Skip to comments.Bates College Professor: Bush Has "No character at All"
Posted on 07/11/2004 5:24:07 PM PDT by bogeybob
Bush vs. Kerry Judging the candidates' strength of character
Sunday, July 11,2004
When I was 21 years old, a college senior in 1969, I participated in my only lottery. I'm not a gambler, but my life was at stake. So were the lives of all American young men born between 1944 and 1950, as our birthdays were picked one by one to determine our order in the military draft. That moment in American history was the hardest test my generation took. Our answers have been judged for the rest of our lives.
My friends made difficult choices. Some quit college and signed up for the Marines. As places in the Reserves rapidly disappeared, one of my classmates joined just before the lottery. His birthday was then picked as number 2. Others who did the same thing got high lottery numbers, and wished they had waited. Men who opposed the war declared themselves conscientious objectors, an arduous test of both character and faith. A few moved to Canada, giving up connections with family and friends to avoid fighting in Vietnam. Some made themselves into targets of government harassment by publicly protesting the war.
I did nothing. I had no idea what I would do if my number was called. My birthday, Aug. 30, was pulled as number 333, and I was safe from the biggest killer of my generation. I discovered something about my own character: I wait to see what comes, rather than making elaborate preparations against the unknown.
I was lucky. I didn't have to cheat on that test in order to pass. Many did. Strong men with football injuries visited friendly doctors to get medical deferments. Others gambled with their health by losing so much weight that they failed the induction physical. I did not believe then that avoiding Vietnam by such means was an immoral act, and I haven't changed my mind. I have learned since then, though, how unfair the draft was - from beginning to end, as children of the middle class like me allowed the children of poor families to go in our places.
In the late stages of the Vietnam War, there were no easy alternatives. We were young and scared. We all had friends who came home in boxes. Our choices still resonate today. If this election is partly about military character, then the Vietnam era choices of our presidential candidates, and what they say about them now, reveal the starkest contrasts between George Bush and John Kerry.
Kerry's Vietnam service is a major element of his political self-promotion. He led men into battle and saved some lives by risking his own. He saw enough of the Vietnam War to convince him that the whole enterprise was wrong for America. When he returned to the United States, he joined with other veterans to do a very unpopular thing: he openly protested the war.
Being an antiwar protester in the early 1970s meant alienating family, losing friends, risking one's career, braving arrest and having one's patriotism questioned. Whatever we think of the correctness of such protest, it meant standing up for one's beliefs. Founding Vietnam Veterans Against the War took courage. Kerry demonstrated military character.
George Bush's Vietnam era activities could not have been more different. Even though he got a lower grade on the qualifying exam than many previous applicants, he was placed by political and family friends into the Texas Air National Guard in 1968, the year of the Tet offensive. That's how affirmative action worked in wartime, putting Bush in the place of another Texan with better military qualifications.
But I don't fault him for that. Many good men used every resource to avoid the scariest fate we could imagine. When my number came up as 333, I was not thinking of my country or of the other man who might have to serve because I didn't. I thought about how happy I was that I had dodged those bullets.
The next chapter of George Bush's life is, in my opinion, the key to his military character. By joining the National Guard, he made a commitment to a job. But while supposedly serving in Texas and Alabama, he disappeared so effectively that nobody can remember him doing anything of significance. Knowing that he was politically untouchable, he abandoned the men he served with. George Bush ignored his military responsibilities, to them and to his country.
Beyond toughness and courage and strength, military character is founded on duty. Although he won't admit it, Bush did not do the military duty for which he had volunteered, for which people had pulled strings, that got him out of Vietnam.
Bush made other choices about what to do in the years after college, 1968-1973. The public discussion of the president's past should focus more attention on those choices. What exactly did George Bush do every day in those years when he served in the Air National Guard? No person has come forward to say that they worked with George Bush on a daily basis, or even that they knew what he was doing. From his years at Yale through his first years in business world, George Bush accomplished little because he attempted little. When the United States was at war, Bush was a privileged goof-off.
Maybe this was the folly and the self-interest of youth. We can forgive people for ethical lapses and personal irresponsibility when they recognize their faults and change their ways. But Bush is not willing to be honest with us about his military service. I would bet that everyone in my generation knows exactly what they were doing in those years of Vietnam and Watergate. Bush pretends to remember very little.
But now Bush has changed his mind. His campaign ads attacking Kerry's patriotism because he protested the war show that Bush would like us to believe that he has military character. George Bush hid from danger as a young man, but now appears in flight gear on the USS Abraham Lincoln because he wants us to see him as a soldier for our country.
I don't know what it means to save a man's life, because I have never seen men killed. I don't know what to think about Kerry throwing away his medals, because I never got a medal. I don't know how much courage it took to ask combat veterans to protest the war in which they had just risked their lives. I do know that all those choices were difficult, and that each defines military character.
When he was young, George Bush shirked his responsibilities. He skipped through Yale and then disappeared for years. He avoided military service from inside the military. Now he continues to shirk his responsibility for a military that he commands. Bush poses in uniform, while his campaign ads attack the patriotism of men who served under fire. In the biggest military command scandal of this generation, at the Abu Ghraib prison, Bush blames "a few American troops who dishonored our country."
When the buck comes near, Bush turns his back.
AWOL's should not dress up as soldiers. War avoiders should not criticize the patriotism of war heroes or resisters. Shirking should not be part of a president's resume. I don't like hypocrites. I can't trust someone who skated through life on his family's influence, and then denies it. My generation faced tough choices. Some died for those choices. Some, like me, got lucky. Some changed their minds about the war, like Kerry. Many still carry their wounds. None of us respect those who went into hiding when things got tough, only to reappear as born-again patriots. That's not military character; that's not presidential character; that's no character at all.
Steve Hochstadt teaches history at Bates College.
I'll bet this guy really came down hard on Clinton. heh heh heh...
not a chance
He must mean that Bush isn't a character at all.
Another idiot traitor and fan of Michael Moron and Hanoi John.
Tell the truth. You really found this at one of the Indymedia sewers, didn't you?
Not an atoms worth of difference.
What is really pathetic is hearing all of those who yelled "baby killer" now singing the praises of a man who stated that he committed atrocities.
Enjoy...let this leftist looney know what you think about his article...
that is the saddest statement in the article.
A history teacher who cannot get facts straight and promotes 'paper-cut Kerry' as a hero- when the men he served with have gone to great lenghts to tell the public that he is unfit to server as commander-in-chief
Kerry volunteered only after his request for a deferment was denied. His first move was to escape from the military.
The author of this dribble is intellectually dishonest.
Another member of academe who didn't notice when the Bush-was-AWOL non-story was debunked.
Oh yeah..well at least he's safe to have around yer kids.
You got THAT right! He probably still loves Bubba.
Not surprising that a guy with the last name Bates would love Bubba.
Maybe the good perfesser would like to strap on a temperamental airplane with a not-so-great safety record like the F-102 and take a ride at Mach 1.5
For a fleeting moment I thought this was from Lewiston, Idaho, but I see it's Lewiston, Maine. Whew!
---I don't like hypocrites.---
Self hatred'll kill you.
...and you sit there and lecture Dubya on his character.
You, Dr. Hochstadt, are a piece of work.