follow the coverage of this election, you would thing the
war we are fighting right now was in Vietnam, not Iraq. Or
that military service, or theoretical support for military
servicepeople, was the only credential that would make a good
leader. Neither of those things are remotely true. However,
looking at who among the heavyweights in each of the major
political parties actually served does tell us a few things
about the pols’ and pundits’ attitudes toward service and
sacrifice, and about their willingness to talk about things
they may or may not have experienced firsthand.
Below we offer up a list of the actual military service records
of prominent Democrats, Republicans, and pundits, thanks to
Jan Frel of Alternet, interspersed with a sampling of quotes
from some of the folks who have been busy claiming the veterans
as their constituency.
As Frel says, there are some surprises here. Did you know
John Kerry received three purple hearts? Just kidding. But
there are some trends you should be able to discern:
Bonior, congressman, once minority whip: Staff Sgt., Air Force,
Leonard Boswell, congressman: Lt. Col., Army, 1956-76; Vietnam,
DFCs, Bronze Stars, and Soldier’s Medal.
Jimmy Carter, former president: Seven years in the Navy.
Wesley Clark, candidate for presidential nomination: U.S.
Army, 1966-2000, West Point, Vietnam, Purple Heart, Silver
Star. Retired 4-star general.
Max Cleland, former senator: Captain, Army, 1965-68; Silver
Star and Bronze Star, Vietnam.
Bill Clinton, former president: Did not serve. Student deferments.
Entered draft but received 311.
John Conyers, congressman: Army, 1950-57, Korea.
Tom Daschle, senator, democratic leader : 1st Lt., Air Force
Gray Davis, former governor of California: Army Captain in
Vietnam, Bronze Star.
John Dingell, congressman: WWII veteran.
John Edwards, senator, vice presidential candidate: Did not
Richard Gephardt, congressman, majority leader: Air National
John Glenn, former senator: WWII and Korea; six DFCs and Air
Medal with 18 Clusters.
Al Gore, former vice president: enlisted August 1969; sent
to Vietnam January 1971 as an army journalist in 20th Engineer
Tom Harkin, senator: Lt., Navy, 1962-67; Naval Reserve, 1968-74.
Howell Heflin, former senator: Silver Star.
Fritz Hollings, senator: Army officer in WWII, Bronze Star
and seven campaign ribbons.
Daniel Inouye, senator: Army, 1943-47; Medal of Honor, WWII.
Ted Kennedy, senator: Army, 1951-1953.
Bob Kerrey, former senator: Lt. j.g. Navy, 1966-69; Medal
of Honor, Vietnam.
John Kerry, senator, presidential candidate: Lt., Navy, 1966-70;
Silver Star and Bronze Star with Combat V Purple Hearts, Vietnam.
Tom Lantos, congressman: Served in Hungarian underground in
WWII. Saved by Raoul Wallenberg.
Bill McBride, candidate for Florida governor: Marine in Vietnam;
Bronze Star with Combat V.
George McGovern, former senator and presidential candidate:
Silver Star & DFC during WWII.
Walter Mondale, former vice president: Army, 1951-1953
Pete Peterson, former ambassador to Vietnam: Air Force Captain,
POW. Purple Heart, Silver Star and Legion of Merit.
Charles Rangel, congressman: Staff Sgt., Army, 1948-52; Bronze
Jack Reed, senator: Army Ranger, 1971-79; Captain, Army Reserve,
Chuck Robb, former senator: Vietnam.
Pete Stark, congressman: Air Force, 1955-57.
Mike Thompson, congressman: Staff Sgt., 173rd Airborne, Purple
Abrams, former state department official: Did not serve.
John Ashcroft, attorney general: Did not serve. Seven deferments
to teach business.
Roy Blunt, house whip: Did not serve.
Jeb Bush, governor of Florida: Did not serve.
G.H.W. Bush, former president: Pilot in WWII. Shot down by
George W. Bush, president: Six-year National Guard commitment
“In times of need, our nation counts on the Guard and Reserve
members to fulfill their commitments of service.”
Saxby Chambliss, senator: Did not serve. “Bad knee.” The man
who attacked Max Cleland’s patriotism.
Dick Cheney, vice president: Did not serve. Several deferments,
the last by marriage. “Now, we’ve lost people—and we’ll lose
more before this is over with. And it’s always a tragedy.
I know from my own service as Secretary of Defense, the biggest
regret you have is that you can’t bring them all home again
in one piece.”
Christopher Cox, congressman: Did not serve.
Duke Cunningham, congressman: Nominated for Medal of Honor,
Navy Cross, Silver Stars, Air Medals, Purple Hearts.
Tom Delay, house majority leader: Did not serve.
His excuse: “So many minority youths had volunteered for the
well-paying military positions to escape poverty and the ghetto
that there was literally no room for patriotic folks [like
me].” –Houston Press, 1999
Bob Dole, former senator: Honorable veteran.
Douglas Feith, under secretary of defense for policy: Did
Gerald Ford, president: Navy, WWII.
Bill Frist, senate majority leader: Did not serve.
Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the house of representatives:
Did not serve.
Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City: Did not serve.
Lindsey Graham, senator: National Guard lawyer.
Phil Gramm, Former Senator and Congressman: Did not serve.
Chuck Hagel, senator: Two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star,
Dennis Hastert, congressman: Did not serve.
Tim Hutchison, former senator: Did not serve.
Jon Kyl, senator: Did not serve.
Trent Lott, senator: Did not serve.
John McCain, Senator: Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of
Merit, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross.
Mitch McConnell, senator: Did not serve.
George Pataki, governor of New York: Did not serve. “Freedom
requires hard work and sacrifice.”
Richard Perle, chair of the Defense Policy Board: Did not
Ronald Reagan, former president: Due to poor eyesight served
in a noncombat role making movies.
Tom Ridge, secretary of homeland security: Bronze Star for
Valor in Vietnam.
Karl Rove, Bush campaign mastermind: Did not serve.
Don Rumsfeld, secretary of defense: Served in Navy (1954-57)
as aviator and flight instructor.
Rick Santorum, senator: Did not serve.
Antonin Scalia, supreme court justice: Did not serve.
Jeff Sessions, senator: Army Reserves, 1973-1986.
Richard Shelby, senator: Did not serve.
Clarence Thomas, supreme court justice: Did not serve..
J.C. Watts, former congressman: Did not serve.
Vin Weber, former congressman: Did not serve.
Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary for defense: Did not serve.
Bennett: Did not serve.
Paul Gigot: Did not serve.
Sean Hannity: Did not serve.
Bill Kristol: Did not serve.
Rush Limbaugh: Did not serve (4-F with a ‘pilonidal cyst.’)
Chris Matthews: Did not serve.
Michael Medved: Did not serve.
Bill O’Reilly: Did not serve.
Michael Savage: Did not serve.
Kenneth Starr, former special prosecutor: Did not serve.
George Will: Did not serve.