WASHINGTON – A widely circulated e-mail claiming that the Bush administration is trying to revive a military draft (search) is causing widespread panic in cyberspace, but Republicans said Wednesday that the conscription scare is a political ploy engineered by Democrats.
The e-mail says legislation pending in the House and Senate would reinstate the draft, claiming that "the administration is quietly trying to get these bills passed now, while the public's attention is on the elections."
The message, however, fails to state that the bill in question was authored by Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., (search) and Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., (search) two of the most liberal members of Congress who are also staunch opponents of the administration.
"Clearly these bills are filed not by Republicans, not on behalf of the administration, but by those who are being partisan Democrats about this and trying to scare people," said Sen. John Cornyn, (search) a Texas Republican.
Rangel, in fact, has been a vocal proponent of the draft, claiming that only a draft would address the issue of the disproportionate number of working class and minority people serving in the military.
"I believe in the draft and this being a shared sacrifice," Rangel said. Rangel also acknowledged, however, that the legislation is also aimed at igniting more controversy and debate around the war in Iraq.
"It's a wake-up call as to the sincerity that people have to supporting the war," Rangel said. "If they believe in the war, they should be able to say that everyone's family should be prepared to make the sacrifice."
Rangel suggested that the threat of a draft could move public support away from the administration's Iraq policy.
"If the American people don't support it, they're not going to support the draft," Rangel said. "And the administration is going to have to take a different look as to how you get rid of evil people."
While the e-mail about the draft is anonymous, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has also told voters that the Bush administration is aiming to revive the draft. Kerry said that the Pentagon has been quietly collecting names to appoint to local draft boards. (search)
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (search) hotly denied the charge.
"It's absolutely false that anyone in the administration is considering reinstating the draft," Rumsfeld said.
Despite the administration's denials, the scare has worked. There is no question that reviving the Selective Service (search) is being discussed in Washington and that legislation is being drafted. It's a notion that has many Americans, particularly parents of teenagers, inflamed. Several parents have contacted FOX News reporters regarding the e-mail. Most of the parents were shocked to learn that the proposal is coming from Democrats.
For now, parents should rest easy. Despite the political posturing, a reinstatement of the draft is not much more than an urban legend.
Click on the video box at the top of this story to watch a report by FOX News' Trace Gallagher.