His Guard Down: What Really Happened to George W. Bush in
By Raul Groom
what do you know? I'm gone a little while and the whole place
just goes straight to hell. Figures. I must apologize for
my extended absence during such a critical time; I've been
awash in strange documents, poring over schematics and manuals
and specifications which, I have concluded after weeks of
careful study and analysis, make absolutely no sense at all.
But never mind all that. Let's get down to business.
It appears that the entire world of mainstream journalism
has been turned upside down. George W. Bush is suddenly the
subject of unrelenting media pressure, and each lame cover
story floated by Scottie Mac only prompts a more threatening
barrage of questions from our suddenly voracious corporate
press. It's almost impossible to avoid the constant stream
of accusations, denials and excuses spewing forth from the
White House Press Office and onto the pages of our country's
newspapers. Not that I can honestly say I've tried, of course
- I'm currently experiencing the sort of frantic bliss that
must wash over a heroin addict the moment he shoots his veins
full of something that's maybe a little too exquisite.
Even television, always slow to pick up a hot story that
doesn't involve pee-pee's and wee-wee's, is getting in on
the act, and suddenly no market is sacred. Channel 8 in Austin,
Texas (yes, THAT Texas) is running a story today about a man
named Bill Burkett, who claims that Bush's personnel file
from his time at the National Guard was purged of embarrassing
information by Dubya's campaign staff before he declared his
run for the Presidency.
It seems that every day there is a new accusation, and with
it a new explanation from the White House Press Office. First,
the question was, where was Bush in 1972? The answer came
back: "He was in Alabama, rolling with the Tide, and loving
every minute of it! Roll Tide!"
When that didn't seem to be panning out exactly, the question
became, what did Bush do while he was in 'Bama? The answer
was swift and bold: "Alabama? Forget Alabama. He was in Texas.
Don't mess with Texas!"
The resultant question was a bit obvious. Was it Alabama,
or Texas? The forthcoming answer, had it been provided in
an interview, would almost certainly have been transcribed
as [unintelligible]. The nonsensical mishmosh of decimals
and zeroes and pencil shavings that the White House offered
as definitive proof of Bush's full compliance with National
Guard policies and procedures convinced virtually no one -
in fact, no one could figure out exactly what the documents
were supposed to convince us of.
Scottie McClellan tried to explain. You see, Bush was in
Alabama for a while, and he remembers serving in the guard
there. But we know he served in Texas at the end of the year.
Or Alabama. Or something. But he definitely did some kind
of service somewhere, because he got paid for it. See? It
says so right here.
Which cleared everything up. Except for this little matter
of where Bush was in 1972. So today, the White House released
another document, which I must admit proves, beyond a shadow
of a doubt, that Bush got his teeth checked in January of
Confused? Feel like the guy on the movie poster for "Brazil,"
head exploding like a squashed toadstool just thinking about
all this? Don't worry too much about it. None of this shuck-and-jive
makes a damn bit of difference anyway.
You see, though it certainly warms my heart to see these
formerly complacent lap dogs finally nipping at the heels
of the Bush Administration, the Fidos and Rovers and Spots
in the White House press gaggle are woefully out of practice,
and they have lost, at least temporarily, the journalist's
key weapon, a tool far more important that a Rolodex full
of sources or a crack research team. The White House Press
has lost their nose for The Story.
These pampered hounds have one thing right - Bush is hiding
something. But so far they are wrong about just what he might
be hiding. They don't seem to have a clue. If it were something
as innocuous as a lackadaisical service record, which at this
point has emerged as the most charitable possible assessment
of what might have happened to Bush during that mysterious
summer of 1972, even a denial artist of Bush's long and distinguished
background would have come clean a long, long time ago.
A skillful politician can survive a trip through the mud
bog of a cozy National Guard assignment that required little
actual duty. The Elder Bush's Vice President did just that,
cruising to victory despite the historic weakness of the Bush/Quayle
ticket, though of course Bush II and Dick "Uncle Fester" Cheney
would one day eclipse that woeful pair as the most undeserving
duo ever to maintain an office at 1600 Pennsylvania. What
even a masterful politician - which Dubya, despite all his
obvious flaws as a candidate, most certainly is - cannot survive
is being truly, fundamentally exposed.
The right-wing websites and airwaves are awash these days,
as they so often are, in comparisons and parallels involving
our last President, one William Jefferson Clinton. Some of
the parallels between Clinton's blue dress dilemma and the
current scandals are certainly apt, in their own way, but
there is a key difference.
The Lewinsky scandal taught us little about Bill Clinton
that even his most ardent supporters did not, deep down, already
know. To those who hated him, InternGate was the final confirmation
of everything they had always felt about Clinton - that he
was a predator, a scoundrel, and a man intent on exploiting
his position of power for personal gain. To his supporters,
it confirmed another picture - a picture of a man who, despite
his obvious mastery of so much of his life, had never conquered
his weakness for young women nor mitigated against it by suppressing
his propensity to cover up his dalliances.
In Bush's case, the revelation that is likely to emerge
from GuardGate will cripple him politically. As the saying
goes, Dubya will never work in this town again. That's because
Bush's supporters, many of whom I respect and consider to
be good close personal friends, can maintain their support
for Bush only because they continue to allow Bush's media
machine to pull the wool over their eyes - P.T. Barnum-style
- day after day after day.
