[UPDATE: On February 13, the White House released what it said were Bush’s full military records. Reporters were handed two-inch stacks of papers and allowed to examine–but not take–pages of his medicalrecords. The Associated Press reported, “the records provided no evidence Bush served in Alabama.” The Washington Post noted that these records contain “numerous gaps in the last two years” of his Guard service–that is, the time period in question. Will this release end the controversy? Look for more here soon….And for complete coverage of the Bush AWOL scandal scroll down for reports filed earlier this week.]
It seems the Bush White House cannot mount its defense of George W. Bush’s Air National Guard service without raising more questions.
On February 12, Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, said that the White House had received about 30 pages of medical records from Bush’s Guard file. He said they contain “nothing unusual.” Then why won’t the administration release them–especially after Bush promised on Meet the Press to make his entire file available? Bartlett also acknowledged that the administration has obtained Bush’s complete military record from the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver. That, too, is not being made public (at least, not yet).
Retired National Guard officials say that these records should include material detailing what Bush did in Alabama. These documents could be the final word–if they indicate that Bush did appear at Alabama and perform the duty he was obligated to do and if they document that he reported back to his Houston base once he returned from Alabama after the November 1972 election (remember, Bush’s file includes an annual performance review dated May 2, 1973, that says he had not been seen at the Houston base for a year) and if they explain why Bush, who had trained as a fighter pilot, failed to take a flight physical exam and was removed from flight status.
Then there’s the this-just-in account from John “Bill” Calhoun, a Republican businessman in Atlanta. The Washington Post reported that “a Republican close to Bush” supplied the newspaper the phone number of Calhoun, who was an officer with the Alabama Air National Guard in 1972. Calhoun told the Post that he saw Bush sign in eight to ten times for duty at the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group at Dannelly Field in Montgomery from May to October 1972. Calhoun said, “He’d sit on my couch and read training manuals and accident reports and stuff like that.”
Four years ago, when the where-was-W story broke (thanks to a piece by The Boston Globe‘s Walter Robinson), the Bush campaign promised it would release names of individuals who had served with Bush in Alabama. It never did. The campaign did provide the name of a former girlfriend, but she only said that Bush had told her that he had to report for duty in Alabama; she could not attest that he actually did. Finally, Bush has one witness–out of the 600 to 700 people who served at the Alabama base in 1972.