Hillary Clinton once claimed that she tried to join the Marines in 1975, shortly before marrying her draft-dodging boyfriend, future president Bill Clinton. Or did Hillary Diane Rodham attempt to join the Army, as Clinton suggested in 2008? Or did she indeed try to sign up for the Marine Corps as part of an experiment to see how receptive the military was to female volunteers, as her friends have suggested?
Questions over whether presidential candidates have fudged their youthful interests in the military came to the forefront on Friday when Politico reported that Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson fabricated a story about being offered a scholarship to West Point. Carson’s campaign disputed the story, and Politico came under heavy scrutiny. (RELATED: Team Carson: Politico Story ‘Is An Outright Lie’)
But Clinton has a military story of her own that once came under question but has since taken a back seat to numerous other Clintonworld scandals. In June 1994, the then-first lady spoke at a luncheon for female military veterans where she told a story about her attempt to sign up for the Marines in 1975.
“You’re too old, you can’t see and you’re a woman,” Clinton recalled a young military recruiter telling her. “Maybe the dogs would take you,” he added, referring to the Army.
“It was not a very encouraging conversation,” Clinton added. “I decided maybe I’ll look for another way to serve my country.”
Clinton, a feminist who was 27 years old at the time of the attempted sign-up, said that her rejection was “not an isolated incident” and that it was common for women to be rejected by military recruiters.
But many were skeptical of the claim at the time. And in more recent years — in April 2008, to be exact — Bill Clinton said that his wife had attempted to sign up for the Army, not the Marines.
“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,'” Clinton said at a campaign event, according to Jake Tapper, then a reporter with ABC News.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd called Clinton’s claims into question at the time. She asserted that Clinton’s story “did not seem to fit in with the First Lady’s own persona” and that her claimed fervor for the military did not match her political work for anti-war Democrats or her then-boyfriend Bill’s recent dodging of the Vietnam War draft.
“Rodham was an up-and-coming legal star involved with an up-and-coming political star,” wrote Dowd, a longtime critic of the Clintons. “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.”
Clinton had also recently moved to Arkansas in order to be with her future husband, she told friends. The couple was married on Oct. 11, 1975.
“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?” Dowd asked.
A spokesman for Clinton in 1994 told Dowd that “maybe she was thinking about the J.A.G. Corps,” a reference to Marine lawyers.
“She was exploring all her options, the National Guard, everything,” the spokesman said.
The Washington Post also covered Clinton’s military claim and found that two of Clinton’s Arkansas friends believed that she could have been conducting a test to see how the military would respond to a female applicant.
Clinton’s friend, Diane Blair did tell The Post that she recalled Clinton discussing entering the military.
“Is it possible she was testing?” Blair asked. “I don’t remember if she was seriously exploring a career, or was moved by curiosity, or patriotism or feminism. I wish I had kept notes.”
Ann Henry, another friend of Clinton’s and a business professor at the University of Arkansas in 1994, told The Post that she vaguely remembered Clinton mentioning the military in 1975.
Conducting a test of the military’s response to a female applicant “would have been consistent with what was going on with us at the time,” Henry told The Post.
Clinton has told image-bolstering stories in the past that have turned out to be fabrications. In March 2008 then-Sen. Clinton claimed that she had come under sniper fire during a 1996 visit to Bosnia. She was forced to retract that claim when video emerged showing her on an airport tarmac during that visit. And as The Daily Caller reported last month, Clinton has told competing tales about a job she had at an Alaskan fishery in 1969. She has claimed in the past that she was fired from the job after she complained about the state of the fish she was hired to clean. But in a more recent interview, she said that her job with the fishery came to an end after she showed up to work one day to find that the manager of the operation had closed up shop. (RELATED: Hillary Tells A Fishy Story About Being Fired From A Summer Job In Alaska)
[h/t Sean Davis]