A few thoughts on the Bush AWOL issue.
Ed Gillespie, RNC Chairman, accused DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe of leveling a "demonstrably false and malicious charge that would be slanderous under any ordinary circumstance" when he accused the president of going AWOL while he was serving in the Air National Guard in the early 1970s. The charges made McAuliffe into the "John Wilkes Booth of character assassination" in Gillespie's words.
Now, interestingly, today's Washington Post says that administration officials are telling reporters that "former senator Bob Kerrey, a Nebraska Democrat who is president of the New School University, [is] the sort of nonpartisan statesman they are seeking" for the new Iraqi WMD commission.
But those officials may need to rethink their praise for the other Senator Kerrey since back in November 2000 he told the Boston Globe that then-candidate Bush "need[ed] to explain where he was when he was supposed to be fulfilling his military obligation. If he is elected president, how will he be able to deal as commander in chief with someone who goes AWOL, when he did the same thing?"
Presumably, Gillespie will confer with his colleagues at the White House and work that one out.
Does that mean that Kerrey is out for the commission? Or maybe that McAuliffe is now eligible? Who knows?
In any case, back to the president's record from back in the day.
In an excellent sum-up piece in The New Republic this week Spencer Ackerman summarizes the key period of delinquency ...
Less than two years after finishing his initial pilot's training, Bush was offered a job in Alabama with the 1972 Senate campaign of former U.S. Postmaster General Winton Blount. Bush asked Guard officials in May of that year if he could fulfill his continuing duty obligations by serving with a mail squadron based in Montgomery, but they turned him down, noting the unit's lax drilling schedule. Bush left Texas anyway--with his Guard responsibilities unresolved--joining the campaign in Alabama that month. In August, he failed to take his annual flight physical, which meant losing his flight status. A month later, he requested and received permission to perform his fall Guard duty with the 187th Tactical Recon Group in Montgomery before returning to Houston's Ellington Air Force Base after the election. But he apparently never showed up: The Globe investigation found that Ellington had no record of Bush performing service in Alabama. In fact, the 187th's commander--Bush's commander--William Turnipseed told the paper, "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." His memory was corroborated by Bush's discharge papers, which showed neither any service in Alabama nor any training by Lieutenant Bush at all after May 1972.
Bush was supposed to return to Houston after Blount's losing race. But, by May 1973, his commanding officers in Texas noticed that they could not write his annual performance evaluation for the simple reason that Bush wasn't there. "Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of this report"--May 1, 1972, to April 30, 1973--his evaluation reads. This was a serious charge: Delinquent guardsmen could be inducted into the Army ...
Now, over the course of the day I've gotten a number of letters from current and former members of the Guard in various states who've told me that this was the standard policy. One tells me that he himself processed one deliquent guardsman on to active duty and on to Vietnam.
Now, these are just e-mails over the transom. In themselves, they don't settle the issue. But clearly many guys who were lucky enough to get a slot in the Guard, but screwed up once they were there, found themselves shipped off to Vietnam. (That appears to have been the prescribed punishment -- though we're trying to track down if there were any relevant emendations
-- for those who "failed to serve satisfactorily" in the Guard under Executive Order 10984
A lot of those guys must be out there -- at least the ones who weren't killed during their service. A lot of the commanding officers who blew the whistle on them must be out there too. It would be interesting to do some reporting and find some guys who didn't get cut any slack and got shipped off. Seems like a national news organization could shed some light on that question with a little reporting.