Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Hyman & the Desperation

Every time it seems Mark Hyman’s editorials can’t get more obtuse, he manages to push the edge of the envelope just a bit more. We’ve noted many times that neither consistency nor facts get in the way of Hyman’s rants, but the most recent “Point” has gone well into the realm of the simply absurd.

"Kerry & the Oath", Hyman claims we can’t trust John Kerry to be president because in 1971, Kerry was part of a group of veterans who stayed on the Mall in Washington D.C. during an anti-war protest, violating his oath as a member of the military and a “crystal clear” injunction issued by the Washington District Court.

It’s difficult to maintain a tone of intellectual debate when the opposition seems so desperate and out of touch, but we’ll try.

First, some facts: As part of “Dewey Canyon III,” the protest organized by anti-war veterans in the spring of 1971, a large group of former servicemen planned to camp on the Mall in Washington during the several days of the planned demonstration. The Justice Department got an injunction to prevent the veterans from camping on the Mall. The Washington District Court of Appeals overturned the injunction (contrary to Hyman’s claims), allowing the veterans to stay on the Mall. After the protest had started, Chief Justice Warren Berger reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals. Ultimately, the Supreme Court made the bizarre ruling that the veterans could stay on the Mall, but they could not sleep there. How law enforcement was supposed to tell whether or not the veterans were “staying” or “sleeping” on the Mall wasn’t made clear, nor was it explained whether simply one veteran falling asleep would lead to all being evicted from the Mall, or whether veterans would be removed only when they themselves fell asleep.

“Crystal clear?” Hardly. In fact, the Washington police had no intention of attempting to enforce this unenforceable edict, and did not.

To the extent it matters, John Kerry simply arranged the vote among the veterans as to what action to take in response to Berger’s ruling; he wasn’t advocating one position or the other.

If you want to see a detailed itinerary of the events of those days in Washington, go

So even if one grants Hyman’s dopey premise that participating in an act of passive civil disobedience 33 years ago should damn John Kerry, it’s debatable whether or not this act violated any standing laws, let alone the Constitution. The absolute worst you can say about this incident is that Kerry participated in a technical but meaningless violation of a hastily and sloppily created court ruling that itself was based on dubious legal reasoning.

But of course Hyman has left himself wide open to the obvious counter charge: if this act of benign disobedience renders Kerry untrustworthy, what can we say about the sitting president?

George W. Bush took the same oath Kerry did when he joined the Air National Guard (or was given a position in the guard, thanks to family connections). In addition, he pledged to do three things:

1) serve in the military for six years
2) be available for immediate call up in case of national emergency
3) maintain his qualifications and complete mandatory training

As we all know by now, Bush did none of these things. He dropped out of sight well before his 6 year stint was up, he chose not to make himself available for service in Vietnam and voided this possibility by becoming ineligible for flying, and he did not complete his training or keep up his qualifications.

In the process, Bush wasted well over a million taxpayer dollars devoted to his training, allowed other men to go to Vietnam to fight and die while he got preferential treatment, disobeyed orders to get a flight physical and maintain his flight status, and trivialized the service of other Guard members by getting an honorable discharge even though he came nowhere near fulfilling his modest duties.

But again, don’t take our word for it. There are plenty of independent investigations that have shown not only that Bush did not meet his requirements, but that he and his spokespeople have lied about his service in the years since. “U.S. News and World Report” has excellent articles
here and here. The “Boston Globe” has a lengthy piece on Bush’s service (or lack therof) here. You also might be interested in Salon's look at Bush's record.

You can see copies of the agreements Bush signed when he joined the Guard (and which he later broke)

Maybe someday Hyman will actually talk about issues that are contemporary rather than dwelling on events of 35 years ago. But until then, all we can ask is this: Mark, if you feel Kerry violated his oath and disqualified himself from being president by staying overnight in a park, what possible logic allows you to endorse a candidate whose violation of his commitments to the military were repeated, flagrant, and directly lessened the military readiness of his unit?

We won’t hold our breath for an answer.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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