February 09, 2004

Kevin Drum May Have Broke the AWOL Story George W. Bush got 4 credit points (which are earned for retirement) for serving time on October 29, 1972. He received this on an ARF statement of points earned. What is an ARF statement? I let Drum answer that. The answer, as you can see from the top line, is that it is an ARF document, as is this record from 1973-74. So what is ARF? I asked Bob Rogers, a retired Air National Guard pilot who's been following this for some time, and what follows is his interpretation of what happened. ARF is the reserves, and among other things it's where members of the guard are sent for disciplinary reasons. As we all know, Bush failed to show up for his annual physical in July 1972, he was suspended in August, and the suspension was recorded on September 29. He was apparently transferred to ARF at that time and began accumulating ARF points in October.

It gets weirder. ARF is a unit based in Denver. Not Texas or Alabama. Where Bush said he served his guard time. He also has no duty time for his last two years. It appears he was suspended and got out of (or didn't bother to) show up for his last two years. Also important, there still is no record of Bush serving in Alabama. He has maintained he has. Judging from the ARF timeline he never served in Alabama because he was never stationed there. Bush did move to the state to help the campaign of a family friend. There is also still no record that he has flown a mission. If the ARF record, along with the story of his suspension correct then it would seem less likely that he actually flew in the guard. Bush maintains that he did. No pilot has stepped forward and said he flew with Bush. Guard pilots sent to Denver under disciplinary measure were automatically eligible for Vietnam. Apparently, Nam was considered punishment for the patriotic soldiers that had places reserved for them in the guard. There is some debate about the documents in Drum's comments. If Bush would open up his records then this issue could be settled once and for all. If not then the debates against a decorated war hero and protester like John Kerry will be difficult for him. Remember, he said on Meet the Press that he supported the Vietnam war. President Bush: I supported my government. I did. And would have gone had my unit been called up, by the way. Russert: But you didn't volunteer or enlist to go. President Bush: No, I didn't. You're right. I served. I flew fighters and enjoyed it, and we provided a service to our country. In those days we had what was called "Air Defense Command," and it was part of the air defense command system. The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me as I look back was it was a political war. We had politicians making military decisions, and it is lessons that any president must learn, and that is to the set the goal and the objective and allow the military to come up with the plans to achieve that objective. And those are essential lessons to be learned from the Vietnam War.

  • From the big tough Russert interview: "There may be no evidence, but I did report". (For duty, that is.) What, not one slip of paper anywhere, not one person who saw you there? Or is this just an absence of evidence as opposed to evidence of absence?
  • Annenberg's FactCheck seems to have some insight on this. Not that it'll matter.
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  • Here's a comparative timeline of Bush's and Kerry's activities from those days. Kos makes a good point about the irony of Bush getting out 8 months early when today soldiers receive stop-loss orders.
  • Nice site, Fes. Thanks.
  • This post on Orcinus is well worth reading.
  • Okay, so maybe we don't yet have evidence of Bush's National Guard Activities. It's good to see we at least have evidence of "National Guard Program Related Activites". Damn, I'd like to see this get mainstream media coverage.
  • According to Drum's timeline from Bush's ARF document. There's no duty points earned for his last two years. Guard polits back then that got an ARF were sent to Denver to serve. That was a desk job for pilots that were suspended. It wouldn't look good for a President that posed on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit to have been suspended from flying and having lied about it. Drum's post is number #4 on Blogdex. He is linked to Dean's blog and Atrios. The campaign people are reading the political blogs. There is a good chance this could get picked up by the mainstream press. Or Kerry might end up dropping it in a debate. This is what kills me. None of this matters to military personal. They will vote for Bush no matter what. Kerry served in combat, is conservative on foreign policy and has back several veteran causes. Bush is cutting benefits and and soldiers are complaining about the living condition because the administration outsourced everything, instead of having the Army build some form of housing. Bush wins the military vote in a landslide in 2004!!!!!
  • You mean Bush *gasp* LIED about something?? You are kidding me!!! Damn, I'd like to see this get mainstream media coverage. That won't happen unless Bush shows us his right tit during a professional sporting event.
  • Janet Jackson's breast is a weapon of mass destruction. ;)
  • Janet Jackson's breast is a weapon of mass destruction. ;) Well, at least we finally found one.
  • *sigh*
  • I suppose I should leave some room aside for further anticipated astonishment-related events programs, but, purely as an answer to a question, that is a flabbergaster. A punisher. A goat.
  • Can someone please explain to me why this is important?
