Pulling strings for the puppet

By on February 19, 2004

Was Lt. Bush AWOL from 1972 to 1973 while in the Air National Guard? The story is hardly new-the Boston Globe broke it during the 2000 campaign-and without any real challenge, it quickly disappeared into the dark backward. Peter Jennings tried to chide Wesley Clark to contradict filmmaker Michael Moore’s “reckless charge” of desertion against the President, which Clark refused. (You can read Moore’s open letter at http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/message/index.php)\

Bush’s sketchy military record was not an issue in the 2000 campaign (some feel because of Clinton’s alleged “draft dodging,”) even though he is the only Presidential candidate ever to withhold his complete military records. Assuming that Sen. Kerry wins the nomination this year, the Democrats will have candidate who was a war veteran. It is no accident this is coming up again in an election year.

Kerry has said that he does not plan to make it an issue, and I hope he keeps to his word, even though I do not find Bush particularly credible in his defense. Certainly the documents that Bush has released (that are actually legible) are also completely full of holes and raise more questions than answers.

I do not think the missing year is particularly relevant although it does question our leader’s patriotic character; what is more interesting is how Bush got into the guard in the first place. Bush graduated from Yale in January 1968, at peak of the Vietnam war. He took an air officer’s test to apply for a position with the Texas Air National Guard. Despite performing poorly on the test (he finished in the 25th percentile in the aptitude test, the lowest possible passing grade,) and despite a waiting list of over 500 applicants (a year and a half by some estimates) and only two or three available slots(!,) he was inducted into the guard in May of 1968.

For years it was the stuff of barroom rumor: how a Houston Congressman got his son out of the war and into the guard. In 1999, there was proof when millionaire lobbyist Ben Barnes was forced to give a deposition on George W. Bush’s military service. Barnes told the court that in 1968, when he was Speaker of the House, he secured a spot in the National Guard at the behest of a close friend of Congressman Bush. Apparently he did this type of thing all the time for sons of privilege.

A year is missing from both Bush’s military service and his memory, which is unfortunate given the $1 million investment the government made in the young pilot.

One the other end, there could be John Kerry-a man who left his first wife for the Heinz heiress and was forced to sign a prenuptial agreement.

But he seems to understand there are issues much more relevant to this election than what a man did thirty years ago. In terms of history, Bush does have something to answer for-and that is why he got into this foolish war. Then again, one could ask the same of Sen. Kerry.


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