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February 6, 2004

Everybody knows. The always-wonderful Charles Pierce, writing to Eric Alterman’s un-permalinked Altercation, reminisces about his father’s experiences in World War II:
After a scary couple of years in the North Atlantic at the beginning of WWII, my father got transferred to a ship bound for the forward areas of the Pacific. Once there, he told me he met at least three guys who claimed to have lost money playing poker with the young Lt. Nixon, who was one of the most notorious cardsharps in the Pacific Theater. (One of Bravo’s True Tales Of The West Wing concerns the youthful Dick’s way with a deck on deck.) Further, he also met about 10 guys who claimed to know guys who got similarly fleeced.

My point is this. The forward areas of the Pacific were, I think we can all agree, a slightly more chaotic and random duty station than was, say, Air National Guard billet in Alabama in the early 1970s. Yet, by his own reckoning, my father met at least 13 guys claiming at least a secondhand acquaintance with a future president of the United States. By contrast, the Republicans can’t find one single person who remembers encountering the young C-Plus Augustus in peaceful Alabama as the age of Aquarius faded.


They apparently can’t even find anyone who saw him in the Piggly Wiggly, let alone in the cockpit of a jet fighter.

They apparently can’t even find one barracks braggart to come out and lie about it.

They apparently can’t even find anyone who’ll do it just for the reward money.

That is the ground on which I call bulls**t on every bit of Republican spin on this story. You lied. You’re still lying. You buried the documentary evidence. Admit it and move along, please.

As many people have pointed out, every Presidential candidate with a military record in the past several decades has released those records to the public as a matter of course. Except for George W. Bush. Why is this? Oh, come on. Everybody knows. [02:32 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Everybody knows.:

koizumi ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 03:08 PM:

Apparently, there is some evidence that the original military records were "scrubbed" and the "torn document" inserted and that these actions were done recently.

Isn't shredding government documents a crime? Isn't adding a fabicated document to an official government file a crime? Didn't SOMEONE commit a crime here? Am I missing something?

Isn't this a crime?

Michael Froomkin ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 03:43 PM:

Three almost unrelated comments

1. That's one of my favorite songs

2. Following the links from the site that had the lyrics in search of the "free" mp3 brought me to a place that (if you read the whole TOS carefully) planned to install the most outrageous spyware, which also changes homepage, flashes ads at various times, and does other nefarious things. DON'T INSTALL THEIR "PLUGIN"!

3. Why exactly GW Bush won't release those records is mysterious. I have some pure speculation, though.

Ricky ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 03:48 PM:

I think the tin foil hats are on a little tight.

Jelly ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 03:59 PM:

Maybe young Mr. Bush just wasn't as good at poker as young Mr. Nixon...

Ain't no law against being boring and dull.

cheem ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 04:12 PM:

Yeah, that link is pretty nasty. If you don't have admin rights and are running IE on Win2k, it goes straight to a "Download Aborted -- You must click YES." dialogue window loop. What gives? Bastards. Now I have to CTRL-ALT-DEL out of explorer.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 04:15 PM:

Ricky --

What tinfoil hat?

Name another presidential candidate in the last forty years who didn't release their military records if they had them. It's just one of the things that candidates do to demonstrate their fitness for public office.

The only presidential candidate in modern times who hasn't released his service records is George W. Bush, which is pretty much equivalent to a confession by George W. Bush that wrongdoing took place.

You can argue that he's a pulling idiot if you want, and that he'd rather take the political damage from the speculation that he was a deserter (no one has been able to dispute he was seven months AWOL; at the time, six months AWOL counted as desertion) rather than admit to some minor failing that troubles his vanity if you like, but that argument for miserable political judgement constitutes special pleading.

The simple, straightforward, uncomplicated explanation is that George W. Bush at a minimum deserted his post in time of war, got away with this illegal act through family pull, lavishly applied, and doesn't think that reflects on his moral character or suitablility to be Commander in Chief.

David W. ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 04:59 PM:

Here's the multi-media version:


It rocks.

Ricky ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 05:46 PM:

Last year it was 'blood for oil'.
The year before it was 'PNAC empire'.
The year before it was 'Bush knew!'.
A decade ago it was starving children & poisoning the water.
Now it's "AWOL/deserter!".

The only question is what the next "we don't really hate them, just their policies" type hyperbole will be put forth.

Remember the folks hawking the "Clinton Chronicles" video? Blaming Clinton for multiple deaths/drugs/whatever? That mentality is still alive, it's just switched sides.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 06:23 PM:

The "Clinton Chronicles" tripe could be debunked with a minimum of scrutiny.

So could the "Bush AWOL" story.

So why not get it out of the way? Why not produce the records and have it done with?

I'll even pass my tin foil hat on to a needy dittohead. They'll be needing them starting next January.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 07:42 PM:

Graydon said to Ricky:

"Name another presidential candidate in the last forty years who didn't release their military records if they had them."

Notice that Ricky didn't respond to that bit.

That's how it goes.

Everybody knows.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 07:46 PM:

(The lyric link on the main page has been changed to a different site, in order to reduce the danger of somebody getting their computer junked up with spyware. Thanks, Michael, for pointing this out...)

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 07:58 PM:

Ricky --

I don't know about you, but where I'm from, it's considered entirely socially acceptable to hate thieving, lying, cowardly incompetents.

When they're doing their best to ensure that there will be no survival of government, and in a way calculated to line their own purses in the bargain, I'd go so far as to call it virtuous to, if not hate them, then at least hang them for it.

And, again, so far as military service goes, Dubya's facts aren't in evidence; he won't put them in evidence. He's had minions doing their level best to lie, swindle, and intimidate to make sure those facts don't come into evidence.

That's an admission of guilt.

The public apprehension of guilt is, you know, good, laudable, upholding the rule of law and the finest American traditions of forthright politics -- all that stuff honest conservatives are unswervingly in favour of as matters of considered principle.

Patrick --

It's coming through a hole in the air,
from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
It's coming from the feel
that it ain't exactly real,
or it's real, but it ain't exactly there.
From the wars against disorder,
from the sirens night and day,
from the fires of the homeless,
from the ashes of the gay.
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Even Leonard Cohen isn't completely gloomy on the subject.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 08:14 PM:

Ricky, you want to argue facts? Present them.

What you just posted there is an empty argument. Or rather, it's not an argument at all. You've stacked up a bunch of unattributed slogans, only some of which I even recognize. You haven't explained how they connect to this issue, or to anything that's been said here. They say nothing. They prove nothing.

If you believe that the only reason any of Bush's policies are questioned is that the people doing the questioning are possessed by some kind of bizarre irrational hate -- well, first, you're stupid. Second, you're unobservant. Third, you're amazingly gullible. Fourth, you are not going to be dissuaded, because the only reason anybody ever believes a thing like that is because they want to.

Have you actually read any of these reports and analyses? I mean real ones. The matter of GWB going AWOL is hardly a new story. It was raised well before the 2000 election, as were questions about his mysteriously disappearing and reappearing documentation. The national news media have semi-miraculously remembered that this story exists, and have noticed that there've been new developments in it, but it's hardly something drummed up on short notice.

Jelly, there are only three problems with that observation. One is that young men who're so "boring and dull" that none of their supposed buddies even remember meeting them don't usually go on to hold high office. Another problem is that by all accounts, GWB is a personable and memorable guy. That's not something the Personality Fairy magically wishes on previously "boring and dull" young men. The third problem is that people who were around GWB in other contexts during that period do remember him.