  • Rereading my question, I realise it may sound sarcastic or snarky. which wasn't my intention. I am genuinely curious to know. I think it must be a cultural thing - here in Britain, it's been 25 years since we last had a prime minister (Callaghan) who had served in the armed forces, and it really doesn't figure as an electoral issue. But is it different in America? Do people really care about what Bush may or may not have done in the National Guard? Does it actually matter? If any American monkey can spare the time to explain this to me, I'd be really grateful. *offers banana for sharing*
  • verstegen: there are a couple reasons why Bush's (and other presidents') military service and experience is deemed important. One of our President's jobs is to serve as Commander in Chief of the armed forces; without a background that contains at least some military service, a president may be painted by his detractors as not having the requisite experience in military matters to serve effectively as overall Commander of the largest and arguably most effective army in the world. Secondly (and the point here in this question of Bush's service records) there is the "chickenhawk" debate; keep in mind that today's politicians are of the age from which military service would overwhelmingly have come from the Vietnam conflict, a war even more contentious and divisive than the current one (it's true, kids, read your history books!). The crux of the chickenhawk label is the idea that someone who once was against war when they themselves might have to serve (Vietnam) is now for war when they cannot. "chicken"-->"hawk" and, therefore, a hypocrite. Although even the least reasonable on both sides must admit that it is *possible* for one's beliefs to change over time, and that the current conflict and the Vietnam war are wildly different, both in aim and protraction, the chickenhawk label is a potent one, since it is both damning and an eassy concept to grasp. That said, keep also in mind that since Vietnam military service in America has been *purely* voluntary. And as such, it is seen as much closer to a calling than 'something everyone must do.' Politics (although we all know better) is also portrayed as a call to service on behalf of the common good. To aspire in politics, having a demonstrable history of service to the Republic by volunteering to bear arms in it's defense establishes a certain level of bonafides as to one's altruism and patriotism, and patriotism is, for better or worse (better and worse, imo) far more prized here in America, as I understand it, in the UK.
  • That said, military service (or lack thereof, in recent cases) is often a nice stone to throw, but in practice it is less a selling point than a resume-filler. IF successful and valiant military service were as large a question of presidential fitness as the press seems to want to make of it, John McCain, Bob Dole and James Stockdale would have been our last three presidents, since all suffered mightily and comported themselves with utmost dignity and honor on behalf of their country during wartime. However, that service was trumped by more pressing political liabilities like, in the case of Stockdale for example, an inability to look good on television.
  • Thanks, fes, that's very helpful. *hands out banana* Let me explain why I asked the question. When this issue first came up, I assumed it was purely tactical, i.e. it had less to do with people actually getting outraged over Bush's behaviour, than with Kerry sending a message to Democratic voters ("see, I'm the guy to beat Bush"). So I was taken aback by the strength of feeling, both on this thread and elsewhere on the Internet. A lot of people obviously do feel outraged, and obviously do feel that this raises an issue of credibility for Bush. I think I see why .. at least, I sort of see why, though I still find it a bit puzzling. I mean, I thought we'd been here with Clinton and decided that it didn't really matter. There's an interesting parallel here with another Texan president. Here's a passage from Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson, on LBJ's war record: Exaggeration is a normal aspect of war stories, only to be expected. With Johnson, however, exaggeration spilled over into something more, until the story of his wartime service bore little resemblance to the reality: which was that, exciting though his flight may have been, it was only one flight. He had been in action for a total of thirteen minutes .. Yet he portrayed himself as a war-scarred veteran of battle on many fronts .. He even gave himself a nickname: he told a reporter that the men who flew with him had come to admire him so much that they had named him "Raider" Johnson; that was how he had been known among the men of the 22nd Bomb Group, he said. Johnson could hardly have been unaware of the growing amusement and disbelief with which his stories were being received. But that did not stop him from telling them .. and he would persist in these exaggerations and keep adding new ones, even when he was President, in circumstances in which he must have been aware that the facts might be checked. Caro's argument, which I tend to agree with, is that the lies in themselves don't matter much; what matters is that Johnson actually started to believe them. Fortunately I don't think Bush has progressed to that stage of self-delusion. Not yet, anyway.
  • AWOL!
  • The other reason, as I see it, is that historically the US president has served in the military before being elected. The first half-dozen or so presidents were active in the Revolutionary War, and the most well-known historical figures were soldiers before they were politicians (one would hope it wasn't the other way around) such as the post-Civil War presidents. Ability to command troops and offer good war strategies are both, as Fes said, good resume-fillers that actually have relevance to a future President. It also shows commitment to national ideals and since the President's military position (in the most well-known military Presidents) has been high, if not at the top, they would probably have some good rallying tricks up their sleeves which would come in handy during an election. Military service isn't as important as it seemed to be in the postwar parts of the 18th and 19th centuries (and the emphasis in electing military men was probably stressed by said military men, either as a "marketing' strategy for the elections or out of real fear that another war would occur), but a President should have some idea of what happens in the military and how it handles going to war. It interests me that Bush derides the Vietnam-era Presidents for making military decisions when it's a) their job as Commander-in-Chief to do so and b) their job as Chief Executive Officer of the country to do so.
