Having heard the charges against Bill Clinton regarding his alleged "draft evasion," I would like to step forward as a witness to the truth.
As a classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University, former mayor of Sarasota and local co-chairman for the Bush campaign in 1988, I offer the following as objective testimony.
The charge against Bill Clinton is that, like many young men of our generation, he opposed the Vietnam War and he did not serve in the military. For those of you who do not remember the times, let me take you back to the spring of 1968.
Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy had been shot, Washington was burning and Richard Nixon was running for president on a platform to "get us out of Vietnam." Protesters on college campuses were burning draft cards, barricading themselves in administrative offices and suggesting that students subject to the draft flee to Canada, or even Cuba with the likes of H. Rap Brown. It was a time of great turmoil.
Bill Clinton, in the spring of 1968, was not participating in draft-card burnings or "sit-in" demonstrations. He was finishing up his senior year of college, hoping that he would be able to use his Rhodes scholarship to study in Oxford, England, and not be called up in the draft. Bill had been very involved as a "normal" student on campus over his four years there, and had led such fights for building "the largest float at the homecoming parade," to campus unification (at the time, there was a division at Georgetown between the schools of foreign service and languages, and the College of Arts and Sciences), to working on an athletic commission. In addition, Bill had a social sensitivity that few of the rest of us had. Not only was he involved in service work on campus and work at Sen. Fulbright's office on Capitol Hill, but he led many of us _ including me _ into active, responsible, social issues.
During the last month of our senior year, when Dr. Ralph Abernathy brought rural, impoverished blacks from the South to Washington on the "Freedom Train" to protest peacefully around the Reflecting Pool for civil rights and economic development, Bill spent every extra minute he had in helping these people. Poorly planned, underfunded and subjected to seemingly never-ending torrential rains, the protest turned into a quagmire of human misery. The people had no food, no sanitary facilities, no financial resources and no way to get home.
Bill enlisted me to help transport people to bus stations, to bake bread and to help out those folks who were in a desperate situation. I had just returned from a marathon trip to Sebring, Fla., and back, trying to hook up with a National Guard unit _ unsuccessfully, I might add. I can vividly remember to this day, discussing the draft with Bill, particularly in the light of his Rhodes scholarship, and his remarking to me that he was going to take his chances in the lottery, or get into an ROTC unit if he wasn't called up sooner. This was not a radical student, but instead, like most of us, someone who wanted to get on with the productive advancement of his life.
Having supported George Bush in his campaign for president in 1988, and having known Bill Clinton personally since college, I like and admire both men. Like most people, I too want to see this election based on issues and not innuendo and false issues that won't lead us out of this economic depression.
In November I hope people vote on the issues of today, based upon the plans that have been offered for tomorrow. Unless we pull together as a nation and get back to solving problems, our collective hopes for the 21st century will never be realized.
For our country, may the best man win.
Kerry G. Kirschner, Sarasota
When the Vietnam War was over, there were no welcome-home signs or ticker-tape parades for the returning servicemen. Fact is, our government turned its back on them. Just think, if Bill Clinton and Dan Quayle had been in the Vietnam War, they might have been one of the many Vietnam homeless vets sleeping on our streets or in shelters today.
Margaret Thatcher ran her country well for many years _ she had no military experience and she is a lady. So, where's the beef?
Thomas F. Benish, Seminole
What about Clinton's "un-American' past?
Bill Clinton _ tell the truth and answer questions about your un-American past. The fact is that Bill Clinton organized and marched in anti-war demonstrations in England in 1969, according to U.S. Rep. Robert K. Dornan, R-Calif.
Why can't Bill Clinton tell the American people the truth? He lied to the voters of Arkansas and he is lying to the voters of the nation. Bill Clinton wants to be president in the worst way as he runs from the truth and hides from the past.
Clinton's personal character, honesty and integrity disqualify him as president. Clinton's anti-war activities disqualify him as commander in chief. America deserves better. American voters are being deceived.
Time is running out for the American people to find out the truth about Bill Clinton and his un-American past. Sometimes the truth hurts, and I predict it will hurt Bill Clinton.
Steve Kramer, Safety Harbor
I am outraged at Bill Clinton's attempt to make his actions with the draft a "non-issue." Perhaps the Times will let me vent this rage.
These are some of his replies to questions concerning his actions: "I don't recall," "It was a long time ago," "I was just a boy," "A lot of people were doing these things."
Clinton avoided his call-up four times! I have friends who had it delayed once and they remember how they did it. Clinton was 23 years old when this was going on. If he was a "boy," when did he become a man? "A lot of people" were not having strings pulled for them at the senior senatorial level and "a lot of people" are not running for president, Mr. Clinton.
He still has not spoken of his leading demonstrations in London and Oslo. These were the demonstrations where papier-mache skulls were carried about with pictures of American servicemen in the eyes and mouth. This is not rumor; it is on the record.
