Ben Barnes: “I made a terrible mistake getting bush into the ANG”

I’ve been sparring with one of my loyal readers recently over bush’s service in the Air National Guard. He seems to believe it was just as courageous and commendable of bush to serve in the ANG as it was for Kerry to volunteer for Vietnam. And he challenged me to come up with evidence that bush ever used family connections to get into the ANG.

I’ve never given bush’s ANG service a lot of space on this blog because it’s not an issue of crucial importance to me. Sure, it says something about bush, but it’s something all of us knew already, namely that he was an obnoxious brat who always got bailed out of tough situations by his family and their money. It’s never been a secret that his father pulled strings to get him into the ANG; it’s been written about in countless articles that have never been challenged to my knowledge.

But I was happy to see some recent verification that may help put this conversation to rest. It just got posted over at TPM. Marshall links to a video clip of Ben Barnes, the former Speaker of the House in Texas, who got President Bush into the Texas Air National Guard. In it, Barnes says,

Let’s talk a minute about John Kerry and George Bush and I know them both. And I’m not name dropping to say I know ‘em both. I got a young man named George W. Bush into the Texas National Guard when I was Lt. Gov. [of Texas] and I’m not necessarily proud of that. But I did it. And I got a lot of other people into the National Guard because I thought that’s what people should do. If you’re in office you help a lot of people and I walked to the Vietnam Memorial the other day and I looked at the names of the people that died in Vietnam and I became more ashamed of myself that I have ever been because the worst thing that I did was that I helped a lot of wealthy supporters and a lot of people who had family names get into the National Guard and I’m very sorry about that and I’m very ashamed and I apologize to you as voters of Texas.

Marshall concludes the post,

Now, I don’t know what Ben Barnes looks like. And I do not independently know the provenance of the tape. But I’ve spoken to two sources who know Barnes. And they tell me that that is Barnes on the tape.
One of those two men is Jim Moore — co-author of Bush’s Brain. Moore told me this afternoon that the clip is from June 8th of this year, at a Kerry rally in Austin. Moore assures that the tape is legitimate.

Does this indicate that bush’s family pulled strings to get him moved to the top of the list. I think so. It’s not the only evidence out there, but it seems to be the most incontrovertible.

I guess each of us will have to determine for himself what constitutes “character” in a man. I see what bush did and I see what Kerry did. (And bush was a strong supporter of the war.) I see this, and I have to conclude that Kerry is a man of deeper character, no matter how long he was in Vietnam and no matter how much or how little blood he lost. I look at what these men did then, and I also look at what these men have done more recently. No matter when Kerry was in or near Cambodia, I have no choice but to conclude he is a bigger and better man than his opponent.

I just reread this morning in All the President’s Spin about how bush kept changing his definitions of the threat from Iraq, and how, after the invasion, phrases like “weapons programs” and, the crown jewel of idiot-speak, “weapons of mass destruction-related program activities” suddenly replaced the verbiage he used leading up to the war – WMDs, stockpiles, mushroom cloud, etc. This was symptomatic of a pattern of dishonesty that is particularly insidious because it’s hard to point out to people. It’s a shift, a resetting of the goal posts — not necessarily a bold-faced lie, but its result is the same as a bold-faced lie: it leaves an intentionally false impression and is utterly dishonest.

I bring this up because it’s become so fashionable to insist bush never lied about Iraq, but such a statement is disingenuous and based only on a technicality. Of course he lied. He lies all the time. He was a sneak then and he’s a sneak now. Only now, Rove and HUghes make sure he does it with finesse, covering his tracks carefully as he moves from lie to lie.

Kerry has shown some disturbing signs of not taking responsibility and sounding evasive, but the examples are in regard to whether he owns an SUV or was in Cambodia 34 years ago. I have never heard him try to mislead people on issues, at least not more than all politicians. He’s done some waffling, but no more than bush has (just google “bush + flip flop” to see what I mean). But all in all, he emerges head and shoulders above shrub, our flimsy little layer of pondscum. If someone wants to point to his service in the ANG as a sign of bravery, of true service – I mean, he was disqualified from flying after he went AWOL – well, there’s not much I can say.

Sorry if this is a bit rambling, but I am at work, taking a very quick break between projects. I’m afraid it’s the only way I’ll be able to post for a while. Gotta end it there, the boss is looking at me.

Update: Story is getting pick-up. Conrad, any comments?

The Discussion: 7 Comments

The Barnes video is now posted on Salon, for those interested.

August 27, 2004 @ 10:14 pm | Comment

Conrad has apparently decided to allow Alice Cooper to dictate his voting intentions, so I doubt you’ll be hearing from him on this subject. Because nothing is more authoritative than the opinion of a washed-up 1970s hair-metal star.

August 28, 2004 @ 1:18 pm | Comment

Conrad usually takes weekends off to romp around SE Asia (perhaps he’s a Mormon missionary) so I’ll give him some time. One thing is for sure: bush’s days as an AWOL guardsman are now fair game and we’ll surely be seeing greater scrutiny of how he passed the time in 1972-73. That he used power and privilege to sneak out of service is a matter of fact.

Evading the draft back then is something I respect because I, too, would have tried to get out of dying in an unnecessary and unjustifiable war like Vietnam. This same reasoning doesn’t pertain, however, to those who saw the war as a good thing (as long as they weren’t the ones going there).

August 28, 2004 @ 2:38 pm | Comment

Is there some report somewhere showing Bush reported AWOL? I keep seeing this brought up, and wonder if it’s an actual charge that was made, or just spin.

It’s been tossed around since the 2000 campaign, but I never caught whether there was some military source for it, or it was just a smear.

If it’s not substantiated, it seems very hypocritical to be whining now about poor JFK getting smeared. Like I said in some comment here long ago, anybody who focuses microscopically on an opponent’s past looking for dirt, is probably going to find the karmic result extremely inconvenient.

August 30, 2004 @ 3:27 am | Comment

Just wondering, didn’t you notice any unclosed html tags in this post? Or is it the problem of my browser?

August 30, 2004 @ 5:03 am | Comment

Regarding the Ben Barnes story, George Bush joined the Texas ANG in 1968, and I find it hard to believe that Ben Barnes got him into the Guard when he was Lt. Governor since he didn’t become Lt. Governor until 1969.

September 2, 2004 @ 5:57 pm | Comment

I was wondering if anyone knows how to actually contact Ben Barnes. I did printing for his first campagnes in the 60s and would like to touch base with him again.

August 28, 2006 @ 9:36 pm | Comment

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