Bush or the Texas Air National Guard: Who Was The Bitch?

I brought up the AWOL issue on a Republican Air Force Reservist's blog recently and was chewed out one way and the other for it. I resolved then and there to get some more info about this issue:

1. People in the Guard get and got a lot more leeway on the attendance issue than people in the active military. Bush was very lackadaisical about his attendance, especially in the last two years of his service, but he was honorably discharged from the Guard. Whatever his lapses, he made up for the lost time.

2. Bush took advantage of the system. Of this, there can be no doubt. He applied to a unit that would not require attendance so that he could work for William Blount's failed Senate campaign in Alabama (for $900 a week, in 1972 Alabama! How much Dixie homegrown will that get you?). Before this transfer was approved, he left for Alabama, a definite no-no. When that transfer was denied, he pulled together the paperwork to transfer to an Alabama unit, at which the aforementioned Col. Turnipseed recalls that he never attended. This transfer was approved.

3. The Bush campaign produced a mangled copy of points earned by Bush in this time period (Bush was on a May to May year in the Guard). This was covered by George Magazine. Here's a link to an archive of George's coverage. Their conclusion: "Bush may have received favorable treatment to get into the Guard, served irregularly after the spring of 1972 and got an expedited discharge, but he did accumulate the days of service required of him for his ultimate honorable discharge."

3. The paper is badly damaged, but it's got just barely enough to show that Bush first reported for duty on Thanksgiving weekend, when Col. Turnipseed may not have been aware of his presence. The paper further establishes that Bush crunched in his points by attending two drills a day to make up his missing points, one protracted period in December, and twice in January.

4. Bush flat out grounded himself. After completing training for his aircraft, Bush actually volunteered to go to Vietnam. He was not allowed to, because the plane was being phased out anyway, and he didn't have enough hours flying the plane to be allowed to volunteer. It's this rejection that is the key to Bush's subsequent performance in the Guard to my mind. I honestly believe he wanted to go to Vietnam. I believe this is evidence of Bush getting one break after another from his family connections, breaks that he resented. After all, Poppy was a big WWII ace (chortle), and now W was being kept out of action. I think that he failed to attend his next physical (which invalidated his pilot's license) out of spite. Never mind the money it took to train him as a pilot, he was pissed at Daddy and Daddy's interference in his life, and blew off the Guard from that point on.

5. Until someone lit a fire under his ass again, and again. The paperwork made available to George Magazine is open to at least two ass-chewing for First Lt. George W. Bush. The first was in November, when his Alabama vacation finally caught up with him. It's easy to get yourself lost in the paperwork for a while, but it finally turned on him. He made up some Alabama time in late November, and then did some time in early December somewhere, and then again in early January (two different segments) and then again, I believe, in February. The December through February times must have been in Texas (Bush has an old girlfriend in Alabama who verifies the late November time he made up, but not the December time on.). For now, Lt. Bush was back on course.

6. Then he stopped going again. Through other paper work, George verified that Bush was ordered to attend drill work May 1-3 and May 8-10. But by the mangled paperwork, it's clear that Bush didn't attend from early February until the first of May: a two and one-half month gap in service. Furthermore, the May 1-3 and May 8-10 service time is recorded as active duty points, whereas all the other points were inactive duty points. This is clearly punitive in nature. Why else would someone be ordered to do something that they were obligated to do?

7. Bush applied for and recieved an early discharge later in 1973 to attend Harvard Business School. It's noteworthy that his transfer to another non-attendance-required unit was accompanied by an order to add six months to his discharge time. This is because Bush skipped out again before all the paperwork was done. It was a toothless punishment, but it was a punishment noted on the paperwork for anyone to see.

8. Not that this mattered to Lt. Bush. Bush had long ago moved on from the Guard. When absolutely required to do so, he made up his time and got his honorable discharge. But after his attempt to volunteer for Vietnam failed, the Guard was in Bush's rear view mirror, and except for a couple of disciplinary actions for egregious abuses of the system, Bush's familial contacts helped make that vision a reality.

And that's where I'm at on this issue. Was Bush ever AWOL from his military commitment? The word AWOL may prove too stringent a case to prove. But there was certainly a contest for who was going to be the bitch in that relationship, Bush or the Guard, and in the end, the Guard proved to be surprisingly compliant.