On August 1, 1972, future President George Walker Bush, son of former president George Herbert Walker Bush, is suspended from flying with the Texas Air National Guard for missing an annual medical examination.
Bush’s military-service record became a source of controversy during the 2000 and 2004 elections, and underwent further scrutiny when he launched a controversial war in Iraq in 2003. Although Bush served in the National Guard, many opponents of the war, including veterans, criticized the president for a sketchy military record, which, it was alleged, contained extended and inexplicable absences of six months to a year at a time. Bush defended his military record by saying he satisfactorily completed all of his military obligations.
Bush was given an honorable discharge from the Air National Guard in 1973 to attend Harvard Business School. Still, some veterans and war opponents equated Bush’s stint in the National Guard and his subsequent Harvard attendance as tantamount to a Vietnam War draft deferment procured by his politically influential father. Bush’s harshest critics went even further, claiming that Bush’s military records may have been tampered with or forged to create a positive military-service record. According to analyses by historians and investigators, however, Bush’s military records do not substantiate this or some critics’ claims that Bush ever went AWOL (absent without leave).
George W. Bush's military lies: The real story about the undeniable service gaps he got away with
By Paul Rosenberg
Published October 17, 2015 1:30PM (EDT)
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein weren't just journalistic heroes in the normal sense. Their work on Watergate redefined the journalistic world they inhabited, making them more like heroes in the classic mythical sense, as culture-founding figures, whose creation the rest of us merely live inside of. Everyone wanted to be the next Woodward and Bernstein.
That stature was underscored by the stars who brought them to the screen — Robert Redford as Woodward, Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein. Four decades later, Redford has returned, in a sense to close out that era (a la his earlier role in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid"). Redford plays Dan Rather in a new film, "Truth," about the September 8, 2004 "60 Minutes II" report on George W. Bush’s dodgy record in the Texas Air National Guard, which effectively ended Rather's career at CBS, after he and producer Mary Mapes were unable to prove the authenticity of six memos which played a central role in their report. The connection was duly noted by author and activist Glenn W. Smith at Huffington Post:
By casting Redford as Rather, the filmmakers hinted at their intentions. Redford, of course, played Bob Woodward in "All the President's Men," the superb 1976 film about Watergate and the Golden Era of Independent Journalism. Now Redford appears as Rather in a film about the death of that Golden Era.
The juxtaposition is startling. On one side we have the courageous, muscular leadership of the Washington Post's editor, Ben Bradlee, during Watergate. On the other there are the media moguls of Viacom and CBS during the Bush/National Guard affair.
As Smith quickly goes on to point out, Woodward and Bernstein could well have suffered Rather's fate, because they, too, went too far, on an occasion that figured crucially in the film, as well as in real life. They reported that a federal grand jury had been told that Bob Haldeman controlled Nixon's campaign slush fund — which he did, but the grand jury didn't ask who controlled it. That was just the opening Nixon had been hoping for to derail the Post's reporting, but Ben Bradlee stuck to his guns. As Smith quotes from "All the President's Men":
Bradlee said he had never seen anything like this before. Skeptical but shaken, he said that the problem was no longer just journalistic. He mentioned something about the state and the future of the country.
Naturally, the movie embellished it (See "Hollywood Reporter" clip here):
Nothing's riding on this except the, uh, First Amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys f. up again, I'm going to get mad. Good night.
The parallel here should be underscored. Rather's career with CBS was ended because he built his story on apparently fraudulent memos — their actual status remains undetermined — from Lt. Colonel. Jerry B. Killian. The most notable one, labeled "CYA" for "cover your ass," claimed Killian was being pressured from above to give Bush undeserved better marks in his yearly evaluation. However, shortly after the original airing, Killian’s secretary, Marian Carr Knox, placed the memos' status in an almost exact parallel to Woodward and Bernstein's false reporting of an underlying true fact. “I didn’t type them,” Knox said in a broadcast interview, “However, the information in those is correct.”
Smith's point here is simple:
Even if the documents could be criticized (falsely, it turns out), we can draw a close parallel with Woodward and Bernstein's story on Haldeman: the story about Bush abandoning his service in the Air National Guard was also true.
Indeed, the gaps in Bush's service record were undeniable. They were reported, but virtually ignored four years earlier, in the 2000 election cycle, when the media was monomaniacally focused on their self-fabricated narrative of Gore being the untrustworthy one who told tall tales about his past.
On May 23, 2000, Boston Globe reporter Walter V. Robinson reported finding a "one-year gap in Bush's Guard duty,” saying that “22 months after finishing his training, and with two years left on his six-year commitment, Bush gave up flying — for good.” Beyond a momentary flurry, there wasn't much other corporate media interest in that cycle, though Martin Heldt published a detailed analysis of Bush's guard records at the Online Journal in September 2000. Fast forward to the morning of the "60 Minutes" report, and Robinson wrote another story “Bush fell short on duty at Guard,” with “Records show pledges unmet,” as the subhead. The framing had shifted from Bush's attendance gap, to Bush violating his sworn duty — and getting away with it:
Bush fell well short of meeting his military obligation, a Globe reexamination of the records shows: Twice during his Guard service — first when he joined in May 1968, and again before he transferred out of his unit in mid-1973 to attend Harvard Business School — Bush signed documents pledging to meet training commitments or face a punitive call-up to active duty.
He didn't meet the commitments, or face the punishment, the records show. The 1973 document has been overlooked in news media accounts. The 1968 document has received scant notice.
The Globe's analysis was supported by two other independent analysts. The first, retired Army Colonel Gerald A. Lechliter, wrote a highly detailed 32-page analysis, which the New York Times put on its website, but never seriously built upon in its reporting, or its editorial page. Lechliter was also interviewed by the Globe.
The second was a civilian analyst, Paul Lukasiak, whose website the AWOL Project, [Sept 2004 web.archive version] had attracted considerable attention online, and was discussed at length by Eric Boehlert here at Salon the day after the 60 Minutes report. Both Lechliter and Lukasiak placed the Bush documents in the framework of contemporary military rules, regulations, policies and procedures, which were absolutely crucial for understanding what was really going on, and not being easily spun by Bush apologists. All three of these analyses reached similar conclusions, without any reliance on the "60 Minutes" memos. I summarized the broad outlines of these misadventures in a story three weeks later:
Bush’s problems began in late Spring on 1972, when he first tried to transfer to a non-flying unit — a back door way of breaking his signed service agreement approved by his Texas superiors, but rejected at the federal level. He then failed to take a mandatory flight physical and was suspended from flying, stopped attending drills for at least six months, and was not observed by his superior officers for a full year. (He never took another physical again, and was, apparently, never disciplined for it.) A hurried spate of training unlawfully packed into a brief two-month period was then followed by his discharge from the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG), but he never fulfilled his obligation to finish his service at a unit in Massachusetts when he returned to New England to get an MBA at Harvard Business School.
In the context of this larger story, the memos were clearly important for "60 Minutes" as a scoop, but they were hardly essential for disproving Bush's claims that he had met his military obligations, or that his honorable discharge closed the book on the story.. The documentary record alone already disproved these claims conclusively. As the Globe reported:
''He [Bush] broke his contract with the United States government — without any adverse consequences. And the Texas Air National Guard was complicit in allowing this to happen," Lechliter said in an interview yesterday. ''He was a pilot. It cost the government a million dollars to train him to fly. So he should have been held to an even higher standard."
In the conclusion of his own analysis, Lechiliter struck a similar tone:
His commander’s connivance at ensuring Bush paid no penalty for his flagrant violation of regulatory requirements for attendance at training and taking a flight physical in no way excuse Bush’s disgraceful, selfish behavior.
In the final analysis, the record clearly and convincingly proves he did not fulfill the obligation he incurred when he enlisted in the Air National Guard and completed his pilot training, despite his honorable discharge. He clearly shirked the duty he undertook in 1968 upon enlistment and in 1969 upon completion of his flight training at Moody AF Base.
We have not yet heard a satisfactory explanation by the President for his abandoning a profession he purportedly loved passionately . As a self-proclaimed “wartime president,” this President owes the U.S. public, especially the military and veterans, no less. He certainly cannot rely on his military record to answer these questions.
In his September 9 story, Boehlert explained:
The detailed research from Lukasiak, a Philadelphia caterer, deals strictly with the contents of Bush’s military service documents, particularly those after April 1972, when Bush decided — on his own — to stop flying. But what’s fascinating is that when recent news reports from Salon, the Associated Press, CBS and the Boston Globe are layered on top of the AWOL Project research, they fit together almost seamlessly, revealing a vivid portrait of Bush as a young man who evaded his military service.
Again, this can't be stressed enough: the controversial memos that Rather and Mapes relied on were just part of a much larger mosaic. Take them away, and the larger mosaic still remains, with all of its other damning details.
And yet . “The CBS story, and the furor that caused, buried the story so deeply that you couldn’t possibly disinter it in 2004,” Robinson told Texas Monthly's Joe Hagan for a comprehensive retrospective story in 2012. “Inevitably, the only candidate who ended up with a serious credibility problem about his military service was John Kerry, who had absolutely nothing to hide or be ashamed of,” Robinson said. “To me, in a close election — and it was a close election — who knows, that could have been the difference.”
So why were the memos so important? The short, obvious answer is that they were concrete objects which had been elevated as talisman objects, capable of delivering truth in a fragmented, polarized media environment. What happened with them clearly proved this was wrong. Polarized interpretation is not nearly so easily set aside. The authenticity of the memos was challenged almost immediately, and many (probably most) people assume they were quickly shown to be fakes. But this is not the case: their authenticity was easily placed in doubt, but nothing more. The “independent” investigation CBS initiated (headed by former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, who was appointed by Bush's father — no ethical conflict there, right?) could not say if the memos were authentic or not. As NPR reported after Rather decided to sue CBS:
Rather's attorneys also point to public statements by Michael Missal, a lawyer in Thornburgh's law firm who helped conduct the investigation.
"It's ironic that the blogs were actually wrong when they had their criticism," Missal said in a speech back in March at Washington and Lee's law school.
"We actually did find typewriters that did have the superscripts, did have proportional spacing, and on the fonts, given that these are copies, it's really hard to say," Missal said. "But there were some typewriters that looked like they could have some similar fonts there, so the initial concerns didn't seem as though they would hold up."
Elements of those findings cropped up deep in the report. But given the firestorm online, Rather questions why they were not prominently placed among the report's key conclusions.
This does not mean that Rather and Mapes were right. We still don't know that and we probably never will. But it does mean that the first wave of criticism from rightwing blogs — the criticism that stopped the story in its tracks — was wrong, based on false assumptions. In fact, in 2007, Texas author and journalist James Moore pointed out that this was evident almost immediately. Superscripts were a major reason given for claiming the memos were fakes, that they weren't available on typewriters at the time. But the very last release of Bush guard records disproved this:
The last document dump occurred about a week after Dan Rather's apologia on his former network's newscast. This was a single page memo promoting 2nd Lt. George W. Bush to 1st Lt. and it used superscript. The media took no notice that this piece of evidence completely contradicted the most powerful criticism of the Rathergate memos.
So the documents weren't obvious forgeries. But they were contestable—as was almost everything, then. After all — as Robinson alludes to — this was all taking place at the same time as the multi-million-dollar Swiftboat Veterans attack on John Kerry's war record. Essentially you had two political coalitions, one branded as pro-military, ultra-strong on defense, the other not: The “daddy party” vs. the “mommy party.” The facts be damned, it was just too discordant to have the Democratic candidate be the war hero, and the Republican candidate be the deserter. And so the facts themselves had to be changed to fit the cultural narrative. That is exactly what happened.
What we're talking about here is the dominance of myth over fact, mythos over logos. But, of course, a movie like "Truth" — or "All The President's Men" — is nothing if not a powerful piece of mythos itself. They tell a story that gives meaning to the world, and to our place in it. Some myths are far more factually accurate than others, but what gives them power as myths is not their accuracy (that's the realm of logos), it's the power of the meaning they create.
