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Clinton: Military Experience a Plus

November 8, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton says presidential candidates John McCain and Al Gore deserve credit for having served in Vietnam because the experience gave them a ``unique perspective″ that could help them in office.

And while he doesn’t believe an absence of military service will hurt other presidential hopefuls, Clinton said he has ``always seen military service as a plus.″

Clinton, who was criticized during his presidential campaigns for efforts to avoid the draft, was asked in an interview published today in USA Today whether his victories over World War II veterans George Bush and Bob Dole indicates that voters no longer consider military service important.

``I don’t think the absence of it is much a negative, but I think its presence can be a positive, and frankly I think that’s the way it ought to be,″ Clinton said.

McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, and the vice president are the only presidential aspirants who are war veterans. McCain was a Navy pilot who spent 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Gore was an Army journalist in Vietnam for almost five months during two years of service.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican front-runner, joined the Texas National Guard during the Vietnam War. Former New Jersey senator Bill Bradley, who is challenging Gore for the Democratic nomination, was in the Air Force reserves.

``I don’t think it should count against Bill Bradley that he didn’t serve, or whatever he did, or Governor Bush,″ Clinton said. ``What they did was perfectly all right and honorable, and I think that it won’t count against them.″

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