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bill clinton's draft letter:  On December 3rd, 1969, Bill Clinton, then in his second year as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England, wrote a letter to Colonel Eugene Holmes, who headed up the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at the University of Arkansas.  Here is the full text of the letter.
[Note: After the draft letter, below, there is a transcript of a February 1992 Nightline program in which then-Governor Bill Clinton discusses the controversial draft letter with Ted Koppel.]

"Dear Colonel Holmes,

I am sorry to be so long in writing. I know I promised to let you hear from me at least once a month, and from now on you will, but I have had to have some time to think about this first letter. Almost daily since my return to England I have thought about writing, about what I want to and ought to say. First, I want to thank you, not just for saving me from the draft, but for being so kind and decent to me last summer, when I was as low as I have ever been. One thing which made the bond we struck in good faith somewhat palatable to me was my high regard for you personally. In retrospect, it seems that the admiration might not have been mutual had you known a little more about me, about my political beliefs and activities. At least you might have thought me more fit for the draft than for ROTC. Let me try to explain.

As you know, I worked for two years in a very minor position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I did it for the experience and the salary, but also for the opportunity, however small, of working every day against a war I opposed and despised with a depth of feeling I had reserved solely for racism in America before Vietnam. I did not take the matter lightly, but studied it carefully, and there was a time when not many people had more information about Vietnam at hand than I did. I have written and spoken and marched against the war. One of the national organizers of the Vietnam Moratorium is a close friend of mine. After I left Arkansas last summer, I went to Washington to work in the national headquarters of the Moratorium, then to England to organize the Americans here for demonstrations here October 15th and November 16th.

video

After one week of answering questions about allegations of draft-dodging and one week before the New Hampshire primary, a letter surfaces in which a young Bill Clinton thanks a colonel for "saving me from the draft."Clinton defends the letter and questions the motives of his accusers. (2/12/92)
hilo
Interlocked with the war is the draft issue, which I did not begin to consider separately until early 1968. For a law seminar at Georgetown I wrote a paper on the legal arguments for and against allowing, within the Selective Service System, the classification of selective conscientious objection, for those opposed to participation in a particular war, not simply to, quote, participation in war in any form, end quote. From my work I came to believe that the draft system itself is illegitimate. No government really rooted in limited, parliamentary democracy should have the power to make its citizens fight and kill and die in a war they may oppose, a war which even possibly may be wrong, a war which, in any case, does not involve immediately the peace and freedom of the nation.

The draft was justified in World War II because the life of the people collectively was at stake. Individuals had to fight if the nation was to survive, for the lives of their countrymen and their way of life. Vietnam is no such case. Nor was Korea, an example where, in my opinion, certain military action was justified but the draft was not, for the reasons stated above.

Because of my opposition to the draft and the war, I am in great sympathy with those who are not willing to fight, kill, and maybe die for their country, that is, the particular policy of a particular government, right or wrong. Two of my friends at Oxford are conscientious objectors. I wrote a letter of recommendation for one of them to his Mississippi draft board, a letter which I am more proud of than anything else I wrote at Oxford last year. One of my roommates is a draft resister who is possibly under indictment and may never be able to go home again. He is one of the bravest, best men I know. His country needs men like him more than they know. That he is considered a criminal is an obscenity.

The decision not to be a resister and the related subsequent decisions were the most difficult of my life. I decided to accept the draft in spite of my beliefs for one reason: to maintain my political viability within the system. For years I have worked to prepare myself for a political life characterized by both practical political ability and concern for rapid social progress. It is a life I still feel compelled to try to lead. I do not think our system of government is by definition corrupt, however dangerous and inadequate it has been in recent years (the society may be corrupt, but that is not the same thing, and if that is true we are all finished anyway).

When the draft came, despite political convictions, I was having a hard time facing the prospect of fighting a war I had been fighting against, and that is why I contacted you. ROTC was the one way left in which I could possibly, but not positively, avoid both Vietnam and resistance. Going on with my education, even coming back to England, played no part in my decision to join ROTC. I am back here, and would have been at Arkansas Law School, because there is nothing else I can do. In fact, I would like to have been able to take a year out perhaps to teach in a small college or work on some community action project and in the process to decide whether to attend law school or graduate school and how to be putting what I have learned to use. But the particulars of my personal life are not nearly as important to me as the principles involved.

