Elizabeth Cheney, Deferment Baby
How Dick Cheney dodged the Vietnam draft.
"[T]he Senator from Massachusetts has given us ample doubts about his judgment and the attitude he brings to bear on vital issues of national security," Vice President Dick Cheney said during a March 17 visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. He was talking, of course, about John Kerry, the putative Democratic presidential nominee. During the past three years, we've all become better acquainted with Vice President Cheney's judgment and attitude toward national security, which are a good deal more hawkish than Kerry's. A widely observed irony is that the dovish Kerry saw combat in Vietnam while the hawkish Cheney accepted a series of student and family-related draft deferments. Cheney's unself-consciousness about this is (or at least was) so pronounced that in 1989 he told George C. Wilson of the Washington Post, "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service."
What Chatterbox never realized until recently, however, is that Cheney's eldest daughter, Elizabeth Cheney, likely owes her very existence to her father's avoidance of the Vietnam draft.
The Washington Post's Phil McCombs made the intimate calculations in a profile published in April 1991, when Cheney was defense secretary. The timeline:
Aug. 29, 1964: Dick and Lynne Cheney marry.
May 19, 1965: The Selective Service classifies Dick Cheney 1-A, "available immediately for military service."
July 28, 1965: President Lyndon Johnson says draft calls will be doubled.
Oct. 26, 1965: The Selective Service declares that married men without children, who were previously exempted from the draft, will now be called up. Married men with children remain exempt.
Jan. 19, 1966: The Selective Service reclassifies Dick Cheney 3-A, "deferred from military service because service would cause hardship upon his family," because his wife is pregnant with their first child.
July 28, 1966: Elizabeth Cheney is born.
Jan. 30, 1967: Dick Cheney turns 26 and therefore becomes ineligible for the draft.
Dedicated students of obstetrics will observe that Elizabeth Cheney's birth date falls precisely nine months and two days after the Selective Service publicly revoked its policy of not drafting childless husbands. This would seem to indicate that the Cheneys, though doubtless planning to have children sometime, were seized with an untamable passion the moment Dick Cheney became vulnerable to the Vietnam draft. And acted on it. Carpe diem!
Who says government policy can't affect human behavior?
Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.