Sunday, September 05, 2004

Bush's Missing Year

As I'd hoped aloud HERE, despite the ridiculous claims by conservatives that the media has exhaustively investigated George W. Bush's National Guard service, the story of the year that some say he went "AWOL" is resurfacing not only in the blogosphere but in the mainstream media as well. A little background:

Bush enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard promising to serve from 1968 to 1973 and learned to fly F-102 fighters. In 1973, Bush was honorably discharged so that he could attend Harvard Business School but major gaps exist in his records starting in 1972.

Bush has said he left Texas that year to work on the unsuccessful Senate campaign in Alabama of family friend Winton Blount. But in a exclusive, the widow of Jimmy Allison, the man who got Bush the the campaign job, speaks out for the first time:
Allison's story, never before published, contradicts the Bush campaign's assertion that George W. Bush transferred from the Texas Air National Guard to the Alabama National Guard in 1972 because he received an irresistible offer to gain high-level experience on the campaign of Bush family friend Winton "Red" Blount. In fact, according to what Allison says her late husband told her, the younger Bush had become a political liability for his father, who was then the United States ambassador to the United Nations, and the family wanted him out of Texas. "I think they wanted someone they trusted to keep an eye on him," Linda Allison said.
In addition, a video has been circulating around the Internet of former Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Ben Barnes, a Democrat, admitting having gotten Bush into the National Guard. According to CBS News:
It was the first time Barnes, a Kerry supporter, has discussed at length his role in getting Mr. Bush into the Guard. In 1999, he said he recommended Mr. Bush for a pilot's position at the request of a Bush family friend. "I got a lot of other people in the National Guard because I thought that's what people should do when you're in office: You help a lot of rich people," Barnes said. Mr. Bush joined the National Guard in 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War, and served until 1973. He has said he received no special treatment.

He will be on 60 Minutes on Sunday, Setember 12, to elaborate.

And after some extensive digging, The Associated Press has discovered that the following documents are still missing from those that the White House has released:

  • A report from the Texas Air National Guard to Bush's local draft board certifying that Bush remained in good standing.
  • Records of a required investigation into why Bush lost flight status. When Bush skipped his 1972 physical, regulations required his Texas commanders to "direct an investigation as to why the individual failed to accomplish the medical examination."
  • A written acknowledgment from Bush that he had received the orders grounding him. His Texas commanders were ordered to have Bush sign such a document; but none has been released.
  • Reports of formal counseling sessions Bush was required to have after missing more than three training sessions. Bush missed at least five months' worth of National Guard training in 1972. No documents have surfaced indicating Bush was counseled or had written authorization to skip that training or make it up later.
  • A signed statement from Bush acknowledging he could be called to active duty if he did not promptly transfer to another guard unit after leaving Texas. The statement was required as part of a Vietnam-era crackdown on no-show guardsmen.
Also, is reporting that video of the 1972 Republican Convention, which took place right in the middle of the time period in question, shows a young George W. Bush at his father's side -- not in the Guard nor in Alabama working on Blount's campaign -- at the Republican Convention with his father.

Recent events have called into question the wisdom of Kerry's making his Vietnam record such a prominent part of his campaign, but if this story blows up, it will look like the smartest thing he ever did, because it will have forced a side-by-side comparison, Vietnam record to Vietnam non-record. The media seems to finally be showing some assertiveness on this issue, let's hope it continues.


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