The irony of the Donald Trump campaign using the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic “Fortunate Son” has escaped almost no one in recent days, except, possibly, the Donald Trump campaign. Now, the man who wrote and sang the song, John Fogerty, has spoken up to confirm that it didn’t elude him, either.
As Fogerty explains in the minute-and-a-half message he posted on Facebook, the song was written about — and is widely understood by almost everyone who’s heard it to be about — military draft avoidance by the wealthy. That a politician who has sometimes been referred to by the nickname “Cadet Bone Spurs” would willingly choose to draw attention back to his own history of escaping the Vietnam draft is, in Fogerty’s words, “confusing” and “confounding.”
Controversy arose after the campaign played the song Trump walked off Air Force One in Freeland, Mich., Thursday (Dave Weigel tweeted that it was “an entry for the ‘nobody listened to the lyrics’ hall of fame”), even though it has been used as Trump’s deplaning music on the campaign trail before, to lesser notice.
“Hi everybody. Please wear your masks,” Fogerty begins (guaranteeing at least some degree of tune-out by presidential supporters right at the outset). “Recently, the president has been using my song ‘Fortunate Son’ for his political rallies, which I find confounding, to say the least. So I thought I’d explain a little bit about what ‘Fortunate Son’ is about.”
Fogerty says he “wrote the song back in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War. By the time I wrote the song, I already had been drafted and had served in the military, and I’ve been a lifelong supporter of our guys and gals in the military, probably because of that experience, of course. Anyway, back in those days we still had a draft. And something I was very upset about was the fact that people of privilege — in other words, rich people, or people that had position — could use that to avoid the draft and not be taken into the military. I found it very upsetting that such a thing could occur, and that’s why I wrote ‘Fortunate Son.’ That’s really what the whole intent of the song (was).”
Continues Fogerty, “The very first lines of ‘Fortunate Son’ are: ‘Some folks are born made to wave the flag, oooh, they’re red white and blue / But when the band plays “Hail to the Chief,” they point the cannon at you.’ Well, that’s exactly what happened recently in Lafayette Park when the president decided to take a walk across the park. He cleared out the area using federal troops so that he could stand in front of St. John’s Church with a Bible.
“It’s a song I could have written now. So I find it confusing, I would say, that the president has chosen to use my song for his political rallies, when in fact it seems like he is probably the Fortunate Son.”
It has been reported that Trump received five deferments from the draft during the Vietnam War, four of which were educational and one of which was a 1-Y medical deferment for a bone spurs diagnosis.
“I had a doctor that gave me a letter — a very strong letter on the heels,” Trump told the New York Times in 2016. “They were spurs. You know, it was difficult from the long-term walking standpoint. [It was] not a big problem, but it was enough of a problem. … Over a period of time, it healed up.”
Last year, the president’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, testified to Congress that the bone spurs excuse was false, saying Trump told him there “was no surgery” for the condition. “He told me not to answer the specific questions by reporters but rather offer simply the fact that he received a medical deferment,” said Cohen. “He finished the conversation with the following comment. ‘You think I’m stupid? I wasn’t going to Vietnam.’”
Trump has been referred to as “Cadet Bone Spurs” by Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a veteran wounded in battle, and “President Bone Spurs” by Meghan McCain, daughter of another celebrated veteran and Trump’s late antagonist, John McCain.