After I signed the ROTC letter of intent I began to wonder whether the compromise I had made with myself was not more objectionable than the draft would have been, because I had no interest in the ROTC program in itself and all I seemed to have done was to protect myself from physical harm. Also, I began to think I had deceived you, not by lies - there were none - but by failing to tell you all the things I'm writing now. I doubt that I had the mental coherence to articulate them then. At that time, after we had made our agreement and you had sent my 1 - D deferment to my draft board, the anguish and loss of self-regard and self-confidence really set in. I hardly slept for weeks and kept going by eating compulsively and reading until exhaustion brought sleep. Finally on September 12th, I stayed up all night writing a letter to the chairman of my draft board, saying basically what is in the preceding paragraph, thanking him for trying to help me in a case where he really couldn't, and stating that I couldn't do the ROTC after all and would he please draft me as soon as possible.

I never mailed the letter, but I did carry it on me every day until I got on the plane to return to England. I didn't mail the letter because I didn't see, in the end, how my going in the Army and maybe going to Vietnam would achieve anything except a feeling that I had punished myself and gotten what I deserved. So I came back to England to try to make something of this second year of my Rhodes scholarship.

And that is where I am now, writing to you because you have been good to me and have a right to know what I think and feel. I am writing too in the hope that my telling this one story will help you to understand more clearly how so many fine people have come to find themselves still loving their country but loathing the military, to which you and other good men have devoted years, lifetimes, of the best service you could give. To many of us, it is no longer clear what is service and what is disservice, or if it is clear, the conclusion is likely to be illegal. Forgive the length of this letter. There was much to say. There is still a lot to be said, but it can wait. Please say hello to Colonel Jones for me. Merry Christmas.

Sincerely,

Bill Clinton"
NIGHTLINE - February 12, 1992: A CONVERSATION WITH GOVERNOR BILL CLINTON

CORRESP JEFF GREENFIELD

ANCHOR TED KOPPEL

GOV BILL CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

I will appear on Nightline tonight to discuss all of this in greater detail.

TED KOPPEL (VO)

"All of this" is the controversy over Bill Clinton's draft record, and this 22 - year - old letter, obtained by Nightline, in which Clinton writes, no government " ... should have the power to make its citizens fight and kill and die in a war they oppose ... "

GOV CLINTON

It's the letter of a young man who loved his country and had strong beliefs about what was right and wrong at that time.

KOPPEL (VO)

Tonight, a conversation with Governor Bill Clinton.

ANNOUNCER

This is ABC News Nightline. Reporting from Washington, Ted Koppel.

KOPPEL

Before this broadcast is over tonight, I will have read to you the entire text of a 22 - year - old letter which was written by a 23 - year - old Bill Clinton. It is, as Governor Clinton himself described it today, the account of a conflicted and thoughtful young man. It is quite a remarkable letter, actually, eloquent and revealing. Many of you will hear it and find in it a reaffirmation of everything you like and admire about Bill Clinton. Others among you will be angered by what you hear. It is safe to assume that those who leaked the letter to us at Nightline and to our colleagues at World News Tonight did not do so in the expectation, however, that this letter would help the Clinton campaign. As the governor noted earlier in the day, presidential politics is a contact sport. Having said that, it is also clear that the Clinton campaign feels that the leaking of the letter just days before the New Hampshire primary is a low blow. A quick summary now from Nightline correspondent Jeff Greenfield.

GOV BILL CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

George Bush and the Republican Party will do anything it takes to win. That's what they did in 1988, and they'll do it again in 1992.

JEFF GREENFIELD, ABC NEWS (VO)

Bill Clinton was talking about the leak of a letter he had written more than 22 years ago, filled with a young man's anguish and anger about the war in Vietnam and the draft. But as the governor of Arkansas faced this roomful of reporters today, he might have been asking himself, "How did I get here?" For months, Clinton's presidential campaign had been a textbook model. He had been on a roll since last November, when a speech in Chicago had wowed the state party chairs and the political press with its broadly appealing message of public compassion and personal responsibility.

