On Fox News Sunday yesterday Charlie Rangel took John Kerry’s “botched joke” and turned it into a straight-faced argument. This is from the transcript:
WALLACE: Congressman Rangel, you caused quite a stir this week when you said that you’re going to introduce a bill to reinstate the draft. Here’s what you said this week in a newspaper article. Let’s take a look. “The great majority of people bearing arms in this country, for this country in Iraq, are from the poorer communities in our inner cities and rural areas.”But a recent and very detailed study by the Heritage Foundation, Congressman, found the following and I’m going to put that up: 13 percent of recruits are from the poorest neighborhoods. That’s less than the national average of people living in those neighborhoods. Ninety-seven percent of recruits have high school diplomas. Among all Americans, the graduation rate is under 80 percent. And blacks make up 14.5 percent of recruits for the military; the national average is 12 percent.
Congressman, in fact, contrary to what you’ve been saying, isn’t the volunteer army better educated and more well-to-do than the general population?
RANGEL: Of course not. I want to make it abundantly clear that I have been advocating a draft ever since the president has been talking about war, and none of this comes within the jurisdiction of the Ways and Means Committee.
But I want to make it abundantly clear, if there’s anyone who believes that these youngsters want to fight, as the Pentagon and some generals have said, you can just forget about it. No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment.
If a young fellow has an option of having a decent career or joining the Army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq.
So anyone who supports the war and is against everyone sharing in the sacrifice is being hypocritical about the whole thing. The record is clear, and once we are able to get hearings on this, everyone will see what they already know, and that is that those who have the least opportunities at this age find themselves in the military, as I did when I was 18 years old.
Notice how Rangel does not even try to address the well-documented facts put forth by the Heritage study. Hard data and facts are pesky little annoyances to Rangel who appears bent on pushing his insulting version of the truth.
Also notice how Rangel, with a straight face, insists that nobody would join the military unless they had no other career choices. How many of you reading this can count multiple friends and family who have chosen to serve in the military despite having lucrative career offers in other fields? I personally am lucky to know many such people. And regardless of this anecdotal test, the facts just don’t bear it out. As Wallace pointed out, the above mentioned study found the following:
Overall, the wartime recruits are more similar than dissimilar to their civilian counterparts. The all-volunteer force displays near proportional representation of income backgrounds. Whites serve in approximate proportion to their population, although representation of minority groups varies. Recruits must meet educational standards, and the military provides resources for furthering education to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend four-year colleges. Although rural representation is disproportional, the military offers the opportunity to gain new skills and enter industries that are not available in rural areas.
With regard to income, education, race, and regional background, the all-volunteer force is representative of our nation and meets standards set by Congress and the Department of Defense. In contrast to the patronizing slanders of antiwar critics, recruit quality is increasing as the war in Iraq continues. Although recent recruiting goals have been difficult to meet, re-enlistment is strong and recruit quality remains high. No evidence supports arguments for reinstating the draft or altering recruiting policies to achieve more equitable representation.
So not only is Charlie Rangel’s rhetoric insulting and demeaning to the finest military in the world, it is factually wrong.