Rotisserie Vietnam

Tom DeLay’s spokesman never got back to Chatterbox about whether DeLay really did plead reverse discrimination in 1988 to explain why he sat out the Vietnam war. (See “What Did You Do in the War, Hammer?”) However, Slate reader David Stokes, who works as a civilian employee for the U.S. Army, was able to locate DeLay’s draft number on a CNN Web page that has a search engine for the 1969 Vietnam draft lottery. This lottery affected all U.S. males born between Jan. 1, 1944, and Dec. 31, 1950. DeLay’s date of birth being April 8, 1947, his lottery number was 312 (out of 366 days in the year, accounting for leap years). Since only the first 196 were drafted, DeLay would indeed have been free to start his pest-control career upon graduating from the University of Houston in 1970.

But how to construe this as reverse discrimination? Since DeLay won’t talk, Chatterbox must invent an argument for him: 1) Many blacks and Hispanics drew lottery numbers below 196. Simply by having a certain birthday, these special pleaders got put at the head of the line by the Selective Service! (Chatterbox thought the whole message of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech was that one day children would be judged by the content of their character, not by their astrological signs.) 2) Blacks and Hispanics also got a leg up compared to other below-196 draftees who were wealthier (and, “coincidentally,” whiter) and therefore more appetizing prey to antiwar lawyers who concocted ways to avoid induction. (Of the 307,276 men who showed up as a result of the 1969 lottery, only 162,746 lucky stiffs were inducted.) 3) Many blacks and Hispanics, finding it difficult to get good civilian jobs, were pushy enough to enlist, giving them a clear advantage over white males who waited with quiet dignity for their country to call them to service.

And now, it’s time for Celebrity Vietnam Draft Lottery! Chatterbox combined data from the Selective Service Web site with data from a Web page listing birth dates for famous people. The results are below. Chatterbox has no idea what any of these people did during the Vietnam War (though he suspects Stevie Wonder was 4-F).

CelebrityBirth dateVietnam draft lottery number
Michael Bolton2/26/5351
Stevie Wonder5/13/50295
John Tesh7/9/5222 (ouch!)
Paul “Pee-Wee Herman” Reubens8/27/52352
Terry “Hulk” Hogan8/11/53125
Tom Petty10/20/53352

–Timothy Noah