  • Stockdale is also the author of this fascinating little book on how the doctrines of Epictetus helped him through his imprisonment in Vietnam.
  • I still agree with Kos and friends that this bit of hypocrisy is worse than whether or not Bush was AWOL.
  • Worse? I dunno. More common, certainly. In America, our idea of aristocracy has always been about money, not blood. Airman Bush had it, Corporal Smith doesn't. That doesn't make it right, I know, but when your claim to priviledge is based on money rather than blood, the capacity for noblesse oblige disappears quickly. One might consider that a factor in the military's willingness to give Bush an 8 month pass while retaining the services of Corproal Smith could be the voluntary nature of military service I mentioned earlier. Ceteris parabis, an officer might be more inclined to allow a soldier the time to go to school in the knowledge that the soldier was a draftee (I don't know if Bush was or not, I'm assuming that he volunteered, but nevertheless), whereas Cpl. Smith is in Tikrit, ultimately, by his own choice. I wishlisted that Stockdale book, thanks Homunculus.
  • After listening to a bit of McClellan's hyper-defensive briefing today, the gist of which was "we promised we'd release these, we have, now stop asking all of these questions", I'm slightly more encouraged that maybe the press will bite down and shake it out. In this day and age, I don't think military service is a prerequisite for the presidency. The bottom line for me is this: if you are going to ask Americans to die for your questionable war, and bolster your case for said war by posing on an aircraft carrier representing yourself as a veteran of another questionable war, I think you owe it to the American public to be open and straightforward about your military experience.
  • Dr. Zira - yes, you got it! Bush implying, in a way, that he was a war hero by doing that landing on the aircraft carrier and appearing for photo-ops in a flight suit would have been pretty silly even if he had fulfilled his U.S.- bound guard duties. BUT, doing all that when it seems that he didn't finish out his commitment gives him credit for a patriotism he didn't have. Maybe he's seen the light since (though I don't think that his agenda includes patriotism in the old "duty is honor" sense) but owning up seems to me more important than making the whole thing a marketing opportunity. I thought at that time that the Viet Nam war was sad and doomed (still do.) and I had a lot of sympathy for probable draftees who moved to Canada to escape serving in a war they didn't think was just. But PRETENDING that one gave even a minimal level of support, while blowing a large part of it off to take some business school courses is pretty reprehensible. If he just said now "I did it because I could" I'd have some sympathy for his feelings at the time. Not owning up to it is the issue, for me.
  • Kevin Drum has more. It seems that Bush may have not even of have served on the days he got credit for. GEORGE BUSH, CAMPAIGN MANAGER....Here's an idea. Let's see if we can harness the awesome power of the blogosphere for the benefit of mankind. According to the now complete copy of George Bush's ARF service record for 1972, we know that he supposedly spent the weekend of October 28-29 on drills. On the face of it, this seems unlikely since he was acting as assistant campaign manager for Winton "Red" Blount at the time and this particular weekend was nine days before the election. That's usually a busy time, no? It also fails to match up with the training schedule for the Alabama unit that Bush was supposedly attached to at the time. So here's the deal: do I have any readers in Alabama who are willing to head to the library and spend a few hours reading through microfilms of local papers to see if they can find any mention of Bush that weekend? The newspaper dates to look for are October 29 and 30, 1972, and the most likely cities are Montgomery and (I assume) Birmingham. The question is this: are there any news reports indicating that Bush was actually working on Blount's campaign on those days rather than attending drills? If anybody finds anything, let me know. Extra points if anyone finds a photograph. POSTSCRIPT: By the way, note the following anecdote about the Blount campaign from the Montgomery Advertiser last week:
    Bush, then 26, served as assistant campaign manager in a race that featured a doctored audiotape that made it sound like [John] Sparkman supported busing children to integrate schools.
