On February 12, 1992, Bill Clinton appeared on the ABC television program Nightline with host Ted Koppel to discuss the matter of Clinton’s unconventional draft record. A February 6, 1992, Wall Street Journal article scrutinizing events surrounding his draft situation prompted questions about his ability to act as commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces. In this chapter, the allegations made in that article will be explained, followed by an analysis of image restoration strategies Clinton used in the aftermath. Finally, an evaluation of the effectiveness of Clinton’s discourse will be offered.
The Wall Street Journal article by Jeffrey Birnbaum revealed that on August 7, 1969, Clinton was offered a draft deferment (classified as 1–D) for promising to enroll in the Army ROTC program at the University of Arkansas. That same month, he returned to his graduate studies as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England. On September 19, 1969, President Nixon announced a cutback in the number of people drafted from October to December, the months when Clinton was likely to be drafted under the old system had he not attained a deferment. On October 30, 1969, Clinton was reclassified as eligible for the draft when the ROTC program at Arkansas informed the local draft board that Clinton would not be enrolling. On November 26, 1969, Congress passed the lottery law which mandated that new draftees be determined by the chance drawing of birthdates. On December 1, Clinton’s birthdate was given a draft lottery number that