When a sixtysomething Republican and a baby boomer Democrat start fighting over someone's fuzzy memory of the wartime draft, you assume George Bush and Bill Clinton are involved.
But this time it's Roscoe Bartlett and Thomas Hattery, candidates for the 6th District congressional seat.
And the war is not Vietnam, it's World War II. The 38-year-old Mr. Hattery is turning the spotlight on the draft record of his 66-year-old Republican opponent in a campaign for the Western Maryland House seat that gets nastier each day.
The draft issue initially arose Tuesday during a Hagerstown debate between Mr. Hattery, the state delegate from Frederick who defeated seven-term incumbent Beverly B. Byron in the Democratic primary, and Mr. Bartlett, the GOP standard bearer.
Both were asked about their military service and both said they were too young to be subject to the draft for the respective wars of their generations -- World War II for Mr. Bartlett, Vietnam for Mr. Hattery.
Now, though, the Hattery campaign charges that Mr. Bartlett was in fact old enough to be drafted while World War II was hot and heavy, but avoided conscription with a divinity school deferment.
Accompanying a Hattery press release was a copy of the draft board ledger from Westmoreland County, Pa. The handwritten entries indicate Mr. Bartlett was classified as 1-A -- subject to immediate draft. His status was changed to 1-D -- deferred -- after he appeared before his local draft board on Aug. 13, 1944.
Fred Hoover, who signed the release, claims Mr. Bartlett earned a degree from Columbia-Union College in 1947 with a double major in biology and religion, went on to get a doctorate, teach physiology, own a research business and farm.
"We have no evidence that Mr. Bartlett ever became a minister," he wrote, charging that the Republican candidate "seemed to have made a conscious decision not to serve his country in World War II."
"At the Hagerstown Chamber of Commerce debate on Sept. 22, Roscoe Bartlett flat-out lied about his draft status in World War II," wrote Mr. Hoover.
The Bartlett campaign has issued its own statement, calling the charges "a tantrum of untruth."
"I was in Washington Missionary College in Takoma Park, Maryland, in 1944 when I became eligible for the draft," Mr. Bartlett wrote. "I had every intention of answering a call to the ministry in my church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This entitled me to a deferment for seminary students. The war ended in 1945 so I never had the opportunity to serve.
"Upon graduating in 1947, I received a ministerial license for the completion of studies in Bible and Homiletics. In 1952, I was called to teach at the College of Medical Evangelists, a Seventh-day Adventists institution in California," he explained.
The statement also raised earlier charges Mr. Bartlett flung at Mr. Hattery about his expense accounts while in Annapolis, saying, "Mr. Hattery is conducting a feverish and desperate attempt to smear me in the hope that pending accounts of a pattern of expense account fraud will be lost in the din of his mudslinging."
At the Hagerstown debate, Mr. Hattery produced evidence showing Mr. Bartlett had accepted federal payments for not growing crops on part of his Frederick farm, though he has called for an elimination of such payments to farmers.
"This is vintage Hattery," Mr. Bartlett said of the two charges. "Lots of venom with no substance. He should be ashamed of the lies and misleading statements he has made this week. He should be ashamed of the expense account money he has taken fraudulently."