Secretary Hillary Clinton is lying about her purported attempt back in 1975 to become a lawyer in the United States Marine Corps. Of course, I understand why she has been telling the tall tale for decades; it represents the rare and highly sought after political threefer.
First, it shows her as the courageous challenger of barriers to women’s entry into the workplace, no late entrant—both as a victim of and a fighter against— the “war on women,” she. Second, it imbues her with a macho Marine image in stark contrast to that of her cowardly, draft-dodging husband, who admitted “no interest in the ROTC program” that helped him evade the draft because he “loathe[d] the military.” Third, it allows her to blaspheme the Marine Corps as the outfit whose uncouth, unchivalrous, and ignorant cads dismissed her so unceremoniously.
That it works for Secretary Clinton as a political gambit, however, does not make it true. In fact, it is a lie and I know it is a lie.
In 1975, my wife Lis and I were law students at the University of Wyoming College of Law in Laramie. Nearly two years before, I had left the Marine Corps as a Captain, after more than four years as a Naval Flight Officer (NFO) aboard the EA-6A and the RF-4B, with collateral assignment as Squadron Legal Officer — two weeks of law school prior to dropping out and joining the Marines rather than being drafted into the Army made me a natural.
Lis had been a school teacher, following me from base to base, and a congressional aide in Washington, D.C. when I was overseas. Now we were at law school together, but worried about our prospects on graduation and passing the bar. After all, Wyoming’s economy was not exactly booming, its small town law practices were as yet unaccustomed to a “lady lawyer,” as one gentlemanly attorney referred to Lis, and a husband and wife legal team was virtually unknown.
Thus, in the summer of 1975, Lis and I drove to Denver to meet with a Marine Corps Officer Selection Officer (OSO). I was 30; my wife was 29; graduation and admission to the practice of law was a year away. I told the OSO that I was considering returning to the Marine Corps as a Judge Advocate and my wife with me. Said the OSO, “No disrespect Captain Pendley, we’d love to have you return but if we had to choose, we’d prefer your wife. We’re desperate for female Judge Advocates.” Of the two hours we spent with the OSO, he spent the vast majority of the time telling my wife of the urgent need the Marine Corps had for female Judge Advocates and how the Corps would do everything it could to make it possible for her to join up.
Sorry as I am to report, rather than reject the 27-year old Hillary Clinton, the Yale law graduate, the former Washington, D.C. congressional attorney, and current University of Arkansas Law School professor, my Marine Corps would have jumped at the chance to have her come aboard. The OSO would have signed her up on the spot, before she had the chance to even consider the Army. No, as in so many other things, Secretary Clinton is lying. Of course, she has been telling this lie for so long, maybe now she believes it. But no one else should.
As for us, despite the welcoming words from the Marine Corps OSO that summer day in Denver in 1975, neither my wife nor I became Judge Advocates.
Mr. Pendley, an attorney, is president of Mountain States Legal Foundation in Denver and author of Sagebrush Rebel: Reagan’s Battle with Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today (Regnery, 2013).