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Hey, Wait a Minute

It's too bad Slate retired that rubric, because if one of their stories ever deserved it, it's this one from Fred Kaplan about how the Army fudged its numbers to exceed its 2009 recruiting goal of 65,000 new troops:

Though the Pentagon's report doesn't mention this fact, in each of the previous two years, the Army's recruitment goal was 80,000—much higher than this year's. The Army met those targets, but only by drastically lowering its standards—accepting more applicants who'd dropped out of high school or flunked the military's aptitude test.

This year, the recruiters restored the old standards—a very good thing for troops' morale and military effectiveness—but they signed up 10,000 fewer new soldiers.

It is, in other words, not the case that high unemployment or a new public spirit is leading more young men and women into the Army. It's not the case that more young men and women are going into the Army at all.

The strange thing is, most of the analysis I saw in the initial stories about the Army's '09 recruitment haul didn't chalk it up to a new public spirit but, rather, to high unemployment. Which made it almost a negative story for the Obama administration, since it just served to remind people of the bad economy (as if they needed a reminder). So the Army's fudging its numbers is doubly bad news for the commander in chief: not only is the Army shrinking (when, per the Secretary of Defense and Congress, it's supposed to be growing) but it's making people think that it's growing because times are so tough people have no choice but to enlist. Doh.