Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 18, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

NATIONAL GUARD FINALE?....I haven't had any National Guard posts for a few days, but that's mainly because there hasn't been any fresh news to report. The "full release" of documents last Friday seems to have shut everyone up.

(But admit it: it's kind of nice that the wingnut commenter population around here has dropped off, isn't it? It's the Guard stuff that brings them around, you know.)

At any rate, this is probably a good time to summarize what we know. The following is relatively non-controversial:

  1. George Bush joined the Guard in 1968 for a six-year term. It's not clear if he actually needed much help getting into a fighter unit (which required a much greater time commitment than most Guard postings), but there's no question that he did, in fact, benefit from some high-level string pulling. Texas ber-politico Ben Barnes admitted as much under oath in 1999.

  2. For four years he served faithfully and compiled a good record.

  3. In 1971-72 he apparently started losing interest in the Guard. He attended drills much less often than before and flew for the last time on April 16, 1972.

  4. In May 1972 he moved to Alabama to work on a senatorial campaign. For the next six months he did not show up at any drills at all and missed his annual physical. Even by the loose standards of the 70s-era Guard, this was pretty unusual.

  5. On October 28, while still in Alabama, he began getting paid for drills again. However, it's not clear where he showed up or what he was doing. A large number of witnesses say they can't remember ever seeing him at Dannelly Air Base in Montgomery, including some who were on the lookout for him, and the only witness with a clear memory of seeing Bush has turned out to be non-credible.

  6. During Bush's final two years he performed the minimal duties needed to fulfill his commitment. He was transferred to the Reserves six months before his commitment was up and discharged from the Reserves a year after that.

So far, all this shows is that Bush cut a few corners and was less than zealous about finishing his 6-year commitment. Given Bush's age, the tenor of the times, and the winding down of the Vietnam War, this is hardly noteworthy.

What is noteworthy, however, is the suspicion that there's more to the story. My email inbox is full to bursting with queries about whether I've heard of some theory or another to explain Bush's six-month absence in 1972 (answer: yes), and if these theories were confined to the tinfoil hat crowd we could just move on. But they aren't, and there are some pretty good reasons for that:

In other words, there are a lot of unanswered questions that make it perfectly reasonable to suspect that there's more to this story than meets the eye. Unfortunately, questions are all they are.

So what's next? At the moment, nothing, unless someone digs up some new evidence. It's possible that the Bushies aren't really releasing his entire file, but someone would need to come up with evidence for that. It's possible that documents were purged from his file, but we would need further evidence beyond Burkett's word to keep that story alive. It's possible that something happened in mid-1972 to explain the odd discrepancies in the documents, but there's no hard evidence of that either.

So the story is stuck in an endless speculation loop unless some enterprising reporter comes up with actual new evidence. Until then, we wait. And if no new evidence appears, the story dies.

Kevin Drum 6:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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