In one sense, Smith is right to say Redford's roles in these two films mark “the Golden Era of Independent Journalism” and “the death of that Golden Era.” But the era itself was a myth — though one that required at least some measure of accuracy in order to survive. As the accuracy seeped away out of the corporate media's center, and began showing up in places like Lukasiak's AWOL project, the old myth withered even before it died. A new myth is out there, waiting to be told. Or perhaps, just to be repeated, so everyone can hear this time.
Paul Rosenberg is a California-based writer/activist, senior editor for Random Lengths News, and a columnist for Al Jazeera English. Follow him on Twitter at @PaulHRosenberg.
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New Evidence Supports Bush Military Service (Mostly)
Newly released records reflect payments and credits for Air National Guard service meeting minimum requirements, despite a six-month gap.
Posted on February 11, 2004 | Updated on February 15, 2004
With Democrats openly accusing President Bush of being “AWOL” from his Air National Guard service during the 1970’s, the White House released personnel and payroll records showing Bush was paid and credited for service during the period in question. And despite a six-month gap in service while working on a Senate campaign in Alabama, Air Force Reserve records show Bush was credited with enough points to meet his requirements for that year — barely.
The controversy over President Bush’s military record has been heating up since Michael Moore called President Bush a “deserter,” (see our earlier article).
Democrats Make “AWOL” Allegation a Campaign Issue
Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe repeatedly accused the President of being “AWOL” in nationally televised interviews.
McAuliffe: George Bush never showed up. He was AWOL from the Alabama National Guard. He didn’t fight in any battles and General Clark did. So I will put General Clark up against George Bush any day of the week.
And on ABC “This Week” February 1:
McAuliffe: I look forward to that debate when John Kerry, a war hero with a chest full of medals, is standing next to George Bush, a man who was AWOL in the Alabama National Guard. George Bush never served in our military and our country. He didn’t show up when he should have showed up.
President Bush defended his service in another nationally television interview, on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Feb. 8:
Tim Russert: The Boston Globe and The Associated Press have gone through some of the records and said there’s no evidence that you reported to duty in Alabama during the summer and fall of 1972.
Bush: Yeah, they’re — they’re just wrong. There may be no evidence, but I did report otherwise, I wouldn’t have been honorably discharged. In other words, you don’t just say “I did something” without there being verification. Military doesn’t work that way. I got an honorable discharge, and I did show up in Alabama.
Russert: You did — were allowed to leave eight months before your term expired. Was there a reason?
Bush: Right. Well, I was going to Harvard Business School and worked it out with the military.
Immediately after Bush’s appearance John Kerry said Bush’s honorable discharge does not settle the question of whether he skipped Air National Guard drills when he was supposed to. “Just because you get an honorable discharge does not in fact answer that question,” Kerry told reporters.
In the NBC Interview Bush pledged to release any records that would clear up the matter:
Russert: But you would allow pay stubs, tax records, anything to show that you were serving during that period?
Bush: Yeah. If we still have them, but I — you know, the records are kept in Colorado, as I understand, and they scoured the records.
And I’m just telling you, I did my duty. . .
Russert: But you authorize the release of everything to settle this?
Bush: Yes, absolutely.
On February 10 Boston Globe reporter Walter V. Robinson — who first reported four years ago that there was a year-long gap in Bush’s record of National Guard service — reported he had obtained two new documents that partially filled in that gap: “The personnel records. . . constitute the first evidence that Bush appeared for any duty during the first 11 months of that 12-month period. Bush is recorded as having served the minimum number of days expected of Guard members in that 12 months of service time.”
Later that same day the the White House released copies of those documents and others, including payroll records showing Bush had been paid for several drills during the period and was credited with meeting military point requirements for the 12-month period in question.
The White House said it had obtained all the documents from the Air Force Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver, Colorado, and had not known some of them existed until Bush aides inquired after the President promised in his NBC interview to release whatever is available.
What the Records Show
The records show that National Guard officials credited Bush with enough points to meet minimum requirements for the 12-month period ending May 26, 1973, the period of the original alleged “gap” in his records. An Air Force “Reserve Personnel Record Card” shows Bush received a total of 9 points for active duty training, 31 points for inactive duty training, and 15 points awarded for his membership in the reserves. The points total 56, exceeding the 50-point requirement for satisfactory service during the period, though barely.
Other documents include one-page Air Force Reserve summaries of points earned in the 12-month period ending in May 1973, and the subsequent period running through Bush’s last credited service in July 1973. (See “supporting documents”).
Also released were copies of microfilm payroll records summarizing the days for which Bush was paid in 1972 and 1973. Though blurry and hard to read, they reflect payments for 82 days of services in 1972 and 1973.
Also released was a memo the White House requested from Retired Lieutenant Colonel Albert. C. Lloyd Jr., a former personnel director for the Texas Air Guard during the time of Bush’s service. Lloyd said of the payroll and personnel records, “This clearly shows that 1LT George W. Bush has satisfactory years for both 72-73 and 73-74 which proves that he completed his military obligation in a satisfactory manner.”
Lloyd was later interviewed by the Boston Globe , which questioned whether Bush had met “minimum training” requirements in addition to “minimum retirement” credits. The newspaper said Guardsman are required to serve 15 days of active duty to meet training requirements. The Globe quoted Lloyd as saying of Bush: ” Should he have done more? Yes, he should have. Did he have to? No.”
The records also show that Bush was credited with very little service during the period when he was in Alabama working on the unsuccessful 1972 Senate campaign of Republican Winton Blunt. Bush was paid and also got retirement credit for 30 days in the first four months of 1972, through April 16. But then begins a six-month gap.
During those six months Bush got permission from his National Guard superiors to attend non-flying drills in Montgomery. Also during that time he was officially grounded after he failed to take an annual physical examination required to maintain flying status. But the records show Bush received no pay or credits between April 16 and late October.
The Boston Globe reported Feb. 12 that Bush’s suspension from flight duty while he was in Alabama “should have prompted an investigation by his commander” in Houston under Air Force regulations in effect at the time. The Globe also said “It is unclear whether Bush’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian, ordered any inquiry, as required.” Killian is deceased.
Guard Service in Alabama?
The records show Bush was paid and credited for drills on October 28 and 29, just days before the 1972 election. The records don’t show where the service was performed, but this would have been toward the end of his time in Alabama. Bush was also paid and credited for four days November 11-14, 1972, around the time his aides say Bush was in Alabama briefly following the election.
That tends to support Bush’s statement that he did perform duty in Alabama, though it falls short of conclusive proof.
The commander to whom Bush was supposed to report, retired Brigadier General William Turnipseed, said four years ago that he had no recollection of Bush appearing at his unit. But Turnipseed recently backed off that statement a bit, according to the a Washington Post story on February 4. Turnipseed said “he could not recall if he had been on base much at that time,” the Post reported.
And after records were released, The Washington Times reported that a woman who had dated Bush during the summer of 1972, Emily Marks Curtis, says she “distinctly remembers” Bush returning to Montgomery after the election to fulfill his Air National Guard commitment. “I can say categorically he was there, and that’s why he came back,” the Times quoted her as saying. She added that Bush rented an apartment for a two-week stay and that she met him for dinner several times. While she did not claim to have witnessed him doing Guard duty, according to the Times she said, “He told me that was why he was in Montgomery. There is no other reason why he would come back to Montgomery.”
And in fact, Bush was at Dannelly Air National Guard base in Montgomery as late as Jan. 6, 1973, according to a document released by the White House Feb. 11. The document is a record of a dental examination of Bush on that date. The payroll records released two days earlier show Bush received pay and credit for service for Jan. 6 and for five other days closely clustered between Jan. 4 and Jan. 10.
On Feb. 13, the White House released hundreds of additional pages from Bush’s military records. Nothing in those files, however, provided any further documentation of Bush’s presence at Dannelly Air National Guard Base in Alabama beyond the single dental examination record.
An additional witness came forward to say that he had seen Bush at the base. John W. “Bill” Calhoun was quoted by the Washington Post and others as saying he saw Bush sign in at the base eight to 10 times for about eight hours each from May to October 1972. However, as previously noted, there is record of Bush being paid for only two days of Guard service during that period, Oct. 28 and 29 1972. A White House spokesman could not offer an explanation for the discrepancy.
“Not Observed” in Houston?
The newly released records show only sporadic service by Bush during the months immediately following the 1972 election. They show pay and credits for six days in January 1973 and two in April.
It was the following month that his two superior officers at Ellington Air Force Base wrote that they could not complete Bush’s annual evaluation covering the 12 months ending April 30, 1973 because “Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of this report.” How could Bush be paid and credited for drills and still not be “observed” by his superiors? Both of them are now dead and can’t answer that. White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett says Bush was doing “odd jobs” for the Guard at the time in a non-flying capacity and his superiors might not have been aware of that.
Also, the newly released dental record now suggests that Bush was still performing duty in Alabama, not Houston, as late as January. It is not clear where his two days of service in April, 1973 were performed, but if they were in Houston they would be the only two days of service there in the period covered by the report saying he was “not observed.”
The records do show a flurry of activity by Bush in May, June and July, 1973, as Bush was applying for an early release from the Guard in order to attend the Harvard Business School. In those three months Bush got credit for 38 days of service, more than he got for all of 1972. His last recorded day was July 30, 1973. He was released from service with an honorable discharge eight months before the end of the six-year term of service for which he had originally signed up.
Release of the payroll and personnel summaries didn’t quiet all the President’s critics. DNC chairman McAuliffe said, ”The handful of documents released today by the White House creates more questions than answers.” But Kerry himself said he had no comment. “It’s not an issue that I chose to create,” he told reporters at Dulles airport in Washington. “It’s not my record that’s at issue, and I don’t have any questions about it.”
There were these other developments:
The Boston Globe reported Feb. 12 that Bush’s suspension from flight duty while he was in Alabama “should have prompted an investigation by his commander” in Houston under Air Force regulations in effect at the time. The Globe also said “It is unclear whether Bush’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian, ordered any inquiry, as required.” Killian is deceased.
The Dallas Morning News reported Feb. 12 an allegation that Bush documents were discarded in 1997. The News said a retired Guard Lieutenant Colonel, Bill Burkett, said that in 1997 he overheard then-Gov. Bush’s chief of staff, Joe Allbaugh, tell the chief of the National Guard to get the Bush file and make certain “there’s not anything there that will embarrass the governor.” The newspaper quoted Burkett as saying that a few days later he saw Mr. Bush’s file and documents from it discarded in a trash can, and that he recognized the documents as retirement point summaries and pay forms.
The trash-can allegation is puzzling because the type of documents alleged to be discarded are the same type of documents that the White House produced Feb. 10 after receiving copies from and Air Force Reserve storage facility in Denver, and which the White House now cites as proof of Bush’s service.
The New York Times also quoted Burkett Feb. 12 as saying he overheard Bush aides requesting a review of Bush’s personnel files in 1997, but the Times did not report any allegation from Burkett that documents had been discarded. Both the Times and Dallas Morning News reported denials from various Guard officials and Bush aides that any documents had been destroyed.
On Feb. 13, moreover, the Boston Globe reported that Burkett’s account is contradicted by a key witness, a friend of Burkett who was present at the time and place Burkett claims to have seen documents discarded.
But a key witness to some of the events described by Burkett has told the Globe that the central elements of his story are false.
George O. Conn, a former chief warrant officer with the Guard and a friend of Burkett’s, is the person whom Burkett says led him to the room where the Bush records were being vetted. But Conn says he never saw anyone combing through the Bush file or discarding records.
“I have no recall of that,” Conn said. “I have no recall of that whatsoever. None. Zip. Nada.”
Ron Fournier, “ Kerry Raises Questions About Bush Service,” The Associated Press 8 Feb. 2004.
