Bush’s National Guard Record, Round MXVI

Kevin Drum reports that “60 Minutes” is going to do a long segment Sunday focusing attention on a five-year-old story:

Ben Barnes, former Speaker of the House in Texas, has finally decided to go very public with the news that he was the one who called in some favors and got Bush into the “Champagne Unit” of the Texas Air National Guard in 1968.

Salon obliges with a rehash of the story as well: George W. Bush’s missing year.

Linda Allison’s story, never before published, contradicts the Bush campaign’s assertion that George W. Bush transferred from the Texas Air National Guard to the Alabama National Guard in 1972 because he received an irresistible offer to gain high-level experience on the campaign of Bush family friend Winton “Red” Blount. In fact, according to what Allison says her late husband told her, the younger Bush had become a political liability for his father, who was then the United States ambassador to the United Nations, and the family wanted him out of Texas. “I think they wanted someone they trusted to keep an eye on him,” Linda Allison said.

So, we’ve got “60 Minutes,” which once pretended to be a news outlet, highlighting a story that isn’t at all news at a time intended to mute the bounce from the Republican Convention. This is the show whose creator, Don Hewitt, unabashedly admitted that he edited the Bill Clinton-Hillary Clinton-Jennifer Flowers show so as rescue Clinton’s flagging 1992 campaign. One shouldn’t be surprised that they’re coming to the rescue again.

Kevin argues,

Is it good for America to choose our president based on what John Kerry did in 1968 vs. what George Bush did in 1968? Nope. But between the Swift Boat smear artists and tonight’s convention speeches, the Republicans have made it very clear that they think this election is going to be won in the gutter. I suspect that by the time it’s all over, they’re going to rue that decision.

I fail to see how any of this, even if all the participants are to be believed and no effective rebuttal is offered, hurts George W. Bush. His life story is pretty well known; indeed, even his daughters joked about it the other night at the convention. He was a mess as a young man–a guy interested primarily in partying and getting wasted. He grew up, found a good woman, found Jesus, and got off the bottle. He got past his early troubles and, as Zell Miller might say, done good. He got elected governor a couple times and then got elected to the White House. His case for re-election isn’t built on what kind of guy he was in 1968 but rather on the last four years.

His opponent, conversely, is hoping people forget that he had a career after those weeks in Vietnam. The reason the Swift Boat ads hurt so much isn’t that people so much care about what kind of lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry was but rather that that’s the man’s entire case for being president.

Update: For background on the Bush National Guard record, see Byron York’s NRO piece “Bush and the National Guard: Case Closed” (February 18).

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Chad says:

    And the fact still is the hypocrisy of the Democratic Party; bashing someone who used power to get into a “cushy” military order all the while hailing an admitted draft-dodger as the greatest president of all time.

  2. legion says:

    Despite the vivid nightmares/wet dreams of hard-core conservatives everywhere, neither Clinton is running for office this year.

    I’d be perfectly happy if the whole Vietnam era was declared Closed For Debate by both sides – it’s been discussed to death, and I’d much rather hear *either* candidate talk substantively about what they’d do if elected. The problem is, neither side seems able to just let this shit go. Every time one of Rove’s minions (Swifties, et al) throw another log on the fire, the Kerry campaign has to respond. And vice-versa. James gripes above about the 60 Minutes piece by the guy who claims to have gotten Bush into the TANG – well, he’s as much as said that he wouldn’t have brought it back into the limelight if he wasn’t so offended by the Swifties’ ads.

    I certainly don’t expect everyone to “just get along”, but Jeezy Creezy I wish they’d both just drop the dicksizing and talk about what they’ll do to fix what’s broke around here…

  3. James Joyner says:

    Of course, the Swifties at least have something actually newsworthy to say, not just repeating stuff they’ve said publically five years ago. And they at least had to write a book and buy advertising to get their message out. And even then, it took some time for the press to cover it. Now, this guy gets a free shot at Bush for no apparent reason on “60 Minutes”? It’s just bizarre.

  4. McGehee says:

    The Kerryistas’ real anger over this alleged pulling of strings for Bush, is because when Kerry tried to get a deferment (like Clinton got but Dubya never sought), he was denied. That’s why Kerry joined the Naval Reserves — to avoid being drafted into the Army.

    And as has been recounted repeatedly already, Kerry signed up for Swift Boat duty when it was a relatively safe offshore posting, rather than the relatively dangerous riverine assignment he wound up with.

    But let’s all talk about the special treatment Dubya got from a Texas lieutenant-governor who wasn’t even lieutenant-governor yet at the time.

  5. A story on 60 Minutes is merely preaching to the choir. The liberals that make up their audience have already made up their minds to vote for anybody but Bush.

  6. Nathan says:

    One of the underlying tenets of Democrat thought is: people don’t change.
    -if Bush was an irresponsible drunk 30 years ago, well, he must still be now.
    -Ted Kennedy was the youngest hope of the Kennedy dynasty, and driving the car in the incident that ended in Mary Jo Kopechne’s death didn’t change that.
    -“The poor” are spoken about as if people are inevitably stuck in that bracket for life, instead of the reality that most young people between the age of 18-25 are in that bracket, but almost all steadily move up throughout their lives.
    -If you “realize” you are gay at age 40, you always were gay, you just didn’t realize it. But after realizing you are gay, you can never, never go back and any testimony to the contrary is just evangelical religious nutjobbery.
    -And that’s why Kerry is so eager to establish himself as a war hero of three decades before; because people don’t change, can’t change, so if he was a war hero then, he’s a war hero now

  7. Mark A. York says:

    The difference is that the swiftvets are deliberatly lying. They were in country and not on the boat, yet because of ideology they refute even the eyewitness accounts from their fellow vets. I’d find that strange if this was done in my camp, but apparently like Bush they have no ability for self-examination and memories like ducks. The medals last a lifetime and only one candidate has them. And while we’re at it, voting for the option of war is not the same as carte blanche usage for trumped up reasons. Sloganeers are going to have to think at least in 2nd gear if they can’t manage anything deeper. Lives are on the line based on those decisions. Don’t cheapen the process with fallacious reasoning. It won’t work this time.