About a month or so ago, PBS aired a program about the single conscientious objector awarded the Medal of Honor. Rather than sit out World War II, the man served as a medic, winning the award by going over a wall without a gun and dragging back one-by-one some 17 wounded soldiers who lay on the ground helpless. In the beginning, his fellow soldiers ridiculed the medic as a sissy, but in the end all regarded him as a great hero. The program ended with President Harry Truman presenting the award.
George Romney, Mitt Romney’s father, avoided serving in WW II because of his Mormon faith. A conscientious objector or, broadly, someone who says his faith prevents him from killing is fully entitled by law to that position. It is absolute in that it has to apply to all armed conflicts. World War II was about the only “good war” in the entire 20th century.
Ten Mormons have earned the Medal of Honor, while thousands have served in the armed forces.
Romney wasn’t alone, by any means, in staying out of harm’s way. President Roosevelt gave wide leeway to entertainers and baseball players, the only major sport at the time, so that spirit remained somewhat high on the home front. Nevertheless, in baseball Hank Greenberg and Bob Feller quickly signed up. All the great hall of famers active at that time served in some capacity. Within the movie industry stars like Clark Gable, Robert Taylor, Kirk Douglas and Jay Silverheels, who played Tonto, are four of a large group that saw action.
Van Johnson stayed home, building his career by playing soldier boy. So did tough guy Alan Ladd. In fact every male star in movies made during the war years stayed home, the most famous (or infamous) being John Wayne. Yes, that’s John Wayne, the well-known Duke, the boss cowpoke and fearless leader of cinematic Bataan. It was no idle comment that Bob Costas made when he told Ted Williams, who served in the Korean War as well, that he was the “real John Wayne.”
The great mystery writer Dashiell Hammett volunteered in 1942 at the age of 48, using his fame to get in rather than get out. Hammett had previously received a disability discharge after being in WW I, acquiring tuberculosis along the way. Once accepted, Hammett was sent to the Aleutian Islands, editing the army newspaper and gaining the respect of soldiers he met.
The point is that one didn’t have to be on the front lines to be part of the cause. WW II was one thing quite apart from the lies that fostered Vietnam, a country that now is our trading partner.
George Romney became an ardent supporter of the Vietnam conflict from its early days. When the Republican primaries for the 1968 presidential nomination began, Romney was considered a strong contender. I don’t recall a single article in the press that questioned how someone who got out of WW II could be in favor of the war in Vietnam. Shortly before the convention Romney visited Vietnam, coming back to say he had been “brain washed” there by the generals and diplomats. This poor choice of words, despite whatever truth they held, doomed his bid and he was heard no more. Nixon went on to victory, saying he has a “secret plan” to end the war.
It still begs the question of having a possible commander in chief sending youth to fight and perhaps die while 2½ decades earlier the same commander had begged out of the nation’s major war of the century.
For certain, this is something Caesar wouldn’t have done. From what I’ve read, he wore a red cape and rode a horse at the front of his attacking legions. Whether true or not, too bad this principle hasn’t been adopted in modern times, for doubtless there would be fewer conflicts past, present and future, even with the military-industrial complex.
While a student at Stanford, Mitt Romney joined his father in proclaiming that the Vietnam conflict was justified. Once out of college and eligible for the draft, Romney fils, set sail for one of France’s major wine centers, Bordeaux, proselytizing for the Mormon religion, which believes in abstinence. The tradition continues with Romney’s five sons. One wonders how John McCain, a man of courage whether or not you agree with him, countenances this.
Former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura calls men like these “chicken hawks”, too chicken to serve but hawks when it comes to sending others to do the fighting. Some chicken hawk political luminaries of the Vietnam era include George H.W. Bush, Cheney (5 exemptions), Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld among many more. All professional athletes got a pass, except Muhammad Ali, who spoke up and then had to do the time.
Recently, pictures of Mitt Romney without a suit, tie and manicured hair have surfaced on the Internet. This has prompted a few pundits to suggest the election might have been different if America had seen that the man is really just like us. He, too, has pores.
Just like us, they say. I don’t know about you, but I have no accounts with Swiss banks or the Cayman Islands. Also, on the moral end of the spectrum, if I had been running for president and asked my running mate for 10 years of his tax returns, I wouldn’t have balked at showing edited versions of two (while Papa Romney said 12 was OK). There are too many other things to list for one blog.
I’ll close with my favorite number: 47. I doubt that’s Romney’s pick—but again, the man’s too often been known to say one thing and then the reverse in almost the same breath.