Interview with Terry McAuliffe “The Big Story With John Gibson” Fox News Network 21 Jan. 2004.
Interview with Terry McAuliffe “This Week” ABC News 1 Feb. 2004.
Walter V. Robinson, “ 1-year gap in Bush’s guard duty : No record of airman at drills in 1972-73,” Boston Globe 5 May 2000: A1.
Walter V. Robinson, Globe Staff “ Bush Credited For Guard Drills But Time Frame Leaves Questions,” Boston Globe 10 Feb. 2004: A1.
Walter V. Robinson and Michael Rezendes, “ White House releases Bush’s Guard Records ,” Boston Globe 11 Feb. 2004: A1.
Mike Allen, “Bush’s Military Record Defended Aides Respond to Questions Spurred by Lack of Documentation,” Washington Post 4 Feb. 2004: A5.
Rowan Scarborough, “Bush’s drills with the Alabama Guard confirmed,” The Washington Times 11 Feb. 2004.
Walter V. Robinson and Francie Latour, “Bush’s loss of flying status should have spurred probe,” Boston Globe 12 Feb. 2004.
Wayne Slater And Michelle Mittelstadt, “ Aides say records show Bush served : Retired Guard officer says he saw some files discarded in trash,” The Dallas Morning News 12 Feb . 2004: A1.
Ralph Blumenthal, “Move to Screen Bush File in 90’s Is Reported,” New York Times 12 Feb. 2004.
Michael Rezendes, “Doubts raised on Bush accuser Key witness disputes charge by Guard retiree that files were purged” Boston Globe 13 Feb 2004 : A1.
Manuel Roig-Franzia and Louis Romano, “Few can offer confirmation of Bush’s Guard service: Friends and acquaintances lack firsthand knowledge” Washington Post 15 Feb. 2004: A1.
Bush A Military “Deserter?” Calm Down, Michael
Clark backer Michael Moore calls President Bush a “deserter” for missing Air National Guard drills 31 years ago. Puh-lease!
Q: Can employers, colleges and universities require COVID-19 vaccinations?
Professor says Bush revealed National Guard favoritism
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A business school professor who taught George W. Bush at Harvard University in the early 1970s says the future president told him that family friends had pulled strings to get him into the Texas Air National Guard.
Yoshi Tsurumi, in his first on-camera interview on the subject, told CNN that Bush confided in him during an after-class hallway conversation during the 1973-74 school year.
"He admitted to me that to avoid the Vietnam draft, he had his dad -- he said 'Dad's friends' -- skip him through the long waiting list to get him into the Texas National Guard," Tsurumi said. "He thought that was a smart thing to do."
While the campaign has not responded directly to Tsurumi's allegations, White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett said last week, "Every time President Bush gets near another election, all the innuendo and rumors about President Bush's service in the National Guard come to the forefront."
Bush has said in the past that neither he nor his father sought special treatment for him. "Any allegation that my dad asked for special favors is simply not true," he said in 1999.
Tsurumi said Vietnam was a top topic among the 85 students in his class, when he was a visiting associate professor at Harvard from 1972 to 1976. He now teaches at Baruch College in New York.
"What I couldn't stand -- and I told him -- he was all for the U.S. to continue with the Vietnam War. That means he was all for other people, Americans, to keep on fighting and dying."
Tsurumi got to know Bush when the future president took his "Economics EAM" (Environmental Analysis for Management), a required two-semester class from the fall of 1973 to the spring of 1974, Bush's first year at Harvard's business school.
Bush had transferred to Air National Guard reserve status before he enrolled in the MBA program. He had enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard in May 1968 and trained to fly fighter jets until he was suspended from flying status in August 1972 for failing to submit to an annual physical, according to Bush's military records released earlier this year.
Tsurumi said he remembers Bush because every teacher remembers their best and worst students, and Bush was in the latter group.
"Lazy. He didn't come to my class prepared," Tsurumi said. "He did very badly."
Tsurumi concedes that he disapproves of Bush's politics. He wrote a letter to the editor of his hometown newspaper, the Scarsdale Inquirer, that derided the president's claims to "compassionate conservatism."
"Somehow I found him totally devoid of compassion, social responsibility, and good study discipline," Tsurumi said. "What I remember most about him was all the kind of flippant statements that he made inside of classroom as well as outside."
Tsurumi says he is not working for any Democratic group for the Kerry campaign. "The only activity I do is to vote for him," Tsurumi said.
But Tsurumi has been speaking out against Bush by giving newspaper and radio interviews.
The professor's comments come as a former Texas politician, former state House Speaker and Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes, has said it was he got Bush into the Guard.
Barnes, a Democrat supporting John Kerry, says he called the head of the Texas unit in 1968, at the request of a Bush family friend. Bush's father was then a U.S congressman.
CNN's Jonathan Wald and Jennifer Icklan contributed to this story.
Bush's loss of flying status should have spurred probe
President Bush's August 1972 suspension from flight status in the Texas Air National Guard -- triggered by his failure to take a required annual flight physical -- should have prompted an investigation by his commander, a written acknowledgement by Bush, and perhaps a written report to senior Air Force officials, according to Air Force regulations in effect at the time.
Bush, who was a fighter-interceptor pilot assigned to the Texas Air National Guard, last flew in April 1972 -- just before the missed physical and 30 months before his flight commitment ended. He also did not attend National Guard training for several months that year and was permitted to cut short his military commitment a year later in 1973.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan, for the second day in a row, refused yesterday to answer questions about Bush's failure to take the physical and appeared to retreat from Bush's promise Sunday to make public all of his military records. Asked at a midday press briefing if all of Bush's records would be released, McClellan said, "We'd have to see if there is any new information in that."
Late yesterday, assistant White House press secretary Erin Healy said the White House does not have records about the flight physical. "At this point, we've shared everything we have," Healy said. A spokesman for the National Guard Bureau said if there are records about any inquiry into Bush's flight status, they would most likely be in Bush's personnel file, stored in a military records facility in Colorado.
For military aviators, the annual flight physical is a line they must cross to retain coveted flying status. Flight surgeons who conduct the examinations have the power to remove pilots from flying duty.
The new questions about Bush's service arose a day after the White House disclosed attendance and payroll records that appeared to show that Bush sporadically attended Guard drills between May 1972 and May 1973 -- even though his superiors at the time said that Bush did not appear at their units in that period.
Two retired National Guard generals, in interviews yesterday, said they were surprised that Bush -- or any military pilot -- would forgo a required annual flight physical and take no apparent steps to rectify the problem and return to flying. "There is no excuse for that. Aviators just don't miss their flight physicals," said Major General Paul A. Weaver Jr., who retired in 2002 as the Pentagon's director of the Air National Guard, in an interview.
Brigadier General David L. McGinnis, a former top aide to the assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, said in an interview that Bush's failure to remain on flying status amounts to a violation of the signed pledge by Bush that he would fly for at least five years after he completed flight school in November 1969.
"Failure to take your flight physical is like a failure to show up for duty. It is an obligation you can't blow off," McGinnis said.
Bush joined the Texas Air Guard in May 1968 after intercession by friends of his father, who was then a Houston congressman. He was quickly commissioned, spent a year in flight school in Georgia and then six months learning to fly an F-102 fighter-interceptor at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston. From June 1970 until April 1972, he flew frequently.
His last flight physical was in May 1971.
The following April, just before his next physical was due, Bush moved temporarily to Alabama to work on a Republican US Senate race, and was given permission to attend Guard drills at a Montgomery Air Guard base. But he did not appear for his May 1972 physical, and he performed no duty at all until late October 1972, according to Guard records that became public this week.
A Sept. 29, 1972, order sent to Bush by the National Guard Bureau, the defense department agency which oversees the Guard, noted that Bush had been verbally suspended from flying on Aug. 1. The written order made it official: "Reason for suspension: Failure to accomplish annual medical examination."
The order required Bush to acknowledge the suspension in writing and also said: "The local commander who has authority to convene a Flying Evaluation Board will direct an investigation as to why the individual failed to accomplish the medical examination." After that, the commander had two options -- to convene the Evaluation Board to review Bush's suspension or forward a detailed report on his case up the chain of command.
Either way, officials said yesterday, there should have been a record of the investigation.
The issue of Bush's suspension has been clouded in mystery since it first arose during the 2000 campaign. Dan Bartlett, a Bush campaign aide who is now White House communications director, said then that Bush didn't take the physical because his family physician was in Houston and he was in Alabama. But the examination is supposed to be done by a flight surgeon, and could have been done at the base in Montgomery.
It is unclear whether Bush's commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian, ordered any inquiry, as required.
Weaver said it is entirely possible that Killian -- who, according to Bush's biography was also a friend -- concluded that Bush had lost interest in flying, at a time when Weaver said there were numerous active duty pilots with combat experience eager to get flying billets in Guard units.
Weaver, after looking over Bush's light duty load between May 1972 and May 1973, said he doubted that Bush would have been proficient enough to return to the F-102 cockpit. "I would not have let him near the airplane," Weaver said. If there was evidence that Bush's interest in the Guard had waned, Weaver said, then it would have been acceptable for Bush's commanders to "cut their losses" and grant him an early release rather than retain a guard pilot who could no longer fly.
McGinnis said he, too, thought it possible that Bush's superiors considered him a liability, so they decided "to get him off the books, make his father happy, and hope no one would notice."
But McGinnis said there should have been an investigation and a report. "If it didn't happen, that shows how far they were willing to stretch the rules to accommodate" then-Lieutenant Bush.
In an interview Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Bush put no limitations on what information would be released to the public. On several occasions, Bush offered broad assurances that he was willing to open his entire military record, as Senator John McCain and retired General Wesley K. Clark had done previously. Asked by the show's host, Tim Russert, if he would authorize the release of "everything to settle this," Bush's response was emphatic: "Yes, absolutely."
At yesterday's press briefing, McClellan accused those who continue to question the president's National Guard service of "gutter politics" and "trolling for trash" in a political campaign season.
Asked if the same was true in 1992 when Bush's father criticized Governor Bill Clinton for not releasing his military records, stoking the controversy around Clinton's active avoidance of the Vietnam War draft by calling him "Slick Willie," McLellan replied, "I think that you expect the garbage can to be thrown at you in the 11th hour of a campaign, but not nine months before Election Day."
The sensitivity of questions about the president's military service was on display on Capitol Hill yesterday. In an unusually rancorous response, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell took Ohio Democratic Representative Sherrod Brown to task at a House International Relations Committee hearing for saying that Bush "may have been AWOL."
"Mr. Brown, I won't dignify your comments about the president, because you don't know what you're talking about," the former Joint Chiefs chairman and Vietnam veteran said. "If you want to have a political fight on this matter, that is very controversial, and I think is being dealt with by the White House, fine. But let's not go there."
Sacha Pfeiffer, Bryan Bender, and Michael Rezendes of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
CBS Ousts 4 For Bush Guard Story
Four CBS News employees, including three executives, have been ousted for their role in preparing and reporting a disputed story about President Bush's National Guard service.
The action was prompted by the report of an independent panel that concluded that CBS News failed to follow basic journalistic principles in the preparation and reporting of the piece. The panel also said CBS News had compounded that failure with a "rigid and blind" defense of the 60 Minutes Wednesday report.
Asked to resign were Senior Vice President Betsy West, who supervised CBS News primetime programs 60 Minutes Wednesday Executive Producer Josh Howard and Howard's deputy, Senior Broadcast Producer Mary Murphy. The producer of the piece, Mary Mapes, was terminated.
"We deeply regret the disservice this flawed 60 Minutes Wednesday report did to the American public, which has a right to count on CBS News for fairness and accuracy," said CBS President Leslie Moonves.
The panel said a "myopic zeal" to be the first news organization to broadcast a groundbreaking story about Mr. Bush's National Guard service was a key factor in explaining why CBS News had produced a story that was neither fair nor accurate and did not meet the organization's internal standards.