If nobody remembers GWB's service in Alabama, it's because he wasn't there.

Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 09:08 PM:

Am I the only person who read that lyric and got mentally cross-linked to Neil Young?

Bush could have stopped all this speculation in five minutes by releasing his military record. The only plausible reason for withstanding this speculation and stonewalling on the records is that the speculation isn't as bad as what's in the records.

Ricky ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 09:22 PM:

Ricky, you want to argue facts? Present them.
Honorable discharge.
The official document.

well, first, you're stupid.
Well, I guess you told me. After all, it's extremely difficult for someone sitting at their PC to call someone 'stupid', but I guess that's payback for my mocking the tin-foil hat theories.

Thing is, I have academic credentials to back me up and on the other side we have the aforementioned honorable discharge and loony conspiracy theories that the likes of Michael Moore pushes (btw, if you think I'm a GOP shill, you're sadly mistaken).

Keep throwing mud up against the wall, folks. Maybe something will stick.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 09:33 PM:

Actually, Teresa didn't call Ricky "stupid." She postulated that if he really believed a certain thing, one would have to conclude that he's stupid.

Personally, I think that to believe one could get away with such a clunky attempt at misrepresentation when arguing with Teresa, you'd have to be kind of...let's see, what's the word...

Emma ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 09:40 PM:

Ricky, the last resort of the person losing an argument is to fall back on credentials. Theresa and Patrick have credentials up the yingyang, so do I, and I would venture to say so do a large number of folks who visit this site. Besides, I know a number of frightfully stupid PhDs!

The problem with the honorable discharge is that if he got the appointment dishonorably, by using his father's influence to vault over other candidates, how difficult could it have been to use the self-same influence to get the "exit visa"?

Ricky ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 09:43 PM:

Actually, Ricky didn't say Teresa called him stupid, he said that it's easy for someone to sit at their PC and do that.

See how easy it is to word parse for no reason? And I can be quite the smartass as well, were I to want that. But, I really don't. I was just putting forth an opinion that obviously goes against the grain of tin-foil hat conspiracies.

Jeez, lighten up. I said it was payback for my going overboard. No need to go Usenet on me. I'll leave. I can tell when back-slapping is wanted instead of debate. You guys have fun amongst yourselves.

Have a nice life (I really did like the site, btw....no joke) & best wishes. I mean that.

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 09:44 PM:

Ricky, I don't think anyone disputes that Bush received an honorable discharge. If the best you can do is to demolish a straw man, that suggests you don't really have much of a case.

What evidence is there that Bush in fact carried out his military duties? Why won't he allow his military records to be released? I honestly would like to know if you have any information about either question, but I'm not holding my breath.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 09:58 PM:

Ricky is the sort of drive-by operator who hopes he can provoke someone into playing Lisa Simpson to his Bart.

I liked the part where he whipped out his "academic credentials," too. Overcompensate much?

Daniel Mark Stockman ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 10:04 PM:

Hope the door smacks your ignorant ass on the way out, Ricky-poo.

(apologies for the descent into playground-cant; it is, after all, the only thing he understands)

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 10:19 PM:

Honorable discharge? You're not serious, right?. All that could prove would be that GWB was issued an honorable discharge. It wouldn't speak to the matter of where he was when he should have been at his post, nor why the documentation is not only weird and incomplete but in places appears to be changeable, nor why this whole question -- which during any other administration would be a very simple matter of checking his military record -- has been at the center of a years-long campaign of defensive obfuscation by Bush's operatives.

Sorry, guy. That's like saying that getting a receipt at the cash register on your way out proves that you didn't strip bare-ass naked and climb up on top of the seasonal display racks to have simulated sex with a battery-operated Picachu stuffy while you were in the store.

It isn't sufficient to simply have an argument. It's also necessary that the argument be strong, valid, and relevant, and that it address the issues at conflict. Or have you gotten so used to swallowing spoon-fed codswallop that you've forgotten that arguments must be judged, and weighed against each other, and tested for validity?

Don't give yourself airs, Ricky. You're no mighty warrior in the cause of truth and right, nor a clever rogue, nor a daring gadfly; and I can't imagine anyone, ever, feeling threatened by your posts.

I get a lot of spam. Perhaps I could forward some of it to you? You might find it helpful.

Onward. Let us consider this matter of "academic credentials." What are yours, and how do they relate to this question, and by the way what special expertise do you have that's up to date?

"Academic credentials." Woo. Gotta love 'em. People with academic credentials can be so much fun. I once saw a person try to clinch an argument about which restaurant to go to by invoking their Master's in English.

One of the differences between my job at the house where I worked before I came to Tor, and the work I do now, is that the former involved rejecting material that was almost entirely written by people with academic credentials, and now only some of what I reject comes from academics.

My very favorite piece was by the Ph.D. who explained that everyone else in the history of the world had miscalculated the value of pi, and he was now going to Set Them Straight. I didn't fall off my chair laughing. That came when I read his explanation of the number theory behind his recalculation of pi.

Tell me again what your credentials are?

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 11:15 PM:

I have to admit that I did like one thing Ricky said. I'm occasionally subject to the delusion that some of the people I run into on the 'net are actually AIs -- like that "Lisa" program that does Rogerian therapy, only more advanced.

Ricky's signoff here was an almost perfect -- and almost perfectly content-free -- endpiece for occasions when the AI has stirred up an argument whose increasing complexity threatens to exceed his processing capacity. Consider:

Jeez, lighten up. I said it was payback for my going overboard. No need to go Usenet on me. I'll leave. I can tell when back-slapping is wanted instead of debate. You guys have fun amongst yourselves.

Have a nice life (I really did like the site, btw....no joke) & best wishes. I mean that.

It didn't actually connect with what preceded it, but it wouldn't be any more obviously irrelevant in any other online interaction -- and in some it might successfully create the appearance of relevance and connection.

That one goes into my collection.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 11:17 PM:

I was thinking something like that myself.

It's out of a toolbox of performance routines. What other people actually say barely matters.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 11:19 PM:

One has to approach these things structurally.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 12:29 AM:

So are there on-line circles where liberals make fools of themselves this thoroughly? I'd hate to feel like I was only getting one side of the story.

Or do liberals not write trollbots?

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 01:22 AM:


We don't write them, we breed them by having simulated sex with Pikachu stuffies.

(Sorry, it's been a long work week.)

Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 01:48 AM:

I think one think they're relying on is that people will link "honorable discharge" to "honor", while in reality you don't have to be all that honorable to get an honorable discharge.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 01:49 AM:

David, liberals have their characteristic follies, but that's not one of them.

Stefan, don't knock it. Those things really buzz.

Thersites ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 01:50 AM:

Last year it was 'blood for oil'.
The year before it was 'PNAC empire'.
The year before it was 'Bush knew!'.
A decade ago it was starving children & poisoning the water.
Now it's "AWOL/deserter!".

All of these are still operative, actually--with the exception of #4, and that's possibly only because I don't know what the heck it refers to.

Hey, I got credentials myself! This means I get to wear a ridiculous yet colorful medieval outfit during boring commencement ceremonies. Also, it entitles me to purchase a large regular coffee for only a buck fifty.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 04:05 AM:

"Poisoning the water" probably refers to the decision by the newly arrived Bush/Cheney administration to countermand the recommendations of a ten-year study by the EPA, confirmed by Bush's EPA director, to lower the allowable levels of arsenic in US drinking water. It's easy to forget how pettily heinous the Bush regime was even before The Big Terrible became their Reichstag Fire.

