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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Sunday, January 18, 2004


Medical Deferments

posted by Brian Ulrich at Sunday, January 18, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
By now, we've all heard the story about how Howard Dean got a medical deferment from Vietnam yet went skiing shortly thereafter. By now, of course, we know that even if he had gone AWOL from the National Guard, he would still be a viable candidate, but enough Americans have an understandable distaste for avoided military service that it might become a factor in a close race.

The reality, however, is this: The military standards for physical fitness are very high. When I was applying to colleges, I of course got the military recruiting me, as well. As you might imagine, they were persistent. Until I told them I had asthma, at which point one told me that even if I wanted to they couldn't take me. Yet this is a very mild asthma that has never prevented me from doing any physical activity I wanted. I have a friend who was for a time excited about joining the army. However, he didn't make it, and told me there were physical reasons. Even during Vietnam, these standards were high. I know one man who has sub-par vision in one eye, and for that reason was rejected by the Vietnam-era military. And I'll dare anyone to compare the rigors of war to those of a weekend skiing.

I'm sure Dean would be a stronger candidate if he had Kerry's or Clark's war record, but we're electing candidates, not designing them. And the most important criteria for election is who representes the best political leader for the present, not the best war hero from the past. After all, both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon fought in World War II. Johnson even had a Silver Star. This did not do the troops in Vietnam a whole world of good. What we need to consider is which potential President has the sound judgement and courage of his convictions today, not the best health 30 years ago.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.