The report said at least four factors that some observers described as a journalistic "Perfect Storm" had contributed to the decision to broadcast a piece that was seriously flawed.
"The combination of a new 60 Minutes Wednesday management team, great deference given to a highly respected producer and the network's news anchor, competitive pressures, and a zealous belief in the truth of the segment seem to have led many to disregard some fundamental journalistic principles," the report said.
The piece was aired during a tight and hotly contested presidential race between Mr. Bush and Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry. The timing of the story prompted charges of political bias against CBS News.
While the panel found that some actions taken by CBS News encouraged such suspicions, "the Panel cannot conclude that a political agenda at 60 Minutes Wednesday drove either the timing of the airing of the segment or its content."
The story, which aired last Sept. 8, relied on four documents allegedly written by one of Mr. Bush's Texas Air National Guard commanders in the early 1970s, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, who is now dead. Questions about the authenticity of the documents were raised almost immediately.
Some critics said the documents were most probably forgeries prepared on a modern word processer. Other critics questioned whether Killian would have - or could have - written them.
The documents suggested that Mr. Bush disobeyed an order to appear for a physical exam, and that friends of the Bush family tried to "sugar coat" his Guard service.
After a stubborn 12-day defense of the story, CBS News conceded that it could not confirm the authenticity of the documents and asked former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former Associated Press President Louis Boccardi to conduct an independent investigation into the matter.
Their findings were contained in a 224-page report made public on Monday. While the panel said it was not prepared to brand the Killian documents as an outright forgery, it raised serious questions about their authenticity and the way CBS News handled them.
The panel identified 10 serious defects in the preparation and reporting of the story that included failure to obtain clear authentication of the documents or to investigate the controversial background of the source of the purported documents, retired Texas National Guard Lt. Col. Bill Burkett.
The producer of the piece, Mary Mapes, was also faulted for calling Joe Lockhart, a senior official in the John Kerry campaign, prior to the airing of the piece, and offering to put Burkett in touch with him. The panel called Mapes' action a "clear conflict of interest that created the appearance of political bias."
The panel noted that the Guard segment was rushed on the air only three days after 60 Minutes Wednesday had obtained some of the documents from Burkett and that preparation of the piece was supervised by a new management team of executive producer Josh Howard and senior broadcast producer Mary Murphy.
A key factor in the decision to broadcast the piece was a telephone conversation between Mapes and Maj. Gen. Bobby Hodges, Killian's commanding officer during the period in question. Mapes told the panel Hodges confirmed the content of the four documents after she read them to him over the phone.
Hodges, however, denied doing so. He also told the panel he had given Mapes information that should have raised warning flags about the documents, including his belief that Killian had never ordered anyone, including Mr. Bush, to take a physical.
Hodges said that when he finally saw the documents after the Sept. 8 broadcast, he concluded they were bogus and told Rather and Mapes of his opinion on Sept. 10.
"This alleged confirmation by Major General Hodges started to march 60 Minutes Wednesday into dangerous and ultimately unsustainable territory: the notion that since the content of the documents was felt to be true, demonstrating the authenticity of the documents became less important."
Mapes' telephone conversation with Hodges was part of a vetting process that the panel concluded was wholly inadequate, largely because it had to be done so quickly. The key executives vetting the piece were West, Howard, and Murphy.
After rushing the piece to air, the panel said, CBS News compounded the error by blindly defending the story. In doing so, the news organization missed opportunities to set the record straight.
"The panel finds that once serious questions were raised, the defense of the segment became more rigid and emphatic, and that virtually no attempt was made to determine whether the questions raised had merit," the report concluded.
The panel believes a turning point came on Sept. 10, when CBS News President Andrew Heyward ordered West to review the opinions of document examiners who had seen the disputed documents and the confidential sources supporting the story.
But no such investigation was undertaken at that time.
"Had this directive been followed promptly, the panel does not believe that 60 Minutes Wednesday would have publicly defended the segment for another 10 days," the report said.
The panel made a number of recommendations for changes, including:
In a memo to CBS News staff sent Monday afternoon, Heywood said it was a "difficult and important" day for CBS News.
"It is an important day because it represents a unique opportunity for all of us at CBS News to learn from the mistakes surrounding the flawed 60 Minutes Wednesday segment and reaffirm our commitment to the American public to practice journalism of the highest standard,'' Heywood said.
CBS News anchor Dan Rather announced in November that he is stepping down as anchor of The CBS Evening News in March, on the 24th anniversary of his first broadcast as anchor. Rather will remain with CBS News as a correspondent for 60 Minutes Sunday and 60 Minutes Wednesday.
Gaps Remain In Bush Guard Service
The missing military records include a bevy of forms, logs, pay stubs and evaluations from Mr. Bush's time in the Texas Air National Guard. CBS News' evaluation of all the documents released by the White House confirms that the records have several holes.
One important question concerns a required physical that President Bush missed in 1972. Because of his absence, Mr. Bush lost his flying wings. Air National Guard regulations require that "the local commander who has authority to convene a Flying Evaluation Board will direct an investigation as to why the individual failed to accomplish the medical examination." But there are no records of an investigation or of any requests to complete one.
There are various possible explanations. Perhaps the investigation was never concluded or never forwarded up the chain of command. The regulation says the commander "will" direct an investigation but it does not require the completed report to be forwarded up the chain of command. The commander "may" do so, but it is not required. The report could have been lost at lower levels.
Or perhaps, as journalist James C. Moore suggests in the liberal online magazine Salon, Mr. Bush thought the grounding would end his obligation to the Guard and was happy to let the matter drop. Or maybe, also a Moore speculation, there was a drug or alcohol induced reason for Mr. Bush's absence that he and his superiors wanted to avoid publicizing.
In 2000, Mr. Bush said he missed the physical because his family doctor was in Texas. But, as Time magazine reports, Air Force surgeons must perform the physicals and there was no surgeon shortage in Alabama. In March 2004, the White House said Mr. Bush did not need the physical because he was not flying. Regardless of these speculations, there is no record of any investigation in Mr. Bush's file. As Moore concludes, "A pilot simply did not walk away from all of that training with two years remaining on his tour of duty without a formal explanation as to what happened and why."
As for the highest profile issue, the available files do not clear up the "missing" section of the president's National Guard service. From May 1972 through May 1973 there are highly irregular records for his attendance at required drills, reports Walter Robinson in the Boston Globe. During that time, Mr. Bush had been given permission to move from his home base in Houston to Montgomery, Ala., to work on a Congressional campaign.
Until February of this year, no documents existed to suggest that Mr. Bush performed any duty in either Texas or Alabama during those months. Pay stubs released in February show that he was paid for enough days in Alabama to be judged "satisfactory," but that he did not do any duty between April 16 and October 28, 1972, and that he failed to show up for training in December 1972, February 1973 and March 1973.
There is nothing in the records from that key period beyond those pay stubs &ndash no evaluations from either Mr. Bush's Alabama supervisors or his Texas ones. In fact, Mr. Bush's Texas evaluators wrote on May 2, 1973 that, "Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of report. A civilian occupation made it necessary for him to move to Montgomery, Alabama. He cleared this base on 15 May 1972 and has been performing equivalent training in a non-flying status with the 187th Tac Recon Gp, Dannelly ANG Base, Alabama." But no Alabama records exist. And Mr. Bush's official discharge papers include no evidence of any duty between May 1972 and October 1973, when he left the Guard.
Beyond those two issues, there are several others unaddressed by Mr. Bush's files. At the same time, the president is not alone in having some holes in his military records. A CBS News investigation shows evaluations are missing for the periods of 11 March 1967 to 21 March 1967 and 15 April 1967 to 7 June 1967. The first gap is probably explained by traveling time as Kerry switched bases, but the second is unaccounted for at this point. The Kerry campaign said repeatedly that it has made public all of its records.
CBS News military analyst Mitch Mitchell says there is no way to know what is missing or if there is anything missing in the first place. According to Mitchell, there is no uniform or standard filing form and most observers agree that National Guard records from that period are a mess. The only expectation, says Mitchell, is that evaluations should be continuous and have no breaks.
The Kerry campaign thinks it has a winner with this issue. Kerry himself broke his silence last week and said, "I think a lot of veterans are going to be very angry at a president who can't account for his own service in the National Guard." And the Kerry camp sent out a press release entitled "KEY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS: Bush's Record In The National Guard." As spokesman Chad Clanton said, "Voters are going to have to decide: someone who volunteered to service their country when their country needed them or someone else who, you know, it speaks for itself. It is a contrast, it is a difference. &hellip There is no better test than whether someone is committed to defending their country than whether they've put their life on the line on the battlefield."
For its part, the Bush-Cheney campaign is unmoved, directing reporters to a statement made last Tuesday by communications director Nicolle Devenish that said, in part, "Instead of explaining his record, John Kerry has turned to political attacks on the President. John Kerry is doing exactly what he said he would never do, 'divide America over who served and how.'" Devenish is referring to a statement made by Kerry in 1992 when Bill Clinton was a candidate for the presidency.
One way to resolve all of these questions is for both candidates to sign a "release authorization form," which would allow the National Personnel Records in St. Louis to provide any interested party with their complete documents. Mr. Bush has not signed one so far and the White House says he has no plans to do so. Sen. Kerry has not signed the form either, although no one contacted for this article suggested that documents are missing from Kerry's record. The Kerry campaign would not say whether the senator had any plans to sign a release authorization in the future.
It seems unlikely that either campaign will end the military records debate anytime soon. Both campaigns see national security credentials as important in this election year and letting the other off the hook would be a monumental concession. Stay tuned for more controversy instead.
Bush releases his military records
WASHINGTON -- After days of hesitation, the White House last night made public what it said were all of President Bush's military records. But the records seemed to add virtually no new information about Bush's stint in the Texas Air National Guard that concluded with a final year of sporadic duty and an early return in 1973 to civilian life.
An initial review of the more than 300 pages found no additional documentation about why Bush went months without attending required drills while he was living in Montgomery, Ala., and at his home base in Houston between May 1972 and May 1973.
The documents also do not clear up another mystery about Bush's military service: why then First Lieutenant Bush, a fighter-interceptor pilot, did not take his required annual flight physical examination in mid-1972. On Aug. 1, 1972, he was suspended from flight status for not taking the physical, and never flew again.
The records made public last night add little to the more than 160 pages of Bush's military records that the Globe obtained four years ago.
Although Bush promised last Sunday during a broadcast interview to release all his military records, his aides by midweek had backed away from that pledge. Yesterday, White House officials told reporters, Bush made the decision to make everything public.
Dan Bartlett, White House communications director, referring to days of contentious questioning during White House briefings this week, said Bush "sees the silliness that's going on in the briefing room. He's like, `Put it out.' There's this wrong impression that there was something in there to hide."
Bush, he said, is "proud of his service, proud of his duty in the National Guard. He met his requirements and was honorably discharged. This obviously demonstrates that."
In addition to the release of service records, a group of White House reporters were allowed to look through Bush's military medical records. The records did not seem to show anything unusual.
The records made public last night paint a clear portrait of the start and middle of Bush's five years as a guardsman. When he joined in May 1968, fresh out of Yale University, Bush applied for flight school, saying he had a goal of "making flying a lifetime pursuit."
The day he joined, four years before the period when his attendance became irregular, he also signed a statement signifying that he understood the consequences of not measuring up to Guard requirements: "I understand that I may be ordered to active duty for a period not to exceed 24 months for unsatisfactory participation."
The documents also contain accolades for Bush from his superiors during the two years of regular flying he did with his unit in Houston before he stopped flying. "Lt. Bush is a dynamic outstanding young officer. . . a tenacious competitor and an aggressive pilot," Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian, his commander and friend, wrote when Bush was promoted to first lieutenant in November 1970. "He is mature beyond his age and experience level."
