One of the key points of President Bush's <$Ad$>account of his own young adulthood is the time when a friend named John White asked Bush to help him run an inner-city anti-poverty program named PULL (Professional United Leadership League).
Bush cited the experience in his 2000 campaign biography as one of the roots of his 'compassionate conservatism'. But the president's critics in Texas have long held that he wasn't there responding to a request to help running the organization. He was actually compelled to perform community service
with the organization as part of his punishment for some as-yet-undisclosed legal scrape.
Now several employees of the now-defunct organization have gone on the record
, saying that, yes, the president's story isn't true ...
But White's administrative assistant and others associated with P.U.L.L., speaking on the record for the first time, say Bush was not helping to run the program and White had not asked Bush to come aboard. Instead, the associates said, White told them he agreed to take Bush on as a favor to Bush's father, who was honorary co-chairman of the program at the time, and Bush was unpaid. They say White told them Bush had gotten into some kind of trouble but White never gave them specifics.
"We didn't know what kind of trouble he'd been in, only that he'd done something that required him to put in the time," said Althia Turner, White's administrative assistant.
"John said he was doing a favor for George's father because an arrangement had to be made for the son to be there," said Willie Frazier, also a former player for the Houston Oilers and a P.U.L.L. summer volunteer in 1973.
Fred Maura, a close friend of White, refers to Bush as "43," for 43rd president, and his father as "41," for the 41st president.
"John didn't say what kind of trouble 43 was in - just that he had done something and he (John) made a deal to take him in as a favor to 41 to get some funding," Maura said.
In these final high-velocity days of the campaign this fib probably won't gin up tons of interest. After all, how can it compete with the White House now trying to deny
events reported on and televised live around the world not three years ago. But dozens of Washington reporters have spent years dismissing the community service story. You'd think that some of them might now pick up the phone to find out whether they'd gotten played one more time.