The mystery is not that newspapers, television and news agencies want to look into George W. Bush’s National Guard record–but rather why they have not done much more about it earlier.
We will probably never discover whether it was arrogance or an assumption of the inherent niceness of the Kerry team that made the Bush campaign choose battle on the terrain of Vietnam, since, as we pointed out when Swift Boat ads ran, those veterans, despite their other confabulations, all testified that John Kerry was indeed in combat and in Vietnam. Pointing to Kerry’s war record by implication highlights the absence of his contemporary George W. Bush, who, on his own admission, had joined the Texas Air National Guard to avoid the war.
Kerry was badly advised, and waited several weeks to counterattack, but Cheney’s insults finally seemed to rouse him into action last week. And in the weird way of American media, the fact that a Senator and a candidate raised the issue seems to have aroused them from their torpor. As a result, young George Bush’s career during the Vietnam War is now being ventilated–which is an easy task because it has so many holes in it!
There is little coming out that is startlingly new. Much of the information was available, already well researched by local newspapers and magazines when I finished writing Deserter four months ago. What is new is the serious and concerted attention it is finally, and deservedly, getting. And each new piece of information reinforces rather than rebuts the evidence of a spoiled rich frat boy who got an easy ride because of family influence while 58,000 of his contemporaries died.
At issue is not really whether or not George W. Bush dodged in Vietnam, it is the hypocrisy of his career then and since, the constant dissimulation about his service then, morphing inexorably into his current self-righteous lies. The attack on Kerry, who did serve, and served by military standards with honor, has clearly been too much for too many people.
And so the revelations belatedly roll in. On CBS’s 60 Minutes, Ben Barnes, the former Speaker of the Texas House, once again pricked the Bush image of self-made man of the prairies by testifying how he got the young WASP Yale graduate with no redeeming academic features a slot and a commission in the Texas Air National Guard as the tail end of the Tet Offensive still raged. CBS’s further revelation of Bush’s former commanding officer’s private files demonstrate that pressure from senior officers meant that Bush was being given kid-glove treatment and glowing reports throughout his career, even though in 1972 he was suspended from flying, not only for failing to accomplish his flight medical–which he had been trying to dodge even earlier, but for his “failure to perform to US Air Force/Texas Air National Guard standards.” (Challenges have been raised about the authenticity of some of the documents but they are consistent with numerous other sources.)
The Associated Press has discovered documents that show, contrary to established hagiographies and published citations that depicted the young Bush as a superb pilot, that he was mediocre, although perhaps better than his 25 percent on the pilot aptitude test may have indicated.