Why did he not serve as a "conscientious objector"? Perhaps that goes to the statement he made back then about staying "politically viable."
Finally, his four successful draft-dodging attempts have put him in the running for our highest office. I wonder where those four mothers' sons are who had to take his place.
Clinton has shown that he is not capable of making the sacrifices that might make him "politically unviable."
I like some of your ideas, Bill, but you do not have the courage for the office.
Paul B. Marrone, St. Petersburg
What is Magic worth?
Magic Johnson signs a contract for $14.6-million a year. A musician in the Florida Orchestra earns $20,000 a year. Is Magic Johnson worth 10 70-piece orchestras?
The president earns $200,000 a year. Is Magic Johnson worth 70 presidents?
A beginning teacher in Pinellas County earns $24,000 a year. Is Magic Johnson worth 583 teachers? I think not.
Charles A. Rice, President, American
Federation of Musicians/Tampa Bay, Largo
Our country has survived many storms in the past half century, none of them weather-related. Among them were Watergate, Abscam, Agent Orange and the Iran-Contra scam. But there's a new storm brewing which, for all practical purposes, could be titled "Desert Stormgate."
Our servicemen and women were sent to the Middle East to defend our interests and to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, which most of them did willingly and with great pride. They risked their lives and emerged victorious, though I, for one, question whether we really won anything as long as Hussein remains in power. But while they were there, they were subjected to a very toxic environment, the result of the oil wells set afire by the Iraqi regime, and as a result we have hundreds of soldiers who have returned home suffering from toxic exposure. There are close to 300 of them (a Pentagon estimate _ there are probably thousands more) suffering from a variety of symptoms which include fatigue, hair loss, GI ailments, skin rashes, etc., as revealed on 20-20 and other responsible news programs. What does the Pentagon say about these "mysterious" symptoms? Stress, they insist. Hence the term, Desert Stormgate, yet another coverup, this one particularly insidious because the victims involved should not have to lay their lives on the line a second time while our government engages in its age-old practice of "deny, deny, deny."
The reality is that these soldiers are very ill and in need of immediate treatment, something they won't be able to get as long as the government refuses to recognize their illnesses as being a result of prolonged exposure to contaminants during the war. The bad news is, the sick get sicker. Without proper evaluation and treatment, their futures are indeed bleak. I know. I've experienced toxic exposure first-hand and suffered through the accompanying coverup that ensued. As a result, I'm house-bound most of the time, unable to perform those simple functions most of us take for granted. Once you suffer from MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities), your life is altered forever. But our government owes it to these men and women to provide them with the proper diagnosis and treatment, and it may be up to all of us to see that they get it.
A congressional committee has been formed to "study" the issue and make a determination based on its findings. These servicemen and women put themselves in harm's way to protect us; now it's up to us to return the favor. By demanding justice, we have the opportunity, if not the obligation, to pay them back for their heroism.
B. A. Green, Treasure Island
Religion and politics
A Sept. 23 article quoted Vice President Quayle as saying that abortion is "not an issue with the American people." In a perverse sense he is correct. To the majority of the American people, it is not the elective medical procedure that is the issue. The real issue is whether conservative church leaders can impose church dogma with the force of legislated law.
Seems Quayle must know this and is using the rhetoric of an attorney at law to deflect a challenge to his position on the subject.
Since Pat Buchanan verified at the GOP convention that the religious right minority is waging "a religious war in this country for the soul of America," more and more folks seemed to have recognized that the abortion issue is just one of several campaigns of right-wing leaders to protect and increase their control of the flocks. A good side effect would be to quash any outside dissension about their authority to set social rules.
The good news seems to be that the National Council of Churches and a score of various church officials have gone on record in writing to oppose putting God into the political campaign.
We think the reason various GOP insiders are backing off this particular subject is that they are smelling a backlash from religious moderates. When a religious radical right can throw around that much weight at the national level, it is time to get really worried about religious freedom.
J. W. Griffis Jr., Clearwater
The excitement returns
I commend this wonderful newspaper for getting me excited about hockey again. It has been 14 years since I last went to a game. My parents and I were avid hockey fans (N.Y. Islanders) in the '70s. During the 1979-80 season we moved to Pasco and continued to follow "our" team. There was no cable TV back then, so we spent a lot of time at places that had a satellite dish. After all, the team was on its way to winning the Stanley Cup. We were so happy after following this team from its infancy to that point that we vowed to love hockey forever. Our team became a dynasty after that year and we lost touch with the excitement and enthusiasm we once shared.
The Lightning has given us a chance to watch it happen again. The coverage of this new Tampa Bay team has been top-notch. This newspaper is well on its way to becoming a pacesetter for all the other newspapers that cover the sport extensively. Thanks for bringing back all those fond memories.
Charles J. Corelli, Port Richey
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