Dunno if "starving children" refers to anything specific.

Yehudit ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 04:08 AM:

Bush AWOL story at Factcheck.org.

Exhaustive look at the topic by Phil Carter, who is an expert military analyst and served in the National Guard himself:

Very looooong thread on the topic with many links to supporting documents, personal anecdotes of Guard service, political posturing on all sides, etc. Much hard information mixed in but not definite conclusions. Sort of like the WMD hunt.


Have fun.

Yehudit ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 04:15 AM:

PS I found all those links within the past 2 weeks during my usual blog reading. I know PNH reads different blogs than I do (although I would highly recommend bookmarking Phil Carter; he is honest and non-partisan and fact-based), but I would imagine you could have found at least a few supporting links yourself for your argument. One second-hand anecdote about WWII doesn't really put you in a position to sneer about what "everybody knows." (One of my favorite LC songs though. I especially liked how Atom Egoyan used it in "Exotica.")

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 05:32 AM:

I’ve been meaning to write about that FactCheck.org story on this matter. It’s pretty disappointing. Here are the nut grafs:

Records are lacking for that period. However, The Associated Press quoted two friends who worked with Bush in the Blount campaign as saying they recall him attending Air National Guard drills in Alabama. Joe Holcombe, described as a former Republican county chairman in Alabama, was quoted as saying, "It was pretty well-known that he was in the Guard while we worked on the campaign." And Emily Martin, who said she had dated Bush during the campaign, was quoted saying, "He told us that he was having to do his Guard duty in Alabama while he worked on the campaign."

Bush returned to Houston after the campaign, but never resumed flying. He spent 36 days on duty back in Houston in May, June and July of 1973, the Globe reported. Spokesman Bartlett told FactCheck.org that Bush made up for weekend drills he was too busy to attend in Alabama. "The bottom line is he met his minimum requirments for that year," Bartlett said.

The “two friends” bit is directly relevant to this thread, but there’s no link to the AP story (which seems to have run in The Houston Chronicle, 5 July 2000). I’ve no idea whether the friends were identified in the, if this might be a couple of buddies lying for Dubya, or what. I don’t know if the two friends are supposed to be friends on the base who saw him attend the drills, or friends on the campaign to whom Bush said he was going to attend the drills, but who never saw him actually do it. I assume the latter, since the article describes them as working on the Blount campaign, but there’s no way of knowing from the information we’re given.

The rest of the evidence in those two paragraphs is worthless. We’ve got two people saying that it was widely known the Bush was in the Guard — which is irrelevant to the point under contention. And we’ve got Bush’s own spokesman issuing a simple, blank denial. Not very impressive.

The Phil Carter link just states, in detail, what people have been saying in this thread — that the documentation must exist that would settle this argument, and it would be a trivial (and harmless, if Bush is in fact telling the truth) matter for Bush to have it released.

I’m also not very impressed with Bill Hobbes’s article, or the NGAUS one, but it’s 5:30 AM and I need some sleep, so I’m not going to go into detail about them now.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 08:05 AM:

If you want the detailed digging, go to Marty Heldt's collection of documents.

Or you could go to Orcinus, scroll down a bit -- my blog fu isn't strong, so there may be a way to get links to specific articles that I am not recognizing. There's three on the AWOL issues, most recently with Talking AWOL on Thursday, February 5th.

And, you know, Yehudit, there isn't anything ambiguous about this; Bush is admitting guilt by refusing to release the records of his service in contravention of custom.

It's strongly in the public interest to find out what he's guilty of, and the amount of criminality involved, but the question of there being some actual wrongdoing under that rock has been answered in the affirmative by George W. Bush.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 10:21 AM:

The specific Orcinus link that Graydon is looking for is here.

By and large, Orcinus is your go-to weblog if you want this kind of heavily-linked and footnoted documentation. Highly recommended.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 12:56 PM:

Last night, when I was chatting with Jim Macdonald, he made an interesting point: Bush can't have gotten an "honorable discharge". To quote his side of the conversation:

"Honorable discharge" indeed.

Are you aware that officers don't _get_ discharges?

Discharges, honorable or otherwise, are enlisted things.

Officers are separated, enlisted are discharged.

There's a great deal of confusion among f*cking civilians about the terms, like people calling a pistol a "gun," but there you are.

We still don't know where Ricky was getting his information -- you'd think someone with his glorious and special Academic Credentials would cite his sources -- but it can't have been authoritative.

Simon ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 02:11 PM:

I've read in a number of places that Bush got an honorable discharge. If that's not the proper term for what he got, what exactly did he get? (And yes, I suppose I could leaf through all those PDFs of documentation on my slow dial-up line for myself, but perhaps somebody else already has.)

Since we're all agreed, it seems - except for Ricky - on the import of all this, and since Charles Pierce in the original quote pointed out that "They apparently can’t even find one barracks braggart to come out and lie about it," allow me to wonder, just in passing, whether Nixon's reputation as a cardshark was exaggerated somewhere along the line. I would have thought that some physical deftness, along with the more obvious mental deftness, would be a requisite for this role. Yet stories of Nixon's extraordinary physical clumsiness with his hands, at least in later years, are legion. Indeed, a principal argument that Nixon didn't erase the 18-minute gap personally is that he couldn't possibly have displayed the coordination needed to operate the machine.

But maybe it is possible that a man who couldn't coordinate the punching of tape recorder buttons could adequately shuffle and deal cards. I'm the opposite: I can operate sound equipment, and type pretty fast, but I can't deal cards adequately, and can't shuffle a deck at all. Any thoughts on all this?

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 02:20 PM:

Let's say that Bush was in fact separated under honorable conditions.

I can see it happening, even given his AWOL status during the preceeding year.

Here he comes, near the end of his obligated service. He isn't career minded. Now his commanding officer has a choice: Either courtsmartial the SOB for being AWOL, or just sign the papers and get him out of there. (Assuming he knew Bush had been AWOL -- from his point of view a guy left to drill elsewhere for a year, the year's over and now he's back.) Now put yourself in that CO's shoes. Which would you rather do? Either way Bush is out of the National Guard, but one of those ways involves a couple of years of paperwork and time-consuming hearings and investigations on a rich and politically-well-connected man. I'd say his CO in Texas took the path of least resistance and separated George Bush's son the no-fuss no-muss way.

How about the CO in Alabama? Well, Bush wasn't his problem; he was the Texas guy's problem. Why get involved in an administrative hoo-hah? From his point of view a guy was supposed to show up, but never did. Maybe the guy's orders were changed? That sort of thing happens. Chasing down someone who never signed in is a low-priority task.

Could Bush be charged with desertion? No -- desertion is leaving with no intent of returning, yet Bush did return (at least long enough to pick up his papers on the way out the gate).

The worst Bush could be charged with is Article 86 (and possibly Article 133). Not worth the time and trouble to kick out a man who's already leaving.

alan ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 03:15 PM:

Except they could have kicked him into a full tour in Vietnam, as I understand it.

Elric ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 04:40 PM:

Come on guys. Even if pinned down with incontrovertible proof of his no-show status for however long, Bush's response will be the same as it was for the proof of his insider trading when he was still with the oil-company job his daddy got him. "So what? That's all in the past."

Isn't it nice that the proof of the trading disappeared until right after the statute of limitations expired? (And it's all a coincidence that daddy was the vice president and president in those years.)

