February 12, 2004

Bush's loss of flying status should have spurred probe

The White House has accused the Democratic Party of
"gutter politics" and "trolling for trash for
political gain." Of course, such claims from the "vast
reich-wing conspiracy," in general, and the Bush
Cabal, in particular, would be laughable if there had
not been so much damage done to our system of
government during the $50-60 million plus character
assasination campaign of Ken "Torquemada" Starr
against Bill Clinton...Yesterday, the White House
released the _resident's dental records from his time
in 'Bama...Hmmm, so he got his teeth worked on at
government expense, but he didn't submit to a
physical....Hmmm....No, this white heat focus on the
_resident's National Guard service during the Vietnam
war is not "trolling for trash." It is an inquiry into
the character of the man, just as the inquiry into the
wild statements made in the rush to war in Iraq is an
inquiry into his credibility, just as the inquiry into
the content of the Presidential Daily Briefings (PDB)
prior to 9/11 is in inquiry into the competence of the
_resident and VICE _resident fail miserably on all
three scores...The inquiry into the _resident's stint
in the Alabama National Guard is *just the beginning*
-- over 500 soldiers have died in the _resident's
foolish military adventure, because of the _resident's
tax cuts for the rich, the country is $500 billion
dollars in debt this year, instead of having a surplus
that could be spent wisely on economic stimulus and
homeland security...I would gladly wear a campaign button that said "Gutter Politics" in this struggle...

Boston Globe: White House spokesman Scott McClellan,
for the second day in a row, refused yesterday to
answer questions about Bush's failure to take the
physical and appeared to retreat from Bush's promise
Sunday to make public all of his military records.
Asked at a midday press briefing if all of Bush's
records would be released, McClellan said, "We'd have
to see if there is any new information in that."

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Bush's loss of flying status should have spurred probe
By Walter V. Robinson and Francie Latour, Globe Staff,

President Bush's August 1972 suspension from flight
status in the Texas Air National Guard -- triggered by
his failure to take a required annual flight physical
-- should have prompted an investigation by his
commander, a written acknowledgement by Bush, and
perhaps a written report to senior Air Force
officials, according to Air Force regulations in
effect at the time.


Bush, who was a fighter-interceptor pilot assigned to
the Texas Air National Guard, last flew in April 1972
-- just before the missed physical and 30 months
before his flight commitment ended. He also did not
attend National Guard training for several months that
year and was permitted to cut short his military
commitment a year later in 1973.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, for the second
day in a row, refused yesterday to answer questions
about Bush's failure to take the physical and appeared
to retreat from Bush's promise Sunday to make public
all of his military records. Asked at a midday press
briefing if all of Bush's records would be released,
McClellan said, "We'd have to see if there is any new
information in that."

Read more coverage of Bush's National Guard service

Late yesterday, assistant White House press secretary
Erin Healy said the White House does not have records
about the flight physical. "At this point, we've
shared everything we have," Healy said. A spokesman
for the National Guard Bureau said if there are
records about any inquiry into Bush's flight status,
they would most likely be in Bush's personnel file,
stored in a military records facility in Colorado.

For military aviators, the annual flight physical is a
line they must cross to retain coveted flying status.
Flight surgeons who conduct the examinations have the
power to remove pilots from flying duty.

The new questions about Bush's service arose a day
after the White House disclosed attendance and payroll
records that appeared to show that Bush sporadically
attended Guard drills between May 1972 and May 1973 --
even though his superiors at the time said that Bush
did not appear at their units in that period.

Two retired National Guard generals, in interviews
yesterday, said they were surprised that Bush -- or
any military pilot -- would forgo a required annual
flight physical and take no apparent steps to rectify
the problem and return to flying. "There is no excuse
for that. Aviators just don't miss their flight
physicals," said Major General Paul A. Weaver Jr., who
retired in 2002 as the Pentagon's director of the Air
National Guard, in an interview.

Brigadier General David L. McGinnis, a former top aide
to the assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve
Affairs, said in an interview that Bush's failure to
remain on flying status amounts to a violation of the
signed pledge by Bush that he would fly for at least
five years after he completed flight school in
November 1969.

"Failure to take your flight physical is like a
failure to show up for duty. It is an obligation you
can't blow off," McGinnis said.

