CBS News: Bush "gamed the system"

Published September 9, 2004 12:05AM (EDT)

Even before the much anticipated 60 Minutes interview with former Texas official Ben Im very ashamed Barnes, CBS News delivered another blow to George W. Bushs reputation on its Wednesday evening broadcast. CBS White House correspondent John Roberts reported that the network has found four documents from the files of Col. Jerry Killian, Bushs squadron commander in the Texas Air National Guard, that call into serious question the presidents military service record. One memo located by CBS refers to a discussion between Bush and his commander about how Bush can get out coming to drill from now through November. Due to other commitments, Bush pleaded, he may not have time.

On August 1, 1972, Col. Killian grounded Bush for failure to perform up to military standards and for failure to take his annual physical examination as ordered. A year after grounding Bush, Killian was asked to write another assessment of the young pilot. In this memo, an obviously exasperated Killian observes that he is being pressured by higher-ups to give Bush a positive evaluation, to in effect, sugarcoat his review, reported CBS. But Killian refused, writing, Im having trouble running interference and doing my job.

Killian is deceased, but the explosive documents he left behind threw the White House into high-spin mode. Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett tried shrugging them off, saying its impossible to read the mind of a dead man.

But clearly the wave of new revelations about Bushs National Guard years are taking their toll. Together, they paint a portrait of a careless young man with a deep sense of entitlement. As Larry Korb, an assistant Secretary of Defense under President Reagan, told CBS on Wednesday: Essentially, Bush gamed the system to avoid serving his country the way that most of his contemporaries had to.

By David Talbot

David Talbot, the founder of Salon, is the author of New York Times bestsellers like "Brothers," "The Devil's Chessboard," and "Season of the Witch." His most recent book is "Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of My Stroke."

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