Bush's pattern in those and other matters (drunken driving, alcohol abuse, executive capacity as evidenced by his business record and his time in the Texas executive mansion) has been to say "doesn't matter--that was before."

For some reason he says that and the media says "Oh, well, that's okay then." And they used to call Reagan the Teflon president.

Jon ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 05:54 PM:

Avram, here's the AP story from the Houston Chronicle (actually 4 July 2000), courtesy all-powerful LexisNexis:

Two friends, one in Florida, remember Bush serving in Guard.

DECATUR, Ala. -- Two friends who worked with Texas Gov. George W. Bush in a U.S. Senate campaign in Alabama more than 28 years ago say they remember him serving in the Alabama Air National Guard.

"It was pretty well known that he was in the Guard while we worked on the campaign," said Morgan County resident Joe Holcombe. He is former chairman of the Morgan County Republican Party.

"I remember one weekend he was not at a campaign staff meeting, and we were told that he was pulling National Guard duty."

The question of whether Bush actually served in the Alabama National Guard has become an issue in his campaign for president as the likely Republican nominee.

Bush was a member of the Air National Guard in Texas in 1972 when he came to Alabama for more than three months to serve as campaign manager for Winton "Red" Blount's unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign against Sen. John Sparkman.

Records show that Bush was granted permission to transfer his duties in the Texas Air National Guard to Alabama while he worked in the campaign.

Authorities said no documents exist that show he actually served on Guard duty while in Alabama.

But Holcombe and Emily Martin of Key Biscayne, Fla., said they remember Bush talking about being in the Guard.

"He told us that he was having to do his Guard duty in Alabama while he worked on the campaign," said Martin, a former Alabama resident. She said she dated Bush during the time he spent in Alabama.

"I remember he actually came back to Alabama for about a week to 10 days several weeks after the campaign was over to complete his Guard duty in the state," Martin said in a telephone interview with the Decatur Daily from her Florida home.

"We both were single at the time he was in Alabama, and we went out a lot," she said. "I have fond memories of those times. Although I never actually drove him to Guard duty, he told me that he went and there is no reason for me to believe that he did not go."

Holcombe and Martin were paid campaign workers in the 1972 election.

The issue of whether George W. Bush actually reported to duty in the Alabama Air National Guard came up when he visited Tuscaloosa last month.

"I was there on a temporary assignment and fulfilled my weekends at one time," Bush was quoted in a recent Associated Press story. "I made up some missed weekends. I can't remember what I did, but I wasn't flying because they didn't have the same airplanes. I fulfilled my obligations."

Holcombe said he came forward with his memories of Bush and the 1972 campaign after reading an Associated Press story that said Bush's campaign officials were looking for people who served with him to verify his story that he served in the Alabama Guard.

There, for what that's worth.

Also: to me (as a civilian) the discharge/separation thing is just semantics, but Jim's got me curious. An Unclesam Googling for "officer" and "honorable discharge" finds some documents that match up, some from military web sites, some from national guard web sites. For example, searching on Cammermeyer and "honorable discharge" finds the case of Col. Cammermeyer, who was honorably discharged from the Washington National Guard in 1992 for being a lesbian.

NelC ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 06:24 PM:

Simon --

If Nixon was on Dilantin for much of his presidency, as a recent biography claimed, then that might have had an effect on his dexterity. According to the above-referenced site, Dilantin can lead to ataxia, reduced co-ordination and motor tremours, amongst other problems.

Then again, perhaps he wasn't a cheat, merely very good at poker. I wonder how much evidence those who labelled him a card-sharp actually had. Maybe they were just sore losers (and bad players). Unlike some presidents that might come to mind, I don't think anyone ever accused Nixon of being stupid.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 06:56 PM:

Okay, but AFTER Nixon finished cleaning up on payday, he landed a job as (I think) Deputy Attorney General in Florida. His main assignment was to stop Cuban mobsters from smuggling counterfeit car tires into Miami. During his time in that position, he made no arrests.

When he turned up in California again, he seemed to have lots of $$$ to run for office. Was he the first President bought & paid for by the Mafia?

I have no citations on the above. It's all hearsay and double hearsay to me.

Anyone know more?

Poker, so far as I know, is not about shuffling. It's about knowing the odds, maintaining self-discipline, and , most crucial, reading other people's activity, inferred strategy, and "tells."

Nixon was famously poor at making small talk. But I believe he'd have been a superior poker player.

I doubt that Emperor Bush II could play high-level poker. After all, he doesn't believe in "fuzzy math."

So, with our "allies" who play chess, Bush isn't even playing poker. More like "Go Fish." Anyone have any WMDs? Go Fish!

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 07:40 PM:

"AFTER Nixon finished cleaning up on payday, he landed a job as (I think) Deputy Attorney General in Florida. His main assignment was to stop Cuban mobsters from smuggling counterfeit car tires into Miami. During his time in that position, he made no arrests."

I don't recall ever reading or hearing this, and every source I can find via a quick Google agrees: Nixon ran for Congress in California pretty much immediately upon being discharged from the Navy. There was no time spent in Florida, as a prosecutor, "deputy attorney general," or in any other capacity. It's possible I'm missing something, but I think you're simply confused.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 08:05 PM:

Sorry, guy. That's like saying that getting a receipt at the cash register on your way out proves that you didn't strip bare-ass naked and climb up on top of the seasonal display racks to have simulated sex with a battery-operated Picachu stuffy while you were in the store.

T: I just laughed so hard I woke up the cats and when I read it to Jordin he asked me to tell you that you'd either just made his day or given him nightmares for weeks. He isn't sure.


Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 08:10 PM:

Total Poker by David Spanier (1977) has a few pages on Nixon's poker career, mostly drawn from The Real Nixon by Bela Kornitzer (1960). There's no hint of cheating; apparently he was just good. The most interesting paragraph:

Why did Nixon pass over the traditional Quaker objections to gambling? The explanation given is that he needed the money. He improved his poker to such an extent that he won "a sizable amount." How much money there was in those games we don't know. But he did tell Stewart [a fellow officer who claims that he taught Nixon to play] that poker laid the foundations of his political career, because his winnings enabled him to finance his campaign against Congressman Jerry Voorhis.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 09:45 PM:

Patrick: You're right, the folks who passed on the story had it too distorted. There's a grain of truth, barely.

"... Though he expected to move into a large city firm, the onset of World War II drew him to Washington in January 1942, where he worked in the tire-rationing section of the Office of Price Administration. In August 1942 he joined the Navy as a lieutenant, junior grade. He served in New Caledonia with Naval Air Transport for most of the remainder of the war...."


"tire-rationing section of the Office of Price Administration" BEFORE the war is quite different from tire prosecuting AFTER the war.

Morals: (1) I was hasty in passing on a bad old rumor, without researching it first. (2) Liberals sometimes hated Nixon so much, that they wasted effort with such thin defamation, and with self-destructive tactics such as "Dump the Hump." These mistakes, as you've been writing, are happening NOW, with people who hate Bush so much that they argue poorly, and make weird decisions in primaries, that undermine efforts to do whatever necessary to defeat Bush in the general election.

I'm wrong, and admit it quickly. Thanks for forcing me to fact check, Patrick!

Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 10:41 PM:

First, I was in the Air Force and on flying status from 1966 to 1974 so I am familiar the routine for the period.

Anyone who entered the service at that time automatically had a six-year commitment to the Reserves. Bush was in the Reserves as an E-2 [Airman] with a job title of Apprentice Administrative Specialist, clerk for the civilians.

