bush: Missing in action

In an extraordinary column that’s sure to contribute to this being a totally miserable day for bushco, Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff makes it clear that our war-time president showed America his very worst side during another time of war. Oh, and he’s consistently lied through his teeth about it.

President Bush claims that in the fall of 1972, he fulfilled his Air National Guard duties at a base in Alabama. But Bob Mintz was there – and he is sure Mr. Bush wasn’t.

Plenty of other officers have said they also don’t recall that Mr. Bush ever showed up for drills at the base. What’s different about Mr. Mintz is that he remembers actively looking for Mr. Bush and never finding him.

Mr. Mintz says he had heard that Mr. Bush – described as a young Texas pilot with political influence – had transferred to the base. He heard that Mr. Bush was also a bachelor, so he was looking forward to partying together. He’s confident that he’d remember if Mr. Bush had shown up.

“I’m sure I would have seen him,” Mr. Mintz said yesterday. “It’s a small unit, and you couldn’t go in or out without being seen. It was too close a space.” There were only 25 to 30 pilots there, and Mr. Bush – a U.N. ambassador’s son who had dated Tricia Nixon – would have been particularly memorable.

Kristoff says he’s only writing about this because “if Bush supporters attack John Kerry for his conduct after he volunteered for dangerous duty in Vietnam, it’s only fair to scrutinize Mr. Bush’s behavior.” After all, the most dreadful sin Kerry made was saying he was in/near Cambodia a month earlier than he actually was. In bush’s case, we’re talking about actually going AWOL and then covering it up.

Mr. Bush signed up in May 1968 for a six-year commitment, justifying the $1 million investment in training him as a pilot. But after less than two years, Mr. Bush abruptly stopped flying, didn’t show up for his physical and asked to transfer to Alabama. He never again flew a military plane.

Mr. Bush insists that after moving to Alabama in 1972, he served out his obligation at Dannelly Air National Guard Base in Montgomery (although he says he doesn’t remember what he did there). The only officer there who recalls Mr. Bush was produced by the White House – he remembers Mr. Bush vividly, but at times when even Mr. Bush acknowledges he wasn’t there.

In contrast, Mr. Mintz is a compelling witness. Describing himself as “a very strong military man,” he served in the military from 1959 to 1984. A commercial pilot, he is now a Democrat but was a Republican for most of his life, and he is not a Bush-hater. When I asked him whether the National Guard controversy raises questions about Mr. Bush’s credibility, Mr. Mintz said only, “That’s up to the American people to decide.”

….The sheer volume of missing documents, and missing recollections, strongly suggests to me that Mr. Bush blew off his Guard obligations. It’s not fair to say Mr. Bush deserted. My sense is that he (like some others at the time) neglected his National Guard obligations, did the bare minimum to avoid serious trouble and was finally let off by commanders who considered him a headache but felt it wasn’t worth the hassle to punish him.

“The record clearly and convincingly proves he did not fulfill the obligations he incurred when he enlisted in the Air National Guard,” writes Gerald Lechliter, a retired Army colonel who has made the most meticulous examination I’ve seen of Mr. Bush’s records (I’ve posted the full 32-page analysis here). Mr. Lechliter adds that Mr. Bush received unauthorized or fraudulent payments that breached National Guard rules, according to the documents that the White House itself released.

Some have pointed to bush’s service in the ANG as a sign of his bravery and patriotism. With all due respect, I think we can all see that this argument just doesn’t hold up. In order to escape Vietnam, he got into the Guard by skipping the line thanks to Poppy’s connections, and he got out the same way he got out of most situations in his early years – he walked away, unconcerned and unaccountable.

If Kerry is to be reviled for all sorts of BS from 30 years ago, bush certainly deserves much worse. After all, unlike the discredited charges of the discredited SBVFT, this stuff is true.

The Discussion: 5 Comments

Go check out The Boston Globe story on Bush’s complete failure to find a Guard unit in Massachusetts for his transfer to the Harvard Business School, after he signed an oath saying he would.

September 8, 2004 @ 6:56 pm | Comment

The Texans for Truth aren’t doing so well. Oh, sorry, Kristof’s non-partisan “compelling witness” Bob Mintz, stars in there new Bush-bashing ad, and here is what CBS News says:

But like their Republican counterparts, Texans for Truth has a credibility problem. While the chief accuser, former Alabama Guard pilot Bob Mintz, says in the ad it would have been impossible for Mr. Bush to have gone unnoticed, in an interview earlier this year with CBS News, Mintz admitted he’s not a smoking gun.

“I cannot say he was not there,” Mintz said. “Absolutely positively was not there. I cannot say that. I cannot say he didn’t do his duty.”

First class work by Kristof, endorsing this guy. And maybe we can dwell for a moment on this, from Kristof:

In his first interview with a national news organization, Mr. Mintz recalled why he remembered Mr. Bush as a no-show: “Young bachelors were kind of sparse. For that reason, I was looking for someone to haul around with.” Why speak out now? He said, “After a lot of soul-searching, I just feel it’s my duty to stand up and do the right thing.”

His “first interview”? “Why speak out now”? The guy was interviewed by CBS in February. Maybe he forgot. Too bad they didn’t interview him in 1972.

Current CBS coverage

CBS from Feb (does *not* include killer quote, however)

September 9, 2004 @ 11:24 am | Comment

Tom, it’s refreshing to see you find the time to take a break from humping Glenn Reynolds’ leg and the legs of all the Smear Boat Veterans to visit my site! You, who more than anyone has fanned the fraudulent Christmas in Cambodia non-story, sure have big balls to complain about the media focusing on what bush was doing during the same time in America’s history!

Look, I don’t care if this was the first time a witness talked about the story or the hundredth. Irrelevant, just like it’s irrelevant whether Kerry was in/near Cambodia in December of January. It’s about whether bush indeed served his country honorably, or whether he used his family connections to pervert the system so that others would die fighting the war he supported. That’s it, that’s all. I don’t care about the reputation or history of the accuser, only about the provability of their evidence. If John O’Neill really had the evidence to prove Kerry had self-inflicted wounds and did all those horrible things, Kerry would be toast. The evidence was presented and it didn’t hold up. Now, we have this new evidence about bush. It will stand or fall based on whether it is true or not (and not about whether one of the witnesses talked about it last year or 10 years ago – that kind of shit is pure obfuscation).

So go back to Glenn and John, and maybe they’ll toss you a meaty bone to chew on. They may even take you for a walk. But don’t crawl around on your belly trying to divert attention from the real story – a president who abused his family wealth and gave the finger to the military, and who sought to cover it up right up until yesterday afternoon. Fact.

September 9, 2004 @ 12:08 pm | Comment

Have a nice weekend.

September 11, 2004 @ 12:11 am | Comment

You too, Tom.

September 11, 2004 @ 12:12 am | Comment

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