GOV CLINTON (November 23, 1991)

Most people are worried about keeping body and soul together, and they're asking, "Since I played by the rules, I paid the taxes, I did the work, I sent my kids to war, why am I getting the shaft?" It is those questions that we have to answer if we want to win the election of 1992.

GREENFIELD (VO)

He won the money primary, far outstripping his rivals in raising campaign funds. He'd won the media primary, with magazine covers touting his progress, and earlier this year, the polls were showing the 45 - year - old Clinton sprinting to a big lead in New Hampshire, where a big primary win would likely mean an all but inevitable presidential nomination.

NORMAN ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE

It became clear well before the first of the year that Clinton had thought through what it meant to be president, had answers to all these significant questions about issues, had the kind of message that would likely make him electable if he won a nomination.

GREENFIELD (VO)

Even the widely publicized charges of marital infidelity three weeks ago did not derail his campaign, but when The Wall Street Journal last week charged that Clinton had received a Vietnam draft deferment for an ROTC program he never joined, the ground seemed to shift.

MR ORNSTEIN

Members of the same political class that, two months ago, were saying, "This guy's the winner," are now questioning his electability.

GREENFIELD (VO)

Clinton has long acknowledged his opposition to the Vietnam war. As a Rhodes scholar in England, he helped organize an anti - war protest in November of 1969. But he has also said that it was his doubts about the morality of the war and the Selective Service system that led him to abandon the ROTC idea and to subject himself to a draft lottery. Only the luck of the draw - a high lottery number - kept him out. One of his friends from his Oxford days strongly backs Clinton's story.

MICHAEL MANDELBAUM, CAMPAIGN ADVISOR

The recollection of people who knew Bill Clinton well, who were with him every day, was that when he arrived back in Oxford in the fall of 1969, he expected that he would be drafted. He was so uncertain about his future and so uncertain about how much of the year he would be able to complete at Oxford that he did not rent a room for himself. He lived with friends instead.

GREENFIELD (VO)

But fairly or not, the issue has clearly hurt.

MANDY GRUNWALD, POLITICAL CONSULTANT

Certainly the fact that most people just met Bill Clinton recently makes it more difficult to deal with this. They don't know about his career, they don't know about a lifetime of dealing with interesting issues, they don't know about the kinds of things he's been talking about for a dozen years in government.

GREENFIELD (VO)

Now, Clinton has taken to the airwaves, urging New Hampshire voters to send a message about the process.

GOV CLINTON (campaign commercial)

Now there are those who want to divide and distract us from what's really important, but I trust the people of New Hampshire to reject that kind of negative politics.

GREENFIELD

Even before the first primary votes have been cast, Bill Clinton has already been through two acts of any presidential campaign, the "gee - whiz stage" and the "wait - a - minute stage". The outcome of the third act will almost certainly determine his political fate. I'm Jeff Greenfield for Nightline.

KOPPEL

And joining us now live from Manchester, New Hampshire is Governor Bill Clinton. Good evening, Governor.

GOV BILL CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

Good evening, Ted.

KOPPEL

As I told you just before we went on the air, we have a late - tracking poll from The Boston Globe and television station WBZ. We're going to take a look at that tracking poll right now. If you'll look at your screen, you will see that a few days ago - can you - do you have a screen there where you can see it?

GOV CLINTON

Yeah.

KOPPEL

Okay. A few days ago, on the 8th of February, you were still showing 28 percent, and Senator Tsongas was showing 25 percent. As of today, Tsongas is up to 30 percent and you're down to 19 percent. Do you attribute that - do you attribute the impact to The Wall Street Journal story which first raised the draft issue?

GOV CLINTON

Well, I think that and then the comments over the weekend, when I was not in New Hampshire. I was home trying to get over the flu, and there were a lot of press reports over the weekend saying, "Well, this raises questions about his electability and questions about character," and I think a lot of people heard from it secondhand. I should have put an ad on right away, as soon as the Journal story broke. The Journal story itself confirmed what I said all along, which is that I gave up my deferment before the lottery came in, I was in the draft. It was the luck of the draw that I got a high lottery number. I did not dodge the draft, I did not do anything wrong, and that has not been contradicted, even by people who have changed their stories over the intervening years.

