Reminder: Donald Trump is a cowardly draft dodger

He’s leading the Republican pack and loves to talk tough about ISIS, but it’s worth remembering that Donald Trump dodged the draft on five separate occasions and avoided military service at every opportunity. 

While the Vietnam War that would claim the lives of some 58,000 of his countrymen raged, Trump received a series of deferments so that he could attend college at Fordham University and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. Then, after graduation, he received his fifth free pass, a fishy medical exemption that declared him ineligible for combat.

Of course there’s nothing unusual about America’s most fortunate sons being shifted quietly out of harm’s way and into lucrative business and political careers during wartime while their blue-collar brethren are shipped off to die in the muck, but if those same men then become the loudest voices for war, if they bellow and boast about how they’d use America’s military might and which opponents they’d crush, then their hypocrisy deserves to be recognized for what it is.

The mating call of the Chicken Hawk.

When stumping in Tennessee earlier this month, Trump boasted that he would “bomb the shit out of [ISIS].”

The line was met with rapturous applause. In the jittery climate after the shocking Paris attacks, it’s exactly the type of tough talk Republican voters seem to want — a soothing roar that assures them that there are simple, violent answers to complex global problems. In Trump they may have found their Cowardly Lion, because, while The Donald may have fired a lot of people in his time, he’s never fired a gun in combat.

In a way it’s curious. After all, entering the military would have made sense for Trump, who attended a private military prep school in upstate New York, where he even received a medal for neatness. If it’s any consolation, Trump says he “always felt” that he was in the military because of his time spent at the New York Military Academy making his bed and marching around campus in ceremonial military dress.

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Today Trump loves to rattle the saber at America’s enemies real and imagined, but his record shows none of that bravado or bullishness — only evasion and doctor’s notes. Indeed, records show that once he was of fighting age, Trump dodged the draft five times, avoiding every opportunity to serve.

As evidenced in the document below, Trump received draft deferments in 1964, 1965, 1966, and 1968. The years marked 2-S are college deferments; 1-A means available for unrestricted military service; 1-Y means available only in national emergencies such as war, and finally 4-F means “Registrant not acceptable for military service,” which means Trump was found not qualified under the military’s “established physical, mental, or moral standards.”

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(Document via The Smoking Gun)

According to Trump’s camp, the reason for this fifth and final free pass was “bone spurs” on the heels of both of the candidate’s feet which resulted in a “minor medical deferment.” But the “bone spurs” explanation is highly dubious when you consider that Trump was known as a talented student athlete who played on his prep school’s varsity football, soccer and baseball teams. According to the International Business Timesquoting a 1990 profile of the billionaire in USA Today, when it came to sports Trump was a star who “won trophies in intramural softball, basketball, softball, bowling and freshman football.”

As Trump biographer Wayne Barrett told the New York Daily News on the subject of the medical exemption, “I doubt it was a serious medical issue. Up to that time, he was an active athlete. It was bullshit. I never heard of any foot problem other than them being well-placed in his mouth.”

And on the subject of the draft: “It appears he was actively looking for some justification to evade it.”

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If Trump really had a medical condition that prevented him from serving, why wasn’t it brought up in his four previous deferments? Why continue requesting student deferments year after year instead of simply being medically exempted once and done with it? It doesn’t add up. Either the supposed bone spurs developed suddenly and conveniently at the same time that his eligibility for student deferments ran out or it’s a straightforward case of a rich kid with an accommodating doctor.

Ask yourself which seems more likely.

As Barrett told the NY Daily News:

“There’s no question it fit a pattern of avoidance that was commonplace in his generation. You cut a corner, maybe got somebody to write a letter or interpret results of an Army physical in a way that was beneficial to you.”

It sounds eerily similar to the pattern of student deferments and dubious medical exemptions claimed by other notable chickenhawks like Rush Limbaugh, who allegedly had a cyst on his ass, or Dick Cheney who famously stated: “I had other priorities in the ’60s than military service.”

Indeed, like Cheney, Trump may have simply had other priorities.

Instead of fighting for his country, Trump went on to build his personal fortune. Already wealthy — his autobiography notes that he graduated with a mere “$200,000,” or $1,400,000 in today’s dollars, to his name — Trump would go on to become the flashy billionaire businessmen familiar to us today. Building on his tycoon father Fred Trump’s real estate success — he notes that his father gave him a “small loan” of one million dollars to get started — Trump spent the war years beginning the journey from merely rich to super-rich.

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But, if you think this time spent building his personal wealth instead of fighting for his country would engender a certain humility on the subject of warfare, you don’t know Donald J. Trump.

Eager to prove his unearned tough guy status, Trump lays into targets like Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban for five years after allegedly deserting, at every opportunity, blasting him as a “dirty rotten traitor” who the U.S. should have allowed to rot in Afghanistan rather than trading five Guantanamo detainees to win his release.

Over the summer this same man, who loves to crow about who he’ll bomb, attacked veteran and former POW John McCain, saying the Arizona senator was “not a war hero” and insinuating that the senator was a bad soldier:

“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK? I hate to tell you.” 

It’s true that, unlike Bergdahl or McCain, Trump was never captured.

Because Trump never fought.

Because Trump dodged the draft.

Five times.

Conservatives got upset about the McCain remarks, but judging by the ever-billowing poll numbers that Trump is so fond of citing, it seems they’ve forgiven him for insulting a veteran. They’ve done so because machismo is so firmly a part of Trump’s brand that to admit the idea that he may be all talk and may not actually understand war is incompatible with supporting him. Imagine a Democrat like Hilary Clinton or Bernie Sanders saying McCain was not a war hero. Now imagine how quickly the conservative knives would come out.

Trump’s record as a money-making businessman allows him to claim the mantle of the executive on a host of issues, but when it comes to foreign policy and the military there’s no reason, beyond blind hope, to trust his rhetoric.

As for his personal record, you can make the argument that the Vietnam War was unjust and therefore avoiding the draft was morally justifiable. Or you can make the argument that the very concept of compulsory military service is unjust. But Donald Trump isn’t making those arguments. There’s no evidence that he opposed the war on ideological grounds or was a conscientious objector.

So, if you determine that Trump’s convenient medical explanations don’t hold water, you’re left with two possible conclusions: Either he’s a tough-talking coward who promotes military intervention but who avoided military service himself, or else he was simply too busy making money to tangle with a dangerous enemy in a far off land and left the dirty work to the chumps and the poors.

Either way, what you have is someone who acts like a fighter but in his own life avoided every opportunity to fight. What you have is a hypocrite. One who, if elected, will be more than happy to send young Americans off to fight and die in a thing called war that he knows nothing about.

Previously: Reminder: Donald Trump didn’t write ‘Art of the Deal’