The GOP’s ‘…intellectual force and energy’ ducked the draft, Vietnam

I get a kick out of watching Republicans squirm when Democrats call Rush Limbaugh the face of the GOP.

The squirming started after Limbaugh said he hopes President Obama fails. No doubt, more than a few Republicans agree. But they know better than to publicly root for Obama to screw up.

Anyway, after Limbaugh blabbed, Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff, called him “the voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party.”

Author Frank Schaeffer said the same thing about Limbaugh. But he wasn’t as polite.

Schaeffer, who is also a  Huffington Post regular, says he left the GOP because it’s become mostly the party of right-wing bigots and nut-jobs like Limbaugh. Schaffer doesn’t pull punches. He claims Rush’s radio rants are “the raw naked true face of where republicanism is.”

Limbaugh, according to Schaeffer, is the propaganda minister for a GOP “now made up of religious and neoconservative ideologues, and the uneducated white underclass with a token person of color or two up front on TV to obscure the all white, all reactionary, all backward — there-is-no-global-warming — rube reality.”

If the polls are right, most Americans don’t think much of Limbaugh either. His approval ratings are down with George W. Bush’s.

But most Republicans love Limbaugh or they are afraid to cross him.

Oh, GOP bigwigs want us to think they fear no man, not Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein, for sure.

Ho Chi Minh is a different story, one many middle-aged Republicans like Limbaugh don’t like to talk about. They skipped Vietnam, the war of their youth.

The Limbaughs of the GOP were all for us kicking Uncle Ho’s commie butt in Vietnam. But they were happy to let others do the real fighting.

Limbaugh used his butt to keep himself out of Vietnam. I’m not kidding.

He had a pilonidal cyst on his tailbone. WebMd defines a pilonidal cyst as “a cyst at the bottom of the tailbone (coccyx) that can become infected and filled with pus.”

A pilonidal cyst might sound nasty. But it was gold to those of us who made no bones about hoping to beat the draft and Vietnam. A buddy of mine had one. We envied him. It kept him stateside and in civvies.

A pilonidal cyst got you classified 1-Y. That meant the army wouldn’t take you unless maybe the VC invaded your neighborhood.

But here’s the deal. A pilonidal cyst was one of those physical disqualifications for military service that wasn’t obvious in a routine pre-induction medical exam. You had to get a letter from a doctor saying you had one.

In other words, you had to want to avoid the army.

Limbaugh is 58, a year my junior. He was gung-ho for sending young Americans off to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. He still thinks it was a good idea.

He calls our troops in harm’s way “heroes.” I agree.

But for a bum butt, Rush could have been a hero in Vietnam.

Evidently, there are no records that Limbaugh took a pre-induction physical, according to Snopes.com. Snopes is the Internet website famous for debunking rumors and urban legends.

Snopes confirms that a pilonidal cyst kept Limbaugh out of the draft. His coveted “I-Y classification was almost certainly based on a report Limbaugh had his own doctor prepare and submit to his draft board,” the website also says.

What Limbaugh did was perfectly legal. A lot of us got out of military service during the 60s and 70s with letters from doctors describing genuine medical conditions.

But unlike Rush, I didn’t cheerlead for the Vietnam War. I didn’t want anybody going to Vietnam. (Neither did young Bill Clinton whom Limbaugh used to lambaste as a “draft dodger” because he had a 2-S college deferment. Rush was 2-S before he was 1-Y.) 

I didn’t join (and neither did the middle-aged Bill Clinton) the pep squad for war in Afghanistan and Iraq. I thought that would be a tad unseemly for a fat, fiftyish, bald-headed history teacher who gave Vietnam a pass.

Meanwhile, Matthew Engel caught on to Rush long ago. Snopes quoted from his 2002 article in the Guardian, a British newspaper.

“It is not my custom to mock others’ ailments,” Engel wrote, “but anyone who has listened to Limbaugh’s programme can imagine the dripping scorn he would bring to the revelation that a prominent Democrat had skipped a war over something like…[a pilonidal cyst].”    

 Anyway, the other legal way men my age got out of the army and Vietnam was by joining the National Guard or the Reserve. Our military strategy was different then. Few Guard or Reserve outfits went to Vietnam. We all knew it. We joked that “NG” stood for “Not Going.”

But it wasn’t easy to finagle a Guard or Reserve slot in the Vietnam era. It took pull. You or your family had to know somebody.

The guy who got us into Afghanistan and Iraq used his daddy’s name to get into the Texas Air National Guard and get out of Vietnam. President George W. Bush preferred flying the friendly skies of the Lone Star State – when he flew at all – to dodging SAMs and Mig-17s and -21s over Hanoi and Haiphong. 

The Democrat Bush beat in 2004 – with help from a GOP smear machine that flat lied about the guy’s military record — didn’t play on his family pedigree to duck Vietnam. He could have. His daddy was rich and powerful, too.

But Bush’s opponent joined the Navy and served in Vietnam as a gunboat officer. He got shot at plenty of times on the Mekong River and has a trio of Purple Hearts to prove it. He earned a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for bravery, too.

His name is Sen. John Kerry.  Who can blame Kerry’s party for trying to make Rush’s mug the GOP’s mug?  And who can blame the Republicans for squirming when the Democrats do?

Emanuel didn’t say Limbaugh’s butt is the face of the GOP. But it is, metaphorically, in that a multitude of long-in-the-tooth Republican saber-rattlers like Limbaugh used physical ailments to get them out of wars in their salad days, mostly Vietnam.

Many of them were listed on the New Hampshire Gazette’s “Chickenhawk Database” a few years ago. Nowadays, the database is hard to find online. But you can see it here.

 The Gazette defines a “Chickenhawk” as “A person enthusiastic about war, provided someone else fights it; particularly when that enthusiasm is undimmed by personal experience with war; most emphatically when that lack of experience came in spite of ample opportunity in that person’s youth.”

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About Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a native Kentuckian, a professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a freelance journalist. He is a member of the American Federation of Teachers and the Kentucky Education Association/National Education Association. He is the author of True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bombast, Bourbon and Burgoo, which he describes as "a strictly non-partisan chronicle of our political past from Gov. Isaac Shelby to Gov. Ruby Laffoon."
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