AP's valentine to Bush

Eric Boehlert
April 28, 2004 7:38PM (UTC)

In going after John Kerry's post-Vietnam war record, Republicans have to be careful that the attacks don't rebound and hit President Bush, whose own military record is rather dubious. Of course, if White House aides get some help from the press as it smoothes over the bumps in Bush's spotty National Guard service, all the better for them. This morning, in a brief summary of both men's military service, the Associated Press did just that, giving readers a wildly distorted -- and Bush-friendly -- view of Bush's days in the Texas Air National Guard.

Bush joined the Guard in 1968 and was granted an early exit in 1973 to attend Harvard Business School. The recent controversy stems from the fact that for nearly a year between the spring of '72 and '73 there's no record of Bush serving. The distortions begin when AP explains, "After his last flight as a Guard member in 1972, Bush moved to Alabama to work on [a] Senate campaign." Makes it sound like Bush's flight obligations were up, right? Wrong. In early '72, Bush made the unilateral decision that his flying days were over and simply walked away from flying, despite the fact he never fulfilled his pilot commitment to the Guard.


Next, the AP reports Bush "was assigned to protect National Guard units in Alabama." [Emphasis added.] First, it's unclear how Bush was going to "protect" Guard units since he essentially refused to fly. But left unsaid was the fact Bush originally requested to be assigned to a paper-pushing postal unit in Alabama; an appeal National Guard headquarters rejected as too lenient for a fully trained fighter pilot.

As for Bush's missing year, the AP reports: "After question were raised about his service, the White House in February released pay records and other documents supporting Bush's assertion that he fulfilled his National Guard duty." That's a stretch. All the documents proved was that Bush showed up at the Alabama base for a free dental exam in late '72. The White House has never produced any original Guard documentation that can knock down the charge Bush simply walked away from his monthly military duties for nearly an entire year. The AP ends the valentine by noting, "[Bush] lost his flight credential after missing a physical exam." [Emphasis added.] Actually, Bush refused to take the physical in early '72, the same year the Air National Guard announced it was instituting drug testing for pilots.

Eric Boehlert

Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

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