If you are the sort of person who spends time exclusively
with people of your own political stripe - a practice I wholeheartedly
condemn - you may need to take a step back from this story
and give yourself a moment to see Bush as his supporters see
This imaginary George W. may have had a bit of a "frat-boy"
past, where he shirked some duties and skipped out on some
responsibilities. However, since then he has reinvented himself,
committing himself to the value of hard work and self-discipline,
giving up the bottle and finding Christ Jesus, growing into
the towering, confident and capable man you see before you
today, standing tall in the Oval Office.
Unfortunately, these supporters now admit, that wasn't enough
to make Dubya a great President. Instead, he's mediocre. He
cut taxes (which is GOOD!) but he busted the federal budget
in the process (which is bad). He kicked major ass in Afghanistan
(which is DAMN GOOD!) but he appears to be badly blowing it
in Iraq (which is not so damn good) and he overstated the
case for the war to begin with (which is NO BIG DEAL, but
still not good.)
But we're still better off under Dubya than we were under
Clinton. Because Dubya, unlike Clinton, is a fundamentally
Honest Man. Sure, he may be hedging a little bit on his guard
service, but who doesn't dissemble some about the embarrassing
aspects of his past? After all, are we really that surprised
that a down-to-earth oilman got bored flying decommissioned
planes and did the minimum duty in the Guard?
You can see that this picture is already becoming quite
saturated with qualifiers. The Good Guy image Dubya has cultivated
is robust, but it has its limits. One might wonder, just hypothetically,
what awl might suddenly puncture this happy cistern, sending
its contents - and Little George's short but successful political
career - spilling out on the ground like so much untreated
For example, what if, rather than being grounded for missing
a physical as the terse report we have all seen suggests,
George W. was grounded for some other reason, such as an arrest?
It would not be unusual for a guardsman to be suspended for
being arrested, especially for certain types of offenses.
It would also not be terribly unusual for the son of a prominent
politician who was grounded verbally for being arrested to
be afforded the courtesy of having his record reflect only
the somewhat less embarrassing fact that he failed to take
a required physical examination.
What if, then, George H. W. Bush used his political clout
to convince Dubya's judge that instead of jail time, Little
George should be enrolled in a community service program?
What if Bush I, seeing the conflict this substantial time
commitment would have on Dubya's ability to complete his Guard
requirements, saw to it that in addition to being absolved
of criminal wrongdoing, Bush II's service would count toward
his TANG commitment as well?
And, just for fun, let's imagine what would happen to our
picture of this flawed but fundamentally honest man if we
found out that Bush had sent his campaign people to Texas
in the late 90's to destroy any records that might prove this
story to be accurate. How do you think that would go over
with the Wyoming, Colorado and Montana families who comprise
Dubya's most ardent base?
Soon, and very soon, we'll be able to stop wondering, because
the foregoing description isn't hypothetical at all. It's
exactly what happened. Three different sources told James
Hatfield in 1998 that Dubya was arrested for cocaine possession
in 1972. Dubya's 1972 stint at the community service organization,
Project PULL, is still advertised in the President's bio on
the State Department website in what I can only imagine is
a gross oversight by the White House Truth Department.
The reason Bush got retirement credit and pay for service
in 1972 despite the fact that his superiors on the military
bases to which he was assigned never saw him is because he
was not training at an Air Force Base but spending time in
a community center with underprivileged children, working
off his coke arrrest. And the story of Bill Beckett, who saw
the trashed remains of Lieutenant Bush's service record in
a military trash can, confirms the purge was the work of Bush
staffers, working with the complicity of high-ranking Guard
When this story hits the web, there will no doubt be ample
Freeper hoards ready to descend upon me for using Hatfield's
book as the source for my claim that Bush was arrested for
cocaine possession in '72. Hatfield, I stipulate, was a troubled
and unstable man who tried to blow up his boss in the 1980's
and who committed suicide in a hotel room last year. Hatfield
himself is not much of a source.
However, Hatfield's sources are vouched for by his editors
at Soft Skull Press, and as I'm a faithful and grateful Soft
Skull reader myself, that's good enough for me. Soft Skull
picked the book up and did a run of it after Hatfield's original
publisher was forced, under heavy pressure from the same folks
who trashed Bush's National Guard record, to burn the fruits
of Fortunate Son's first printing. If the wing nuts want to
accuse Soft Skull of some kind of dishonesty, they can be
my guests, but I would urge them to read a few Soft Skull
titles first, so that they can familiarize themselves with
what they are attacking. I am quite sure the exercise would
do the Dittoheads some good.
This article isn't up to my usual standards of hilarity
and self-abasement, and of that I am acutely aware. I wish
I could now go back, as I normally do, and insert some jokes.
But the House of Groom is in a highly active state at the
moment, executing and preparing and planning all kinds of
crazy projects and adventures. I don't have the time to break
the most important news story of the year AND tell you the
one about what Dick Cheney does on Valentine's Day.
So for now, you'll just have to be satisfied with the scoop.