Bush Faces Renewed Controversy Over National Guard Records
President Bush, once again, faces major media scrutiny because of his Texas Air National Guard service during Vietnam. Questions about Bush's National Guard service received prominent coverage on all three TV networks and in major US newspapers, with ABC World News Tonight reporting, "For opponents of President Bush, it's payback time." CBS Evening News said the situation is "just what the White House had hoped to avoid: New scrutiny of the President's military record." The Democrats "wasted no time in jumping all over these new allegations against the President."
The CBS news division led the way, on both the Evening News and 60 Minutes II, focusing on two new sources of controversy. The first source is four memoranda written by the late Col. Jerry Killian, commander of Bush's squadron, which CBS said could "help answer lingering questions about whether Lieutenant Bush followed orders and otherwise fulfilled his military commitments." The memos include an order to Bush to take a required physical, which he did not; a record of a discussion in which explored "options" for Bush to "get out of coming to drill from now through November"; Killian's order grounding Bush; and a memo in which Killian discussed being "pressured by higher-ups to give the young pilot a favorable yearly evaluation to, in effect, sugarcoat his review." The Washington Post also reports on the controversy, saying 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." According to the AP, White House communications director Dan Bartlett "told CBS' 60 Minutes II, which first obtained the memos, that Bush's superiors granted permission to train in Alabama in a non-flying status and that 'many of the documents you have here affirm just that.'"
In the second area of contention, former Texas politician Roy Barnes told Dan Rather on CBS 60 Minutes II that the late oilman Sid Adger, a mutual friend of his and then-Rep. George H. W. Bush, asked if he would "help young George Bush get in the Air National Guard," something Barnes said he did and considered "preferential treatment." The New York Times reports that "anticipating his remarks, Republicans worked to discredit Mr. Barnes as a partisan Democrat and large contributor to Mr. Kerry."
In contrast to the controversy over the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad campaign against John Kerry, from which Republicans have sought to distance themselves, Democrats yesterday sought to capitalize on the new information about Bush's National Guard service. The Washington Times reports Democrats "said yesterday they will repeat questions about President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard through Election Day." Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said, "These new documents show the president did not serve honorably, and they did not have all the documents out."
Bush Expected To Weather New National Guard Controversy.
Several respected political observers were doubtful the National Guard controversy would prove to be a serious setback for Bush. Washington Post reporter Jeff Birnbaum said on Fox News' Special Report that Bush "will be in for a rough week, but it will not be the same kind of devastating impact that a rough couple of weeks John Kerry had on the issue of Vietnam." Knight Ridder cited University of Virginia Professor Larry Sabato, who said, "Here we go again. It's an attempt to even the score." Sabato "said the attacks on Bush aren't likely to inflict much damage because voters have already made up their minds about his character, for better or worse."