If you were drafted you had two years of active service and four years of inactive service. You received a separate discharge from the Reserves at the end of six years.

Bush received a direct appointment as a Second Lieutenant, which had no effect on his permanent rank as an Airman. Normally direct appointments are given to people with specialties; doctors, nurses, vets, lawyers; but Bush received one from the Texas Guard based on political connections and his choice for flying training.

Not showing up for service is not Bush's biggest problem. He failed to take his mandated flight physical and was grounded. He was no longer a qualified pilot and this action should have resulted in his reversion to his permanent rank and duties.

By failing to take that flight physical, he made himself worthless to the National Guard. He was in the Guard to fly, and he chose to stop.

Everything else is extraneous.

Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2004, 05:02 AM:

Another group which receives direct commissions in appropriate Reserve units: Hurricane Hunters. My sister received a direct commission as an officer when she joined the AFR Hurricane Hunters (she had previously flown with the National Hurricane Center Hurricane Hunters out of Miami as a civilian meteorologist). I know that at least one of the guys on the Weather Channel these days (Warren Something, I think) is an meteorological officer in the AFR Hurricane Hunters.

The reason for the direct commission, of course, is so that they will receive better POW treatment if shot down and captured by the Hurricane.

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2004, 11:00 AM:

Richard Nixon's name is black and spattered with blood. Secret bombings, the invasion of Cambodia, the overthrow of Allende, signing off on the invasion of East Timor, to say nothing of the plumbers, the Enemies List, dirty tricks and Watergate.

But it says something about the nature of poker that when I think of him in the Pacific Theater, I think, "Dick Nixon. Yeah, I would have loved to have played cards with Dick Nixon."

I'd love to play poker with the Shrub, too, but that's because having a rich kid who isn't to bright playing on Daddy's money is always good for the game.

Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2004, 12:15 PM:

I've noticed something about those "two friends" who are being invoked as evidence for Dubya's serving in the Guard: neither claims to have served with him. Rather, what we have here are two people who say that Bush told them he was in the Guard. (Actually, it's weaker than that: one says Bush told her, the other says that unnamed people told him this.)

One was working on a campaign with him. The other was dating him. Neither is described as seeing him on duty, and neither was a fellow member of the National Guard.

This isn't evidence of anything except that Dubya was trying to keep his story straight.

I suspect that, the weekend he missed a campaign meeting, he was off partying: a man who will weasel out of a commitment he's made to defend his country, and then make claims about having served later, isn't going to be above using that alleged service to go off drinking instead of attending a campaign meeting.

And yes, I know that Bush isn't technically a deserter, only a liar who went AWOL.

Two unrelated footnotes:

(1) I keep checking "don't make me type all this again" and still have to reenter my personal information.

(2) Looking at "How we'd reach you" I have a strong impulse to type my phone number instead of my email address.

alan ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2004, 12:42 PM:

I wonder if anyone out there might know a military lawyer who can speak to any actual disctinction between 'honorable discharge' and 'separation', because the President really aggressively insists on the term honorable discharge.

If he was courtmartialed and busted to private, I think that would explain the whole thing.

Hal O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2004, 01:16 PM:

Edward Steichen, one of the great photographers, organized a group of photographers to work for the Navy during WWII. If you look at the book Steichen at War, on page 161, in a photo by Victor Jorgensen from 1944, you'll see a bunch of sailors playing basketball on a lowered deck elevator on the aircraft carrier USS Monterey. One of the players is a tall skinny kid with sandy hair who looks vaguely familiar.

That would be Ens. Gerald R. Ford.

As to Mr. Bush's wartime record... I've related this on Calpundit before, and I know Avedon's quoted it, but it bears repeating. A joke I've been told by a currently-serving Army buddy:

Q: What's the difference between Jane Fonda and George W. Bush?

A: Hey, at least Jane went to Vietnam!

I won't go through the long litany of actions this Administration has taken that shows nothing but contempt for the common soldier. My point is, even if "Ricky" doesn't know about Mr. Bush's wartime record, the Poor Bloody Infantry does.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2004, 01:29 PM:

Although I have worked as a civilian contractor on many projects for U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force, I know very little about the matters discussed. But, googling around, I do see that:

"Separation papers" are a form (DD-214) that can show such things as dates of service, the military operations in which one served, and whether one has been awarded either the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal or the Vietnam Service Medal. Not, apparently, the same as "honorable discharge."

I was intrigued with the following:

"On appeal, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held that the term 'soldier' under the Act, entitling a veteran to ten points and, when on the certified list, automatic appointment over a non-soldier, requires that the applicant fulfill his or her full military 'service' commitment and receive an honorable discharge from such 'service.' The court reasoned that completion of only the training component of military service does not equate to having 'served in the armed forces' as required under the Act. The court reasoned that the purpose of the Act is to reward qualified veterans for their service to their country and this purpose is not served by rewarding preference to those applicants who complete only their training requirements. Accordingly, the court held that applicants who receive honorable discharge certificates prior to completing their full training and service commitment are not entitled to the same statutory preference; only those applicants who have been honorably discharged after completing both their military training and service obligations are eligible for statutory preference."

"In reaching its holding, the court reaffirmed its earlier decision in Herskovitz holding that applicants who completed their full training and service commitment in the Pennsylvania National Guard and/or U.S. Reserves qualified for veterans preference under the Act."

Reed Smith Public Sector Labor Update: Recent Court Decisions Limit the Veteran’s Preference Act

So is it the case that George W. Bush is one of those who NEVER "completed their full training and service commitment in the ... National Guard and/or U.S. Reserves" and, at least in Pennsylvania, would not qualify to call himself a former "soldier?"

Or, now that he's Commander in Chief, does he act as if he is AGAIN a soldier, but this time at the top?

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2004, 01:35 PM:

While I typed the above, this appeared:

Bush Defends Guard Duty After Democrat Attacks
Sun February 8, 2004 12:27 PM ET

(Page 1 of 2)
By Adam Entous
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush accused Democrats on Sunday of misrepresenting his record of attendance in the Air National Guard at the height of the Vietnam war, insisting "I did my duty" far from the front-lines although there may be no evidence.

Bush said the attacks -- by Democrats who have accused him of going absent without leave from the Guard -- were politically motivated.

While he did not name Democratic presidential front-runner and decorated Vietnam veteran John Kerry, Bush suggested that those stoking the controversy were denigrating the entire National Guard.

Unlike Kerry, Bush did not volunteer to serve in Vietnam. Instead he joined the Texas Air National Guard. "I flew fighters and enjoyed it, and we provided a service to our country," he told NBC's "Meet the Press."

Bush Defends Guard Duty After Democrat Attacks
Sun February 8, 2004 12:27 PM ET
By Adam Entous

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2004, 08:36 PM:

And yet another update posted today by someone who's looked into this far deeper than I:

An Absence in Alabama:
As Bush's military service re-emerges as an issue, here is what we know—and don't know

Time Magazine Online

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2004, 12:34 AM:

Kevin Drum digs up something . . . interesting:


Bush's last years of service may have been in the equivalent of after-school detention.

Unsupervised detention.

Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2004, 10:18 AM:

I had to type all that again. Wah.

Discharge as "proof." I always wondered if I could just take a box of stuff out of the store, and when they asked me for proof that I'd bought it, I'd just point to the bar code that says "proof of purchase." Seems similar somehow.

Interesting thing on the news: this morning, I heard someone on NPR confidently assert that W had released his records in 2000. To whom? Karl?