Bush joined the Texas Air Guard in May 1968 after
intercession by friends of his father, who was then a
Houston congressman. He was quickly commissioned,
spent a year in flight school in Georgia and then six
months learning to fly an F-102 fighter-interceptor at
Ellington Air Force Base in Houston. From June 1970
until April 1972, he flew frequently.

His last flight physical was in May 1971.

The following April, just before his next physical was
due, Bush moved temporarily to Alabama to work on a
Republican US Senate race, and was given permission to
attend Guard drills at a Montgomery Air Guard base.
But he did not appear for his May 1972 physical, and
he performed no duty at all until late October 1972,
according to Guard records that became public this

A Sept. 29, 1972, order sent to Bush by the National
Guard Bureau, the defense department agency which
oversees the Guard, noted that Bush had been verbally
suspended from flying on Aug. 1. The written order
made it official: "Reason for suspension: Failure to
accomplish annual medical examination."

The order required Bush to acknowledge the suspension
in writing and also said: "The local commander who has
authority to convene a Flying Evaluation Board will
direct an investigation as to why the individual
failed to accomplish the medical examination." After
that, the commander had two options -- to convene the
Evaluation Board to review Bush's suspension or
forward a detailed report on his case up the chain of

Either way, officials said yesterday, there should
have been a record of the investigation.

The issue of Bush's suspension has been clouded in
mystery since it first arose during the 2000 campaign.
Dan Bartlett, a Bush campaign aide who is now White
House communications director, said then that Bush
didn't take the physical because his family physician
was in Houston and he was in Alabama. But the
examination is supposed to be done by a flight
surgeon, and could have been done at the base in

It is unclear whether Bush's commander, Lieutenant
Colonel Jerry B. Killian, ordered any inquiry, as

Weaver said it is entirely possible that Killian --
who, according to Bush's biography was also a friend
-- concluded that Bush had lost interest in flying, at
a time when Weaver said there were numerous active
duty pilots with combat experience eager to get flying
billets in Guard units.

Weaver, after looking over Bush's light duty load
between May 1972 and May 1973, said he doubted that
Bush would have been proficient enough to return to
the F-102 cockpit. "I would not have let him near the
airplane," Weaver said. If there was evidence that
Bush's interest in the Guard had waned, Weaver said,
then it would have been acceptable for Bush's
commanders to "cut their losses" and grant him an
early release rather than retain a guard pilot who
could no longer fly.

McGinnis said he, too, thought it possible that Bush's
superiors considered him a liability, so they decided
"to get him off the books, make his father happy, and
hope no one would notice."

But McGinnis said there should have been an
investigation and a report. "If it didn't happen, that
shows how far they were willing to stretch the rules
to accommodate" then-Lieutenant Bush.

In an interview Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Bush
put no limitations on what information would be
released to the public. On several occasions, Bush
offered broad assurances that he was willing to open
his entire military record, as Senator John McCain and
retired General Wesley K. Clark had done previously.
Asked by the show's host, Tim Russert, if he would
authorize the release of "everything to settle this,"
Bush's response was emphatic: "Yes, absolutely."

At yesterday's press briefing, McClellan accused those
who continue to question the president's National
Guard service of "gutter politics" and "trolling for
trash" in a political campaign season.

Asked if the same was true in 1992 when Bush's father
criticized Governor Bill Clinton for not releasing his
military records, stoking the controversy around
Clinton's active avoidance of the Vietnam War draft by
calling him "Slick Willie," McLellan replied, "I think
that you expect the garbage can to be thrown at you in
the 11th hour of a campaign, but not nine months
before Election Day."

The sensitivity of questions about the president's
military service was on display on Capitol Hill
yesterday. In an unusually rancorous response,
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell took Ohio
Democratic Representative Sherrod Brown to task at a
House International Relations Committee hearing for
saying that Bush "may have been AWOL."

"Mr. Brown, I won't dignify your comments about the
president, because you don't know what you're talking
about," the former Joint Chiefs chairman and Vietnam
veteran said. "If you want to have a political fight
on this matter, that is very controversial, and I
think is being dealt with by the White House, fine.
But let's not go there."

Sacha Pfeiffer, Bryan Bender, and Michael Rezendes of
the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

Posted by richard at February 12, 2004 07:17 PM