But the newly released records add no new information to the murkier conclusion to Bush's Guard service, the final 18 months when he had ceased flying and went more than five months at one point without attending a drill.
Earlier this week, two retired National Guard generals told the Globe that it was almost unheard of for a military aviator to miss an annual flight physical. And the Globe reported that Guard regulations would have required an investigation of Bush's failure to take the physical.
But the new records contain no hint of any such inquiry.
Bartlett told reporters that Bush did not have to take the exam in mid-1972 because he had moved temporarily to Alabama and was going to perform his duty in nonflying status.
Some of the documents are unredacted versions of records previously made public. One contains a notation, long since reported, that Bush was arrested for disorderly conduct for a Yale fraternity prank. And they note that as a teenager, Bush had two speeding tickets and two citations for "negligent collisions," an apparent reference to automobile accidents.
Earlier this week, new documents became public containing evidence that Bush attended about 25 days of Guard training between May 27, 1972, and May 26, 1973. For eight of those 12 months, he performed no duty at all. And he did a flurry of drills, 11 days, in May 1973 after receiving special orders to report for them.
The White House said the 25 days were sufficient to fulfill his obligation for retirement credit. But he fell two weeks shy of the minimum number of annual training days expected of guardsmen. Soon after, Bush left the Guard to attend Harvard Business School. His official discharge date was Oct. 1, 1973 -- 14 months before his military commitment would normally have concluded.
Last night, according to the Associated Press, Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Debra DeShong said "each revelation of material from the Bush White House has raised more questions than it has answered. It remains to be seen if these newest documents will provide any answers."
The president's lackadaisical approach in the latter portion of his National Guard service was first reported in May 2000 by the Globe, which obtained more than 160 pages of Bush's military records. Those records contained no evidence that Bush appeared for Air National Guard duty between April 16, 1972, and May 1, 1973. Moreover, the records contained a May 2, 1973, statement by two of his superiors at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston that they could not do his annual rating because he had not been observed at the base for the previous 12 months.
The apparent gap in Bush's attendance occurred during a period when he received permission from his superiors to move temporarily to Alabama in May 1972 to work on a Republican US Senate campaign. The records showed that Bush was scheduled for just two weekend drills, in September and October 1972, with an Air Guard unit in Montgomery. But the unit's commander said in interviews in 2000 that Bush never appeared at his unit.
Last month, questions about Bush's service resurfaced after documentary filmmaker Michael Moore castigated him as a military "deserter." Soon after, Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe charged that Bush had been "absent without leave" after the government had invested at least a quarter of a million dollars to train him as a fighter pilot.
In an interview Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Bush sought to quell the controversy over the missed months of his Guard service, saying he was willing to make his entire military personnel file public.
Earlier this week, the White House then released payroll and other documents showing Bush had done periodic service in Alabama and Houston during the year in question, and made public a statement by a Texas Air Guard personnel specialist who said showed that Bush had a "satisfactory year" for retirement purposes and had fulfilled his commitment with the Guard.
On Wednesday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that Bush's opponents were "trolling for trash," then presided over a combative news conference where he backed away from Bush's nationally televised pledge to release his full National Guard record.
On Thursday, the political risks of the controversy were accentuated when major news organizations reported the accusations of retired Lieutenant Colonel Bill Burkett, who said he witnessed high-ranking Guard officials, working at the behest of then-governor Bush's top aides, purge the Bush file of embarrassing documents. But the Globe reported that a corroborating witness, former chief warrant officer George O. Conn, said the central elements of Burkett's accusations were false.
The White House earlier this week also released a document saying that Bush showed up at the Alabama Guard base for a dental exam in January 1973.
And the White House made available to reporters a retired Guard lieutenant colonel, John Calhoun, who said Bush appeared for frequent drills at the Alabama unit in 1972. But Bush's records do not support Calhoun's claim. And numerous other members of the Alabama Guard unit told reporters this week that they did not recall Bush appearing at the unit.
Globe reporters Michael Rezendes and Francie Latour contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press also was used.
In June 1999, he formally announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. Bush strongly led the public opinion polls over Reform Party nominee Patrick Buchanan, Vice President Al Gore, and Democratic Party nominee Ralph Nader.
The first one was 6th U.S. president John Quincy Adams who served from 1825 to 1829. He was the son of 2nd U.S. president John Adams who served from 1797 to 1801.
Image by RandomUserGuy1738 from Wikimedia Commons
George W. Bush is suspended from flying with the Air National Guard - HISTORY
Posted on 09/08/2004 8:10:56 PM PDT by Pikamax
September 9, 2004 Documents Suggest Special Treatment for Bush in Guard By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE and RALPH BLUMENTHAL
ASHINGTON, Sept. 8 - President Bush's Vietnam-era service in the National Guard came under renewed scrutiny on Wednesday as newfound documents emerged from his squadron commander's file that suggested favorable treatment.
At the same time, a once powerful Texas Democrat came forward to say that he had "abused my position of power" by helping Mr. Bush and others join the Guard.
Democrats also worked to stoke the issue with a new advertisement by a Texas group that featured a former lieutenant colonel, Bob Mintz, who said he never saw Mr. Bush in the period he transferred from the Texas Air National Guard to the Alabama Air National Guard.
The documents, obtained by the "60 Minutes" program at CBS News from the personal files of the late Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, Mr. Bush's squadron commander in Texas, suggest that Lieutenant Bush did not meet his performance standards and received favorable treatment.
One document, a "memo to file" dated May 1972 , refers to a conversation between Colonel Killian and Lieutenant Bush when they "discussed options of how Bush can get out of coming to drill from now through November," because the lieutenant "may not have time."
The memo said the commander had worked to come up with options, "but I think he's also talking to someone upstairs."
Colonel Killian wrote in another report, dated Aug. 1, 1972, that he ordered Lieutenant Bush "suspended from flight status" because he failed to perform to standards of the Air Force and Texas Air National Guard and "failure to meet annual physical examination (flight) as ordered."
Colonel Killian also wrote in a memo that his superiors were forcing him to give Lieutenant Bush a favorable review, but that he refused.
"I'm having trouble running interference and doing my job," he wrote.
CBS, which reported on the memos on "The CBS Evening News" and "60 Minutes," declined to say how it obtained the documents.
Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, said in an interview with CBS, the full transcript of which the White House released on Wednesday night, that Mr. Bush had fulfilled his service and received an honorable discharge. Mr. Bartlett did not dispute the authenticity of the memos but said, "When you are talking about a memo to somebody's self - this is a memo to his own file - people are trying to read the mind of somebody who is no longer with us."
He called the release of the files politically motivated.
"Every time President Bush gets near another election, all the innuendo and rumors about President Bush's service in the National Guard come to the forefront," he said.
Separately, former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes of Texas voiced regret for what he said was helping the privileged escape service in Vietnam.
"I'm not particularly proud of what I did," said Mr. Barnes, who in the 1960's was speaker of the Texas House at 26 and lieutenant governor at 30. "While I understand why parents wanted to shield their sons from danger, I abused my position of power by helping only those who knew me or had access to me."
Mr. Barnes, 66, an adviser to Senator John Kerry's campaign and an influential lobbyist with offices in Austin and Washington, said in a interview with The New York Times that he had intervened to get Mr. Bush, as well as other well-connected young men, into the Guard in 1968. He made similar comments on "60 Minutes" on Wednesday.
Mr. Barnes maintained, as he has since 1999, that he had contacted his friend who headed the Texas Air National Guard, Brig. Gen. James Rose, not at the behest of anyone in the Bush family, but rather a Houston businessman, Sidney A. Adger, a friend of the Bushes who has died.
"Yes, I called Rose to get George Bush into the Guard, I've said that," Mr. Barnes said in his office last week in Austin. "I called Rose for other sons of prominent families, and I'm not proud of it now."
Anticipating his remarks, Republicans worked to discredit Mr. Barnes as a partisan Democrat and large contributor to Mr. Kerry. The events created a new round of scrutiny for Mr. Bush, after a month in which Mr. Kerry's Vietnam service dominated the campaign because of veterans with longstanding anger at how Mr. Kerry, who was a decorated veteran, came home and turned against the war. With advertisements, through a book and on talk shows, the group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, leveled largely unsubstantiated accusations about Mr. Kerry's record and his antiwar statements.
Democrats were unabashed about turning the spotlight on Mr. Bush. Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic chairman, said in a conference call with reporters the party would keep Mr. Bush's Guard record before the public.
The events unfolded a day after the Pentagon, prompted by a lawsuit filed by The Associated Press, released a series of records on Mr. Bush's service, even though the White House had said this year that it had released all the records.
Mr. Bartlett said that the documents "demonstrate that he served his country, he logged hundreds and hundreds of hours as a fighter pilot in the Texas Air National Guard."
Mr. Bartlett rejected the suggestion based on Colonel Killian's files that Mr. Bush did not meet the performance standards. He said Mr. Bush did not have a physical examination because he was not going to be flying planes anymore, because his unit no longer flew the planes that Mr. Bush was trained on.
"Every step of the way, President Bush was meeting his requirements, granted permission to meet his requirements," Mr. Bartlett said.
A new commercial, produced by a group of Democrats, Texans for Truth, is to begin on Monday in five swing states that have lost high numbers of soldiers in Iraq. It features a former lieutenant colonel in the Alabama Guard, Bob Mintz, who lives in Tennessee. He told a columnist for The New York Times, Nicholas D. Kristof, for a column published on Wednesday, that he was actively looking for Lieutenant Bush at the Alabama base in the 1970's, because he had heard that Lieutenant Bush was a fellow bachelor who might like to party with him and other pilots. In the spot, Mr. Mintz said neither he nor his friends ever saw Mr. Bush.
"It would be impossible to be unseen in a unit of that size," he says.
The unit had 20 to 30 pilots.
In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Mr. Mintz was pressed about his recollections and whether he might have missed seeing Mr. Bush, possibly because Mr. Bush was no longer flying at that point and was working in an office position. Mr. Mintz said repeatedly he never saw Lieutenant Bush.
Asked for friends' names who could vouch that they never saw Lieutenant Bush, Mr. Mintz declined, saying he did not have their permission to make their names public.
Glenn Smith, the main figure in Texans for Truth, said he wanted to make the spot because he was angry over the Swift Boat veterans.
Steve Schmidt of the Bush campaign said that Texans for Truth was linked to the Kerry campaign in potential violation of campaign finance laws, saying the group was "made possible by contributions" from Moveon.org, another advocacy group that opposes Mr. Bush.
Mr. Smith said that Moveon.org had financed another group that he had founded, Drivedemocracy.org, but that neither had given money to the Texans, though he said that Moveon.org had put a link on its Web site to the Texans and sent e-mail messages to its members in Texas urging them to donate to the Texans.
Mr. Smith said the Texans raised more than $300,000 in 24 hours, with one contribution for $100,000 and most of the rest in $25 donations.
Adding to the picture of Mr. Bush's service, The Boston Globe reported on Wednesday that he fell short of meeting his military requirements and was not disciplined despite irregular attendance at required drills.
The paper said Mr. Bush signed documents in July 1973, before he left Houston for the Harvard Business School, promising to meet his training commitments or be punished by being called up to active duty.
Mr. Bartlett said on Wednesday that Mr. Bush was given permission to attend Harvard. He said that if there were any requirements Mr. Bush was not meeting, "the National Guard at the federal level, the state level and the local level, they all knew where he was."
Katharine Q. Seelye reported from Washingtonfor this article, and Ralph Blumenthal from Houston. Raymond Bonner contributed reporting from Houston
The ability of so many losers to do nothing but dwell in the past simply amazes me.
And if they found bin Laden, they ask him what he thinks about Bush's attendance at Guard drills!
Is this the best they got?
I'd like to suggest (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) there is an embedded reporter from Pravda working @ the NYTimes.
Amazing how the can so cavalierly spew, after the record has been examined and found OK. Scummy.
