Hillary Clinton Tried to Join the Army (Or Was it the Marines?)
Bill Clinton says his wife, Hillary, tried to join the Army in the mid-1970s but was turned down.
ABC’s Jake Tapper:
“I remember when we were young, right out of law school, she went down and tried to join the Army and they said ‘Your eyes are so bad, nobody will take you,’” he said, after heralding her record on issues of concern to the military, such as body armor and access to health care.
I assume this is a version of the “Hillary Clinton tried to join the Marines” anecdote that then-First Lady Clinton told in 1994 that we wondered about since it’s a story she never seems to have told again.
The original story was that in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 1975, Hillary walked into a local Marines recruiting office. The Marine recruiter looked at her, she recalled, and asked how old she was. Twenty-seven, she said. “He looked at me, and in those days that was before I learned how to wear contact lenses,” Sen. Clinton told a crowd of women veterans in 1994. “I had these really thick glasses on. He said, ‘How bad’s your eyesight?’ I said, ‘It’s pretty bad.’ …Finally said to me, he said, ‘You’re too old. You can’t see. And you’re a woman….But maybe the dogs would take you.’”
(“Dogs” being a reference to the Army.)
Perhaps she did so — and hence Bill Clinton’s Army story today?
Or maybe he’s conflating the two stories?
(Add that Bosnian sniper fire, and you might have something there that Julia Roberts would want to option.)
Does anyone really believe that, after graduating Yale at the top of her class, she wanted to join the military? Or that she was so dumb that she thought the way to do that was to go to a recruiting office (where they enlist privates)? Or that, in the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam war and the earliest days of the all-volunteer force, they were turning people away by glancing at their glasses?
Maureen Dowd was a bit skeptical, as well, when the Marine story broke in 1994. In that iteration, Hillary made her approach in 1975, when she was a professor at Arkansas Law and the year after Bill made an unsuccessful bid for Congress.
But, even given the fact that the nation has become accustomed to Mrs. Clinton’s intriguing shape-shifting — from liberal do-gooder to high-risk commodities trader, from power lawyer to cookie baker, from health care czar to housewife supervising the menu for the state dinner for the Emperor and Empress of Japan — the latest one is still jarring.
First, it presented a macho contrast to a President who had just visited England, where news reports recalled the letter he wrote from there to a representative of the Reserve Officers Training Corps at the University of Arkansas, explaining why many members of his generation loved their country but still found themselves “loathing” the military.
And it did not seem to fit in with the First Lady’s own persona. After all, Hillary Rodham was an up-and-coming legal star involved with an up-and-coming political star. She had made a celebrated appearance in Life magazine as an anti-establishment commencement speaker at Wellesley College, where, as president of the student government, she had organized teach-ins on her opposition to the Vietnam War. She was a Yale law school graduate who had worked on the anti-war Presidential campaigns of Eugene J. McCarthy and George McGovern.
Mrs. Clinton told friends that she had moved to Arkansas for only one reason: to be with Bill Clinton. Years later, she would tell Vanity Fair that she had stayed because “I didn’t see anything out there that I thought was more exciting or challenging than what I had in front of me.” 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?
The Clintons, Bill in particular, have a long history of telling stories about themselves — illustrating how they became so gosh-darned public service oriented and good — that couldn’t possibly be true. This seems to be another installment in that genre.