Remember those phony stories that individuals and the press were spreading about Republican plans to bring back the draft after the 2004 election. Fraudulent emails were sent to college students laying out supposed Republican plans, and some in the press covered them, not as the hoax they were, but simply as a seemingly plausible story that party officials were denying. As I wrote in September 2004:
[L]ast night on the CBS Evening News, reporter Richard Schlesinger used fake documents to spread an internet rumor that has been long debunked. The document, which CBS showed on the screen much as it had the phony Burkett Guard documents, purports to be an email from someone in the Department of Defense, but it is actually a chain email hoax letter.
In order to scare voters, particularly the young, into voting Democratic, there have been emails circulating that point to HR163 and S89, bills proposing national service for both men and women. Both bills are proposed and co-sponsored solely by Democrats, a fact that the emails fail to mention. Although some [bloggers and internet] commentators have suggested that "members of both parties have introduced bills to reinstate" the draft, I have not been able to locate any introduced by Republicans in the current Congress by following the links to the supposed evidence. . . . The most that has been pointed out so far is the statement of one Republican Senator (Chuch Hagel) favoring a draft, no actual Republican bills.
These emails usually, however, go further, sometimes claiming that there are plans to call up both men and women on June 15, 2005 and that "The administration is quietly trying to get these bills passed now," which is flatly false. . . .
[Despite reporting denials,] by showing phony documents and repeating phony facts, the email hoax is presented as plausible. Nowhere do they report that this is an already debunked email hoax.
Well, it's now 2006 and once again prominent Democrats are calling for universal national service, though only for three months and involving training for civil defense, rather than for the military. The proposal comes from Rahm Emanuel, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Bruce Reed, President of the Democratic Leadership Council :
A new social contract, or what you can do for your country and what your country can do for you.
The economy of the twenty-first century demands new skills and will require all of us to live up to new responsibilities. We believe that four mutual obligations that follow should represent the first terms of a new contract between the people and their country.
Universal Citizen Service
If you forget everything else you read in these pages, please remember this: The Plan starts with you. If your leaders aren't challenging you to do your part, they aren't doing theirs. We need a real Patriot Act that brings out the patriot in all of us by establishing, for the first time, an ethic of universal citizen service. . . .
John Kennedy was right: A nation is defined not by what it does for its citizens but by what it asks of them. If your leaders aren't challenging you to do your part, they aren't doing theirs. We need a real Patriot Act that brings out the patriot in all of us by establishing for the first time an ethic of universal citizen service. All Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 should be asked to serve their country by going through three months of basic civil defense training and community service. This is not a draft, nor is it military. Young people will be trained not as soldiers, but simply as citizens who understand their responsibilities in the event of a natural disaster, an epidemic or a terrorist attack. Universal citizen service will bring Americans of every background together to make America safer and more united in common purpose.
What do you think of the merits of the Emanuel/Reed proposal?
UPDATE: In the course of a post about Rahm Emanuel's criticisms of Moveon.org and George Soros, Betsy also noticed that Emanuel was calling for universal service.