Rich Tucker

“It doesn’t matter what I know,” Tom Cruise’s character says in A Few Good Men. “It only matters what I can prove.” Well, life is now imitating art, but it’s giving us a mirror image -- one that’s the exact opposite of the truth. As an example, Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., wants to bring back the draft.

Why? “No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment,” Rangel announced on FOX News Sunday Nov. 26. There’s just one problem with Rangel’s position: He can’t prove it, because it’s factually incorrect.

As Tim Kane, an economist at The Heritage Foundation, wrote recently, “The wealthiest 40 percent of neighborhoods in America are the home of 45.6 percent of 2005 enlistees. For every two U.S. recruits from the poorest neighborhoods, three come from the richest.”

Kane, an Air Force veteran, has run the numbers, and he’s got the facts on his side. But that didn’t slow Rangel down a bit. “If a young fellow has an option of having a decent career or joining the Army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq,” the congressman insisted. “The record is clear, and once we are able to get hearings on this, everyone will see what they already know, and that is that those who have the least opportunities at this age find themselves in the military.”

Well, if Rangel really looks for the facts he’ll find, as Kane did, that enlistees are intelligent and certainly have options. “The average reading level of new soldiers is roughly a full grade level higher” than that of the average civilian, Kane writes. And an impressive 97 percent of enlistees in 2003, 2004 and 2005 were high-school graduates, far ahead of the civilian graduation rate (80 percent). Our volunteers serve because they want to. Rangel’s position seems to boil down to, “I believe this, so it must be true.” Comedian Bill Maher provides another shining example.

“If we were really looking for a new direction, we’d not just change Congress, we’d have another Constitutional Convention, as Jefferson suggested we do,” Maher wrote recently in the Boston Globe. “Jefferson said: ‘Let us provide in our Constitution for its revision. . . every 19 or 20 years. . . so that it may be handed on, with periodical repairs, from generation to generation.’ He himself was saying, I’m a bright guy, but even I can’t foresee the iPod.”

Rich Tucker

Rich Tucker is a communications professional and a columnist for