Ducking Viet Nam, Bush-Style


I don’t know if you’ve been following the ins-and-outs of the debate over Junior’s service–or lack of it–in the National Guard, but most of it is swirling around whether or not Bush lied about showing up and ignored orders to report for duty, why he missed his flight exam (Press Office Director Dan Bartlett says it was because “he had moved temporarily to Alabama and was going to perform his duty in nonflying status” which is pretty much beside the point–an annual flight physical was required for Bush to fulfill his TANG obligations), and why he was given an honorable discharge despite not having completed his service. According to some of the documents in the Friday-night dump, the ANG has a point system that determines what constututes a “satisfactory year” (56 pts) and Bush had only 40 pts for the year in question.

Now, that’s all well and good, even important because it cuts to the heart of the ludicrous image Karl has built up around him that he was “a hero”, a major girder in the construction of the COP. But I think it’s time to put the reasons behind his NG service on the table and call a spade a spade: he joined TANG to avoid having to fight in Nam, and he insisted on being a pilot because it would look good on his resume when he ran for political office later on.

What we have here, in microcosm, is the heart of George W Bush’s real personality, the one they’ve been trying to hide under all the smoke-and-mirrors of the folksy country-boy who always calls his mansion in Texas a “ranch” even though it’s no such thing. This is George W Bush revealed for what he is, a spoiled son of privilege who used his family’s connections to duck out of a war and bragged about how much he could get away with because he was somehow…special.

Those who encountered Bush in Alabama remember him as an affable social drinker who acted younger than his 26 years. Referred to as George Bush, Jr. by newspapers in those days, sources say he also tended to show up late every day, around noon or one, at Blount’s campaign headquarters in Montgomery. They say Bush would prop his cowboy boots on a desk and brag about how much he drank the night before. They also remember Bush’s stories about how the New Haven, Connecticut police always let him go, after he told them his name, when they stopped him “all the time” for driving drunk as a student at Yale in the late 1960s. Bush told this story to others working in the campaign “what seemed like a hundred times,” says Red Blount’s nephew C. Murphy Archibald, now an attorney in Charlotte, N.C., who also worked on the Blount campaign and said he had “vivid memories” of that time.

“He would laugh uproariously as though there was something funny about this. To me, that was pretty memorable, because here he is, a number of years out of college, talking about this to people he doesn’t know,” Archibald said. “He just struck me as a guy who really had an idea of himself as very much a child of privilege, that he wasn’t operating by the same rules.”

This little vignette (which comes by way of Body and Soul) is enormously telling. It describes a rich, connected, arrogant frat-boy who knew he could get away with almost anything because of who his family was and bragged about it to anyone who would listen and some who didn’t care. He wanted people to know just how special he was and how much influence he represented and how unafraid he was to use it. Precisely the sort of guy who wouldn’t have a hard time believing that God had singled him out or that he was meant to rule over lesser men. IOW, the pesident we have come to know over the past three years hasn’t changed all that much; his “conversion” seems to have been little more than an excuse for more arrogance–on top of his wealth, position, and influence, he is also one of the Elect.

I wouldn’t blame him for using whatever tools he had available to him to keep from going to Nam if he had ever shown the slightest understanding or compassion for other, less privileged men who had done the same by leaving their families behind forever and fleeing to Canada, or going to jail to avoid fighting in a war that should never and likely would never have been fought at all were it not for Johnson’s fear of harming “America’s credibility.” But he hasn’t. I wouldn’t condemn what he did if he had been against the war on philosophiocal, political or ethical grounds, but he wasn’t. He got out of serving in Nam for no more glorious reason than to save his own skin and let other, less privileged, men die in a war he supported from the safety of his stateside NG base.

I may need to remind some of you who are not old enough to remember it that in those days, there was a draft–the NG were never rotated to Nam, never required to serve in combat of any kind. As a result, the Guard was often used as a place of refuge for the sons of the rich and influential–what Junior did was far from unusual; it was, in fact, common. It’s ironic (what isn’t in BushAmerica?) that Junior started a war under rules that would have required him to serve in combat if they had been in force 40 years ago.

But make no bones about it: whatever the specifics of whether or not Junior had so little respect for his NG sinecure that he deliberately blew off his duties to it, the only reason he was in the Guard in the first place was to avoid fighting in a war he claims to have supported. Like the other sons of rich and influential men, he protected himself and let the sons of less rich and influential men do his fighting for him. If he’s proud of this, he doesn’t deserve to be president of the PTA, let alone president of the US.

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