Media Resurrecting Bush Guard Story–Again

AP: New Bush Guard Papers Leave Questions

Unearthed under legal pressure, three-decade-old documents portray President Bush as a capable and well-liked Air National Guard pilot who stopped flying and attending regular drills two-thirds of the way through his six-year commitment — without consequence.

The files, many of them forced to light by Freedom of Information lawsuits by The Associated Press, conflict with some of the harshest attacks Democrats have levied on Bush’s Vietnam-era service, such as suggestions that Bush was a deserter or absent without leave.

But gaps in the records leave unanswered questions about the final two years of his military service in 1972 and 1973. Chief among them: Why did Bush’s commanders apparently tolerate his lapses in training and approve his honorable discharge? Bush’s commanders could have punished him — or ordered him to two years of active duty — for missing drills for six months in 1972 and skipping a required pilot’s medical exam. Instead, they allowed him to make up some of his missed training and granted him an honorable discharge. “Obviously, the commander saw the lieutenant’s interest in the guard was waning,” said retired Maj. Gen. Paul A. Weaver Jr., a former head of the Air National Guard. “Had he been good before? Yeah. Does that mean he should nail him to the wall? No. The culture at the time was not to enforce that.” But the culture apparently did not apply to everyone. Although no records mention any punishment against Bush other than being grounded, the Texas unit’s files show another airman was ordered to involuntary active duty in March 1972 as punishment.

The continued flacking of this non-story by the press is simply amazing. As has been well documented for years now, the military had a huge excess of pilots in the waning days of the Vietnam War. That they didn’t force a Guardsmen trained to fly an obsolete plane and who had already earned enough points to complete his service obligation to continue to attend drills is hardly surprising. That they found another airman that was forced to active duty is rather unremarkable unless the circumstances were the same; no indication is given that such was the case.

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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. Scott Dillard says:

    For what it’s worth, I was in the USAF from 1970 until 1973, when I was released nine months early from a four year enlistment. There were way, way, too may people in my specialization. Everyone was coming home from SE Asia and there weren’t enough slots to take us all, so we were allowed to leave. The same thing basically happened to Bush. Old news, folks.

  2. Mike says:

    This story is so old it has whiskers on it.

    Dead ‘un. Drop it.