Bernie Sanders: Vietnam conscientious objector

Somehow I’m not really sure that this is a disqualifier among Democrats these days, assuming it ever was. Hillary supporters seem to be getting desperate enough to lob some actual shots across Bernie Sanders’ bow now, and one of them was an accusation that he tried to secure conscientious objector status to keep himself out of the Vietnam war. (ABC News)

Bernie Sanders applied for conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War, his campaign confirmed to ABC News.

Last week, the Des Moines Register ran a column from a Hillary Clinton supporter and Vietnam veteran, titled, “How can Sanders be commander in chief?”

“My question as a Vietnam veteran is: How on earth could a person claiming to be a conscientious objector become the commander in chief of the most powerful military in the world?” questioned the column author Steve Wikert. According to a profile from the Vermont Senator’s hometown newspaper, the Burlington Free Press, his conscientious objector status application was eventually rejected, but by then Sanders was too old to be drafted.

Well, now that the question has been tossed out there I suppose it’s worth asking. What should the voters read into this as it relates to a man who seeks to be the Commander in Chief of the planet’s sole remaining military superpower? And what will our adversaries read into that when considering actions which might possibly elicit a military response from the United States?

Bernie? Any thoughts?

“As a college student in the 1960s he was a pacifist,” Michael Briggs, campaign spokesman added in an email. “[He] isn’t now.”

Ah, I see. Gotcha. Thanks for taking the question. But if you’ll pardon my saying, it’s not terribly hard to change your mind about being a conscientious objecting pacifist when you’re 73 years old and the draft ended 42 years ago. But that’s probably just me being all cynical again.

We’ve had candidates for the presidency and other high offices which pretty much cover the entire spectrum of military service or lack thereof. There have been people who simply managed to not serve at all, people who received multiple deferments – which include both Republicans and Democrats – some who served in the reserves without ever making over “in country,” and those who did the full tour. (Again, covering bothparties.) Honestly, I’ve never felt being a veteran was a prerequisite to serving in the White House, though it certainly is a plus. (You should be able to relate to those you may send into harm’s way and having been one of us is the best path to that.) But, again, not an absolute requirement. Not everyone follows that path and I understand that.

But might not the so called conscientious objectors be in a slightly different category than those who simply “chose not to serve.” I mean, no matter what you may have thought of the draft at the time (and it was certainly controversial) it was still a fact that your nation was calling you. Taking that route and claiming that you were so inherently opposed to violence of any sort that you couldn’t possible go to war sounds like either a dodge or an aspect of your personality that is so fundamentally ingrained that it’s unlikely to change much over the ages. Either way you slice it that doesn’t sound like a very good quality for our Commander in Chief.

What say you all? Democrat, Republican or socialist all being treated on equal footing here, should a conscientious objector be elected President? Would it concern you?

Jazz Shaw Dec 01, 2021 11:01 AM ET