Bush skipped drug test

The Times of London reports that the Air National Guard grounded him after he dodged a medical exam.

By Alicia Montgomery

Published June 20, 2000 7:01AM (EDT)

George W. Bush may have joined the Air National Guard to stay out of the line of fire during the Vietnam War, but his record there continues to get him into hot water in the campaign. The Times of London reports that the Guard grounded Bush after he failed to get his annual medical exam, which included a urine test and extensive questions about drug use. In August 1972, when Bush was scheduled for the exam, he was working in Alabama on a political campaign. Bush didn't have to face drug screening when he entered the service in 1968, but drug-related incidents in Vietnam led the Air Force to change its policy in 1972.

The Times report comes several weeks after the Boston Globe ran an article revealing holes in Bush's service record. The Texas governor's campaign staff continues to deny any wrongdoing on Bush's part, however, and says that the skipped medical exam was an innocent oversight. "As he was not flying, there was no reason for him to take the flight exam," said Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett. "And he was not aware of any changes that required a drug test."

Bush's border-town blues
While Bush spreads his message of compassionate conservatism in campaign stops across the country, some of his Texas critics want him to bring that compassion back home. The Associated Press reports that the dirt-poor colonias -- shantytowns along Texas' border with Mexico -- got none of Bush's compassionate attention during his term as governor. Bush's own records show he has never visited the colonias, though they are home to 400,000 Texans. "He has ignored us," said Carman Anaya, a migrant farmworker and mother of six. "Poor Bush. He doesn't like to come here and get his pants dirty in these streets."

Democrats, eager to challenge Bush's support in the Hispanic community, have seized upon the story. Several Latin American Democratic officials made a tag-team attack on Bush in a party press release. "Because of Bush's negligence and inaction, schoolchildren in the colonias live in perpetual poverty," said Democratic National Committee general co-chairwoman Rep. Loretta Sanchez of California. "Hispanics across the country should be weary about what Bush calls 'Un Nuevo Dia' (A New Day). With this failed record as a model, I would hate to see what this 'new day' would look like for our community."

Gore called for poll chasing
The Texas governor sneered at the vice president's plan to give working families a leg up in retirement savings, according to the AP. Gore's "Retirement Savings Plus" got the Republican's thumbs down despite its resemblance to Bush's own plan to augment Social Security. To Bush, the plan is one more "me, too" from a desperate candidate. "It shows he's a man chasing polls and focus groups," Bush said.

But that charge is untrue, according to Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne. Though Gore's constant reinventions make him an easy target for copycat charges, the vice president's plan concentrates help on the people who need it, Dionne points out, lowering or phasing out benefits for those in upper income brackets. In contrast, Dionne asserts, Bush's proposal disproportionately benefits the wealthy, a symptom of Bush's true ideological bent. "Here is the great underreported fact about the 2000 campaign," Dionne writes. "Bush is far more conservative than his sunny and compassionate speeches would suggest."

For Fulani, the party's over
The political odd couple of New York liberal Lenora Fulani and fiery conservative Pat Buchanan is heading to divorce court. In a letter to Buchanan, Fulani resigned her co-chairwoman post in his campaign, citing his unwillingness to support her for Reform Party national chairwoman as proof that he isn't committed to ideological diversity. "Supporting me for chair was the test of whether you still intended to broaden your coalition and maintain the party's commitment to left/center/right alliances," Fulani wrote. "I must and do object to your efforts to transform the party into a party of, and for, only social conservatives."

Reform Party smackdown
Buchanan's troubles with Fulani will no doubt contribute to the division and drama that are making the Reform Party convention a hot ticket. Reuters reports that the party's summer gathering in Long Beach, Calif., will easily eclipse the Democratic and Republican unity-first snoozefests, offering the palace intrigue that once made conventions compelling. Some party officials go even farther. "There may well be a brawl on the convention floor. It's a real possibility," said Jim Mangia, the party's national secretary and a vocal Buchanan opponent. "That's what happens when you let brown shirts into your party."

Nader says debate funders are in bad company
The Green Party candidate says that the corporate dough backing presidential debates taints the process, turning them into "a beer commercial." The New York Times reports that Ralph Nader has filed a lawsuit that would strike down Federal Election Commission laws allowing companies like Anheuser-Busch to give unlimited money in sponsoring debates. Nader asserts that the current regulations allow companies to endorse a Democratic-Republican monopoly in the presidential race because third-party candidates are effectively shut out of the contests. Said Nader, "These companies are really sponsoring an exclusive campaign commercial for Bush and Gore."

Poll positions
Presidential race:

  • Bush 49 to Gore 45 (Time/CNN June 14-15).
  • Bush 50 to Gore 40 (Los Angeles Times June 8-13).
  • Bush 47 to Gore 39 (Zogby June 9-12).
  • Bush 49 to Gore 45 (ABC News/Washington Post June 8-11).

    Vice presidential preferences (previous):
    Preferences for Republican vice presidential candidate among Republican voters (NBC/Wall Street Journal April 29-May 1):

  • Colin Powell, 39 percent
  • Elizabeth Dole, 19 percent
  • John McCain, 18 percent
  • Fred Thompson, 6 percent
  • Christine Todd Whitman, 5 percent
  • John Kasich, 4 percent
  • Tom Ridge, 3 percent
  • Other, 1 percent
  • Not sure, 5 percent

    Preferences for Democratic vice presidential candidate among all voters (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll March 22-23):
  • Bill Bradley, 27 percent
  • Dianne Feinstein, 10 percent
  • Bob Kerrey, 6 percent
  • Bob Graham, 5 percent
  • John Kerry, 4 percent
  • Bill Richardson, 4 percent
  • Evan Bayh, 3 percent
  • Other, 6 percent
  • Not sure, 35 percent.

    On the trail
    Buchanan: To be announced.
    Bush: California.
    Gore: Kentucky and Iowa.
    Nader: To be announced.

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  • Alicia Montgomery

    Alicia Montgomery is an associate editor in Salon's Washington bureau.

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