The New Republic’s cover piece on Hillary Clinton’s views on the use of military force repeats the old story of a 27-year-old Hillary Rodham attempting to join the Marines in 1975.
You’ll have to pardon my skepticism, but after a bit of Googling and Nexis-ing, I have to ask… has anyone besides Hillary ever confirmed this story? (Because the recruiter was such a skeptic, according to her story, it is unlikely the Marine Corps ever took her name down on any records.)
Even the New York Times story from when the then-First Lady first mentioned it (1994) seemed to suggest something in the timeline seemed a bit odd:
She and Mr. Clinton married on Oct. 11, 1975 in Fayetteville.
So, if she was talking to a Marine recruiter in 1975 before the marriage, was she briefly considering joining the few, the proud and the brave of the corps as an alternative to life with Mr. Clinton, who was already being widely touted as a sure thing for Arkansas Attorney General?
Neal Lattimore, Mrs. Clinton’s spokesman, said her visit to the recruiter had to be seen in the context of her dedication to public service.
“I’m never surprised when Mrs. Clinton is doing something service oriented,” he said. “She was just taking in all her options, saying ‘This is where I am in my life, this is what fits into my life right now.’ ”
But she had moved to Arkansas to be with Mr. Clinton, so why was she thinking about joining the Marines?
“Maybe she was thinking about the J.A.G. Corps,” he said, referring to the legal branch of the service. “She was exploring all her options, the National Guard, everything.”
In fact, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette noted back in 1994:
At the time, the future first lady was 13 months into her job as an assistant professor of law at the U of A. She was also the director of the university’s Legal Aid Clinic. All this while she kept a private law practice. Meanwhile, Bill Clinton loomed as the odds-on favorite in the upcoming attorney general’s race.
Kind of an odd time to join the Marines, no?
And kind of odd that with all of the attention on Hillary Clinton all through the years, all those interviews, all those profiles, it never was mentioned until she addressed a lunch on Capitol Hill honoring military women, huh?
I know, I know, I’m such a cynic…
UPDATE: On July 24, 1994, a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reprinted a letter which reportedly appeared in the July 11 edition of the Navy Times:
I was assigned as an enlisting officer in an Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Station in one of the largest major metropolitan areas in the country in 1974-75 and would like to present a few facts that relate to how difficult it was to get into the service at that time. The following are documented, verifiable facts:
– The draft had just ended and the all-volunteer armed forces were just beginning.
– All recruiters had quotas.
– Very, very few recruiters were able to make their quotas in this period. The Marine Corps did not make its national quota until the Iranian hostage crisis.
– The need for bodies was so desperate that the minimum armed forces qualification test score necessary to get into the Army in 1974 was 10. It rose to and remained at 16 throughout 1975. (Though I do not remember the minimum scores for the Marine Corps, I doubt it was much higher.)
– Only 50 percent of the recruits had to be high school graduates and, at the end of the month and end of the year, this was waived in a desperate effort to meet quotas.
– To become an officer, your eyes had to be a minimum of 20//200 adjustable to 20//20.
– Major recruiting scandals frequently occurred where, among other abuses, AFQT answers were given to applicants, medical records altered, and recruits coached in how to beat the system.
Abuses were so bad that the Army required four copies of a document with five original signatures from recruiting staff and five original signatures from the applicant to provide legal documentation that the recruit had been fully advised of the laws relating to fraudulent enlistment — 20 original military and 20 original recruit signatures on four documents!
– Recruits were regularly promised anything at all in order to get them in. The clause in the DD Form 4 “Needs of the Service” were (sic) regularly invoked to permit the service to not honor those contractual guarantees.
– The maximum age for enlisting or getting a commission was 35.
Recruiters were desperate to get anyone they could into the service. I personally witnessed the following abuses:
– A legally blind recruit who had undergone cataract surgery.
– A Marine recruit with a medical history of polio who had special waivers from the Corps to get in.
– Recruits with records of assault and battery, grand theft auto, sodomy, and lighting fire bombs in their high school cafeteria. Many applicants were given five choices by judges — Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force or jail — and we were grateful to get them.
– One recruit with an AFQT score of 16 whose DD Form 4 guaranteed him ballistic missile guidance repairman school.
It is my strong belief that recruiting in Arkansas was no better than where I served; in fact, it was probably worse. From my own experience, I have no doubt that if a 27-year-old female with a doctor or bachelor of laws had appeared before any recruiter’s desk and inquired about entry into the armed forces, that recruiter would have probably been willing to violate a half-dozen clauses of the UCMJ to get her in.
Just further food for thought…