President Bush is going to be so easily re-elected..if this is all they have..
There are the documents now you see if you think they say what the NYT says they say.
Whoops. scroll down on the left!
OK, I guess this is relevant, to retarded types.
And, isn't it "funny" that 25 "news" articles all coming trickling out at once . All are treated with "serious: concern and "professional interest" and "warrant investigation" .
But let ONE group try to get TWO ads run against John Kerry, in a group NOT backed by Bush, nor a group promoting Bush, and the media decided IMMEDIATELY that they are lying and must be shut up.
Yeah. Right. There's no media bias here.
Just moveon.org folks, just moveon.org.
Nothing to see here. There's no such thing as a dnc faux fax sheet that everybody receives each morning to write their headlines from, and set their front page by. Nah.
We're from the national press corpse and we're here to impartially and honestly inform you - because John McCain says we're the only ones who can legally discuss politics.
Given that the Lt Gov that claims to have been "coerced" into helping Bush into the Guard wasn't even in office when Bush entered the Guard. it would seem to deflate the story.
The hypocrisy is maddening!
Amazing - When the Swift Vets came out with their story - the MSM ignored it for two weeks. When the MSM finally had to cover it, they mounted a campaign to impugn the credibility of the accusers (The Swift Vets), and then went back to ignoring the story (with the excuse that the Vets story had been discredited.)
No this old story has been out of moth balls by the Dems and the MSM is wasting no time. All MSM outlets can't wait the give the Page 1 coverage above the fold. Impugning the credibility of the accusers (ie. Barnes) is also not existent.
WHO IS BEN BARNES?
A Deep-Pocketed Kerry Partisan Who Can't Keep His Stories Straight
Barnes Under Oath
Under Oath, Barnes Testified He Had No Contact With Bush Family Concerning National Guard. "Ben Barnes, then the speaker of the Texas House, said in 1999 that Sidney Adger, a Houston businessman and longtime friend of the Bush family whose son also won a slot in the 147th, had asked him to help get Mr. Bush into the Guard. Mr. Barnes, who acknowledged a role only after he was questioned under oath, also said that he had spoken to the head of the Texas Air National Guard on Mr. Bush's behalf, but had no contact with anyone in the Bush family. And there is no direct evidence that Mr. Bush's family pulled strings to get him into the 147th. Mr. Bush is firmly on record denying it, as is the commander of the unit, and there is no paper trail showing any influence by the Bush family." (David Barstow, "In Haze Of Guard Records, A Bit Of Clarity," The New York Times, 2/15/04)
Barnes Said Reports He Helped Bush At His Father's Urging Were "False." "Former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes denied a magazine report Thursday that he helped George W. Bush get a place in the Texas Air National Guard at the urging of Bush's father. Bush, the Republican presidential front-runner, has repeatedly denied that he received preferential treatment in being accepted into the Guard during the Vietnam War. 'I never spoke to Congressman Bush about his son,' Barnes said Thursday. 'The story is false.'" (Renae Merle, "Barnes Denies Report That He Helped Bush Into The National Guard," The Associated Press, 7/15/99)
In Fall Of 1999, Barnes Said Bush Family Never Asked To Get President Bush Into National Guard. "Mr. Bush has consistently said he never requested special treatment, though Ben Barnes, who was speaker of the Texas House in 1968, said in 1999 that he had been asked by a Houston businessman -- not by the Bush family -- to recommend Mr. Bush for a pilot's slot, and that he had done so." (David M. Halbfinger, "Three Decades Later, Vietnam Remains A Hot Issue," The New York Times, 8/29/04)
But Now, Barnes' Story "Subject To Change"
Today, Barnes Claims He Is "Ashamed" He Got President Bush Into Texas Air National Guard. "Former Texas House Speaker Ben Barnes said he is 'more ashamed at myself than I've ever been' because he helped President Bush and the sons of other wealthy families get into the Texas National Guard so they could avoid serving in Vietnam. 'I got a young man named George W. Bush into the National Guard . and I'm not necessarily proud of that, but I did it,' Barnes, a Democrat, said in a video clip recorded May 27 before a group of John Kerry supporters in Austin. Barnes, who was House speaker when Bush entered the Guard, later became lieutenant governor." (Bobby Ross Jr., "Former Lawmaker Says He Got Bush Into The Texas Guard," The Associated Press, 8/28/04)
Yet, According To February 2004 New York Times Article, Barnes' Story "Was Subject To Change And There Were No Documents To Support His Claims." "Local reporters could coax one former Democratic state official into admitting, off the record, that he had interceded on Mr. Bush's behalf at the request of either a prominent Dallas businessman or George H. W. Bush, who was then a member of Congress. But the official's story -- the source was later revealed to be former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes -- was subject to change and there were no documents to support his claims." (Mimi Swartz, "In Search Of The President's Missing Years," The New York Times, 2/27/04)
Barnes Is Kerry Fundraiser And Advisor
Ben Barnes Is Kerry Campaign Vice-Chair, Raising Over $100,000 For Campaign. (Kerry For President Website, www.johnkerry.com/fec/, Accessed 9/4/04)
Barnes Considers John Kerry Close Personal Friend. "Barnes, a government consultant with offices in Austin, Chicago and Washington, said: 'I'm just an enthusiastic participant' who considers as personal friends Corzine, Daschle and Kerry, whom he got to know during summer vacations in Nantucket." (W. Gardner Selby, "Texas' Last 'Old Lion' Still On Prowl For Funds," San Antonio Express-Texas, 7/30/04)
"Texans For Kerry" Website Links To Barnes Video. (Texans For Kerry Website, www.texansforkerry.com/texansforkerry/, Accessed 9/7/04)
Barnes Is Considered "A Definite In" In Kerry Administration. "[Barnes has] known Kerry since the 1980s. 'I don't know who's going to be in and who's going to be out' of a possible Kerry administration, Barnes said. 'But John Kerry has been sympathetic to Texas in the past. . I would expect him to listen to our problems if he's in the White House.' Barnes is a definite in, though he says he'll keep working as a lobbyist based in Austin." (Jay Root, "Texas Democrats Are Waiting In The Wings," Fort Worth Star Telegram, 7/31/04)
Barnes Owns Home Near Kerry's In Nantucket. "Now a lobbyist and consultant, Barnes has a house near Kerry's in Nantucket, Mass., and committed to Kerry's White House bid nearly three years ago on the grounds of the Nantucket Golf Club." (Jay Root, "Texas Democrats Are Waiting In The Wings," Fort Worth Star Telegram, 7/31/04)
Barnes Is Kerry "Super-Bundler" Fundraiser. "Eleven [Kerry super-bundlers] are from Texas, including Dallas plaintiff's lawyer Fred Baron and lobbyist Ben Barnes, a Lyndon Johnson protégé who served as lieutenant governor and is one of the national Democrat Party's most prodigious fund-raisers. 'If someone had told me last quarter that John Kerry would have raised as much money as he's been able to, I'd have said it couldn't happen. But I'm seeing it happen,' said Mr. Barnes, whose lobby clients have included American Airlines and the chemical giant Huntsman Corp." (Wayne Slater, "Vested Interests In Kerry Lawyers, Lobbyists Top Donors List," Dallas Morning News, 7/26/04)
Opening Night Of Democratic Convention In Boston, "Kerry Adviser And Veteran Political Fund-Raiser" Barnes Hosted Party For Convention-Goers. "On the opening night of the Democratic National Convention, more than 250 well-dressed people strayed from the convention, enjoying bubbly drinks and appetizers such as tablespoon-sized shrimp salads at a party hosted by former Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes. Barnes, a Kerry adviser and veteran political fund-raiser, said he scheduled his event to remind potential donors about the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, which seeks to help Democrats recapture a majority in the U.S. Senate, where the GOP has a two-vote majority." (W. Gardner Selby, "Texas' Last 'Old Lion' Still On Prowl For Funds," San Antonio Express-Texas, 7/30/04)
In October 2003, Barnes Hosted Fundraiser For John Kerry. "Democratic presidential contender John Kerry, counting on the Texas-Massachusetts connection that played better in the 1960s than it did in the 1980s, made three fund-raising stops in Texas on Wednesday as he campaigned toward primary season. Kerry, a senator from Massachusetts, spoke to about 60 supporters at the Four Seasons Hotel here between stops in Dallas and Houston .In introducing Kerry here, former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes likened him to Kennedy. 'He possesses the talent, the courage, the experience and the depth that will make him, as Jack Kennedy was in 1961, a president that has the determination to lead this country,' Barnes said." (Ken Herman, "Kerry Plays Up Texas' Link To His Home State," Austin American-Statesman, 10/2/03)
Barnes Is A Partisan Democrat
Daschle Called Barnes "The Fifty-First Democratic Senator." "Yet here he is in the rarefied atmosphere of big power and big-time politics -- one of the chief financial and strategic architects of the Democratic resurgence to parity (and subsequently control) in the Senate. Majority leader Tom Daschle has called him 'the fifty-first Democratic senator.'" (Paul Burka, "So What If He Never Got To Be Governor Or President?" Texas Monthly, 9/01)
Barnes Attended Clinton Coffee Intended To Raise $500,000. "Newly released White House documents show that President Clinton's political operatives expected to raise $500,000 from a White House coffee for wealthy Texans in the summer, calling into question Clinton's assertion that 'no price tag was placed' on White House events. In a July 14 memo to White House officials, campaign Chairman Peter Knight suggested adding the Texas coffee klatch to Clinton's schedule as part of an effort to raise $7.8 million in the state. Knight predicted that the event would generate $500,000 in political contributions. About 20 Texans, including former Gov. Dolph Briscoe, Land Commissioner Garry Mauro and former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes, attended the Aug. 23 get-together with the president." (Ron Hutcheson, "Clinton's Fund-Raising Assertion Questioned," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 2/27/97)
In 1996, Barnes Endorsed Clinton/Gore '96. (Lisa R. Davis, "CEOs And Business Leaders Endorse President Clinton," Press Release, 10/8/96)
Ben Barnes Has Donated At Least $380,750 To Democratic Candidates And Campaign Bodies Including:
ü John Kerry For President Inc.
ü Kerry-Edwards 2004 Inc. General Election Legal And Accounting Compliance Fund
ü A Lot Of People Supporting Tom Daschle Inc.
ü Bob Graham For President Inc.
ü Citizens For Sarbanes
ü Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
ü Democratic National Committee
ü Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
ü Friends Of Byron Dorgan
ü Friends Of Dick Durbin Committee
ü Friends Of Max Cleland For The US Senate Inc.
ü Friends Of Harry Reid
ü Friends Of Patrick J Kennedy Inc.
ü Friends Of Senator Carl Levin
ü Gephardt For President Inc.
ü Hillary Rodham Clinton For US Senate Committee Inc.
ü Joe Lieberman For President Inc.
