The Issues: Reviving The Draft

Cocco Brothers

CBS News continues an election-year series titled "What Does It Mean To You?" focused on where the presidential candidates stand on major issues and how a vote for one or the other candidate might affect average people's lives.

In this report, CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger looks at what President Bush and Sen. John Kerry say about the possibilities of reinstituting the military draft.

Beverly Cocco has spent most of her life protecting children in Philadelphia.

She spends most of her time worrying about other people's kids. But as Election Day approaches, it's her own two grown sons who Beverly is most worried about.

"I go to bed every night and I pray and I actually get sick to my stomach," she says. "I'm very worried; I'm scared. I'm absolutely scared; I'm petrified."

Beverly is petrified about a military draft – and she's not alone. There's an undercurrent of anxiety; mass e-mails are circulating among parents worried their kids could be called up.

"I think there's a good possibility," Beverly says.

But neither President Bush, nor Sen. John Kerry has said he will re-institute the draft. In fact they both say they won't.

Kerry says, "I will give us a foreign policy that absolutely makes it unnecessary to have a draft for this country."

Kerry says he'll try to get allies of the U.S. to send troops that could relieve American soldiers.

The Bush campaign says expecting great numbers of foreign troops to help out is pure fantasy. The president wants to train more Iraqi troops to take over for the Americans. And, he says, despite the war on terror, there will be no draft.

"The war on terror will continue," says the president. "It's going to take a while and no, we don't need a draft."

But Beverly's not buying it. She's a Republican, but also a single-issue voter.

Would she vote for a Democrat? "Absolutely," she says. "I would vote for Howdy Doody if I thought it would keep my boys home and safe."

In fact, there are at least three votes in this house riding on the draft: Beverly's and her sons' Carmen and Nick.

Are her sons worried about being drafted? "Yeah," says Nick. "It's the talk; the talk's there. Though people aren't actually coming out and saying it, it's there."

What worries the Coccos is the continuing need for more troops in dangerous places. And the machinery for a draft is already in place: all men have to register when they turn 18. Beverly Cocco is so concerned that she and ten of her friends formed a group called Parents Against the Draft, which is loosely affiliated with People Against the Draft.

The head of the Selective Service believes he could start drafting people quickly.

"I think we could do it in less than six months if we got the call," says Selective Service Director Jack Martin.

This time, Martin says there would be no long deferments for college students and a lot more people could be eligible for the draft than before: men and women ages 18 to 26 could be called up.

There hasn't been a draft since 1973, but that's not much comfort to Beverly Cocco.

So she is keeping a sharp eye on the political traffic. She's a Bush supporter today, but if she doesn't like what she hears between now and November, she could easily cross over.