Wednesday, September 15

Nick Kristof has a great op-ed today entitled "Mr. Bush's Glass House" --

Mr. Bush's own route to avoid the draft underscores the disparities in America, yet his policies seem based on a kind of social Darwinism in which the successful make their own opportunities. His tax cuts and entire outlook seem rooted in ideas not of noblesse oblige, but of noblesse entitlement. [emphasis mine]
So in this muddle of competing witnesses and suspect documents, what do we actually know about Mr. Bush and the Air National Guard?

It's pretty clear that Mr. Bush got into the Guard because of his name but did a fine job in his first few years. "He was rock-solid as a pilot," Dean Roome, a pilot in the same unit who was briefly Mr. Bush's roommate, told me. Mr. Roome adds that Mr. Bush inquired in 1970 about the possibility of transferring to Vietnam but was turned down - and, if so, that's a credit to him.

Then, in 1972, something went badly wrong. My hunch is that Mr. Bush went through personal difficulties that he's embarrassed to talk about today. In addition, Mr. Roome suggests that changes at the Texas air base were making it more difficult for junior pilots, so sometimes Mr. Bush's only chance to fly was as a target for student pilots - not the most thrilling duty.

For whatever reason, Mr. Bush's performance ratings deteriorated, he skipped his flight physical, he stopped flying military planes forever, he transferred to Alabama, and he did not report to certain drills there as ordered. The pilots I interviewed who were in Alabama then are pretty sure that Mr. Bush was a no-show at required drills.

The next year Mr. Bush skipped off to Harvard Business School. He still had almost another year in the Guard he had promised to serve, but he drifted away, after taxpayers had spent $1 million training him, and he never entirely fulfilled his obligations.

More than three decades later, that shouldn't be a big deal. What worries me more is the lack of honesty today about that past - and the way Mr. Bush is hurling stones without the self-awareness to realize that he's living in a glass house.


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