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04/27/2004 Archived Entry: "Number 6"

Like George W. Bush, I too avoided the draft – narrowly. As was law, I got my draft number in 1971 just as I turned 17. The way the draft worked, they stuck 365 birthdays into a tub and somebody from the Selective Service Administration pulled them out in lotto fashion to determine who would be called next. My number was 006. My dad laughed his ass off when he saw that number come up. “It figures,” he said – as in “that’s your luck, kid.”

Not to boast, but as it turns out I’m pretty lucky. It sure didn’t seem so as I stood there agape holding a card that I knew was my ticket to hell. But something marvelous happened – they shut down the Selective Service Administration. The draft was abolished and I escaped military service. “Damn lucky, kid,” my dad muttered. I never found out if he was jealous or relieved. He served in Korea and Vietnam.

So, I avoided being dragged off to a war that most Americans openly questioned; a war that was morally bankrupt and lacked a specific military mission. Hey, do you hear an echo in this room?

Like our president, my luck held out through most of my adult life. Like the time I avoided getting a DUI because the police officer was called away on an emergency call. As the officer shoved my license back into my hands and rushed back to his cruiser, he yelled, “Don’t do it again!” And left me on the side of the road, dumbfounded and counting my lucky stars. Unfortunately, being full of the invulnerable and insatiable vigor of youth I wound up doing it again – repeatedly. Lucky that I was never caught again nor ever involved in an accident.

I also considered myself lucky the time I fell asleep at the wheel (I was sober) and drove a considerable distance on the 405 straight-a-way near Wilmington (locals know what I’m talking about). I woke up in time to avoid the center divider. I was very lucky the time I narrowly escaped being mugged by two guys who were trying to break into my neighbor’s truck. Lucky I met my wife.

Despite all the dumb and stupid things I did, I got away Scott Free and without a scratch. I even capitalized on some of those lucky meetings that helped edify my career. Lucky lucky lucky, that’s what I always used to say the next morning. Our president’s luck is just as impressive.

Lucky for him that he had the machinations of privilege to keep him out of active duty in Vietnam. Unlike me, he was caught with his DUI, but luck held out when he went AWOL and nobody held him accountable. According to his fraternity brothers, he partied like an animal and sleazed around like a demon – but luckily nobody wants to disparage his claim of purity. In a way, I understand George W. – he lived his life like me and got away just fine.

John Kerry however is another matter. Guys like him irritate the crap out of me: his Boy Scout perfection, Dudly Dooright deference for duty, and minimally receding hairline. Not only did he volunteer to get his butt shot at in Vietnam, he came back imbued with heroic distinction. And when he realized how wrong the war was, he stuck his neck out and publicly decried his participation. A little clumsy, but what he lacked in skill he more than made up with pure chutzpa. Not a single DUI (maybe lucky), no rumors of being a druggie (probably true), and no dark tales about facilitating abortions; apparently the pretty picture of deliberate planning nearly all his life. Luck had nothing to do with his outcome – he didn’t need luck, damn him.

I ceased my risk-taking, luck-loving, freedom-swilling bachelor lifestyle long ago (sigh) because I have too much to lose now. Besides, nothing lasts forever, especially luck. I think George W. ought to think about that as he shoulders our country into the most precarious foreign policy era since Teddy Roosevelt decided to sail the Great White Fleet around the world. Bold, brash, risky, but Gadzooks – does he really think he’s that lucky?

Bailing on the Kyoto Accords was a calculated move – some say shrewd but others are still shaking their heads. Destroying the Taliban and chasing them into the hills was a no-brainer. Obviously, invading Iraq was nothing more than a blind leap, but occupying that country without an exit plan was plain ballsy. Taking sides with the Israel PM Ariel Sharon was a pure eye-popper (where the heck did that come from, Dubya?). But the dumbest thing he did was to attack Kerry for what he did back in the early 70s. Is he insane?

You’d think that the last thing that George W. should ever want to do is to shine a light on his illustrious past. I sure as heck wouldn’t – especially during a job interview. I’d be more like Bubba, Dubya, and do everything in my power to move the spotlight to the current times where I knew I was safe (you are, aren’t you?). Ah, but risk taking and luck raking is still your lot in life, isn’t it? Vaya con Dios, then. But for the sake of America, may the spirit of number 6 be with you always. - HP

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