KOPPEL

Governor, if I may, I'd like to come back to that after folks have had a chance to hear the entire letter.

GOV CLINTON

Sure.

KOPPEL

I have to assume that when you were not out campaigning and pressing the flesh today that you and your advisers had to be sitting around saying, "How do we turn this thing around again? How do we take a campaign that clearly has been dealt a body blow and put it back on track again?"

GOV CLINTON

Well, I thought, frankly, that we bottomed out a couple of days ago, and sometimes these polls drag a little bit from when you hit rock bottom. Frankly, I've been amazed at the number of my supporters in New Hampshire and the number of people who've stayed with us. I mean, after all, they just met me a few months ago, they don't know much about me. It's not like they've worked through 11 years of hard issues and all the things I've done as governor. They've not seen the real evidence of my political leadership and character, and so I think they've had all this stuff dumped on them here in the last two or three weeks, and finally the dam broke and they're asking themselves questions. The encouraging thing, to me, looking into the eyes of the voters with whom I'm shaking hands and going to these meetings where we're still drawing very, very large crowds, is that I think people are going to take another look. The people in this state are fundamentally fair, they're hurting, they desperately want this election to be about their tomorrows, their future, their problems, not about my yesterdays. They just want to know that I'm all right, that I can do this job, that I can make them a good president, and I hope I can tell them that that's the way it is in the next few days. I feel good about what happened today, I feel good about yesterday, and I'm going to fight like crazy from here on in.

KOPPEL

All right, Governor. We're going to take a break. When we come back, we'll hear the entire letter that Bill Clinton wrote more than 22 years ago.

[KOPPEL READS IN FULL CLINTON'S DRAFT LETTER]

KOPPEL

Governor Clinton, I promised you this morning that I would tell our audience tonight what I told you when you and I spoke on the phone this morning at nine, namely that while I could not reveal the source who gave us the copy of your letter, that it was my impression this morning that our source had gotten it from someone at the Pentagon. I must also tell you that I got a call from that source after your press conference this morning in New Hampshire in which that person told me that indeed, it had not come from the Pentagon. He put us on to a couple of other clues that we followed up during the course of the day, and just to bring our audience fully up to date, you know I called you late this afternoon to bring you up to speed on that.

Given that information, and the fact that World News Tonight got its information from Colonel Jones, who was an aide to the head of the ROTC at the University of Arkansas, do you still feel that the Bush administration bears any burden of responsibility for the release of this letter?

GOV CLINTON

I have no idea. I don't know what your source was, or where it came from, so I can't comment on that. I think the important thing is that the letter is consistent with everything I've been saying for the last 13 years, since I was first asked about this in late 1978. I was in the draft before the lottery came in. I gave up the deferment. I got a high lottery number and I wasn't called. That's what the records reflect. A Republican member of my draft board was given an affidavit in the last couple of days saying that I got no special treatment and nothing in that letter changes that, although it is a true reflection of the deep and conflicted feelings of a just - turned - 23 - year - old young man. I felt that at the time.

KOPPEL

And indeed, if we were electing that 23 - year - old man, what he said and thought and felt at that time would be germane. What is germane now, however, is what the 45 - or 46 - year - old Bill Clinton thinks, and when you wrote, for example, that at the time you felt perhaps that young men ought to have a chance to selectively decide whether they wanted to be conscientious objectors in a particular war. The way things are right now, I should explain to our audience, is you're either a conscientious objector across the board - you can't pick and choose, you can't say, "I like this war," "I don't like that war". Where does Bill Clinton stand on that issue today?

GOV CLINTON

I have somewhat different feelings about that now. I think we ought to have a draft only when there is clear and present need, when we're going to have a lot of people in harm's way, when the volunteer army is insufficient to the task, and when there ought to be broad - based service. I do think when you have a general draft, at least there ought to be a declaration of war, so that Congress can say the broad national interests are at issue, or at least something like Senator Nunn's War Powers Act ought to be enacted. The problem we had in Vietnam was that we were ambivalent, we actually wound up weakening our military and undermining our military posture in the world for years after that. Because the country didn't support it, the people were divided, and the truth was we never really intended to, nor were we able to, win the war in any conventional sense.

