Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Twixt Hell & Highwater
Bush's Service? The Questions Remain
Bush's Top 10 Lies, Exaggerations And 'Obsfucations' About His Military Service
by Nancy Skinner
(Note: This article was written during the 2000 Presidential campaign.)
Governor Bush has made credibility the central issue of this campaign, and makes almost daily references to the Vice President's alleged exaggerations and lack of truthfulness. But on a subject that could not be more important for his presidential candidacy, his own military service, the record shows that George W. Bush has exaggerated and even lied about his service.
Governor Bush took a solemn oath during wartime to serve his country in the Texas Air National Guard. He did not honor that oath He walked away. And in this presidential campaign, he has made several misrepresentations about his service. A number of newspaper reports and even more accounts on Internet websites, based on Freedom Of Information Act requests of Bush's official military record, have concluded that he completely missed at least one year of service, and may not have shown up in person for his last year. While those reports continue to be debated, the following statements by Bush and his aides are directly contradicted by the current record.
#1 Bush never showed up in Alabama Air National Guard when directly ordered to do so, after requesting a transfer to work in Alabama. "I was there on a temporary assignment and fulfilled my weekends at one period of time" Bush said during a campaign stop in Tuscaloosa, AL, referring to his claim that he served in the Alabama National Guard. [Dallas Morning News, 6/26/00]
"He specifically recalls pulling duty in Alabama," spokesman Dan Bartlett said of Bush. "He did his drills." Bartlett said the Republican governor showed up "several" times while in Alabama, where he transferred from his Houston Guard unit in 1972 to work for the unsuccessful Senate campaign of Republican Winton Blount, a friend of Bush's father. [Washington Post 6/25/00]
The Truth: Bush left Houston May 15, 1972 and went to work on a political campaign in Alabama. His first request for a transfer on May 24 was denied because the unit was inactive. His second request on September 5 to a different unit was granted. He was issued a direct order to report on specific days to the base, which he completely ignored. The order was issued on September 15 to report to then-Lieutenant Colonel William Turnipseed at Dannelly Air Force base in Montgomery, AL, on the dates of 7-8 October 0730-1600, and 4-5 November 0730-1600. His orders, dated Sept. 15, 1972, said: "Lieutenant Bush should report to Lt. Col. William Turnipseed, DCO, to perform equivalent training." [Boston Globe 5/23/00]
His Commanding Officer, William Turnipseed, says he did not show up. "To my knowledge, he never showed up," Turnipseed said last month. [Boston Globe 5/23/00] In interviews last week, Turnipseed and his administrative officer at the time, Kenneth K. Lott, said they had no memory of Bush ever reporting. "Had he reported in, I would have had some recall, and I do not," Turnipseed said. "I had been in Texas, done my flight training there. If we had had a first lieutenant from Texas, I would have remembered." Turnipseed also reports that the then-squadron operations officer of the Alabama Guard also has no recollection of having seen Bush.(The New Republic 10/16/2000).
Furthermore, a spokesman for the Alabama National Guard estimates there were 600 to 700 members in the unit Bush was supposed to have served with in 1972. But none of these men has ever come forward to say he remembers Bush, and Bush has not named a single one of them. (The New Republic 10/16/2000).
There is no official National Guard record for George W. Bush's service in Alabama.
His official discharge records do not include any service after May 15 of 1972. Indeed, Bush's discharge papers list his service and duty station for each of his first four years in the Air Guard. But there is no record of training listed after May 1972, and no mention of any service in Alabama. On that discharge form, Lloyd (Albert Lloyd Jr., a retired colonel who was the Texas Air Guard's personnel director from 1969 to 1995 and was hired by the Bush campaign to make sense of the governor's military records) said, "there should have been an entry for the period between May 1972 and May 1973." Said Lloyd, "It appeared he had a bad year. He might have lost interest, since he knew he was getting out." [Boston Globe 5/23/00]. No one in the Alabama National Guard ever saw him. (The New Republic 10/16/2000).
