February 12, 2004


I personally think Sen. Kerry will be a disaster for the Democrats, but I do feel compelled to defend him against the recent charge from the right wing of BlogWorld that if he opposed the Vietnam War, he shouldn't have served.

That's a wonderful way, of course, to keep yourself morally pure, sans the contamination of others' precious ethical fluids. It is, from a civics perspective, total shite. If you believe that a military endeavour is crap, if you believe that your amoral countrymen are leading your country astray, getting involved in their adventurism, to this mind, then ascends from the status of a desirability to a commandment. In Kerry's case, the choice was becoming an officer and being put in a position to potentially stop atrocities and shape events to America's benefit in whatever little corner of the war he ended up with, or sitting at home and whining about the babykillers. If you could ever find the Vietnamese that weren't killed, because someone attempting to be a man of conscience was the platoon commander instead of another, when the Americans passed by, which do you think they would prefer? We all understand that it is noble to sacrifice one's life when the country is in physical peril... is it not just as right to sacrifice one's purity to help lift the country from a moral quagmire?

I don't have a lot of sympathy for Mr. Kerry. But I get what he was trying to do back then, and I respect it.

Posted by BruceR at 04:22 PM


Thirty years from now, a couple middle-aged Americans are going to be running for President, having been in their early 20s during the Iraq war and occupation. Question: what is the minimum they should be doing now, to deserve the respect due a veteran from their peers (who may, who knows, also be looking for a "wartime president") in three decades hence? Just asking.

I know my standard: Gore and Kerry both make it. So did Clark. So does Bush, although that's a closer call. And that said, I still wouldn't vote personally for any of them.

Posted by BruceR at 03:16 PM


Damian Penny's in trouble with the Toronto Star for copyright infringement, over excerpting columnist Tom Walkom's "Bush=Hitler" column.

Damian says he doesn't want a suit, but I'm thinking maybe it's time we had it out in the open. Is Fisking legal in this country or not?

NOTE: My thoughts on the same Walkom column are here.

Posted by BruceR at 01:25 PM


The story so far: some people feel George Bush didn't do good service when he was in the Texas ANG. This is seen as relevant to a judgment of his character. Pay and attendance records have been released, again. Here's what we can say with authority:

From May 1968 to April 1972, Lt. George Bush was a serving fighter pilot with the TANG. Some questions about his queue-jumping to get in aside, there seems to be no question about his service record in this period.

For a six month period from May to October 1972, according to the pay records released by the White House, Lt. Bush did no work at all with the ANG. In the Canadian reserves, this could be considered a period of NES (non-effective strength) and could well be grounds for an administrative reprimand. It would NOT be AWL (Absence Without Leave). And because Bush had already served a sufficient number of days in the months leading up to April 1972, this had no effect on his meeting the Guard's minimum annual service requirement, either.

From October 1972 to April 1973, Lt. Bush is recorded doing desultory service with someone, somewhere. Where, exactly, is not clear. He had gone to Alabama in the summer of 1972, then moved back at the end of the year, but no one in either state's National Guard has been able to recall seeing him through this period. Much of the work seems to be on workdays, instead of weekends, which is unusual for a reservist. Still, the records do show he attended somewhere in this period, and got paid for doing... something.

FOOTNOTE: For the truly curious, the 14 days in this period Bush paraded are: 28-29 Oct (a weekend), 11-14 Nov (Saturday-Tuesday), 4-6 and 8-10 Jan (a Thurs-Wed, excluding Sunday), and 7-8 Apr (another weekend). In CF reserve service, these days at least, the Jan-Apr gap could possibly have led, in the case of an officer who had already been reprimanded for a prolonged absence once, to what's called Counselling & Probation (C&P), or in other words an automatic release the next time a similar absence occurred; it still wouldn't be AWL though.

In May-July of 1973, Lt Bush got serious again, doing two near-constant bursts of service, working nearly full-time for several weeks, with the TANG (an "active duty" stint he was specifically ordered to do). The first, May burst was enough, along with the other days he accrued previously, to push him over the minimum for the 72-73 year, getting him his credit for a fifth year of service.

In September of 1973, Lt. Bush goes to Harvard and gets the last year of his six-year ANG contract waived. As many have pointed out, this was common at the time, as the Air Force was in a post-war downsizing anyway.

So... what? Well the AWOL charge is ruled out. Also, the terms of his release seem to be in order. For most, that surely should be enough.

The only remaining question seems to be whether that small number of paid days Oct. 72 to May 73 were somehow also a product of some kind of favoritism. There's still a real mystery over what President Bush was actually DOING for that pay that he has done nothing to clear up. (When asked point blank on this point in 2000, his response was "I can't remember what I did.") Presumably somewhere, there's an authorization that Bush should be paid for those days, signed by someone in a superior position of authority. And presumably that person decided that whatever Bush did on those days was worth a day's pay (on Jan. 6, for instance, it appears he was paid for going to the air force dentist). But barring more evidence than has so far appeared, it's still impossible to call "shenanigans." Junior officer paid duties, in the Canadian army at least, are often paltry and meaningless... I recall getting a half-day's pay for polishing silverware once, for instance.

Shorter form of the above: George Bush did four good years in the Air National Guard. Then he blew off a summer in 1972, did the minimum necessary work for a while after that, and then got out entirely to go to school. As the magazine George first pronounced a long time ago, not a hero, but not disgraceful either. (We're all f*ck-ups when we're young... knowing what I know now, I wouldn't trust 20 year-old me with a house key.) Still, if I were a serving Guardsman in Iraq, with that DoD stop-loss order keeping me fixed like a bug to a board, I might still find it grating.

PS: Please don't tell me how moving to Alabama in 1972 changes anything, either. At one time in my reserve service, shortly after a move of my own, I had to drive seven hours both ways, to keep from going NES while my unit-to-unit transfer was pending. I'm no hero for it, it's just part of the whole duty/responsibility thing. So I think I have a measure of the young Lt. Bush, and his interest in things military, at that time of his life, based on the facts already in evidence.

ONE MORE THING: Kevin Drum wonders why there's a recalcitrance to release more documents. It seems kind of simple really. The key item that hasn't been released yet is Bush's actual release item ("honorable" covers all kinds of things, including some release items that preclude future military service) and any accompanying evidence of career administrative action (a reprimand for that missing six months, and so on). Some have noted that DoD and the White House aren't moving in lockstep on this issue. I suspect that's largely because their interests are divergent.

For DoD, it's a discipline issue... they look bad if they let the Bush kid off for some fairly obvious derelictions without any kind of reprimand, or at least a reference in the final release. For the White House, any such paperwork would obviously be of tremendous value to the Democrats. If the reprimand in the file is apparent, the White House is on the hook and the Pentagon's off; if the reprimand isn't there, or was never given, then vice versa. Both agencies have to agree, if the information is to be released. That agreement is impossible. Hence, they are going to give out as little information as they can get away with.

Posted by BruceR at 11:59 AM