    Charming, isn't it? Kinda reminds you of South Carolina in 2000..... UPDATE: A reader suggests via email that Montgomery residents can also visit the Alabama Department of Archives and History, 624 Washington Ave., which has hardbound copies of the Montgomery Advertiser as well as the following on microfiche: Montgomery Advertiser, 1972.10.01-1972.10.31, Order # S1987.2747

    Alabama Journal, 1972.10.02-1972.10.31, Order # S1991.2484 Birmingham Mirror, 1971.01.09-1974.02.23, Reference Call Number micro #326, Order # M1992.2356
  • Goodness. The whole business seems to be getting mired down in that same old same old nitpicking over infinitely interpretable details of was this 'that' on those specific days, and if it was did it mean 'this', and... The issue is not, did he miss a drill on such-and-such a day? Because although you and I and even the old bloke I just met in Soho all know that such-and-such a revelation would be the proof that reveals a much bigger lie, it sadly wouldn't have that impact. It would be picked over, it would be disputed, it would be brushed aside and drowned amidst all the the screams of 'leftist muckraking' and 'brownshirted fucks'. What is needed is simply for Bush and his spokespeople to keep on squirming - for the documents to be constantly demanded, and for them not to be presented. Because that's the thing that actually shows up the heart of the issue - that this has been the most aggressively, self-glorifyingly militaristic administration since god knows when, and that it will resonate horribly with the people when the CinC can't even demonstrate that he had the decency to serve out his petty, draft-evading pseudo-service. 'A strong America'; 'The Pilot President lands on the aircraft carrier'; 'Our troops fighting the good fight'... What you're fighting here is images. And, to the shame of our political cultures, actual facts are friggin' useless for that. You don't need answers - you just need images of people not being able to give the answers...
  • There's another layer of hypocrisy, which is this: The Bush administration is going to insist upon mandatory drug testing for federal civilian workers. It's more than a bit disingenuous considering he chose to skip his physical and the accompanying drug test. He was certainly in the position of operating heavy machinery, now wasn't he?
  • Billmon breaks down how John B. "Bill" Calhoun is full of it.
  • This is an interesting post from Talking Points Memo. Guardsmen, John B. Calhoun, came forward to say that he clearly remembered him showing up for his required drills in Alabama through the summer and fall of 1972. cut Interestingly, though, as the Houston Chronicle notes this morning, the documents released Friday night show "Bush's transfer to the Alabama squadron wasn't approved until September 1972, months after Bush's presence as recalled by Calhoun."
  • Deserter.
  • Why isn't f8xmulder playing on this thread, anymore? :)
  • You don't go around calling someone a troll and then trying to stir a reaction out of them, Sully. We've got enough of that going on already.
  • troll trolling?
  • I am just tired of *&%^$ saying that everyone is wrong. Then when his arguments are defeated he won't admit he's wrong, like he said he would. It's called bullshit. The issue %$^*&# can't wrap his head around his that Bush's records make him look worse. They showed that he was grounded for not reported to his physical and sent to serve in Colorado. That's why he has pay slips from that state.
    For the eighteen months prior to his quitting the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG), George W. Bush had ignored his obligations to the US Military, statutory and regulatory US Law, and Air Force regulations and policies. And for as long as he was being
  • Please stop that.
  • Sully, if I cussed you out I'm sure that I did it with a smile. And if you didn't see the smile, then I apologize.
  • Sully, Pete_Best86 (among others) already called him on it. Don't go all Dizzy on the kid. At least, not yet. ;) And I hate to disagree, but I think George Will is a pseudointellectual straw man beater. At least 75% of his arguments are against phony, straw, or purposely weak positions. He's the main reason I cancelled my Newsweek subscription. That, and because Michael Isikoff is a hack.
  • ...but i see your point.
  • Jeeze, Sully! Using keyboard cursing in place on someone's name is pretty far out (virtual adhominem.) Yeah, he's young, and pretty full of himself, but he does consider what others are saying, and has admitted changing his mind a couple of times based on cogent arguments. Many of us couldn't say the same. I think we need to get a MoFi horoscope cast. Maybe the stars are mis-aligned, the planet conjunctions unfavorable and the transit of Venus made us lose patience. The strange eruptions of rage we've experienced lately just don't seem like us. And, you know what, I found out early in life that anger is optional - and generally requires too much energy. There are circumstances where the judicious use of anger can have a good effect, but generally it's destructive. Since I can choose not to be angry, I think others can, but maybe I'm wrong.
  • George Will is a perfect example of a thoughtful conservative. Huh? The same George Will who knowingly used stolen campaign material to prepare Ronald Reagan before debating Carter? There's gotta be a better example of a thoughtful conservative. And I gotta say, I'm with path on the virtual ad hominem thing. Not cool. Taking a lead from SideDishy, here's the bucket o' puppies.
  • anger is optional - and generally requires too much energy. i agree fully. anyone know where there's any bananas?