Even though members of the Alabama Air National Guard have offered $1000 to anyone who can remember serving with Bush, no one has come forward to corroborate his service, with the exception of an old girlfriend who says she remembers him saying he was going, but does not have any other evidence, essentially making it her word against Bush's commanding officers, and a lack of official documents as noted above.
Even the Bush campaign claims that he only showed up on a single day in November and made up missed weekends, not contesting the fact that he defied direct orders to appear on the dates stated above.
National Guard records provided by the Guard and by the Bush campaign indicate he did serve on Nov. 29, 1972, after the election. These records also show a gap in service from that time to the previous May. Mr. Bush says he made up for the lost time in subsequent months, and guard records show he received credit for having performed all the required service. [NYT 7/22/00]
The evidence to support Bush's service on November 29, 1972 is highly suspect for the following reasons:
-The document offered to dispute the claim by his commanding officers in Alabama is a single torn document that does not have Bush's name on it, is undated and unsigned. The document was "discovered" in 1998 by the man Bush hired to investigate his record, Al Loyd, and added to the official record. This late addition to the official record also raises additional chain of command issues.
-There are two different versions of the document. The one "discovered" by Mr. Loyd and given to George Magazine has handwritten annotations. The other version came from Mr. Bush's official record through a FOIA request by Martin Heldt. The FOIA version did not have any annotations.
-The document comes from the Texas National Guard Archives according to the numbering in the right hand corner of the document, even though duty reports were localized at the time, meaning his service in Alabama would not have been recorded by the Texas Air National Guard.
#2 Bush didn't return to Ellington Air Force Base after his temporary transfer as required. A Bush spokesman, Dan Bartlett, said after talking with the governor that Bush recalls performing some duty in Alabama and "recalls coming back to Houston and doing [Guard] duty, though he does not recall if it was on a consistent basis." Noting that Bush, by that point, was no longer flying, Bartlett added, "It's possible his presence and role became secondary." [Boston Globe 5/23/00].
The Truth: According to his annual evaluation by his commanding officers, he may have been in Houston but he was not at the base. "Cleared this base 15 May 1972" According to Lieutenant Colonel William Harris Jr. and Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian in Bush's annual evaluation , Ellis Air Force Base, Houston. The report makes clear that Bush had "not been observed" at his Texas unit "during the period of this report" (May 1972-April 1973) [Boston Globe 5/23/00].
Even his commanding officer, whom he called a "friend" did not know where he was.
Asked about that declaration, campaign spokesman Bartlett said Bush told him that since he was no longer flying, he was doing "odds and ends" under different supervisors whose names he could not recall. But retired colonel Martin, the unit's former administrative officer, said he too thought Bush had been in Alabama for that entire year. Harris and Killian, he said, would have known if Bush returned to duty at Ellington. And Bush, in his autobiography, identifies the late colonel Killian as a friend, making it even more likely that Killian knew where Bush was. [Boston Globe 5/23/00].
#3 He quit flying in Texas because his plane was replaced. In his autobiography, Mr. Bush explains that when he applied to Harvard Business School in 1972, "I was almost finished with my commitment in the Air National Guard, and was no longer flying because the F102 jet I has trained in was being replaced by a different fighter."
The Truth: His unit continued to fly the F-102 until 1974 [Boston Globe 5/23/00]. "If he had come back to Houston, I would have kept him flying the 102 until he got out" said retired Major Bobby W. Hodges, "But I don't remember him coming back at all." Lieutenant Bush, to be sure, had gone off flying status when he went to Alabama. But had he returned to his unit in November 1972, there would have been no barrier to him flying again, except passing a flight physical. Although the F-102 was being phased out, his unit's records show that Guard pilots logged thousands of hours in the F-102 in 1973. [Boston Globe 5/23/00]. His commitment was through May of 1974. (An exaggeration?)
#4 He wasn't flying in Alabama because they had different planes. On June 26th this report appeared in the Dallas Morning News. Campaigning Friday in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Bush was asked about his 1972 service in that state. "I was there on a temporary assignment and fulfilled my weekends at one period of time," he said. "I made up some missed weekends." "I can't remember what I did, but I wasn't flying because they didn't have the same airplanes. I fulfilled my obligations."
