Chairman-in-waiting Rangel feels a draft
By Michael M. Bates
It didn't take long, did it? The Democratic Congressional majority is unflinchingly leading us into that promised new direction, bowling us over with excitingly innovative ideas even before officially taking over.
An example of the daring, novel approaches we can expect came last weekend from New York's Charles Rangel, who'll chair the Ways and Means Committee, arguably the most powerful panel in Congress. Mr. Rangel will wield a big gavel; when he talks, people – especially his colleagues – listen.
The Congressman told CBS News' Face the Nation viewers he will initiate legislation reintroducing the military draft.
The irony is delicious. Only 38 percent of young people (18-29) voted for Republican Congressional candidates earlier this month. Doubtless that percentage was even lower among college students naïve enough to buy the Leftist propaganda that permeates campuses across the nation. They've heard the rumors that there were plans to start up the draft. Supposedly, though, it was George Bush and those bellicose Republicans who were going to sneak it through when no one was paying attention. That's what Democrats said.
John Kerry told the Des Moines Register in October of 2004 that if Mr. Bush were re-elected there'd be a "great potential" for a military draft. That same month, Washington Congressman Jim McDermott was quoted in the Washington Times: "Nobody trusts them (Congressional Republicans). ... It's pretty clear, if George Bush is re-elected, there is going to be a draft." Texas' Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (Have I ever mentioned extreme caution need be exercised in trusting women with hyphenated names?) warned that "there is a secret plan for a draft."
This isn't Mr. Rangel's first effort to revive conscription. His most recent attempt was in February. That proposal required mandatory military service for every man and women between the ages of 18 and 42. When I was drafted a lifetime ago, the "old guys" were about 25. And, of course, women weren't drafted at all. Talk about going in a new direction.
What if the military didn't need all the people who'd be called? Crafty Charlie contemplated that possibility. They'd be required to perform some national civilian service.
There would be exceptions. Deferments would be granted up to the age of 20 for people to complete high school, an obvious pandering to Democrats, many of whom require at least that much time. Moreover, there'd be deferments for "reasons of health, conscience or religious belief."
Interestingly, Rangel said that he didn't expect his own bill to pass. A press release he issued claimed he wanted "for it to serve as a constant reminder that we have lost 2,200 of the best, brightest and bravest Americans, have had thousands more maimed, and countless Iraqi citizens killed . . . A draft would ensure that every economic group would have to do their share, and not allow some to stay behind while other people's children do the fighting."
It's difficult to take seriously a Congressman who uses the legislative process to propose laws that he doesn't think will pass only to make a political point. The system is already too bogged down to waste time on meaningless "constant reminders."
When Mr. Rangel introduced a 2003 draft bill that applied to men and women from 18 to 26, it garnered 14 cosponsors, all Democrats. A similar bill was then introduced in the Senate by South Carolina Democrat Ernest Hollings.
The House voted on Rangel's 2003 bill in 2004. Rangel himself voted against it, complaining that Republicans didn't permit a full airing of the issues associated with renewing conscription.
Mr. Rangel's draft scheme underscores a significant philosophical difference between many liberals and many conservatives. Liberals often view individuals as entirely subservient to the government.
When Clinton was president, he explained why tax cuts weren't a good idea even when the Federal government has budget surpluses: "We could give it (the tax surplus) all back to you and hope you spend it right. But if you don't spend it right. . . " The premise here is that government has first claim on your money. You get what's left only with its permission. And you'd better use it the "right" way.
Mrs. Clinton shares that outlook, saying that "We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society." Liberals believe what's best for society is determined by government.
The draft is an idea whose time hasn't returned. Most Americans oppose it after our three decades of experience with an all-volunteer force.
Mr. Rangel's previous moves to reinstitute conscription were futile. That was when he was a lonely voice in the minority. Now, however, he'll be an influential committee chairman exerting remarkable pressure on his Democratic colleagues.
Leaders such as Nancy Pelosi can claim that a draft will never happen. They used to say the same thing about giving away the Panama Canal.
Is Mr. Rangel serious in bringing up the matter once again or is it just another reminder of how he can waste everyone's time? I wonder how many citizens today wish they could take their votes back.
This column by Michael M. Bates appeared in the November 23, 2006 Reporter Newspapers.