KOPPEL

We had last year, obviously, a volunteer army in Operation Desert Storm. You were one of the few leading Democrats in the country who supported that operation. Let's say Bill Clinton had been president at the time, and let us just say, hypothetically, that there had been a draft in place and that several thousands or tens of thousands of young men had taken the view that young Bill Clinton took back in 1969. What would President Clinton have done about that?

GOV CLINTON

Well, I would have asked the Congress for an explicit expression of support through the United Nations, and I think that I would have asked, if we'd had the draft, I would have asked them to actually declare war. I think once the Congress declares war under the Constitution, then you can have a broad conscription. I think, as I said, I think it was warranted in World War II. I think, as I said, I supported the conflict in Korea. Our country has shown over and over again that large numbers of our people will voluntarily serve in the armed forces when there is broad - based support for a policy, when they understand it. That was clearly the case in Desert Storm.

KOPPEL

But Governor, before we have to take a break, and we will in a little bit less than a minute, my question was what President Clinton would have done or would have recommended to his Justice Department be done with, let's say, a few thousand young men who took the position that you took 20 - some - odd years ago, namely, "We don't like this war, we don't think blood should be shed for oil". Even if there had been a declaration of war, what do you do with young men like that who are acting on their conscience?

GOV CLINTON

Well, first of all, in a democracy I favor the kind of volunteer force that we have now. If we had had a draft, then I would have gone to the Congress and asked for an explicit declaration of war, then I would not have approved of selective conscientious objection. The problem with Vietnam all along was the ambivalence that ripped through our country, that ripped through our policy, and the fact that it was simply wrongheaded. It weakened the military, it weakened our position in the world. But in order to have - I have different views now than I did then about the appropriateness of that selective conscientious objector doctrine. But at least I think if you're going to have a draft and not allow conscientious objection on a particular basis, the United States Congress, which has the constitutional authority to declare war, ought to have to do it.

KOPPEL

Governor Clinton, we're going to have to take a break. When we come back - and again, I should tell our audience this is something I discussed with the governor this morning - we'll do a few more minutes on this subject, and then also talk about other issues. We'll continue our discussion in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GOV CLINTON

When you hear all the static, one way or the other, what only matters when you strip it all away is who can lead this country to greatness.

KOPPEL

Governor Clinton, back to the letter again and the timing. You wrote this letter on December 3rd of 1969. December 1st of 1969 is when your number came up in the lottery. You initially told reporters that you weren't aware of the fact that you had a high number in the lottery, then later on you told my colleague Jim Wooten that you probably did know. Which was it? Have you refreshed your memory on it?

GOV CLINTON

I honestly don't remember, but I think that in this day and age of instantaneous communications most people would find it difficult to believe that I did not know. I don't know whether I knew or not. If you assume I did or I didn't, it doesn't really change the letter, since I had lost my draft deferment several weeks before. I just don't know. KOPPEL The reason I ask, Governor, is because the next day, on the 2nd of December, is when you sent off your application to the Yale Law School, and then the day after that, the 3rd of December, is when you sent this letter to Colonel Holmes. And there does seem to be a sense about those two actions of someone who knew, or at least was fairly confident at that point, that he was not going to be drafted.

GOV CLINTON

Well, I don't think that's right. I can remember even up in the spring, as late as March of the next year, being told that I might not be able to do anything else, that I might be called in that year. We didn't know for some time that we would not be called for sure. I have no -

KOPPEL

You mean, even after you knew your number was 311, which put you -

GOV CLINTON

- yeah -

KOPPEL

- in the bottom third -

GOV CLINTON

- that's right. I remember distinctly being told at some point after that - we checked at home and I was told that they couldn't say with any certainty that I could do anything other than spend another term at Oxford, that I might - I'd probably be able to stay through May, but that's all I knew. At that time, it wasn't uncommon for people to apply to graduate schools knowing that they might or might not be able to go. They might get in and then have it deferred while they were in the military service.

