Forty Years Later, Draft-Dodging Stirs Jensen-Sly Primary in Rapid City

Let me be clear: conscientious objectors do not forfeit their right or ability to participate in government. When our country has had a draft, we have created legal avenues by which citizens may refuse to participate in what they view as unjust killing. We should not ostracize or punish citizens who have honestly taken such a position.

However, my opinion does not hold sway with opponents of Senator Phil Jensen, who continue to pour on the heat over Jensen’s apparent refusal to serve in the military during the Vietnam War. Last week Stan Adelstein followed up his postcard attack on Jensen’s non-service with a blog critique:

…During the Vietnam War, while his peers stepped up when drafted doing their duty in combat and non-combat roles, Phil Jensen objected to serving in the military. But Phil didn’t just object to combat—he wouldn’t wear the uniform at all, not even in a non-combat role (that was an option, there was a classification for that). He answered no and was assigned community service in a parking garage safe at home [Stanford Adelstein, “While Others Served—Jensen Wouldn’t Wear Our Country’s Uniform,” A Way to Go, 2016.05.24].

Seth Tupper talked to Jensen about Adelstein’s accusations and got contradictory answers. Tupper did get Jensen to offer this reason for seeking conscientious objector status:

“I was hoping to serve in a hospital setting,” he wrote on Thursday, “because I was employed at a local hospital” [Seth Tupper, “Campaign Flyer: Sen. Jensen Dodged Draft During Vietnam War,” Rapid City Journal, 2016.05.27].

Tupper also checked in with Jensen’s primary challenger, Rep. Jacqueline Sly. She seemed to support Adelstein’s attack:

The Journal also asked Sly why Jensen’s 44-year-old draft status is relevant to this year’s race for the Republican nomination for the District 33 Senate seat.

“Every decision that we make in our lives has an impact on other decisions we make,” Sly said. “Whether we’re 18 or 40 or 65, all of those things reflect who we are as individuals, and when we’re making decisions for the state, I think who we are and what we’ve done and who we are inside is reflected. We’re representing people in our district, and if we don’t believe in defending our country, I think our country is in trouble” [Tupper, 2016.05.27].

Of course, Sly has never worn the uniform, either. She and Jensen both wrap themselves in the uniforms of family members, which makes me think (a) how has having family members in the military made either Sly or Jensen better legislators, and (b) do state legislators really spend so much time legislating national defense issues that the uniforms they or their family members have worn should be a primary voting issue?

29 Responses to Forty Years Later, Draft-Dodging Stirs Jensen-Sly Primary in Rapid City

  1. Mike Henriksen

    My Dad served in World War II and my Grandfather served in World War I. This gives me the exact same “military experience” as watching the movie “The Longest Day” or visiting a museum. I am thankful for those that served in any capacity. That does not mean I could have or would have done it. And judging anyone about decisions they made as a teenager during one of the most confusing times in American history is wrong.

  2. mike from iowa

    when we’re making decisions for the state, I think who we are and what we’ve done and who we are inside is reflected.

    Do pols really want to open this can of worms? Aren’t campaigns smutty enough without scrutinizing every decision your opponent ever made? There are enough public records online to peruse,you can probably find something about your opponent and some of it might even be true.

  3. “I was hoping to serve in a hospital setting … because I was employed at a local hospital”

    If Jensen’s only explanation for refusing Uncle Sam’s call is that he just liked his current job and wanted to stay there, that says something about him. Choosing conscientious objector status wasn’t about principal. It was about his own comfort and convenience.

    If Jensen had said, “Look. I just didn’t want to kill people.” I could understand that. But if he held that conviction he would have been allowed to serve in a non-combat role and still wear the uniform. He didn’t say that though.

  4. mike from iowa

    Didn’t Muhammad Ali get convicted of draft evasion and was sentenced to prison and banned from boxing for 3 years for conscientious objector status? I believe he had converted to Islam.

  5. W R Old Guy

    I am a veteran who served during the Vietnam era. The draft issue does not mean a lot to me. He registered as a conscientious objector. He registered which is more than some did. Conscientious objectors are nothing new. Ft. Meade had a company of conscientious objectors during WW-II. They were housed at the old CCC camp and were not integrated into the general population of Ft. Meade. There was a cover story that they were a special classified unit to prevent harassment and possible physical harm to them.

    Senator Jensen’s record in the SD Legislature is more than enough for me to want him out of the legislature. I told him face to face I would not vote for him when he knocked on my door one Sunday afternoon. He runs on smaller government, no new taxes and as typical for a wingnut , votes for his personal beliefs instead of the beliefs of the people he represents. He is also short on providing solutions for problems.

