Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Bush's service as detail by the Mobile, AL, Register

CBS owes more than just a single apology
Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Now that CBS has, quite belatedly, offered a less-than-adequate apology for its false reports on President George W. Bush's National Guard service, the network should take a number of other steps to regain credibility.

The first such step would be to back off anchor Dan Rather's repeated assertions that the overall gist of his report still had merit.

Virtually the whole report -- not just one part of it -- was bogus.

Start with the assertion by longtime Democratic officeholder Ben Barnes that he pulled political strings at the behest of the Bush family to get Mr. Bush into the Guard in the first place. Three problems: Mr. Barnes has testified otherwise under oath. Mr. Barnes' own daughter says he is lying. And Texas Guard officials have said that not only was there no influence used, but there wasn't even a waiting list for positions.

The waiting list was for ordinary Guard slots. But there were far fewer applicants for the dangerous job of fighter pilot that Mr. Bush undertook.

Once Mr. Bush signed up, here are the undisputed facts about his service: In his first four years, while he was an active pilot, he far, far exceeded the minimum requirements.

Guardsmen had to report for duty at least 50 days per year. Earning one point per day, Mr. Bush amassed the following point totals, year by year: 253, 340, 137 and 112. His official evaluations noted that "Lt. Bush is an exceptional fighter interceptor pilot and officer." And: "...He possesses sound judgment and is mature beyond his age and experience level. ... He continually flies intercept missions with the unit to increase his proficiency even further." And a third rating, in 1970, said Mr. Bush "clearly stands out as a top notch fighter interceptor pilot" and was also "a natural leader whom his contemporaries look to for leadership."

Not only that, but the second of those judgments was attested to by the very man, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, who was the purported author of the CBS documents now known to be forgeries.

Mr. Bush volunteered for duty in Vietnam. His plane was being phased out of service there, so the service declined his offer.

No longer having any flight requirements, Mr. Bush then went to Alabama, slacked off for about four months (although he did report for paperwork duty a few times), and missed a physical. But, despite the CBS claims, there is no record that his absences caused great consternation among his superiors.

The young pilot then returned to Texas and worked overtime for two months to make up the time he missed. He earned 56 points for the year as a whole, six above the service required, and he was honorably discharged.
Case closed.


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