Obama: Servicing Service

By Natalie Gewargis

Jul 3, 2008 11:02am

FROM GUEST-BLOGGER RICK KLEIN, from ABC’s The Note.

Back in May, when Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., filled in for Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., at Wesleyan University’s commencement, he chose public service as his topic.

He spoke expansively about his own choice of service — notably his decision to accept a job as a community organizer instead of going straight to law school out of college. But it’s something he left out that drew more attention.

Here’s what New York Times columnist Bill Kristol wrote last month, in a piece that’s gotten wide circulation among anti-Obama bloggers:

“More striking is Obama’s sin of omission. In the rest of the speech, he goes on to detail — at some length — the ‘so many ways to serve’ that are available ‘at this defining moment in our history.’ There’s the Peace Corps, there’s renewable energy, there’s education, there’s poverty — there are all kinds of causes you can take up ‘should you take the path of service.’ ”

“But there’s one obvious path of service Obama doesn’t recommend — or even mention: military service. He does mention war twice: ‘At a time of war, we need you to work for peace.’ And, we face ‘big challenges like war and recession.’ But there’s nothing about serving your country in uniform.”

Taking up the service mantle again this week — and with the issue of service in the news because of the comments by Wesley Clark — Obama wasn’t about to repeat his omission.

On Wednesday, speaking in front of a veteran-heavy audience in Colorado Springs, he touted his plan for an expanded military, and included this in the context of service:

“We need to ease the burden on our troops while meeting the challenges of the 21st Century,” Obama said. “That is why I will call on a new generation of Americans to join our military.”

Wondering what Obama has said about his own decision not to serve in the military?

“I didn’t serve, as many people my age, because the Vietnam war was over by the time I was of draft age and we went to an all-volunteer Army,” he told reporters in late May.

– Rick Klein

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