ü Kennedy For Senate 2006
ü Leahy For U.S. Senator Committee
ü People For Patty Murray US Senate Campaign
ü Stabenow For US Senate
ü Tony Knowles For US Senate (Political Money Line Website, www.tray.com, Accessed 9/8/04)
Barnes' Ethical Mishaps
Sharpstown Bank Scandal In 1971 Ended Barnes' Political Career. "The Sharpstown Scandal: This scandal involved quick-profit stock sales for lawmakers and state officials in 1971-72. Houston financier Frank Sharp arranged the stock loans from his Sharpstown State Bank, purportedly to grease the passage of two banking bills. Two dozen former and sitting officials were accused, and others suffered by association. House Speaker Gus Mutscher and another legislator were convicted of conspiring to accept a bribe. Gov. Preston Smith lost the governorship after his profit was disclosed. Half the Texas House was voted out of office or didn't seek re-election. And Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes, a rising political star, was caught in the housecleaning when he tried to win the governor's seat. LBJ had even predicted that Barnes would make it to the White House." (Carolyn Barta, "Texas Has Left A Lasting Mark In The World Of Politics," The Dallas Morning News, 3/4/99)
In 1998, Barnes Was Accused Of Funneling $500,000 To Former Sales Manager Of Corporation Running Texas Lottery. "The former national sales manager for Gtech Holdings Corp., which operates the Texas lottery, was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison Thursday for stealing from the company. His sentencing two years after his conviction was delayed by a controversy over information released by prosecutors linking him and former Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes to a similar kickback scheme. In a sentencing memo in the Smith case, New Jersey prosecutors alleged that Mr. Barnes, then Gtech's chief Texas lobbyist, funneled $500,000 to Mr. Smith. The memo containing the allegations was posted on the Internet. Mr. Barnes denied that he had done anything wrong, and Judge Politan ordered prosecutors to apologize. In August, they acknowledged that they had disclosed secret information. Mr. Barnes said at the time that the money he gave Mr. Smith was for work not connected to the lottery. Mr. Barnes has never been charged with wrongdoing in connection with the allegation. Gtech bought out Mr. Barnes' contract for $23 million after Texas lottery commissioners questioned Gtech business practices." (George Kuempel, "Ex-Official For Gtech Sentenced," The Dallas Morning News, 10/9/98) Investment Partnership With John Connally Went Bust In 1988 After Connally And Barnes Racked Up $200 Million In Debt. "He joined with his protégé Ben Barnes, the former lieutenant governor of Texas, to embark on the business of building offices and condominiums and shopping malls, borrowing millions of dollars on the strength of his famous name, arguably the most famous in the state. At the time, Connally's real estate and energy investments appeared to be solid. Oil was selling for $33 a barrel and seemed destined to go higher. Texas was on a roll and John Connally was riding the crest of an economic surge that was making millionaires overnight. But Connally's timing was off. The decline of Texas and the rest of the energy belt began in 1982, just about the time he and Barnes began their spending and borrowing spree in earnest, taking the big chances. Files for Bankruptcy. Five years later, after a fruitless struggle for economic survival, Connally admitted that betting big had been a mistake. On July 31 of last year, he filed for bankruptcy. At the time, he and Barnes owed creditors more than $200 million." (J. Michael Kennedy, "Symbol Of Troubled Texas," Los Angeles Times, 1/22/88)
Bush's missing year
By Eric Boehlert
Published February 5, 2004 8:40PM (EST)
In 1972, George W. Bush simply walked away from his pilot duties in the Texas Air National Guard. He skipped required weekend drill sessions for many months, probably for more than a year, and did not take a mandatory annual physical exam, which resulted in his being grounded. Nonetheless, Bush, the son of a well-connected Texas congressman, received an honorable discharge.
If an Air National guardsman today vanished for a year, military attorneys say that guardsman would be transferred to active duty or, more likely, kicked out of the service, probably with a less-than-honorable discharge. They suggest the penalty would be especially swift if the absent-without-leave guardsman were a fully trained pilot, as Bush was.
Bush's National Guard record, long ignored by the media, has surfaced with a vengeance. If the topic continues to rage, and if the media presses him, Bush may finally be forced to release his full military records, which could reveal the truth. By refusing to make all those records public, Bush has until now broken with a long-standing tradition of U.S. presidential candidates.
Democrats have seized on the story of Bush's "missing year," which was first raised in a 2000 Boston Globe article. This week Democratic front-runner Sen. John Kerry called on Bush to give a fuller explanation of his service record. That brought an outraged response from Bush-Cheney '04 chairman Marc Racicot, who denounced Kerry's request as a "slanderous attack" and "character assassination." White House spokesman Scott McClellan also tried to slam the door on the subject, declaiming that Democratic questions about Bush's military service "have no place in politics and everyone should condemn them."
In a sign that the Bush team is taking the issue seriously, on Wednesday Bush's campaign spokesman questioned the integrity of the retired Guard commander who claims Bush failed to show for duty in 1972, citing the commander's recent donation to a Democratic candidate for president.
Republicans clearly want to quarantine the issue of Bush's service and have it labeled as outside the bounds of acceptable public discourse. With good reason: If the story takes root it could do real damage to Bush's reelection run, which is anchored on his image as a trusted leader in America's war on terrorism. Trying to make the subject go away could prove difficult, though. "It's a booby trap that's out there ticking for Bush," warns retired U.S. Army Col. David Hackworth. "His opponents are going to keep turning this screw until something gives."
Right now, the network news is covering the political jousting. It remains unclear, however, whether mainstream journalists will take the time to examine Bush's military record and ask the president why, after receiving pilot training that cost 1970s taxpayers nearly $1 million, he took it upon himself to decide he was finished with his military requirements nearly two years before his six-year obligation was up.
Bush's infrequent responses to questions on the issue have been by turns false, misleading and contradictory. His memory has also proved to be highly unreliable: During 2000, Bush variously could not remember which weekends he served during the year in question, where he served, under whose command, or what his duties were.
The story emerged in 2000 when the Boston Globe's Walter Robinson, after combing through 160 pages of military documents and interviewing Bush's former commanders, reported that Bush's flying career came to an abrupt and unexplained end in the spring of 1972 when he asked for, and was inexplicably granted, a transfer to a paper-pushing Guard unit in Alabama. During this time Bush worked on the Senate campaign of a friend of his father's. With his six-year Guard commitment, Bush was obligated to serve through 1973. But according to his own discharge papers, there is no record that he did any training after May 1972. Indeed, there is no record that Bush performed any Guard service in Alabama at all. In 2000, a group of veterans offered a $3,500 reward for anyone who could confirm Bush's Alabama Guard service. Of the estimated 600 to 700 Guardsmen who were in Bush's unit, not a single person came forward.
In 1973 Bush returned to his Houston Guard unit, but in May of that year his commanders could not complete his annual officer effectiveness rating report because, they wrote, "Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of the report." Based on those records, as well as interviews with Texas Air National guardsmen, the Globe raised serious questions as to whether Bush ever reported for duty at all during 1973.
Throughout the 2000 campaign Bush aides never forcefully questioned the Globe's account. Instead, they searched for military documents that would support Bush's claim that he did indeed attend drill duties during the year in question. His aides eventually uncovered one piece of paper that seemed to bolster their case that he had attended a drill in late 1972, but the document was torn and did not have Bush's full name on it.
Today, the White House says that although Bush did miss some weekend drills, he eventually made them up, and more importantly he received an honorable discharge. Bush supporters routinely cite the president's honorable discharge as the ultimate proof that there was nothing unbecoming about his military service.
But experts say that citation does not wipe away the questions. "An honorable discharge does not indicate a flawless record," says Grant Lattin, a military law attorney in Washington and a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who served as a judge advocate, or JAG officer. "Somebody could have missed a year's worth of Guard drills and still end up with an honorable discharge." That's because of the extraordinary leeway local commanders within the Guard are given over these types of issues. Lattin notes that the Guard "is obviously very political, even more so than other military institutions, and is subject to political influence."
For failing to attend required monthly drill sessions and refusing to take a physical, 1st Lt. Bush just as easily could have been moved to active duty, given a less-than-honorable discharge, or had his flying rights permanently revoked, says Eugene Fidell, a leading Washington expert on military law. "For a fully trained pilot, he was assigned to a nothing job [in Alabama], and the available records indicate he never performed that job."
In the Guard today, as a general rule, "if someone doesn't show up for drill duty, doesn't show up, and doesn't show up, they'll be separated from their unit and given an other-than-honorable discharge" most likely noting "unsatisfactory participation," says D.C. military lawyer David Sheldon, who served in the Navy and represented officers before the Court of Military Appeals.
Meanwhile, recent questions have surfaced not only about Bush's military service, but his official records. "I think some documents were taken out" of his military file, the Boston Globe's Robinson tells Salon. "And there's at least one document that appears to have been inserted into his record in early 2000." That document -- the aforementioned torn page that did not have Bush's full name on it -- plays a central role in the story.
"His records have clearly been cleaned up," says author James Moore, whose upcoming book, "Bush's War for Re-election," will examine the issue of Bush's military service in great detail. Moore says as far back as 1994, when Bush first ran for governor of Texas, his political aides "began contacting commanders and roommates and people who would spin and cover up his Guard record. And when my book comes out, people will be on the record testifying to that fact: witnesses who helped clean up Bush's military file."
If Bush wanted to resolve the questions about his National Guard service, he could do so very easily. If he simply agreed to release the contents of his military personnel records jacket, the Guard could make public all his discharge papers, including pay records and total retirement points, which experts say would shed the best light on where Bush was, or was not, during the time in question between 1972 and 1973. (Many of Bush's documents are available through Freedom of Information requests, but certain items deemed personal or private cannot be released without Bush's permission.)
Releasing military records has become a time-honored tradition of presidential campaigns. During the 1992 presidential election, Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, called on his Democratic opponent, Bill Clinton, to make public all personal documents relating his draft status during the Vietnam War, including any correspondences with "Clinton's draft board, the Selective Service System, the Reserve Officer Training Corps, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, the Coast Guard, the United States departments of State and Justice, any U.S. foreign embassy or consulate." That, according to a Bush-Quayle Oct. 15, 1992, press release.
Calls to the White House seeking comment on if and when the president's full military records will be released were not returned.
The spark that reignited this issue came when ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, co-moderating a Democratic debate on Jan. 22, asked retired Gen. Wesley Clark why he did not repudiate comments made by his supporter, filmmaker Michael Moore, who publicly labeled Bush a "deserter." Jennings editorialized, "Now that's a reckless charge not supported by the facts."
Republican pundits agreed. Bill Bennett, a director of Empower America, told Fox News that Clark's "failure to distance himself, repudiate, absolutely condemn Michael Moore's description of the president as a deserter was a terrible thing."
Most informed observers agree that Moore's choice of words was sloppy and inaccurate. "Deserter" is a criminal term: It refers to a military personnel who abandons his post with no intention of ever returning. But Democrats have taken hold of the broader issue of whether Bush was AWOL. Their willingness to bring up a previously off-limits subject reflects their sense that Bush's aura of invincibility has worn off and the confidence imparted by Kerry's resurgent campaign. Democrats feel Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, has the personal history to question Bush's service.
But the issue is also ripe because of Bush's own reelection strategy. By donning a fighter flight suit and landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln for a photo-op in May 2003, he has tried to paint himself as a seasoned military leader in the United States' war on terrorism. With newfound aggressiveness, Democrats are trying to puncture that aura by hammering away on the fact that Bush's own military record fails to back it up.
That's what Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe did this Sunday on ABC News' "This Week," when he referred to Bush as "a man who was AWOL in the Alabama National Guard." That brought a quick rebuttal from South Carolina's Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, who told CNN it was wrong for Democrats to be "taking shots at [Bush] for being a guardsman."
In similar fashion, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., claimed Tuesday night that by bringing up Bush's National Guard service, the Democrats are impugning the patriotism of guardsmen, implying that their contributions are less worthy than those who serve in the military. As those disingenuous comments suggest, Republicans are trying to change the subject, falsely framing the debate as a repeat of the National Guard controversy that dogged Vice President Dan Quayle during the 1988 presidential campaign.
It's easy to see why they're pursuing this strategy. If the story were simply about how Bush used his family connections to land a slot in the Texas Air National Guard (and all indications are he did just that ), it wouldn't matter much. But the real story is not how Bush got into the Guard. It's how he got out.
Until the last two days the mainstream media has routinely ignored or downplayed the issue. Slate columnist Michael Kinsley took euphemism to new heights when he wrote in a Dec. 5 column that Bush was "lackadaisical" about fulfilling his Guard requirement. On Jan. 17, the Associated Press, recapping the "deserter" controversy, did Bush a favor, erroneously reporting that his absent-without-leave time lasted just three months in 1972, instead of the 12-18 months actually in question. And on Feb. 1, ABC News, suggesting Democrats might turn off voters by attacking Bush's military service, reported Bush simply "missed some weekends of training." None of those descriptions come anywhere near describing the established facts at the center of the controversy.
