Diversity a la Clinton (Part II)

March 17, 1994

As President Clinton's second year in office began, we took note here of studies of his executive and judicial appointments. He had promised in the 1992 campaign to have an administration that "looked like America." Had he delivered on that promise? We concluded he had, "more fully than even he could have predicted." The percentage of women, African-Americans and Hispanics was greater in the administration than in the national population in the 30-64 age group. Other minorities were also well represented.

But there is another side to that coin. Lewis Puller, a Clinton supporter and highly decorated Vietnam veteran, discussed it recently in a radio interview: There are very few veterans in this administration.

Drawing on research by another Vietnam veteran, John Wheeler, and other sources, Mr. Puller told National Public Radio that outside of the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the number of veterans appointed to executive posts by President Clinton is woefully low. Counting only that half of executive positions filled by male appointees, Mr. Puller estimates that 5 percent or less are veterans. Asked by The Evening Sun what a fair figure would be, he cited a study by a military sociologist finding that 35-40 percent of American men aged 35-64 are veterans. Vietnam veterans, now the largest subgroup of veterans, account for 10 percent.

If that were women or an ethnic or racial group, "America wouldn't stand for it," Mr. Puller said. He's right. It ought not to stand for this. Veterans have a lot to offer their country. They have a lot to offer this administration, which is not only disproportionately non-veteran, but includes a large number of men and women who came of age in the Vietnam era and were not only anti-war but also anti-draft and in some cases anti-military. That includes the commander in chief.

The administration needs the leavening more veterans in high places would contribute. It might be awkward, given the discomfort level among some Vietnam veterans and non-veterans when they are thrown together. Each group reminds the other of things they need to forget. But both sides can overcome that if they try. It would benefit both groups -- and the nation.

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