AWOL roundup

The Baseball Crank, in a post and email to several bloggers, challenges some of Kevin Drum’s interpretations of 1st Lt. Bush’s military record, and demands that those of us interested in the issue answer 14 questions he poses or drop it.

I’ll let Kevin respond point-by-point, if he’s so inclined, but I think that one of the Crank’s premises, at least, is shaky, and that he misses some other relevant points.

When he says that “most of the military bloggers” think this case is nonsense, he seems to be leaving out Phil Carter at Intel Dump, who doesn’t think it’s nonsense at all.

Here’s the case as I see it:

1. Lt. Bush missed a flight physical in 1972. He has offered an explanation of that which doesn’t pass the giggle test: that he was in Alabama while his physician was in Texas. But of course flight physicals are peformed by AF flight surgeons, not by private physicians. So it’s still relevant to ask what the real explanation was. His press spokesman refuses to address the question.

2. The records released on Tuesday indicate that Lt. Bush failed to meet the minimum requirement for the year in question. It also shows periods of months in which he did no service at all. His spokesman could provide no explanation for either of those facts. (It’s possible that the Crank’s sources are correct, and that Lt. Bush, having served enough days on active duty to meet his contract, wasn’t actually obligated to do anything more by mid-1972. But then why doesn’t he just say so?)

3. Having served in the ANG with someone who is now the President of the United States is something to boast about. Why, if he actually served in Alabama, has no one come forward to recount his experience as Lt. Bush’s comrade in the Alabama Guard? (See Phil Carter’s must-read post on this.)

4. President Bush on Sunday promised to release all the relevant records. By Monday that promise was no longer operative. All he has to do is sign a Privacy Act waiver. If he has nothing to hide, why won’t he keep his promise?

5. A number of bloggers have noted that Lt. Bush could not have been AWOL under the UCMJ, since the UCMJ doesn’t apply to Guardsmen except when on duty. But there’s a parallel provision in the Texas Code of Military Justice that does apply. Yes, he was honorably discharged. But not everyone who violates the law is prosecuted for it. So while it may turn out to be incorrect to say that Lt. Bush went AWOL, it’s not foolish. Only the records will tell us.

6. In at least one case, the President has made a demonstrably false statement on this matter. He claims in his autobiography to have “continued flying” for “several years” after completing flight training. In fact, he completed training in June 1970 and missed his physical in May 1972, never flying a military aircraft again until he landed on the carrier deck last year. So unless “several” means “less than two,” the statement in the autobiography — not an off-the-cuff statement, but one that Mr. Bush had ample opportunity to review — was incorrect.

For what my opinion is worth, I agree that Lt. Bush’s conduct in 1972-73 is only tangentially relevant to his fitness for office today. But his current level of veracity is very much relevant to his fitness for office, and since veracity about easily ascertainable fact — Did he make a promise on Sunday and welsch on it Monday? Do the records confirm or refute his account? — is more easily comprehensible to reporters and voters than his veracity about, say, the budget deficit, I think this issue is worth pursuing.

And if it’s to be pursued at all, in the face of White House flummery and stonewalling, someone has to pursue it “monomaniacally.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

2 thoughts on “AWOL roundup”

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