  6. Don Coyote

    “His description of the draft ending “several months” after his offer of service does not align with history, which shows that the draft ended with an announcement by then-Defense Secretary Melvin Laird on Jan. 27, 1973 — more than a year after Jensen was classified as a conscientious objector.”

    While the draft did end on Jan 27, 1973, Nixon announced on June 28, 1972 that no more draftees would be sent to Vietnam. This was done to remove the draft as a campaign issue in the ’72 elections since it was due to expire in 1973 anyway. Perhaps Seth Tupper should use more than Wikipedia as his research resources.

    In addition, Jensen’s age (figured from a previous RCJ story) would have placed him in the ’72 draft lottery which means he wouldn’t have been eligible for induction until he turned 19 in 1973. Even then the ’72 lottery had no draftees sent to Vietnam as US troops were being withdrawn in substantial numbers in accordance with Nixon’s orders as part of a breakthrough in the stalled Paris Peace Talks.

    Calling a person who used existing law to his advantage in what was a highly politicized and discriminatory draft system a draft dodger never made sense to me. Even attempts to rectify the process with the first lottery in ’69, turned into a total mathematical and statistical mess with the procedure used being proven seriouely flawed.

  7. WR points out the real problem: instead of calling Jensen out on his conscientious objector status, why don’t Adelstein and Sly call him out on his nutty policy proposals, his Islamophobia, and his racist outbursts? Why don’t they call him out on his actual legislation, like trying to legalize the murder of abortion doctors?

  8. Rapid City reader Curtis Price made a similar point in his May 28 comment on my previous Jensen/Adelstein story:

    As Curtis says, it takes courage to challenge Jensen on real issues. Instead, Sly and Adelstein are pursuing the draft-dodging line of attack. Evidently they are worried that if they talk sense about abortion, First Amendment rights, racism, and sexism, they’ll run into a buzzsaw of District 33 GOP primary voters who actually side with Jensen’s whackdoodlery.

  9. elaborating on mfi’s memory, Ali (I call him Marcellus after pulp fiction and, we named our dog after ms. Thurman), “by early 1966… was again classified as 1-A.[19][94][95]

    When notified of this status,… he said he would refuse to serve … and publicly considered himself a conscientious objector.[19] Ali stated: “War is against the teachings of the Holy Qur’an….We don’t take part in Christian wars …” he said, “…no Viet Cong ever called me Nigger.”

    Appearing for…induction… on April 28, 1967 in Houston, Ali refused three times to step forward at the call of his name. An officer warned him he was committing a felony punishable by five years in prison/fine of $10,000.

    i’m guessing statistically VERY FEW skipped registering at 18.

    Ali refused to budge…he was arrested…the New York State Athletic Commission suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his title… Ali would not … obtain a license to box …for over three years.[97]

    kinda like what happen to natalie mains (Dixie chicks called out bush on Iraq war/WMD tragedy. Negative public reaction in the United States… resulted in boycotts by radio stations and death threats.[34][35][36] she elaborated too: “I feel the president is ignoring the opinions of many in the U.S. and alienating the rest of the world…patriotism; Why do you have to be a patriot? About what? This land is our land? Why? You can like where you live and like your life, but as for loving the whole country … I don’t see why people care about patriotism.[44]wiki again

    I think “patriot” is like mel Gibson in blue face. we know how that turned out. there is no difference in the stars and bars patriotism. I think the concept is bogus. except for treating vets properly. if congress would, then we’d have a citizenship of patriots.

    did silver spoon stan serve in korea at 20? wiki says he enlisted and returned to RC in 1957.

    perhaps coyote can update his anti-war views for us:)

  10. sly said: “if we don’t believe in defending our country” blahblahblah. Jensen is the last politician I would defend but she makes it so…”patriotic”?? :(

  11. Don Coyote has turned into quite an apologist for Jensen. Jensen’s only excuse was that he’d rather just keep working his civilian job and not answer Uncle Sam’s call. If it were a Democrat who did the same thing as Jensen and used such a non-excuse I wonder what that sneaky canine would say?

  12. mikeyc, that's me!

    Hopefully Jensen gets put out to pasture.

  13. ‘Pubs don’t have the upper hand on patriotism and serving their country, we all knew this.

  14. Do you know Ted Nugent’s story for not serving in Vietnam, Don?

    I’m sure the DFP boys on here would know.

  15. Jenny, pubs are real big on making sure other people and their kids serve, fighting their for profit wars. I agree with Cory, Jensen should be called out for what he has already done in Pierre.

  16. Don Coyote

    @ Rorschach: Not apologizing for Jensen at all. Just stating the facts which the RCJ did a crap job of. As for not answering Uncle Sam’s call, from what I can tell, Jensen was never called for either a physical or for an induction. Nor would he have been if he was in the ’72 lottery from which nobody went to Vietnam.

