Is There Truth in the Draft Rumors?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," Oct. 18, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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PRESIDENT BUSH: The only person talking about a draft is my opponent. The only politicians that have supported a draft are Democrats. And the best way to avoid a draft is to vote for me.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Talk about reinstating the draft (search), President Bush is fighting back against the Kerry campaign’s suggestion that four more years for President Bush could mean the draft will make a comeback.

I’m joined by Republican Strategist Charlie Black, sorry, Charlie, and Democratic Strategist, Michael Brown.

Charlie, to you first: how bad is a rumor of a draft?

CHARLIE BLACK, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, it could be bad, especially to a lot of young people, who might be of draft age, who see this on the Internet where they get a lot of their information. And then it could give the wrong impression to some people. I don’t think it’ll work in this case because it is a lie. The President said repeatedly there will be no draft. He said it in August, he said it in September, he said it in the debate last week and every day since.

This lie is not even a very plausible story because Congress would have to institute a draft, not the President.  And two weeks ago, the House of Representatives (search) voted 402-2 against the military draft. So, it’s a lie.

GIBSON: Michael, if it just doesn’t have any basis in fact, why does Kerry keep suggesting it?

MICHAEL BROWN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, I frankly agree a lot with what my good friend Charlie just talked about. The problem is the President kind of made this landscape the way it is. He put this out there in the sense of not saying it.

But having our troops all around the world spread so thin, that those options have come up, and not from Senator Kerry or from the campaign, these are coming from military families, National Guard families from around the country that are concerned about the younger brothers and sisters of those families that may have to go at some point.

So, these rumors are not — someone just didn’t make them up, they’re coming from people around the country.

GIBSON: But Michael, they may be coming from people who are worried about it, but unless there was some basis for it, that is, some authoritative person: President Bush, Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney (search), even Kerry, himself, saying, "We have to have a draft." How can your side continue to fan these flames?

BROWN: For one, it’s not our side. You just heard the President mentioning himself at a campaign speech. He clearly knows it’s an issue or he wouldn’t be addressing it. No one told him to say that during his speech. He felt like he had to answer.

You have to understand also, John, that these issues aren’t being fanned by the Kerry campaign in that sense, we don’t have talking points on that, for example. People, families across the country are talking about this. This is not a campaign issue. People from around the country are talking about this.

GIBSON: OK. Charlie, have you got the sense, Charlie, that this is a grassroots rumor that as Michael says: people out there doing their own calculations, saying, "Wait a minute. With nine divisions spread out, one in reserve, we’re going to need a draft." Is that where this is coming from?

BLACK: No, no, no. It’s being put out by the Kerry campaign, by the DNC, by the liberal 527s (search).

Michael, your candidates put you in a tough position on this one because it’s a flat-out lie. And listen, if we need more troops, all through the Reagan years and the Bush 41 years, our standing army was 50 percent bigger than it is now and it was recruited as an all-volunteer army. If we need more troops, we can get more troops through an all-volunteer army, the President knows that, that’s why there will be no draft.

GIBSON: Michael, are you saying that the President cannot attract volunteers to the U.S. military? That Charlie may make that promise, but it’s just not going to happen and that therefore the only option left is a military conscription?

BROWN: Well, clearly, I don’t think anyone wants a draft. The problem is, again, the landscape has been set by this President, because clearly there are some legitimate questions — whether people believe them or not — there are legitimate questions of what’s going on around the world that people are getting spread too thin.

And so clearly, it is an issue that’s going have to be addressed. But I don’t think anyone wants a draft.

GIBSON: OK. Charlie, let me put it this way.

Do you think the Bush administration, if faced with the need for more troops or get out of Iraq — would institute a draft or say to the Iraqis, "Good luck, we’re going home now."

BLACK: They will never have that choice.

Again, we’ve had 50 percent more soldiers than we had now in the '80s and '90s than with an all-volunteer army. That’s what the President would do.

This is part of the Democratic scare campaign. They scare minority voters saying they might not be allowed to vote. That’s a lie. They scare senior citizens saying we’re going to cut Social Security benefits. That’s a lie. They scare young people by saying we might institute a draft. That’s a lie.

Kerry’s fallen behind in the polls. The further behind he gets, the more desperate they’ll get. Young people of America, there will be no draft. You can believe George Bush.

GIBSON: OK. Now Michael Brown, I’m tempted to side with Charlie here that this is a scare campaign.

BROWN: Oh, what a shock.

GIBSON: But come on, you yourself are saying, "I’m not for a draft. Nobody on our side is for a draft." But there you are fanning the flames of it. That can only hurt President Bush and help John Kerry. So, why shouldn’t I look to your side for this?

BROWN: Again, I don’t blame you. I understand what you’re saying. The problem is, we’re not fanning any flames. I didn’t see a piece of John Kerry standing in front of a group of people talking about this issue. I saw President Bush talking about it.

BLACK: He did.

BROWN: I didn’t see that on the Fox clip right before we started.

BLACK: Read the Des Moines Register. He brought it up in an editorial board meeting.

BROWN: I didn’t see it on this Fox tease when we first started.

The problem is, the President has set the landscape for this making it an issue; not from the Kerry campaign, not from the DNC, these are issues that are really out there that people are talking about.

GIBSON: But Michael, it’s coming from the Democratic 527s; it’s coming from the George Soros’ of the world. They’re the ones running these ads and fanning the flames. Kerry can’t keep their hands off of it. It’s still being brought up from your side.

BLACK: Kerry brought it up himself. And to the Des Moines Register editorial board, he brought it up himself that Bush might institute a draft. Kerry’s in the middle of this.

GIBSON: Michael?

BROWN: Well, again, when people ask him about it, is he going to address it? Sure, just like the President had to address it as his rally. Of course you have to address it.

As we come down the last two weeks, there are going to be issues, things spread, rumors on all these kinds of things coming through the campaign. They really don’t mean anything.

Until this President shows the ability to show that he cares about a domestic policy agenda, kitchen table issues, until he shows a plan for keeping the peace in Iraq, these kinds of things are going to matter to him, not real issues that matter to the American people.

GIBSON: Michael Brown, thank you. Charlie Black, thank you. We’ll have you both on and we just shall see whose rumor this turns out to be.

BLACK: Thanks, John.

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