The Truth: He was no longer flying because he had been suspended in August of 1972 for failure to "accomplish" a required medical exam. [Boston Globe, 5/23/00] (Suspension ) Bush was suspended from flying on August 1, 1972, prior to his request for the transfer to the187th at Montgomery Alabama, September 5, 1972. Bush did not receive permission until September 15, which was close to six weeks after his suspension from flying.
Another question is raised by the fact that he cannot remember what he did for the Air National Guard in Alabama, despite the fact that 28 years later he still remembers the specifics of his work there on the campaign of William Blount as cited in a July 22, 2000 New York Times article. In an interview 28 years later, Mr. Bush remembered the numbers. "We all teamed together and helped Red get about 36 percent of the vote," he said with a short laugh, "in spite of the fact that Nixon had gotten 72 percent of the vote. The ticket-splitting was phenomenal."
#5 Three different stories on why he was suspended. Story #1) "Bush's campaign aides have said he did not take the physical because he was in Alabama and his personal physician was in Houston." [Boston Globe 5/23/00].
The Truth: In fact as the Boston Globe goes on to state "flight physicals can be administered only by certified Air Force flight surgeons, and some were assigned at the time to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, where Bush was living."
Story #2) Then in June, campaign officials told the London Times Bush did not technically need to take his flight physical. "As he was not flying, there was no reason for him to take the flight physical exam," according to campaign spokesman Don Bartlett. Any suggestion that he had simply decided to "give up flying" prior to his suspension, with two years remaining on his commitment and nearly one million dollars (in real terms) invested in his training is not plausible. It is not up to an Air National Guard pilot to decide whether or not he "intends" to fly. "If he had come back to Houston, I would have kept him flying the 102 until he got out" said retired Major Bobby W. Hodges [Boston Glove 5/23/00]
Story #3) In the same article, Bush campaign spokesman Dan Bartlett told the newspaper that Bush was aware back then that he would be suspended for missing his medical exam, but had no choice because he had applied for a transfer from Houston to Alabama and his paperwork hadn't caught up with him. "It was just a question of following the bureaucratic procedure of the time," Bartlett said. "He knew the suspension would have to take place."
The exam was required to be completed in the three months preceding his birthday, July 6, 1972. A three month window seems adequate to avoid being suspended from flying.
So which is it: his family physician, he didn't have to take the exam, or a bureaucratic snafu?
#6 Bush denied strings were pulled to get him in the Texas Air National Guard. "I can just tell you, from my perspective, I never asked for, I don't believe I received special treatment," Bush told reporters. [DMN 9/08/99]
The Truth: Former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes confirmed Monday that he recommended Gov. George W. Bush for a slot in the Texas Air National Guard during the height of the Vietnam War, at the request of a Bush family friend. Mr. Barnes' account came in a written statement that was released after he testified in a deposition stemming from a federal lawsuit. [DMN 9/28/99]
The statement by Mr. Barnes also confirmed that he met a year ago with a top Bush adviser to discuss the Guard matter. As reported in The News, Mr. Bush sent a note thanking Mr. Barnes for his help in rebutting rumors that Mr. Bush's father helped his son find a Guard slot, the statement confirmed. [DMN 9/08/99] "Mr. Barnes was contacted by [Houston businessman] Sid Adger and asked to recommend George W. Bush for a pilot position with the Air National Guard," Mr. Barnes' statement said. "Barnes called Gen. [James] Rose and did so." [DMN 9/28/00]
"No Bush ever asked Sid Adger to help," the governor said.[DMN 9/28/00]
A spokeswoman for former President George Bush confirmed the elder Bush's friendship with Mr. Adger but said he was "almost positive" he never talked to Mr. Adger - or anyone else - about getting his son into the Guard. "He said he is fairly certain - I mean he doesn't remember everything that happened in the 1960s - but he said he and Sid Adger never, ever talked about George W. and the Texas Air National Guard," said Jean Becker, a spokeswoman for the former president. "President Bush knew Sid Adger well," Ms. Becker said. "He loved him." [DMN 9/08/99]
