Now that the damage has been done to Kerry’s campaign by the Swift Boat Veterans, Bush is trying to play the good guy. After the demonstrably false charges against Kerry has made news for weeks–abetted by cable news shows which have effectively provided free campaign advertising for his attackers–Bush now wants to drop the debate over their respective wartime service. See the story buried on page A23 in the August 28 Los Angeles Times. (Unfortunately the paper’s website makes it impossible to link to its articles.)
Bush’s flip-flop came shortly after a video resurfaced on the Internet showing former Speaker of the Texas House Ben Barnes describing–and apologizing for–the sleazy way in which he personally pulled strings to get Bush into the National Guard.
On the video, Barnes states: “My name’s Ben Barnes. I was Speaker of the Texas House when George W. Bush went into the National Guard. He got preferential treatment. I know. I gave it to him. His family sent a representative to my office and asked me to move their son up on the waiting list. And I did. It was wrong. He was jumped over hundreds of others in line. Some of them went off to Vietnam and died. I made a mistake supporting that war. And as other, less-privileged kids were going off to be killed, I helped the son of a congressman avoid combat. I wish I had not. But I think it’s time people know. And it’s time for George W. Bush to stop attacking the people who did serve.”
I don’t think the debate about Bush’s service should be dropped. Why? Because this posturing flip-flopper of a President continues to needlessly send American troops to their deaths while campaigning as a resolute war president. Just watch the convention script this week.
We also still need answers to the unresolved questions surrounding Bush’s stint in the Texas National Guard from 1968 to 1973. Specifically, what explains the gap in Bush’s Guard service between April 1972 and September 1973, a 17-month period when commanders in Texas and Alabama say they never saw him report for duty and records show no pay was issued though Bush was allegedly on duty in Alabama.
The White House has released hundreds of documents–after Bush said in a TV interview in February that he would make all his military records available. But the files released so far haven’t answered those questions, and some documents have yet to be made public. And since February, the White House spin-machine has banned all Guard and military commanders outside the Pentagon from commenting on Bush’s military record. At least a half-dozen news organizations have filed requests for Bush’s files under the Freedom of Information Act, but judging from this White House’s systematic clampdown on information–including blocking the scheduled release of presidential papers from Bush I’s period–it seems unlikely that the relevant documents will see the light of day–at least until after the election.