  • Thanks, dxlifer, but what I really want is some Starbucks coffee almond fudge ice cream. The one lousy shoppable store in my little town hasn't stocked it for a while. Withdrawal symptoms make me cranky.
  • Trac has discussed my f8xy bashing off the board. I told her I would do my bestest to behave.
  • I've been studying the work of the master of attack by innuendo.
    Glennuendo (n.) - The act of drawing a darkly ominous inference from an opponent's failure to discuss a political issue. From Reynolds, Glenn. (Vaara)
    On another note: can Reynolds write coherent sentences? From today's literary masterpiece known as Instapundit.
    SOME OF US ALREADY KNEW THIS, OF COURSE DARFUR UPDATE: I SYMPATHIZE WITH THESE SENTIMENTS but it won't work: If only. You get more with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone. . . .
  • homunculus, you da main. *tips hat*
  • How the hell does he do that?
  • vitamins.
  • And exercise (possibly nsfw).
  • Good god almighty, homunculus. That should so be a FPP. But the warrior's way can be extreme, and eventually this subject comes up in everyone's martial research. I'll try to remember that when the time comes.
  • I've already posted today (in MoFi time,) so be my guest! There are more in this plastic thread.
  • For this type of training you must have a teacher, otherwise you might get hurt. no kidding. amazing link, homunculus.
  • Yeah, it is pretty sweet. I'll post it.
  • Ah, goetter got it. Sweet.
  • Meanwhile, here's Jim Rassmann's version of the swift boat incident. An editor from the Chicago Tribune who was also a swift boat commander at the time gives his view of those events. And the NYTimes has a great piece on the connections between the Swift Boat Vets and Bush.
  • Karl Rove?!! *bugs out eyes, slaps cheeks in surprise*
  • Lawsuit gets Bush Guard papers out nothing really new, just that the April - Oct 1972 gap remains gappy.
  • Does this disqualify Mr. Bush from being commander in chief? No. But it should disqualify the Bush campaign from sliming the military service of a rival who still carries shrapnel from Vietnam in his thigh. karl fucking slimebag rove.
  • U.S. News & World Report
    A review of the regulations governing Bush's Guard service during the Vietnam War shows that the White House used an inappropriate--and less stringent--Air Force standard in determining that he had fulfilled his duty. Because Bush signed a six-year "military service obligation," he was required to attend at least 44 inactive-duty training drills each fiscal year beginning July 1. But Bush's own records show that he fell short of that requirement, attending only 36 drills in the 1972-73 period, and only 12 in the 1973-74 period. The White House has said that Bush's service should be calculated using 12-month periods beginning on his induction date in May 1968. Using this time frame, however, Bush still fails the Air Force obligation standard. Moreover, White House officials say, Bush should be judged on whether he attended enough drills to count toward retirement. They say he accumulated sufficient points under this grading system. Yet, even using their method, which some military experts say is incorrect, U.S. News 's analysis shows that Bush once again fell short. His military records reveal that he failed to attend enough active-duty training and weekend drills to gain the 50 points necessary to count his final year toward retirement. The U.S. News analysis also showed that during the final two years of his obligation, Bush did not comply with Air Force regulations that impose a time limit on making up missed drills. What's more, he apparently never made up five months of drills he missed in 1972, contrary to assertions by the administration. White House officials did not respond to the analysis last week but emphasized that Bush had "served honorably." Some experts say they remain mystified as to how Bush obtained an honorable discharge. Lawrence Korb, a former top Defense Department official in the Reagan administration, says the military records clearly show that Bush "had not fulfilled his obligation" and "should have been called to active duty."
  • It seemed the Swift Boat Vets had better chorography than a Broadway musical.
    Swift boat veteran Larry Thurlow flew in from Bogue, Kan., after the group offered to pay his and his wife's expenses. Thurlow said he was hesitant to become involved but Hoffmann kept asking him to join the group. "The admiral helped me to see in hindsight what was really going on with Kerry," Thurlow said. The veterans and a Studio City, Calif., film producer, Harry Kloor, moved to a Washington studio to film interviews for a later commercial that would be put together by LaCivita and another political ad man, Rick Reed, a member of a team that had worked for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in his 2000 campaign for president. Thurlow said the vets were told some of what to say, with the caveat that they weren't expected to say anything they didn't believe. "I was told to say, `On the river that day, Kerry fled.' But `fled' connotes fear and I understood why Kerry left, then returned, so I didn't use that word," Thurlow said.
    These guy were told what to say. Amazing.
  • Go Sully! It's your birthday! Go Sully! It's your birthday!
  • AP embarrasses itself over Guard story Lessee, what's the word I'm looking for here . . . hmm . .