Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Texas Lieutenant Governors For Truth

If you can't be home tonight at 8:00pm ET, then set your Tivo, or for the technologically lagging, your VCR, in order to record 60 Minutes II airing on CBS. Tonight's episode will feature an interview with former Texas Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes. During this interview, Barnes is expected to recount how he used his position to pull strings in order to help a young man gain entry into the Texas Air National Guard. The story is significant for a number of reasons. First the young man in question is none other than George W. Bush. Second, Bush has repeatedly denied allegations that he got his Guard spot because of preferential treatment, which is contradicted by Barnes' account. Third, the evidence, including the fact that "Bush was jumped ahead of a nationwide waiting list of 100,000 Guard applicants, while achieving the lowest possible passing grade on his pilot aptitude test for would-be fliers, and listing "none" as his background qualifications," supports Barnes.

Here is Barnes' take on the matter, via (a free one day pass to the site is available if you watch a brief web ad):

"Let's talk a minute about John Kerry and George Bush, and I know them both...I got a young man named George W. Bush into the Texas National Guard when I was lieutenant governor, and I'm not necessarily proud of that. But I did it. I got a lot of other people in the National Guard because I thought that was what people should do when you're in office, and you help a lot of rich people."

"And I walked to the Vietnam Memorial the other day," Barnes continued, "and I looked at the names of the people that died in Vietnam, and I became more ashamed of myself than I have ever been, because it was the worst thing I ever did, was help a lot of wealthy supporters and a lot of people who had family names of importance get into the National Guard. And I'm very sorry about that, and I'm very ashamed, and I apologize to you as voters of Texas."

Barnes then condemned the Republican attacks on John Kerry's war service: "And I tell you that for the Republicans to jump on John Kerry and say that he is not a patriot after he went to Vietnam and was shot at and fought for our freedom and came back here and protested against the war, he's a flip-flopper, let me tell you: John Kerry is a 100 times better patriot than George Bush or Dick Cheney."
In addition to the record of Bush's peculiarly serendipitous leapfrogging of other more qualified candidates, Barnes' story is entirely consistent with the statement Barnes made on this subject five years ago in 1999. Although Barnes had resisted efforts to get him to comment on Bush's Texas military service, he was compelled to make the statement in 1999 as part of a legal proceeding, and only after his legal team's efforts to assert executive privilege failed. As another Salon article notes, "And even then, Barnes issued it through his attorney, refusing to answer press questions."

That same Salon article recalls Barnes' 1999 statement:

He revealed that in 1968 he made the phone call to the head of the Texas Air National Guard at the request of the late Sidney Adger, a Houston oil man and longtime Bush family friend. At the time, neither Bush nor his campaign directly denied the story. Bush simply stressed that neither he nor his father had made a call on his behalf, and he was unaware of any other such string pulling.
This could get interesting. Normally, I would not consider the issue of the influence and privilege Bush utilized to gain entry into the Texas National Guard as a relevant campaign issue. But once the Bush team put forth the slandering pack of prevaricators under the dubious title of Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, who used lies and innuendos to attack the record of a man who actually eschewed his access to influence and power in order to serve in Vietnam, I say this is more than fair game. Especially when one of the most prominent themes echoed by Bush supporters is what a regular guy he is compared to the effete French looking Kerry. How many "regular guys" had access to the governor's mansion in their respective home states?

In fact, this is only phase one. The next step will be a more complete expose of Bush's actual service in the National Guard, or lack thereof, after he had used his father's power and connections to avoid serving in a war that he unequivocally supported then, and now. But I guess he only supported it for the "regular guys."

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