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.
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).