John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2004, 06:05 PM:

Coming in late, and exercising rampant speculation:

It occurs to me that there 's one explanation for all the confusion and spin-doctoring that would account for nearly all the evidence -- though not without raising its own questions. And it would make a certain amount of sense in terms of other elements of Bush family history....

Namely: maybe, just maybe, Bush Jr's National Guard records are fuzzy because Bush was doing Something Else at the time -- namely, working for the CIA as some flavor of spook. And the records that would prove that are classified, probably at an impressively high level.

On one hand, this would explain the fuzzy nature of such records as have turned up, and would also address the "nobody remembers him in Alabama" problem.

On the other, it's a little hard to imagine what Bush Jr. could have been doing for the CIA that would have been that highly classified -- though the very fact that someone that close to a Presidential family had been seconded to Spooksville might in itself have been regarded as ultra-sensitive.

Either way, it's an interesting theory....

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2004, 06:37 PM:

Oh, I think K.I.S.S. applies here: Either Bush was actually serving, quietly and unobtrusively, or he was off working on election campaigns and having a grand old time being a untouchable rich kid.

Hey, here's a theory: Bush got an HONORARY discharge. Kind of like an Honorary PhD. "Honorary, Honorable, what's the difference?"

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2004, 06:37 PM:

Nice idea, John, and it would make an interesting story, but unfortunately is isn't too likely. If Bush had been borrowed by the spooks, his record would be perfect.

The military runs the biggest intel shops (service intellegence branches, DIA, NSA) and the CIA covert action folks often will recruit military personnel for specialized needs. There is a well established set of rules for handling portions of a person's service record that are classified (which can include classified commendations and decorations as well as letters of repremand) -- the classified portion is witheld, but the personnel result, in particular the effect on pay and grade, will still be in the files. In the case of approved service outside DoD the person is "sheep-dipped" and dissapears for a while -- to reappear some years later back in service. A good example were all the 'civilian' pilots that flew for Air America, particulary those who 'quit', 'bought' thier 'surplus' aircraft, flew them to Laos to 'sell' them to an Air America subsidiary, then fly them in support of Hmong troope.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2004, 06:38 PM:

Whoops -- wrong button.

. . . then fly them in suport of Hmong troops.

JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2004, 06:39 PM:

WRT speculation that Bush Jr. might have been working for the CIA, if you think nepotism might've been behind it the dates don't match up. Bush Sr. was named DCI in January 1976, a couple of years after Jr. was out of the TANG.

Frankly, once you get past nepotism I don't see any reason for the CIA to *want* Bush Jr. At the time (and some might say even now), he had no particular qualifications for intelligence work (yeah, yeah, insert obvious remark here), and if he'd done anything along those lines I can't really see him keeping quiet about it this long.


Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2004, 11:41 PM:

I'm a bit disheartened by Bruce Baugh's speculation that Bush's military records might be fuzzy because he was really working for the CIA.

It's whimsical -- but with the public evidence that Bush was a tottering alcoholic in the period from 1972 to 1974, my guess is that you couldn't even sell that story to Mike Resnick.

Isn't it hard enough to discover the truth and get it out to the voting populace without spinning elegant cobwebs?

(Don't tell me -- the drunken screw-up routine could have been just a cover to protect his secret identity. Maybe you could sell that, if you were clever enough -- to a *fantasy* anthology.)

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 12:03 AM:

That was John Bunnell, not me. Admittedly one Portland sf fan guy may be indistinguishable from the next. :)

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 12:17 AM:

Oops. I apologize, Bruce.

I'm, perhaps, unduly wrought up at the concept of giving that impediment in the White House any additional fantasy build-ups. It behooves me to calm down and read more carefully before hitting the "Send" button.

John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 12:22 AM:

Claude Muncey:
Nice idea, John, and it would make an interesting story, but unfortunately is isn't too likely. If Bush had been borrowed by the spooks, his record would be perfect.

Heh. I'll grant that the CIA explanation is more whimsical than likely (Lenny may have bobbled the attribution, but he clearly captured the tone).

OTOH, this particular dismissal of the theory runs into the Selective Ineptitude Fallacy. If one argues that the CIA is utterly and incurably inept (as evidenced by its being taken in by bogus reports of WMD in Iraq), it hardly seems fair to argue that the same CIA would be dead-bang perfect in framing a cover for one of its better-politically-connected young spooks back in the day.

Indeed, one could argue persuasively -- if one follows the line that the CIA is terminally inept -- that the very shakiness of the military records is a fair indicator that they're a botched CIA smokescreen designed to conceal whatever it was that Bush Jr. was doing instead of Not Flying Planes for the Alabama Guard.

This doesn't make the theory any less whimsical, but I'd say it's at least as plausible as some of the other Evil Conspiracy alternatives....

alan ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 04:49 PM:

That would just show that the CIA are great at covering their asses and terrible at uncovering anyone elses.

It's more reasonable to speculate that W crashed his airplane while drunk or coked up.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 06:25 PM:

George W. Bush, s —

George W. Bush, s-s-super —

Superspy G —

Superspy George W. —

— I just can’t get the words out. It’s like trying to push the positive poles of two magnets together.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 07:57 PM:

On the face, Bush could've been held to be AWOL.

But that wouldn't preclude an honorable discharge. Absent actual proceedings to discharge someone for an offense, they will get the default characterization of service, which is, "honorable."

Things like a Bad Conduct Discharge require a specific type of court martial (the BCD Special Court Martial, or a General Court Martial). A Summary, or a Special Court Martial cannot impose one.

So people who point to the characterisation of his discharge as being proof of his legitimate performance of his obligation, are mis-informed.

Lots of people go AWOL, and it never really hurts them, so long as they come back. The 36 days of duty are indicative (as 39 days per annum is the present obligation 2 days per month, plus 15 days of Annual Training) of his not having been to drill for the previous year.

And that would mean, whether he was charged or not he was AWOL.

Terry K

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2004, 11:34 PM:

Also, anybody who pulls the 'he got an honorable discharge so he couldn't have been AWOL' is forgetting how Bush got in, the fact that he was commissioned right out of basic training, selected for flight training over many others, and not hassled about the whole 'missing the flight physical and getting grounded' thing.

tomb ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 02:29 AM:

This morning I saw Richard Cohen's column in the Merc: Everyone knew how to dodge Vietnam War -- including Bush

It's a first person story, not without some humor, of Cohen's less than stellar service in the Guard. He spent a good deal of time away from his unit, but still managed to get an honorable discharge.

To show you what a mess the Guard was at the time, I even got paid for all the meetings I missed.

So the White House is releasing the pay records for the missing year. As if that is going to prove anything. I don't think there's much they can do, so expect blustery weather fora while.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 12:52 PM:

Thanks, tomb.

That could have been titled:

"How to get an honorary discharge without really trying."

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 02:51 PM:

Everybody knows? Hmm. Someone ought to tell this guy.


Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 03:13 PM:

Total Poker by David Spanier (1977) has a few pages on Nixon's poker career, mostly drawn from The Real Nixon by Bela Kornitzer (1960). There's no hint of cheating; apparently he was just good. The most interesting paragraph:

Why did Nixon pass over the traditional Quaker objections to gambling? The explanation given is that he needed the money.

If I were asked that question the need for money wouldn't be enough (after all, the way Quakers explain the disapproval of gamblng is that it's money for nothing, so need doesn't enter the equation) to answer it.

That he had decided to join the military might be a more telling point. His Quakerism (which I am told was of the "programmed" variety) was not strong enough to keep him from enlisting/allowing himself to be drafted.