Perhaps that's not surprising. The press, apparently deeming the National Guard story unworthy, paid more attention to the debate over Moore's "deserter" comment than they did to the actual story of Bush's unexplained absence when it came out during the 2000 campaign.
While co-moderating the Democratic debate, ABC News' Jennings was sure he knew the facts about Bush's military record. But as the Daily Howler noted, a search of the LexisNexis electronic database indicates that ABC's "World News Tonight," hosted by Jennings, never once during the 2000 campaign ran a report about the questions surrounding Bush's military record. Asked if ignoring the story was a mistake, and whether ABC News planned to pursue it in 2004, a network spokeswoman told Salon, "We continue to examine the records of all the candidates running for president, including President Bush. If and when we have a story about one of the candidates, we'll report it to our audience."
ABC was not alone in turning away from the story in 2000. CBS News did the same thing, and so did NBC News. But it was the New York Times, and the way the paper of record avoided the issue of Bush's no-show military service, that stands out as the most unusual. To this day, the Times has never reported that in 1972 the Texas Air National Guard grounded Bush for failing to take a required physical exam. Nor has the paper ever reported that neither Bush nor his aides can point to a single person who saw Bush, the hard-to-miss son of a congressman and U.S. ambassador, perform any active duty requirements during the final 18 months of his service. Instead, the Times served up stories that failed to delve deep into the issue.
The Boston Globe story broke on May 23, 2000. The next day Bush answered reporters' questions on the campaign trail, defending his military record. His comments were covered by the Times Union (of Albany, N.Y.), the Columbus Dispatch, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the Houston Chronicle, among others, which all considered the story newsworthy. Not the Times: The paper ignored the fact Bush was forced to respond to allegations that he'd been AWOL during his Guard service.
Throughout the 2000 campaign, the Times' Nicholas Kristof wrote a series of biographical dispatches about Bush's personal history. On July 11, he wrote about Bush's post-college years, including his National Guard service, but no mention was made of the controversy surrounding Bush's missing year.
The Times finally addressed the issue on July 22, two months after the Globe exposé was published. The Times article, written by Jo Thomas, focused on Bush's post-Yale years in the late '60s and early '70s. In a section on the National Guard controversy, the Times reported that Bush's commanding officer had told the Boston Globe that Bush had never showed up, quoted Bush as insisting that he had, and noted that "Emily Marks, who worked in the Blount campaign and dated Mr. Bush, said she recalls that he returned to Montgomery after the election to serve with the Air National Guard." But then the Times went on to write, "National Guard records provided by the Guard and by the Bush campaign indicate he did serve on Nov. 29, 1972, after the election. These records also show a gap in service from that time to the previous May. Mr. Bush says he made up for the lost time in subsequent months, and guard records show he received credit for having performed all the required service."
On Oct. 31, the Boston Globe published another damning story, suggesting Bush failed to serve -- in fact, did not even show up for duty-- during the final 18 months of his commitment. The Times' Thomas quickly wrote, "A review of records by The New York Times indicated that some of those concerns [about Bush's absence] may be unfounded." Contradicting the Globe's account of Bush war service, the paper reported that Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett "pointed to a document in Mr. Bush's military records that showed credit for four days of duty ending Nov. 29 and for eight days ending Dec. 14, 1972, and, after he moved back to Houston, on dates in January, April and May."
The document cited by the Times is apparently the mysterious torn paper that appeared in Bush's records in 2000. That document, a "Statement of Points Earned," tracks when guardsmen have served, and whether they have fulfilled their annual duty. It contains references to "29" and "14" and other numbers whose meaning is not clear. The Times did not inform its readers that the document is badly torn, undated, and unsigned does not have Bush's name on it (just a wayward "W") and has a redacted Social Security number.
"The Times got spun by Dan Bartlett," Robinson at the Globe told Salon. He and others note that if the documents provided by the Bush campaign proved he did Guard duty upon returning to Houston in January and April of 1973, then why, on Bush's annual effectiveness report signed by two superiors, did it say, "Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of the report," which covered the dates between May 1, 1972, and April 30, 1973?
"I had a lot of arguments with Dan Bartlett and never got spun by him," says Thomas, now an assistant chancellor for public affairs at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. "But if he gave me some documents that proved his point, I'm not going to ignore them." She added, "The Times carried no brief for or against Bush."
Nonetheless, the author James Moore says it was those two Times stories, which seemed to back up Bush's sketchy account of his Guard service, that effectively stopped other reporters from pursuing the story.
Here are the known facts of that story: Following his graduation from Yale University in 1968, with the Vietnam War raging, Bush vaulted to the top of a 500-person waiting list to land a coveted spot in the Texas Air National Guard. Then, despite having no aviation or ROTC experience, he was approved for an automatic commission as a second lieutenant and assignment to flight school.
By every indication, Bush's service between 1970 and 1972 as a fully trained pilot in the 111th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron near Houston was commendable. But then came the spring of 1972 -- and Bush simply vanished.
Contrary to the official campaign biography that appeared on the Bush Web site during 2000, which stated he flew fighter planes until his discharge in late 1973, Bush flew for the last time ever in April 1972. In May, he moved to Alabama to help out in the Senate campaign of Winton Blount, a friend of Bush's father. Bush asked to be transferred to an Alabama Air National Guard unit where he could do "equivalent training." Bush asked to be transferred to a postal unit for paper-pushing duties -- and remarkably, his Houston commanders signed off on the request. But officials at the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver eventually overruled the request, pointing out the obvious: Doing paperwork in a postal unit did not qualify as "equivalent training" for a fully trained pilot.
The situation remained unresolved for months. During that time, Bush was still obligated to attend drill sessions with his regular unit near Houston. Guard records indicate he did not.
In September 1972, Bush won approval to do temporary training at the 187th Squadron in Montgomery. But the unit's commander, retired Brig. Gen. William Turnipseed, told the Boston Globe he was "dead certain" Bush never showed. "Had he reported in, I would have had some recall, and I do not. I had been in Texas, done my flight training there. If we had had a first lieutenant from Texas, I would have remembered."
On Wednesday, Bush-Cheney '04 spokesman Terry Holt told Salon that Turnipseed recently donated $500 to Sen. John Edwards' campaign. Holt questioned whether the motives behind Turnipseed's comments regarding Bush's service were "pure," or whether he's part of a "political attack." Turnipseed could not be reached for comment.
In any case, as already noted, there is no official National Guard record of Bush's ever serving in Alabama, and not a single guardsman who served at that time has ever come forward and corroborated that Bush was there.
Meanwhile, in July of that summer, Bush's "failure to accomplish" his mandatory annual physical (that is, to take it) forced the Guard to ground him.
Following Blount's election loss in November, Bush returned to Houston. But he did not return to his Guard duties, at least according to his commanding officers. In May 1973, his two superior officers at Ellington Air Force Base noted on Bush's evaluation that he had not been seen during the previous year. In the comments section, Lt. Col. William Harris Jr. wrote that Bush "cleared this base on 15 May 1972, and has been performing equivalent training in a non flying role with the 187th Tac Recon Gp at Dannelly ANG Base, Alabama." The problem is, Bush never reported for duty there, or anywhere else in Alabama. According to his discharge papers, Bush took the whole year off instead.
Bush was finally recorded as having crammed in 36 active-duty credits during May, June and July 1973, thereby meeting his minimal requirement. But as the Boston Globe pointed out, nobody connected with the Texas unit recalls seeing Bush during his cram sessions, leading to suspicions that Bush was given credits for active duty he did not perform.
The suspicion stems in part from the incorrect, and inconsistent, answers that Bush and his spokesmen have given to the question of why, after going through extraordinarily rigorous flight training, he simply walked away from flying. The day the Globe story appeared on May 23, 2000, Bush explained to reporters that when he returned to Houston in 1973, his old fighter plane was being phased out. "There was a conscious decision not to retrain me in an airplane," he said, suggesting it was the Texas Air National Guard's decision to end his flying career. That's not true. The plane to which Bush was referring, the F-102, was phased out during the 1970s, but it was still being used in 1973. Bush did not tell reporters about his failed physical exam and how that resulted in his being grounded.
That misleading answer about Bush's Guard service was just one of many the candidate and his aides gave during the campaign. For instance, a campaign official told Cox News reporters in July 1999 that Bush's transfer to the Alabama Guard unit was for the same flying job he held in Texas. That's false. There was no flying involved at either Alabama unit (not that Bush ever reported to them, according to Guard records), and without passing a physical, Bush couldn't fly anyway.
Also in July 1999, Bush's then-spokeswoman Karen Hughes told the Associated Press it was accurate for Bush to suggest, as he'd done in a previous campaign, that he served "in the U.S. Air Force," when in fact he served in the Air National Guard.
Asked in 2000 why Bush failed to take his physical in July 1972, the campaign gave two different explanations. The first was that Bush was (supposedly) serving in Alabama and his personal physician was in Texas, so he couldn't get a physical. That's false. By military regulations, Bush could not have received a military physical from his personal physician, only from an Air Force flight surgeon, and there were several assigned to nearby Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala. The other explanation was that because Bush was no longer flying, he didn't need to take a physical. But that simply highlights the extraordinary nature of Bush's service and the peculiar notion that he took it upon himself to decide that a) he was no longer a pilot and b) he didn't have to take a physical.
Early in September 1973, Bush submitted a request to effectively end any requirements to attend monthly drills. Despite Bush's record, the request was approved. He was given an honorable discharge, and that fall he enrolled in Harvard Business School.
One of the obvious questions raised by Bush's missing year is why he was never brought up on any disciplinary charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and why he was given an honorable discharge. (It's unlikely Bush could have run for president if he'd been tainted with anything less than an honorable discharge from the military.)
But the issue is not that black and white. "An honorable discharge usually means the person has not committed any misconduct," says retired JAG officer Lattin. "He may have failed to honor his obligation, but he hasn't committed a criminal act. And that's an important distinction."
It's important, because based on Lattin's interpretation of the military law, a guardsman on non-active duty who fails to show up for his monthly drill sessions, as Bush did, is not subject to the UCMJ. The UCMJ, Lattin says, applies only to active-duty servicemen. And while guardsmen who report for weekend duty are covered for those 48 hours by the UCMJ's unique codes (regarding desertion, being AWOL, etc.), a non-active guardsman who refuses to report for duty in the first place cannot be covered by the UCMJ. Instead, an absent-without-leave guardsman is subject to the state's military codes of justice, which mirror the UCMJ.
But even then, says Lattin, cases of guardsmen who fail to attend drill sessions are rarely dealt with under the military's criminal code, but rather administratively, which is less burdensome. Administrative options include transferring the solider to active duty, or separating him from his unit while beginning dismissal procedures that would likely -- although not always -- result in a less than, or other than, honorable discharge. Also in Bush's case, he could have been permanently stripped of his flight privileges.
So why was no administrative action taken against Bush during his missing year or more? "It could have been mere inefficiency, or a reluctance to create controversy with the son of an important federal official," says Fidell, the military law expert. "Observers of the Guard at that time have said it did seem to be an entity in which connections might be helpful."
Lattin is more blunt. "The National Guard is extremely political in the sense of who you know," he says. "And it's true to this very day. One person is handled very strictly and the next person is not. If George Bush Jr. is in your unit, you're going to bend over backward not to offend that family. It all comes down to who you know."
Lattin stresses that the Bush episode, and the Guard's failure to take any administrative actions against him, have to be viewed in context of the early '70s. With the Vietnam War beginning to wind down and the U.S. military battling endemic low morale, the Pentagon showed little interest in chasing after absent-without-leave guardsmen. "It was too hard and there were too many of them," says Lattin. "There was a 'who cares' attitude. Commanders didn't want to deal with them. And they knew they'd stir up a hornet's nest, especially if one of the [missing guardsmen] was named George Bush."
Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."