The latest fear factor being injected into the presidential election equation is a ghost from our past - the military draft.
For the past several weeks, moms of the soccer and security persuasion, as well as the demographic known as The Youth Vote, have been targeted by an e-mail campaign promising reinstitution of the military draft should President George W. Bush be re-elected.
One e-mail that's been circulating and posted on the Internet says, for example, that there's pending legislation in the House and Senate, (HR 163 and S 89) to reinstate mandatory draft for men and women (ages 18-26) starting June 15, 2005.
Portentously, the e-mailer writes: "The Bush administration is quietly trying to get these bills passed now, while the public's attention is on the elections. The Bush administration plans to begin mandatory draft in the spring of 2005, just after the 2004 presidential election."
Those chilling bullets of doom, though untrue, have gained traction with the help of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland. Both recently have told college audiences that another Bush presidency will mean the draft for young Americans.
"America will reinstate the military draft" if Bush is re-elected, Cleland told an audience at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.
"I think that George Bush is certainly going to have a draft if he goes into a second term, and any young person who doesn't want to go to Iraq might think twice about voting for him," Dean said in a speech at Brown University in Providence, R.I.
Get the picture? Now that the draft meme is loose in the land and everyone is nearly hysterical, let's all take a deep breath. No draft. It ain't gonna happen for at least two reasons: Americans don't want it, and the military doesn't need it.
Talk of the draft was born - like most bad rumors these days - of a political liaison. Indeed, the two pieces of legislation mentioned in the scary e-mail both were introduced by Democrats almost two years ago (January 2003) as part of a strategy to discourage support for the Iraq war.
The House version was sponsored by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and the Senate version by Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C. Neither bill has much support in the Congress, which authorizes a draft, nor is that fact expected to change. Not even Rangel is pushing the bill, according to FactCheck.org, a political fact-checking project of the nonpartisan Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.