This isn't as amazing as it might seem, since about 25 percent of young Quakers allowed themselves to be drafted/enlisted.

Which, perforce, caused their meetings to expell them.

Terry K

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 03:45 PM:

"Someone ought to tell this guy."

The gentleman eloquently defends the honor of serving in the National Guard, and notes that he proudly wore the same squadron patch as Bush . . . but notice that his service with Bush doesn't include the disputed time in Louisiana.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 04:00 PM:

Sorry, Alabama.

aha ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 08:30 PM:

...and, John Farrell:
"This Guy"-- COL. WILLIAM CAMPENNI (retired) U.S. Air Force/Air National Guard Herndon, Va.5
gets two Google hits.

aha ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 08:36 PM:

NAXT (not that there's anything wrong with that)

Stefanie Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 10:13 PM:

You may want to take Campenni's letter with a bit o' salt:

Check out Atrios.

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2004, 12:46 PM:

Officers are separated, enlisted are discharged.

Err, I hate to disagree with Jim M., but he's right and wrong.

There's a difference between discharge and seperation. An elisted man is discharged when they have completed, fully, thier service. When you are discharged, the military no longer has any control over you. You're done.

Seperated is something else entirely. Many people who signed up for six-year enlistments do two or four years active duty, and then are seperated from the Active Service, and serve the remainder of the term from the reserves. When they complete that, they are seperated from the reserves (in whatever form they may have been -- Active, NG, Inactive, whatever.) and then discharged from the service. They may then choose to enlist in the NG -- this is an enlistment, not a reenlistment, since, once discharged, they are no longer part of the services. (you enlist if you are a civilian, reenlist if you are enlisted.)

Officers, of course, are different. Regular officers are commisioned, and remain so until they resign, they are stripped of thier commision by a court marshal, or, for reservists, the comission is voided by some action. Officers of the regular service hold comissions for life, unless stripped or resigned. Reserve officers, however, may be enlisted, and then comissioned, thier enlistments drop into abeyance. Reserve officers serve at the pleasure of the armed forces, as opposed to Regular officers, who serve until retirement.

Note that a retired officer is still an officer in commission, assigned to the Inactive Reserves. Most regular officers who do not make flag rank are forced retired when passed for promotion three times. They are still, however, commissioned.

However, what of Bush? If he was AWOL, he may have been found guilty and stripped of his reserve commission. Since he was a direct commissioned flight officer, his comission may have been voided when he lost flight status. Doctors in direct comisssion who lose the right to practice will have thier comissions voided and be discharged as enlisted men -- they return, automatically, to the enlisted rank they hold when they are no longer in comission.

He would have reverted to an elisted rank (usually, for direct commisions, E-2, Airman) and then discharged. If the voiding was for administrative reasons, he would have be dischared with an Honorable Discharge. If he was voided for cause, it would have been a General or Other-than-Honorable discharge, with either "under honorable circumstances" or "under general circumstances attached.

It is almost certain that he did *not* get a Dishonorable or Bad Conduct discharge, such can only be made by action of a court marshall. He wouldn't have had his enlistment voided or gotten an Entry Level (unclassified) discharge, such are only granted to enlisted personell in the first six months (the former means that you were never enlisted at all -- women who find out they were pregnant when they enlisted often have them voided, which does not bar them from reenlistment. The latter often does bar.)

What Erik Want To Know: What is Bush's RE code on his discharge forms? I'm betting it's a RE-4F or RE-4H, or possibly a RE-4K or RE-4M. In order, that's "5 or more days lost time", "Serving suspended punishment to Art 15", " Medically disqualified for continued svc; or pending evaluation by MEB/PEB", and "Breach of enlistment/reenlistment agreement." The dammning thing there is that 4 code, which means, "Do not allow reenlistment into the Air Force, bar from enlistment into any other service."

Of course, it would be damming enough to see a RE-2B "Discharged under General or other-than-honorable conditions" I serously doubt that it's anything in the 1 series, which is "eligible to re-enlist" (2 is "not AF, but other services OK." 3 is "Needs waiver, otherwise bar." 4 is "barred from any service.")

Tom McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2004, 03:37 PM:

Ww. Rchrd Nxn ND Grg W. Bsh n n pst. mprssv! t's fn wtchng ll th flks wh sd n th Clntn yrs tht mltr srvc ddn't rll mttr fllng ll vr thmslvs nw t tll ch thr t Ws Vry Bg Dl ndd.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2004, 06:27 PM:

Tom McMahon, as you very well know, it's not about the military service. It's about the FAKING of military service and the coverup of his military service record, or lack of same. It's about the gung-ho tough guy in the flight suit, who has been treating our military and their families like shit.

But you know all that. You're just being snide, as you were in your other post on this weblog.

Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2004, 09:03 PM:

Honorable discharge, honorable discharge, where have I heard that phrase before...


But that was all after the honorable discharges, right?

Well..., yes and no:


Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2004, 09:24 PM:

"So people who point to the characterisation of his discharge as being proof of his legitimate performance of his obligation, are mis-informed."

NPR's Don Gagne just slid over this point. Feh.

alan ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2004, 11:04 AM:

Erik Olson deserves a medal for that. What I've been looking for for a week.

Tom McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2004, 08:18 PM:

Xopher, are you just jealous because George W Bush in a flight suit resonated the quality of leadership with the American public? Maybe the reason he looked so good in a flight suit was because he had been an actual fighter pilot.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2004, 03:32 PM:

[snickers at Tom McMahon, tries not to laugh out loud]

Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2004, 03:49 PM:

Now, Xopher, try and be sympathetic. Just think how hard it must be to have a proper perspective on these issues from down there under the bridge.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2004, 04:27 PM:

Dan, I'm definitely taking a billy-goat-gruff position...

Tom McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2004, 06:45 PM:

Frm wht s hr, gss drg-ndcd ggglng s th strtg t b sd whn y cn't cntr n rgmnt. ntrstng . . .

Temperance ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2004, 10:03 PM:

I was a Nixon-hater from the getgo, but I don't think anybody ever claimed that he was a cheat at poker -- just that he was scarily good at it, which makes sense when you consider how smart he was. A jerk, a crook, sure; but smart. The term "card sharp" is defined in my Webster's 9th as "someone who habitually cheats at cards," but I don't think most people actually look it up, and the term gets used much more loosely ... as do far too many terms in this age of bad grammar. Anyway, Patrick's original point is well taken!

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 07:36 PM:

Quibble. Court Martial, not Court marshall (who might be a referree of some sort :)

Mr. McMahon: Speaking as one who does think (and did, though not as you did) that one's military service matters, allow me to say that Clinton's method of avoiding the draft bothers me less than the apparant method Bush used to avoid going.

Clinton, as did Bush, massaged the system to get what he wanted (i.e. to not serve). Clinton did this by declaring he opinions on taking a comission. Yes, he did so when the odds of his being drafted were slim, but he took a public stand, and held to it.

When questioned on the issue he addressed it. The letters are, and were, available for all to see.

The current president said he, "never really thought about the war," while he was at Yale.

The then took advantage of family friends to get a direct commission and thence to flight school. Good on him for the flight school. Flying jets is dangerous, learning to fly them is not trivial.

If he went AWOL, that was 30 years ago, he was a different man. Had he fessed up to it. Put it down to youthful irresponsibilty, drink (or drugs); habits he has long since put by, it would be as nothing.