KOPPEL

Well, although deferment for graduate school at that point was not longer a possibility. That had been eliminated.

GOV CLINTON

No, no, not deferment - I mean - defer entering law school. Yes, you couldn't get a deferment.

KOPPEL

I understand.

GOV CLINTON

You would delay entering school while you did your service. But when I sent off the application, that's because I had been out of the ROTC program for several weeks, it wasn't an option for me anymore, I was in the draft, and so I was either going to be called or go to law school, and I didn't know for sure then.

KOPPEL

But what you're saying is that December 1, you get your high lottery number, December 2, the letter goes off to Yale Law School, December 3, you write your letter to Colonel Holmes. That's just coincidence of timing, I mean, there's nothing to read into it.

GOV CLINTON

I say, I just don't remember, and there's nothing to read into it. The important thing for the American people to know is that in late September, early October, sometime about that time, I think it was in September, I had talked to my stepfather, I asked him to talk to the draft board and to Colonel Holmes, asked that I be put back into the draft. I was put back into the draft before the lottery came along, before I knew my lottery number, and I was in the draft. If I had drawn number one or number 10, none of this would have happened and we wouldn't be having this conversation today.

KOPPEL

So Colonel Holmes then knew some weeks before you wrote this letter that you were, in fact, back in the draft again.

GOV CLINTON

He said that in The Wall Street Journal article. Even in The Wall Street Journal article he pointed out, even though with a totally different twist than he put on it for 13 years, that they participated in revoking my deferment in the fall.

KOPPEL

See, the reason I ask that, Governor, is because the last paragraph of your letter - and forgive me for being repetitive here - you say, "I am writing to you in the hope that by telling this one story" - no, wait a second -

GOV CLINTON

Yeah, that's right.

KOPPEL

- no, no, no, I wanted to get a slightly different - "I didn't mail the letter," you're saying, that is, the letter to the chairman of the draft board, " ... because I didn't see, in the end, how my going in the Army and maybe going to Vietnam would achieve anything except a feeling that I had punished myself and gotten what I deserved. So I came back to England to try to make something of this second year of my Rhodes scholarship, and that is where I am now, writing to you because you've been good to me," and so on. That doesn't sound like the voice of a young man who expects that he is likely to be drafted.

GOV CLINTON

No, but look, you've got to go back and look what happened in the intervening time. Unfortunately, two of the other principals are dead, my stepfather and the head of the draft board, the only people who had any other contact. All that happened by telephone. But if you look at the records and look at what the draft board says, they point out that my deferment was withdrawn in October, I was put back in the draft pool, then the lottery came in, then I got a high draft number. And let me say this, Ted. Back in 1978, when this was first raised, I had not seen or heard from Colonel Holmes in nine years. We'd had no contact. The minute someone asked me about it, I said, "Call Colonel Holmes". I didn't talk to any handlers, I didn't run around and think about anything, I just said, "Call him". He said, "I don't remember all the facts of that case, but if anything wrong had happened, I'd know". In 1991 he said the same thing. There was never any negative connotation coming out of that ROTC program until The Wall Street Journal article. But even there they all admit that I lost my deferment before the lottery came in. So the bottom line is, I wasn't a draft - dodger. That guy had been good to me. I thought, since I didn't write it to the head of the draft board and since he had been good to me, I ought to lay out how I felt about all this and why, in the end, I didn't think it right to have a four - year deferment and I ought to go back into the draft. I was trying to make that case to him, and if you read the whole letter in context, I think it makes that plain. But it's consistent with everything I have said in all these years.

KOPPEL

All right. Governor Clinton, we're going to have to take another break. When we come back, I'd just like to ask you how you think this is going to play in your neck of the woods, down South, where indeed support of the Army is a stronger issue than perhaps most other parts of the country. We'll continue our discussion in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GOV CLINTON

I was reelected five times to run things, in tough times, with no help, by good people who heard all this stuff. If you're looking for somebody that's already been tested, you ought to go with me.

