Congressmen Peter King and Charles Rangel from New York discuss reinstating the draft
ANCHORS: REHEMA ELLIS
Senator CHUCK HAGEL (Republican, Nebraska): There's not an American, unless he or she has been asleep for the last few years, that doesn't understand what we are-are engaged in today and what the prospects are for the future. So if that's the case, why shouldn't we ask all of our citizens to bear some responsibility and pay some re-some price?
April 21, 2004 Wednesday
REHEMA ELLIS, anchor:
Could the price Republican Senator Chuck Hagel's talking about be the draft? He didn't go quite that far, but others have. New York Democrat Charles Rangel even introduced a bill in the House last year, calling for the draft to be reinstated. But his fellow New Yorker Republican Peter King doesn't think that's such a good idea. Both men join us from Washington tonight.
Thank you both for being with us.
Representative PETER KING (Republican, New York): Thank you, Rehema.
Representative CHARLES RANGEL (Democrat, New York): Good to be here.
ELLIS: Congressman Rangel, I want to start with you because you introduced this notion of reintroducing the draft before we went to war in Iraq. You thought it was necessary before the war. You think it's necessary now. Why?
Rep. RANGEL: Even more so. When I first introduced it, there was no question in my mind that the president and the Congress would be more cautious if they knew that members of their family, their neighbors would be placed in harm's way rather than young people that for economic reasons that volunteered in our active armed forces. But God knows I never expected that we would have lost 720 lives over there, that 3,000 men and women would be maimed and in hospitals around the country. And most all of these people are coming either from the reservists, who are people have served their-their country and-and-and just want to really be there in time for emergency, National Guard. And-and, of course, the young people in active service, most all of them come from the lower-income groups that have been killed and wounded. And it's just unfair to call this a war and not share the sacrifice.
ELLIS: Congressman King, what about that? Isn't there some argument to be made about all citizens should share some responsibility?
Rep. KING: Charlie is raising a valid, philosophical point. But this is the the debate we had over 30 years ago in the Congress. And the overwhelming majority of Republicans and Democrats decided that, after hearing much expert testimony, that it's the best interests for the armed forces and the nation to have a volunteer force. It's not a question of equity. You know, I understand where Charlie is coming from on that. But what this really is is to get the best Army and Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard that you can. And that is done and was felt and still is felt through a volunteer Army. Because the training involved, if you were to draft, there would be so much time in training. Then the people would be getting out. And it would be counterproductive. And even General Clark, who was Congressman Rangel's candidate for president, he has come out against it, saying it would not be in the interest of the country to have a draft.
I'm not going to disagree with Charlie as far as the equity, as far as burden sharing. But what I am saying is that it's not-it can be counterproductive because it won't give us the best armed forces.
Rep. RANGEL: Peter...
Rep. KING: The best armed forces comes from a volunteer army.
Rep. RANGEL: Peter, what you're saying is that, of course, the professional generals and officers, whether it's Clark or anyone else, would want people who volunteer to fight. But what I am talking about has reached the point that we've exhausted getting people to enlist our military in order to get bonuses and education benefits. We've exhausted our reservists. And believe me, I'm not pushing my draft bill. We have exhausted the ability to enlarge the military, and they will have to come to an equitable draft.
Rep. KING: Well, Charlie, if it comes to that, if we do have the military leaders coming in and if we do have a full debate and that is what is necessary to have a sophisticated, advanced, well-trained armed forces, then obviously we should consider it at that time. I'd also be voting for it if that's the case. I don't think we're at that point yet. And I don't think any of our military experts are saying that. Also, I just have a person in my office who just came back. He was in Baghdad for a year. He was in the Army Reserves. Before that, he had been in Guantanamo. And he was proud to have served. And there's others like that. But the fact is that we have to do what's best for the country. If it turns out that we do need more armed forces and can't get them from a volunteer army, then obviously we have to consider the draft. I just don't think we're at that point yet.
Rep. RANGEL: How can a decent person like you know...
ELLIS: Congressman Rangel, let me ask this question-Congress...
Rep. RANGEL: ...that the people that are actually caught up in this, they don't enlist in the military in order to liberate Iraq. They don't enlist in this because they think our nation is threatened. They're looking for educational benefits, a better job. And these people are coming from the lower-income groups.
Rep. KING: Charlie, I think you're selling an awful lot of them short. I just-again, I-I've had people in my district who were killed. And the parents I've spoken to are proud of the service their children gave-their sons and daughters gave. They did-obviously, they're going in for a variety of reasons but also to serve their country. So I don't think we should say they're just doing it for...
Rep. RANGEL: I...
Rep. KING: ...because they want to be..(unintelligible).
ELLIS: And, gentlemen...
Rep. RANGEL: All I'm saying...
ELLIS: ...let me jump in for just a second. Congressman Rangel, let me ask this question. And that is we've had an all-volunteer military for some 30 years now. Do you think that the public is really in tune right now to go along with the draft at this point?
Rep. RANGEL: No, indeed. I don't think it's a popular position that I'm taking or those that support this position. But if they're supporting the war, if they support the president, if they believe that we're going to have to be in this part of the world for 20, 30, 40 years-Secretary Rumsfeld said he doesn't know whether we're winning or losing, that he doesn't know whether we're creating more terrorists than we're killing-if we are going-I went overseas in the 2nd Infantry Division in August of 1950. And guess what. The 2nd Infantry Division is still there. If we need more people, whether we like it or not, we cannot go back to the same groups in the rural areas and the inner cities.
ELLIS: And, Congressman King, let me ask this question. We are in an election year. Are those who are opposed to the draft doing it because this is an election year and it's not popular at this time?
Rep. KING: Oh, I'm sure that's a factor. But as I told Charlie-and Charlie and I have discussed this on a number of occasions-we can't just be looking at the public opinion polls. If I see evidence that we cannot have a strong armed forces through the volunteer army and armed forces, then I would support certainly considering a draft. And if we have to go to it, I would do it. I'm just saying, right now, I think it would be counterproductive. It would cost too much money, involve too much training. And we wouldn't end up with the same quality of armed forces that we have now. But, no, listen, one-one place where Charlie Rangel and I agree is that even if the polls happen to be against it, if it's in the best interests of the country, we should do it.
ELLIS: Gentlemen, thank you for being with us. This is...
Rep. KING: Thank you.
ELLIS: ...a subject that people all across this country will be debating. Thank you very much.
Rep. RANGEL: Thank you.
ELLIS: When we come back, mean season in the Midwest. The death toll climbs in Illinois. We'll have the latest on those storm and find out what could be next.
Also the Michael Jackson case. News on charges could be breaking tonight. We'll check in with our court watchers.
And later, the force behind TV's highest-rated new drama, how he conquered Hollywood at the ripe old age of 26. It's an American dream come true. He'll join here us tonight.
(Clip from "The O.C.")