Thursday, September 09, 2004

Bush: A disciplinary problem for the National Guard

The latest documents to suddenly surface about George W. Bush’s National Guard service make it clear that Bush did not quit flying jets in 1972 at the behest of or with the support of his commanding officers, as the administration has implied. Rather he was “suspended” after flatly refusing
to carry out a direct order to undertake a medical examination.

“President Bush failed to carry out a direct order from his superior in the Texas Air National Guard in May 1972 to undertake a medical examination that was necessary for him to remain a qualified pilot, according to documents made public yesterday.”

Furthermore, the documents show that Bush’s commanding officer was under some type of political pressure to “sugar coat” Bush’s evaluation during the time that he was skipping drills and blowing off direct orders.

“In another "memo to file," dated Aug. 18, 1973, (Lt. Col. Jerry) Killian complained that he was under pressure from his superior, Col. Walter B. "Buck" Staudt, to "sugar coat" Bush's officer evaluations.”

We still don’t know why Bush was so intent on avoiding a medical examination back then.

All of this comes on the heels of a Boston Globe story that reveals that Bush failed to meet his committments to the National Guard.

“...Bush fell well short of meeting his military obligation, a Globe reexamination of the records shows: Twice during his Guard service -- first when he joined in May 1968, and again before he transferred out of his unit in mid-1973 to attend Harvard Business School -- Bush signed documents pledging to meet training commitments or face a punitive call-up to active duty. He didn't meet the commitments, or face the punishment, the records show.”

Kevin Drum of Political Animal is right when he notes the ‘night and day’ differences between this story and the Swift Boat controversy:

“This story is a perfect demonstration of the difference between the Swift Boat controversy and the National Guard controversy. Both are tales from long ago and both are related to Vietnam, but the documentary evidence in the two cases is like night and day. In the Swift Boat case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence indicates that Kerry's accusers are lying. Conversely, in the National Guard case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence provides additional confirmation that the charges against Bush are true.”

As I have said before, the difference between Bush and Kerry is that while Kerry’s superior officers were recommending him for medals (even though some are now denigrating those same medals for political purposes), Bush’s superior officers were wondering where the hell he was half the time.

Kerry was an asset to the military. Bush was a disciplinary problem.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Republican incompetence

Republicans control every branch of the federal government. They control the White House and the Executive Branch, they control both the House and Senate in the Legislative Branch and they have seven of the nine seats on the Supreme Court appointed by Republicans.

And yet they are so incompetent when it comes to running the government that they have allowed unfinished bills to pile up in Congress with no prayer of passage before the year is out. This is causing some major headaches for some small business owners as illustrated in a story in the Sept. 7 Wall Street Journal, page A4. The story tells about a CEO of a shoe company in Wisconsin who has seen his import duties more than double to 19 percent this summer as Congressional leaders have dithered with tax changes needed to comply with international trade rules.

The story goes on to show the huge backlog of legislation facing lawmakers:

“As lawmakers return from their national conventions, the pile of unfinished bills - and warnings from frustrated voters - is mounting. No budget has been approved for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, and only one of 13 annual appropriation bills has been enacted (Defense). Amid high oil prices, energy legislation is stalled, and an entire construction season has passed without action on highway funding.”

Of course, the Republicans are trying to blame this on Democrats, but the WSJ story is quick to dismiss this nonsense as just “a calculated strategy to motivate conservative voters...”

“The majority (Republicans) has become so unyielding at times that it seems more devoted to tagging Democrats with the obstructionist label than to getting legislation passed. Bills have been abandoned rather than let Democrats have the votes on amendments they demand, such as on minimum-wage increases or rules protecting workers’ rights to overtime.”

Republicans feuding and turf battles are the real culprit. That and the general incompetence of Republicans in government.

“The complaints about Democrats ignore the fact that internal Republican differences also cause delays...
The Highway Bill, for example, is hung up in a dispute between Republican Senators and the White House over its cost. In the energy debate, oil-state Republicans, led by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, are in a dispute with Northeastern Republican Senators such as Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.”

These are the same Republicans who have squandered the record surpluses left by the Clinton administration and left us with a record $422 billion deficit.

So what do Republican leaders plan to do during the final months of the year with all this critical work still left undone? Well let’s see.... Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist wants to vote on a Constitutional amendment to ban flag burning for the umpteenth time, and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is pushing to bring up a vote on a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Bush's missing National Guard records

The AP has a story explaining
how there should have been at least five documents produced by the National Guard when Bush blew off his flight physical in 1972:

“Documents that should have been written to explain gaps in President Bush's Texas Air National Guard service are missing from the military records released about his service in 1972 and 1973, according to regulations and outside experts.
For example, Air National Guard regulations at the time required commanders to write an investigative report for the Air Force when Bush missed his annual medical exam in 1972. The regulations also required commanders to confirm in writing that Bush received counseling after missing five months of drills.
No such records have been made public and the government told The Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that it has released all records it can find.”

How convenient for President Bush that these documents either can’t be found or were never produced. Kevin Drum has looked at this issue
in depth and has interviewed a former National Guardsman who claims Bush’s military service records were “cleansed” before he ran for governor of Texas.

Of the five missing documents, this is the one I think is the most important:
--Records of a required investigation into why Bush lost flight status. When Bush skipped his 1972 physical, regulations required his Texas commanders to "direct an investigation as to why the individual failed to accomplish the medical examination," according to the Air Force manual at the time. An investigative report was supposed to be forwarded "with the command recommendation" to Air Force officials "for final determination."
Bush's spokesmen have said he skipped the exam because he knew he would be doing desk duty in Alabama. But Bush was required to take the physical by the end of July 1972, more than a month before he won final approval to train in Alabama.

I would like to know how common it was back then for Guardsmen to blow off their physicals and what happened in any of those other cases. It would seem like a great way to avoid service in Vietnam – Join the National Guard and then blow off you required medical exam so that you are grounded and would not be able to join your unit should they be activated for duty. The only question is how Bush was able to accomplish this without leaving any type of paper trail.