[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.
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.
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)
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
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.
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 ... "
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.
Tonight, a conversation with Governor Bill Clinton.
This is ABC News Nightline. Reporting from Washington, Ted 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.
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.
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.
Members of the same political class that, two months ago, were saying, "This
guy's the winner," are now questioning his electability.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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
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
Governor, if I may, I'd like to come back to that after folks have had a chance
to hear the entire letter.
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?"
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
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]
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?
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.
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?
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
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 -
You mean, even after you knew your number was 311, which put you -
- yeah -
- in the bottom third -
- 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.
Well, although deferment for graduate school at that point was not longer a
possibility. That had been eliminated.
No, no, not deferment - I mean - defer entering law school. Yes, you couldn't
get a deferment.
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
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.
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.
So Colonel Holmes then knew some weeks before you wrote this letter that you
were, in fact, back in the draft again.
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
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 -
Yeah, that's right.
- 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
Governor Clinton, I thank you for joining us tonight.
It was good of you. I know it's been a long and hard day. Thanks very much,
Thank you, Ted.