KOPPEL

Governor Clinton, this is not 1969, it's not 1978. You are now running, among other things, for the post of commander - in - chief of the United States, and while legally, technically, in every respect everything you say may be quite accurate, you know this letter has a flavor which is not going to sit well with folks down South, in particular, folks from Arkansas, among other places. How do you explain it to them again? I'm not asking you about details, I'm not asking you about technicalities, just the flavor of it.

GOV CLINTON

Well, let's look at it. First of all, it is the letter of a deeply agitated 23 - year - old boy, a young man. At least I was involved in the issues of my time, I cared deeply about them. That's the way I felt. If I were writing that letter today about how I felt, I'd still disagree with our policy in Vietnam but I wouldn't say the same things in the same way. Look, I was born right after the war. My father died before I was born, but he was in World War II. One of the most precious memories of my childhood is my mother trying to get me to know my dead father, showing me a presidential citation, some sort of citation he'd received for good duty in the war. I was proud of that. I wanted to be part of my country's defense and my country's service. Then I turned against the Vietnam war. I hated doing that. It was an anguishing thing for me. You can tell that from the letter. Then I became governor, commander of my National Guard. I've called out the Guard to quell a riot at Fort Chaffee. I supported the National Guard and the veterans groups of my state strongly. I supported our involvement in the Persian Gulf war. I have no doubt about my capacity to be commander - in - chief. And the fact that I didn't serve after putting myself in the lottery should not be disabling. I mean, Dick Cheney, the Secretary of Defense, had deferments all the way through. I didn't have deferments all the way through. But I think he's been a pretty good secretary of defense, I'm proud of the job he's done, and I didn't think one time during that Gulf war that he was somehow incapacitated from being the leader of the Defense Department because he'd had deferments.

KOPPEL

Governor, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. When Dan Quayle, when the story about his National Guard service came out, it was in the media for weeks, probably for months, I think it's fair to say. Do you think you're going to be able to put this one behind you now?

GOV CLINTON

I'd just like to say - point out what I said about that at the time. I said Dan Quayle ought to just tell the truth, get the facts out and let it go, you know. He was for the Vietnam war, but got into the National Guard. That wasn't an option for me. They were all full, all those slots. I was against the Vietnam war, but I gave up a deferment and put myself back into the draft. I got a high lottery number. If the people know the facts, I think they'll be all right. Let me say this. We've been talking about a letter I wrote 22 years ago as if it's a test of present presidential character. Twenty - two days ago, George Bush gave a State of the Union address, promised a tax cut for the middle class and capital gains for the wealthy. Today, 22 days later, he's up here in New Hampshire, where people are hurting, where the Food Stamp and welfare and unemployment rolls have tripled, and he says, "Well, we're going to put off this middle - class tax cut, but I want a bigger cut for the wealthy". I think that's a test of presidential character. If we're going to talk about 22 years ago, let's talk about my whole record as governor, my demonstrations of character, my fitness to lead and compare it to that kind of issue, which I think is very important, too.

KOPPEL

Governor, even at the risk of going a minute or two over our allotted time, I promised you you'd be able to talk about other things. You have been able now to just make that turn. During these remaining five or six days before the voters in New Hampshire go to the polls, what are you going to try to focus on? What specifically do you think most captures their needs, their attention, and what is it you're going to try to focus their attention on now?

GOV CLINTON

I'm going to tell them that this is an employment decision they're making. They are hiring the most important public official in the United States, and they are hurting as badly as any people in the United States. They ought to look for a person with a vision, with a plan, with a record and with a capacity to change their lives for the better. I'm going to try to give this election back to the people, to lift the cloud off of this election. For three weeks, of course, I've had some problems in the polls. All I've been asked about by the press are a woman I didn't sleep with and a draft I didn't dodge. Now I'm going to try to give them this election back, and if I can give it back to them and fight for them and fight for their future, I think we've got a chance to do well here and I know we can go beyond here and continue to take this fight to the American people.

KOPPEL

Governor Clinton, I thank you for joining us tonight.

GOV CLINTON

Thank you.

KOPPEL

It was good of you. I know it's been a long and hard day. Thanks very much, sir.

GOV CLINTON

Thank you, Ted.



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