer and requested the most hazardous duty available.
      Bill Clinton opposed the war, recognized the potential impact of ducking out on the war for his own later political ambitions – and after some earlier prevarication and attempt to go down the route taken by Bush (and Quayle), opted to be available to the draft.

      Also note: Mitt Romney has an older brother who might or might not have been of draftable age and would certainly have been of serviceable age during Vietnam (born 1941), and who didn’t serve. And Mitt’s father George Romney had four brothers, and his clan tends to large families; I’d bet Mitt Romney had a fair number of draftable first cousins – and I’d not bet that any of them served in the Vietnam war.

      1. I think you’re being a little harsh on the people who opposed the war. They were all young enough to have actually framed the issue in terms of doing what was right, especially back in a day when noblesse oblige did not call forth howls of derisive laughter.

  4. Did Romney’s Mormon mission to France involve anything other than selling Mormonism? If not, I don’t understand how it was worth a draft deferment. Not so much a knock on Romney for taking advantage as on our selective service system.

  5. Be nice. He did not say they were “defending” the nation. He said they were supporting the nation. Less hazardous.

  6. One of the best parts of the baby boomers soon being too old (after the 2016 cycle) to be plausible Presidential candidates is that we won’t have to hear about who did or did not serve in Vietnam anymore. It can’t come soon enough.

    1. Umm, begging your pardon, but I don’t think “baby boomer” means quite what you think it means, Ron. The leading edge of the boom (1946-50) will be at the outer edge of age plausibility in 2020. But there is a buttload of us in the crest of the boom who will be at the most plausible age (mid 60s or so).

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