    And while we are talking about “answering the call”, shouldn’t we also be looking askance at all draftees since they didn’t volunteer for military service, instead playing the odds that they might not have to go? And how about all the men who volunteered to avoid the draft to get more favorable assignments so as to avoid combat duty? How about most of the Air Force where the chances of serving in combat were extremely rare as most combat duty was limited to pilots? Or we should cast aspersions only on those that didn’t serve in Vietnam proper? Who are we to call into question the bravery of anybody refusing to serve in an immoral and unconstitutional war built on the flimsiest of justifications?

  17. Don Coyote

    @Jenny: I’m not sure how Ted Nugent’s former draft status has anything to do with Jensen’s situation especially since it happened prior to the draft lotteries. Personally I believe that Nugent was spouting bs in his ’77 High Times interview and parroted an apocryphal draft physical story that was rampant during the Vietnam Era.

  18. Don Coyote

    @Leslie: I was anti-war during the Vietnam War as you should be able to tell from my posts. While I had no inclination to enlist, I would have been rejected because of surgical metal in my arm. Also since I was a member of the ’72 lottery (like Jensen) I would not have been called even if my lottery number hadn’t been 246. The surgical metal also gave me an automatic 4-F deferment if I had needed it.

  19. With interference like that run by Don on behalf of Jensen, I would hope that we could neutralize all efforts to question candidates’ fitness for office based simply on whether or not they wore military uniforms. Let’s quit wrapping ourselves in the uniform and the flag and discuss candidates’ positions on issues… which ought to be enough to toss Jensen in the dustbin.

  20. Roger Cornelius

    Agreed Cory, Jensen should be benched for cause, he has demonstrated over and over how despicable and hateful he is.
    The military uniform issue is just like abortion and the 2nd Amendment arguments, they mean nothing and contribute nothing to grow our cities and towns.

  21. There must be a parking lot in the Rapid City area that needs an attendant, eh Coyote? Maybe it even has a conscientious objector hiring preference for Jensen.

  22. barry freed

    I’m thinking my Dad, who was in the Guard when the Rapid City unit was activated during Korea, said that Adelstein was in the Guard and went with them to Germany. It was so many years ago that I am not 100% on that info and could have misunderstood.

    BTW, if there are any Guard out there that would like to see photos, my Dad bought a camera and took many over there. Chuck Lein is in the one I like best; my Dad a 20 year old running a Cat getting lined out by Lien.

    They activated two units, one from Rapid and one from California. Rapid went to Germany, California went to Korea. Five cent litres of beer or bitter cold winters fighting the North Koreans. Guess I’m lucky to be here.

  23. Jensen and anyone else that missed that dance in Vietnam, didn’t miss a damn thing. Jensen made his choice and that is the way it is. I think more of that choice than any other he has made since his move to South Dakota. Mr. Jensen fits right into the rank and file that we have seen in Pierre since 1972 as the birds of a feather thing. As far as Stan goes, he gave us Mike Rounds, what more can be said?

  24. Michael Melius

    When a friend shared Adelstein’s blogpost about this, I immediately went to his website and asked him to stop using the Vietnam War as a divisive political issue. There’ll be an LTE in the RC Journal soon with the same message: Do the protagonists is the Dist. 33 race really want to re-open the debate about the federal draft to score current political points in a local race?

    It takes chapters to explain the context for that conflict and the draft. Most people under age 50 have no personal memory of that war, which tore the country apart, leaving wounds that have been a long time healing. Healing is the way to move forward. There’s no going back in time and making anything about that war right.

  25. W R Old Guy

    I got a mailer from Jensen yesterday. It contained the usual small government, lower taxes, pro gun, pro life bullet statements. He is also a true conservative and a Reagan Republican. Does this mean he is really for closing tax loopholes, raising taxes, granting immunity to certain illegal aliens and increasing the national debt as Reagan did?

    Reagan would not stand a chance in todays Republican party as he also knew how to work with the Democrats.

  26. It means, Old Guy, that Jensen wants to send weapons to Iran.

  27. WR, that mailer raises an interesting point: can an individual who filed as a conscientious objector also be “pro-gun”?

  28. W R Old Guy

    Cory, A CO could be pro gun. A CO whose beliefs prohibit serving in the military could still be an avid hunter. The Quakers in colonial times did not believe in war but still put venison and game birds on the table.

    Four members of a Hutterite Colony in South Dakota paid a terrible price for trying to be COs in WW II.

    The flyer in question really doesn’t give a specific reason for Jensen’s CO status.

  29. Curtis Price

    A CO whose beliefs prohibit serving in the military could still be an avid hunter.

    Yeah those Glocks, AR 15s and StreetSweepers come in really handy bringin down them vittles.