MSNBC's O'Donnell Accuses Herman Cain -- Who Worked for the Navy -- of Being a Draft Dodger

October 7th, 2011 10:05 AM

UPDATE AT END OF POST: O'Donnell evaded draft with college deferment.

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain and MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell had quite a heated battle on Thursday's "The Last Word."

During one segment, after O'Donnell besmirched his guest for not enlisting for military service during the Vietnam War despite having worked for the Department of Navy as a ballistics analyst, Cain marvelously asked, "Do you stay up night to come up with the wording in these questions or do you have someone writing them for you?" (video follows with transcript and commentary):

LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, HOST: Question about the Commander-in-Chief role. I misread your book in its references to the Navy, and I thought you served in the Navy. You're now telling me you didn't. Can you explain how you avoided military service during the Vietnam War and during the draft and why you should be Commander-in-Chief if you did successfully avoid military service during the war that came during what would have been your war years, how you, after avoiding the Vietnam War, why should you be Commander-in-Chief?

Can you imagine O'Donnell asking this question of Bill Clinton who completely evaded the Vietnam War? This seems especially absurd as Cain while in college worked full-time for the Department of the Navy developing fire control systems for ships and fighter planes:

HERMAN CAIN, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Lawrence, you know, do you stay up night to come up with the wording in these questions or do you have someone writing them for you?

O’DONNELL: I just thought of that one right now when I heard you didn't serve in the Navy or the military during Vietnam.

CAIN: First of all --

O’DONNELL: How did you do that?

CAIN: Lawrence, first of all, I wanted to clarify the record because I didn't want to be accused later of saying that I served in the Navy. And if you read the book closely, it says I worked for the Department of the Navy. Now, your choice of words to say, “How did I avoid the Vietnam War?” I wasn't trying to avoid the Vietnam War. Here's what happened, Lawrence. I was working in a critical area called exterior ballistics. I worked on something called the rocket-assisted projectile for the Department of the Navy. It was my local board in Atlanta, Georgia, that told me, we would rather for you to continue to do that analytical work to help the Navy rather than us drafting you. Secondly, when they had the lottery, I made myself available. The year that they had the lottery for the draft they did not draft me because they didn't get to my number. So I think that's a poor choice of words on your part, to say that I avoided the Vietnam War. I made myself available to my country, and they did not draft me. The rest of the time I was serving my country in a critical role called exterior ballistics analysis. So I am offended with your choice of words in terms of what I was doing during the Vietnam War.

Seems like a good answer, right? Not for O'Donnell who continued to press the issue:

O’DONNELL: I am offended on behalf of all the veterans of the Vietnam War who joined, Mr. Cain. The veterans who did not wait to be drafted like John Kerry who joined. They didn't sit there and wait to find out what their draft board was going to do. They had the courage to join and to go and fight that war. What prevented you from joining, and what gives you the feeling that after having made that choice you should be the Commander-in-Chief?


O'Donnell is offended on behalf of all the veterans of the Vietnam War. Is he similarly offended by Clinton not enlisting to fight in Vietnam or Barack Obama not joining up to fight in Desert Storm?

Obviously not, for when Democrats opt not to serve their country, it's somehow heroic.

Having had enough of this issue concerning a matter now almost 50 years old, Cain respectfully asked the subject be changed to something more important to the nation today:

CAIN: Well Lawrence, we have a difference of opinion, and I would like to move on to talking about how we’re going to boost this economy. It’s called my 999 plan before we run out of time.

Exit question: Can you imagine O'Donnell or anyone on MSNBC so disrespectfully treating a Democratic presidential candidate?

*****Update: O'Donnell was born November 7, 1951, turning eighteen and becoming eligible for service in Vietnam in 1969. As you might imagine, he never enlisted.

Despite being given a draft lottery number of 72 in 1970, and the military taking numbers up to 125 that year, O'Donnell evaded the draft through a college deferment.

Who is he to point fingers at anyone for their military service, especially someone that worked for the Navy?

*****Update II: I wonder if O'Donnell thinks Vice President Joe Biden is unfit to be Commander-in-Chief given his five deferments.