When Bush was admitted into the Guard in 1968, 100,000 other men were on waiting lists around the country, hoping to win admission to similar units. The Guard was popular because those units were rarely sent to Vietnam. [LAT 7/4/99]
#7 Bush said the Texas Air National Guard was short on pilots. "They were looking for pilots, and I was honored to serve.", Governor Bush told the Dallas Morning News. [DMN9/08/99] The Truth: But Tom Hail, a historian for the Texas Air National Guard, said that records do not show a pilot shortage in the Guard squadron at the time. Hail, who reviewed the unit's personnel records for a special Guard museum display on Gov. Bush's service, said Bush's unit had 27 pilots at the time he began applying. While that number was two short of its authorized strength, the unit had two other pilots who were in training and another awaiting a transfer. There was no apparent need to fast-track applicants, he said. [LAT 7/4/99]
The Texas Air Guard had about 900 slots for pilots, air and ground crew members, supervisors, technicians and support staff. Sgt. Donald Dean Barnhart, who still serves in the Guard, said that he kept a waiting list of about 150 applicants' names. He said it took up to a year and a half for one name to move to the top of the list. "Quite a few gentlemen were wanting to get in," he recalled. For Bush, there was no wait. He met with commander Staudt in his Houston office and made his application--all before his graduation in June. [LAT, 7/4/99]
Beckwith, Bush's spokesman, painted a different picture. He said that the Guard needed pilots at the time and Bush was available. "A lot of people weren't qualified" or willing to fly, he said, so special commissions were offered to those willing to undergo the extra training required. [LAT 7/4/99]
But Shoemake, who also served as a chief of personnel in the Texas Guard from 1972 to 1980, remembers no pilot shortage. "We had so many people coming in who were super-qualified," he said. [LAT 7/4/99]
Records from his [Bush's] military file show that in January 1968, after inquiring about Guard admission, Mr. Bush went to an Air Force recruiting office near Yale, where he took and passed the test required by the Air Force for pilot trainees. His score on the pilot aptitude section, one of five on the test, was in the 25th percentile, the lowest allowed for would-be fliers. [7/4/99]
#8 There was no special deal when he received a direct appointment to second lieutenant right after basic training, with no qualifications. Officials in Bush's presidential campaign denied last week that he was treated differently from other recruits. "Our information is there was absolutely no special deal," said spokesman David Beckwith. [LAT 7/4/99]
He [Commander Staudt] recommended Bush for a direct appointment--a special process that would allow the young recruit to become a second lieutenant right out of basic training without having to go through the rigors of officer candidate school. The process also cleared the way for a slot in pilot training school. [LAT, 7/4/99]
The Truth: But Charles C. Shoemake, an Air Force veteran who later joined the Texas Air National Guard, eventually retiring as a full colonel, said that direct appointments were rare and hard to get, and required extensive credentials. "I went from master sergeant to first lieutenant based on my three years in college and 15 years as a noncommissioned officer. Then I got considered for a direct appointment." Even then, he said, "I didn't know whether I was going to get into pilot training." [LAT 7/4/99]
As for a direct commission for someone of Bush's limited qualifications, Hail said, "I've never heard of that. Generally they did that for doctors only, mostly because we needed extra flight surgeons." [LAT 7/4/99]
#9 As evidence he wasn't dodging combat, Mr. Bush has pointed to his efforts to try to volunteer for a program that rotated Guard pilots to Vietnam, although he wasn't called. [DMN 7/4/99].
The Truth: Mr. Bush's application for the Guard included a box to be checked specifying whether he did or did not volunteer for overseas duty. His includes a check mark in the box not wanting to volunteer for such an assignment. [DMN 7/4/99]
#10 In Bush's 1999 autobiography, "A Charge to Keep," Mr. Bush says that after completing flight training in June 1970, "I continued flying with my unit for the next several years."
The Truth: But 22 months after finishing his training, and with two years left on his six-year commitment, Bush gave up flying - for good, it would turn out. [Boston Globe, 5/23/00] Several Years or 22 months - an exaggeration? Perhaps, the bigger question is why did he quit flying?