This is a story that just wont go away. It plagued George W. Bush before the 2000 presidential election, and here it is again in 2004.
The story is that Dubya failed to appear for the last two years of his National Guard obligation in 1973 and 1974.
With another presidential vote on the horizon, the Bush camp is scrambling to defuse this one and present evidence to show that the young, future commander-in-chief did complete his service hitch.
Toward that end, they have been releasing various records purporting to show that Bush was in fact on the scene for training as required.
But this all may be more of the famous Bush flim-flam. The records may not be what they seem.
Listen to Bill Burkett, a retired National Guard officer, responding to press inquiries back in the late 1990s:
As the State Plans Officer for the Texas National Guard, I was on full-time duty at Camp Mabry when Dan Bartlett was cleansing the George W. Bush file prior to GWs presidential announcement. For most soldiers at Camp Mabry, this was a generally known event.
The archives were closely scrutinized to make sure that the Bush autobiography plans and the record did not directly contradict each other.
In essence, it was the script of the autobiography which Dan Bartlett and his small team used to scrub a file to be released. This effort was further involved by General Daniel James and Chief of Staff William W. Goodwin at Camp Mabry. (www.talion.com/georgebush.html)
One of the records being shown the media is a document showing what supposedly is Bushs attendance at training from October 1972 until May of 1973.
The document is real enough, but it is not a record of the Texas Air National Guard. It is a record of the Air Reserve Forces, a disciplinary unit that has no training sessions and no attendance requirements. ARF is a paper unit based in Denver.
The record shows that young Bush attended no drills of any sort after May 1972, did not show up for his physical, was barred from flying and transferred to ARF. He did not go back to his original Texas Guard unit in 1973, but only drew ARF points. What the points were for is not clear, but it is clear that Bush performed no actual duty after May 1972.
Bush claims he fulfilled part of his obligation while assigned to a National Guard unit in Alabama. Yet his transfer request carries a comment from his superior officer. It said: 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.
That equivalent training consisted of working on the U.S. Senate campaign of a Bush family friend. The commander of the Alabama unit, Gen. William Turnipseed, now retired, said he never saw George W. Bush at his base.
In the 2000 presidential campaign, Dubya claimed he served with the 187th Tactical Squadron of the Air National Guard at Dannelly Air National Guard base in Montgomery.
Bob Mintz was there and looked forward to seeing young Bush. I remember that I heard someone was coming to drill with us from Texas. And it was implied that it was somebody with political influence. I was a young bachelor then. I was looking for somebody to prowl around with, Mintz said. But Dubya never appeared.
Paul Bishop also served at Dannelly and also said he never saw Bush. He was offended by Ws claim that he served there.
It bothered me that he wouldnt fess up and say, OK, guys, I cut out when the rest of you did your time. He shouldnt have tried to dance around the subject. I take great exception to that. I spent 39 years defending my country, Bishop said.
Bush is fond of posing as a fighter pilot as he recently did when he landed on an aircraft carrier just off the California coast. In fact, he scored 25 on the pilots exam, the bare minimum to be qualified to fly.
Two of the records in Bushs military fileshis enlistment application and a background checkdisturb former Texas Guard officers. The records contain blacked-out information, responses to questions about arrests or convictions. It is public knowledge that Bush had some DUI arrests in Texas. Those records, however, are missing.
The Bush camp is trying mightily to discredit all of this, including Burketts statements. They contend he is just a disgruntled former Guard officer who clashed with his superiors. Thats the stock treatment for whistleblowersbrand them as disgruntled employees.
Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, a bona fide hero in World War II, commented: During my service, if I missed training for two years, at the least, I would have been court-martialed. Inouye demands Bush account for his whereabouts and activities during the period in question.
Sen. Bob Kerry, who also served honorably, said: Well, if hes going to do whats right, he ought to release his military records, as John McCain did, and let us know where he was during that six-year period of time.
G.W. told Tim Russert on television that he would do that very thing. A few bogus documents arent going to cut it, and they wont make this one go away.
Now the White House says it will not release any further records of Bushs National Guard service.
Sources: tompaine.com; motherjones.com; USAToday.com; The Memphis Flyer; commondreams.com; calpundit.com.