Sunday, February 15, 2004
"I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes." -- George W. Bush, 1984*
Here's where we are in the AWOL story. From 70 to 72 we know Bush flew planes in Texas like good little boy. In the spring of 72 he went (supposedly) to Alabama to work on a family friend's Senate run without getting proper authorization first. But according to the original Boston Globe story there's no proof Bush ever served in Alabama.
Since this scandal became reopened, the Bushies have offered the following evidence:
1.) A dental record that proves that he actually showed up at Dannelly Air National Guard base in Alabama but that contradicts statements made during the 2000 campaign regarding when he left Alabama for Texas.
2.) Payroll documents show that from the spring of 72 to the spring of 73 Bush was paid for at least 17 appearances, but indicate a five-month gap in which he wasn't payed for anything, and they are not corroborated by records in Alabama, which means the documents don't prove Bush was paid for service in Alabama.
3.) A former Guardsman, Bill Calhoun, vouched for Bush in a Wapo story, claiming to have seen Bush 8 to 10 times in Alabama, but Calhoun, a partisan Republican, screwed up the dates he gave in his alibi for Bush, perhaps basing made-up dates on early incorrect AP stories.*
4.) The big document dump on Friday which as it stands now, according to the Washington Post added nothing new:
But the tone of Bush's military file changed abruptly, and with no documented explanation, in May 1972, when Bush sought to transfer to Alabama. That began a period of months in which, the documents suggest, Bush did not actively pursue Guard service and the Guard did not actively pursue him.
That's about it. There's still no good explanation of why Bush refused to take the physical or what the real explanation for his Alabama trip is or where he was during the missing months.
A retired lieutenant colonel, Bill Burkett, has claimed repeatedly for years now that he was a firsthand witness to the scrubbing of Bush's file at Texas Air National Guard headquarters. Here's Bill Burkett recounting part of his story in an interview with Salon:
On this occasion [General James's] secretary was not at her desk and the door was cracked approximately 8 to 10 inches. And I stuck my head through the door. [ ... ] When I stuck my head through the door slightly I could not see anyone sitting in the wing-backed chairs or the couch that sat in front of his desk where you always sat if you went into the general's office for a conversation. Immediately I recognized he was on a telephone call and I was extremely embarrassed. I felt uncomfortable about that. And I stood there [in the receptionist's area] for a moment. The basic part of what I heard, and the words I'll give you are a paraphrase, they are not direct quotes, the words basically were, "Karen Hughes and Dan Bartlett were going to come out to the [Texas National] Guard and they wanted General James to make sure the [Bush] records were assembled and basically, not in some crisis statement or anything, but to make sure there wasn't anything there that would embarrass the governor."
He goes on to claim to have seen twenty to forty pages of Bush's military record in the trash. Given all the holes in the paper trail we've been shown, it's not hard to believe Burkette's story, but unfortunately it's unclear what it would take at this point to move the AWOL story any further. Barring something incredible this seems like it is the end of the line.