Youthful coalition gets in step behind draft registration
A coalition of young pro-Carter Democrats, Republicans, and self-styled social democrats is rallying to support the President's program to register young people for a possible military draft.
Answering the challenge of antidraft student groups and of presidential hopeful Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, Bernie Freedman, president of the Democratic National Committee's 800-chapter College Democrats of America announced the coalition at a news conference here Feb. 21.
Rosanne Garber, executive director of the National Federation of Young Republicans, with a membership of about 20,000, and Chris Mueller, national chairman of the 2,000-member Young Social Democrats of America, associated themselves with Mr. Freedman's views.
Youth groups opposing registration, who do not see Afghanistan or Persian Gulf oil as "vital interests" of the United States, "are misrepresenting the views of the majority of students and working youth of this country," said Mr. Freedman.
"Our own discussions indicate that students are well aware of the threat. . . . We have also found that a majority of students are not opposed to registration for the draft" as borne out by "public opinion polls of students and working youth."
Mr. Freedman and Mr. Mueller said there is a pro-registration consensus in their organizations, but that the coalition now takes no stand on the separate issues of registering or drafting women. Miss Garber said she personally opposes registration of women for the draft but favors registration for men and their induction in a time of emergency. She addeed that the Young Republicans would meet here Feb. 4 to seek a common position on all selective-service issues.
Antidraft militants, while opposing the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, "have said nothing" on other human-rights issues "which many young Americans believe are important," including the boat refugees from Southeast Asia and the "exile and persecution of human-rights activist Andrei Sakharov and others who have suffered" for opposing communist rule, added Mr. Freedman.
The coalition wants to eliminate past inequities in the Selective Service System "to end possible drafting of a disproportionate number of poor and minorities." Mr. Freedman added that the coalition would study "the President's specific proposals to determine whether they are, in fact, equitable. But we welcome his initiative."
President Carter already can register (but not induct) young men under existing law. What he seeks from Congress is nearly $30 million ot reactivate the dormant registration system and separate authority to register women.
The womens' registration proposal is the one having roughest sailing in committee hearings in the House of Representatives. House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D) of Massachusetts warned the President last month that it would not pass.
Reps. Richard C. White (D) of Texas and Marjorie S. Holt (R) of Maryland, chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of the House subcommittee on military personnel, maintain the administration would have a large enough pool of young men available in an emergency to preclude the need to draft women.
The administration's position, as outlined in a recent report to Congress and in President Carter's recent remarks to student leaders and others, is that registering wowen is a matter of equity, not necessity.