But he didn't. He cavalierly tossed it aside in the last election (while those who were stumping for him mocked the time Al Gore served in Viet-nam, as an enlisted soldier), and when pressed on it now has not been forthcoming with the documents (see above on the public nature of Clinton's stand).

No, every last thing has been pulled out like teeth from an unwilling patient. "I got an honorable discharge. Next question."

And that is a character issue. I don't expect my leaders to be perfect. I don't really think tha a personality which is large enough to not only enjoy the excercise of power, but to also seek it out is going to belong to an Aurelius (though I can hope).

I do expect that person, at the very least when confronted, to face up to his mistakes, admit them, explain them (if he has too) and move forward.

He hasn't. He's been a petulant whiner, with his mouthpiece claiming, "gutter politics," as though 1: that were something new, and 2: his campaign isn't going to allow people to do such things for him.

That sort of thing is what I think matters.

Terry K.

Tom McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 09:30 PM:

Terry, if George W Bush was AWOL, then some proof needs to be provided by those making the charge. Just making the accusation by itself is not sufficient. And to this date they have not done so. And whatever evidence is provided, there are always further "questions". A perfect witch hunt. (And if you bring this up around here, they take away all your vowels! :-)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 10:19 PM:

Some distinctions.

Arguing about what constitutes evidence and/or proof: okay.

Cutely implying that people who disagree with you are on drugs: not okay.

Suggesting that Rivka is fit only for "mindless computer games": also not okay.

Another useful distinction:

Occasionally wandering into abusive language after contributing lots of good insights and conversation: highly forgivable.

Showing up out of nowhere and posting seven comments in quick succession, five of which are indisputably personal attacks on a particular individual or group: tiresome and liable to get your ass kicked out.

We like conservatives hereabouts. We daresay the above expresses a genuinely conservative attitude toward politeness, house rules, and personal responsibility.

I hope this clears up any misunderstandings. But if it doesn't, that's your problem.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 05:27 PM:


I've been here awhile... I've seen more than a few people use language more severe than "witch hunt," and not lose their vowels.

Given the level of heat on some of the discussions, I have to say that the odds are against the mere content disagreeing with prevailing opinion, or being heatedly defended.

It's usually because someone gets personal, in a way that might have merited my friends calling on your friends to arrange for a civil murder.

No doubt you see it differently.

As for the AWOL... The records Bush released show a gap, where service was not performed.

His, steadfast, failure to report for his physical is a violation of a direct order (Art. 92, UCMJ), his admission that he went to Alabama before he got permission (IIRC, after permission was denied, because the training was not equivalent) would have been both a violation of an order, and AWOL.

That he was not charged, that he got the default discharge, all are immaterial.

And, as I said above, none of that would matter, had he not made such a big deal about accounability, and responsibilty, and ethics being brought back to Washington.

If he had confessed to his failures, when asked, I could let it slide. Heck, I might even have given him points (as B. O'Reilly got when he said there were no WMDs, and he was wrong to have been so adamant that there were).

I confess, I do not care for the man. Some of it is personal, as Xopher's attitudes on Bin Laden are.

I have done my very best to divorce my feelings, from the effects of his Middle Eastern Peccadillo on my life, and the lives of those I know, care about and love, from how I look at this issue.

But the facts seem plain... he skipped out on some of his service, and refuses to cop to it.


Terry K.

Tom McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 02:13 PM:

Patrick, I was dead serious about what I said wrt to Rivka:

If Rivka can't handle Peggy Noonan, then maybe Rivka shouldn't be reading Peggy Noonan. A mindless computer game might be just the ticket. No reason for self-induced stress!

If reading a relatively white-bread columnist like Peggy Noonan caused such an extreme reaction in him, then maybe his high-stress job at the HIV Clinic is taking more out of him than he realizes. There's absolutely no shame in that at all. And maybe what he needs is simply some "down time". No shame in that, either.

And did this response deserve the vowel elimination treatment?:

Thanks, Rivka, I appreciate the complement, I suppose. If Peggy Noonan upsets you this much, then for goodness sake please don't read any Ann Coulter. You could have a stroke.

While Julia's response didn't?:

Um, yo, Tom?

Couth. Catch it.

That's NOT a personal attack? Or Xopher's:

[snickers at Tom McMahon, tries not to laugh out loud]

That's NOT a personal attack either? Or Dan Layman-Kennedy's:

Now, Xopher, try and be sympathetic. Just think how hard it must be to have a proper perspective on these issues from down there under the bridge.

Not a personal attack, either, I suppose.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 03:29 PM:

Tom, when I launch a personal attack on you, you will know. It will be unmistakeable.

If people are being silly, as you were when you suggested I was jealous of Dubya in his flight suit with a rolled-up sock down the front, I will laugh at them. Particularly if a) the silliness was a laughably lame attempt to make me angry, and b) said people have already been rude to others in the same thread.

I can't speak for Dan, but if someone is acting like a troll, I think it's not unjustified to call that person a troll, directly or by implication. The way to defend yourself against being thought a troll is...well, just for example, you could acknowledge that Terry has now explained to you that Bush was AWOL, and that that fact is not in dispute even by Dubya himself.

You also commit another fallacy (this is not evidence of trollery in itself): you assume that the standard of proof for common discourse is the same as the standard for conviction in a criminal trial. This is nonsense; we're chiefly talking opinions here. In addition, we're talking about something Bush could easily demonstrate if it were, in fact, true: that he served his time in the Guard. The fact that he was paid is not in dispute (have you ever heard of a "no-show job"?); the fact that he was never given a court martial for being AWOL is not in dispute. Neither is evidence that he actually showed up.

Think of this as a civil case: each side presents its evidence, and based on the preponderance of the evidence the jury (that's us) decides on a verdict, and assign a penalty -- in votes, not money.

Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 03:52 PM:

Well, justified or not, that was a bit snarky of me, and possibly out of line. In which case I'll take my disemvowelling with the proper humility.

Though I will say this, Tom: Your recent posts hereabouts, if not actually personal attacks, certainly come across as shots being taken - although that could simply be the sound of the point being missed with great enthusiasm.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 04:59 PM:

Tom McMahon, to repeat what I've already posted in your weblog,

Good lord, what airs you do put on. You lost your vowels in Electrolite for the exact same reason anyone else loses them: you were being rude, and a jerk, and you weren't being the least bit entertaining about it.

And, like at least nine out of ten (maybe nineteen out of twenty) people to whom this happens, you're sure it happened because we couldn't cope with your daring, challenging, terribly original, and unanswerably well-stated ideas.

See me here, yawning. What a dweeb.

Believe me, it had nothing to do with your ideas, or your arguments, or your politics, such as they are. The objection was purely personal.

Tom McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 07:34 PM:

Xopher and Dan, Thanks for your comments. You both sound like decent folks, really. Forgive me if I was mean to you. And Teresa, I have to say that "disemvowelling" thing you got here works great. Thanks for the idea!

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 07:46 PM:

Tom McMahon, it's clear you're not hanging around here for an intellectually interesting exchange of views. Quite the contrary, your very first comments were personal and unpleasant, and you've continued the streak.

The fact that you've managed to provoke some people into being rude to you in return doesn't really justify your behavior. Now leave, please.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2004, 12:18 PM:

If Bush reverted to a permanent rank of E2, then "discharge" is the right word to apply to his end of service.

Tom McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2004, 01:21 PM:

Will do, Patrick. Now that Nader's in the race, this whole discussion is moot anyway. :-)