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Letting His Guard Down: What Really Happened to George W. Bush in 1972?
February 13, 2004
By Raul Groom

Well, 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 1973.

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 him.

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 sewage.

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 officers.

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.

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