In some ways, I had to suppress a bit of a nostalgic smile when I saw my friend Ed Morrissey at Hot Air picking off the scab of an old wound from the 2004 presidential campaign today. You see, Ed and I have been agreeing on so much lately when it comes to health care reform and dire economic news that people tend to forget that we used to fight tooth and claw, hammer and tong over many issues prior to the age of Obama. This time, though, Ed takes the bait of Bernard Goldberg who is attempting to polish up George W. Bush’s battle credentials before his memoirs come out. The subject? You probably guessed it already… Bush’s time in the Texas Air National Guard and his amazing ability to avoid combat service in Vietnam.
He first starts in on the botched Rather report, but then turns his guns on Mary Mapes.
CBS did an internal investigation that discredited the memos and caused the network to fire Mapes. Buried in the report, however, is an admission that has not been noticed until now — which is that Mapes knew the basis of her story was an outright lie from the beginning
You can read the Goldberg piece for yourself, but it doesn’t shed any new light. And while the wording is clever, I must correct Ed on the key point here. Mapes didn’t “know” that anything was “an outright lie” when doing the report. What she “knew” was that in 1999 and again in 2004 there were a couple of people willing to make statements to support the Bush side of the story. Do you even see any names listed up front as to who these sterling witnesses were? You’ll have to do some digging.
But, of course, we heard the same thing in 2004 – at least those bothering to listen did. And the same names from Texas keep popping up. Mysteriously, (and I’m just sure it’s all one big coincidence) they all seem to lead back to the same group of Republican operatives who later gave rise to the swiftboaters who tried to destroy John Kerry’s military record for political gain, going so far as to enlist the testimony of one individual who received the same medal as Kerry on the same day for related activity while never questioning his merit for such an honor.
But to the bottom line, here’s the new pitch on the tale: supposedly George W. Bush volunteered – nay, practically begged – to be allowed to go fly combat missions in Vietnam, but he lacked enough flight hours to qualify and was kept on the bench. (He apparently continued to lack them for the entire war.)
Goldberg, to his credit, includes another piece of relevant data which doesn’t appear in the quoted sections of text at Hot Air, and it’s well worth another look here.
It is also true, however, that in his 1968 application to join the Texas Air National Guard Bush was asked if he wanted to go overseas and he checked the box that said “do not volunteer.” But as the Washington Post reported on July 28, 1999: “Bush said in an interview that he did not recall checking the box.
Sometimes you just have to apply the smell test to a story. We had plenty of people in my family who served in ‘Nam and the stories were common as water. Those of you who are old enough will doubtless remember them as well. The military was working fervently to get enough people to fill all the billets in that war and, yes, that included pilots. Rules were often “bent” in the interest of getting the mission accomplished. What makes more sense to you? The idea that somebody from a family as powerful as George H.W. Bush’s couldn’t get the extra flight training hours to get him a spot in a wing being deployed to the war? That he was kept back on that basis with no opportunity for combat duty?
Or does it make more sense that the guy who somehow got head of the line privileges for entry into the TANG (which many people used as an out to avoid combat duty) and checked the “do not volunteer” box was actually avoiding the firing line? When you want a change in your duty status, the military has a set procedure for such requests. You put in a chit asking for a change in duty. It doesn’t mean that you will automatically get anything you request, but the military has to accept and record the request. Where is Bush’s chit if he was so all fired determined to go fly combat missions? Ed mentions that Bush openly admitted to not wanting to go into combat as a grunt on the ground, but doesn’t remind us that the only hard paper record we have of his intentions was that damning check box.
This seems like yet another sad attempt to polish up a stench laden story that has more holes in it than swiss cheese gone bad. And much of it is still being foisted off on us by members of our armed services who chose to attempt to discredit the military service of somebody who actually DID volunteer to go into combat in one of the most dangerous billets in Vietnam. (The river boat warriors.) It’s enough to make your blood boil.
UPDATE: An alert reader e-mails the more obvious question which I should have asked originally.
If he was so interested in volunteering for combat flight duty, why go through the trouble of getting into the air national guard? (Much harder to do.) Why not just enlist in the air wing of the regular service branches already flying over there?
Smell test says….
stinky socks on top of rotten eggs.