During a townhall meeting yesterday, an audience member asked a long-winded question that ended with a call to enact the military draft in order to “chase bin Laden to the gates of Hell.” McCain immediately replied, “I don’t disagree with anything you said.”
Brushing off his instant response, some journalists are refusing to take McCain’s statement at face value. “Does McCain favor a draft? Nope,” the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder wrote on his blog yesterday, deriding liberals for “having a conniption.” When asked about the quote last night on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd declared he was going to “give McCain the benefit of the doubt,” unbelievably claiming McCain was simply advocating some form of national service:
TODD: Let me just go there and give McCain the benefit of the doubt as to what he might have thought he was agreeing to. Which is that he has been a big advocate on the national service front, as has Obama, as sort of mandatory service in some form, that you see a lot of politicians take. So it is possible that that’s what he was talking about.
Given the context, it is impossible to believe McCain was talking about a kind of “mandatory service” program, not only because he never addressed such an idea in his full answer, but also because, unlike Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), McCain has no national service plan.
It’s possible McCain’s statement was directed at the portion of the question regarding veterans health. But it’s equally possible that he is leaving the door open to a military draft. After all, McCain has said he “might consider” a draft, and has also said it would take “an all-out World War III” to reinstate the draft — something he believes may have already begun.
Considering this record, journalists should be inquiring further about McCain’s views on the military draft rather than automatically assuming McCain didn’t mean what he actually said.