W. Bush's Bright Shining Lies
By W. M. Tippins
Herbert Walker Bush's inauguration speech of 1989 makes more
sense now than it did on that January day fifteen years ago.
The elder Bush's "Thousand Points of Light" is a perfect metaphor
for his son George Bush's constellation of bright shining
lies. Like stars spangled across an ink-black sky, George
Bush's lies seem to come in all magnitudes.
The alpha-star of Bush's constellation of bright shining
lies is the justification for sending US troops to war in
Iraq: Weapons of Mass Destruction. That, right now, stands
out as the lie of brightest intensity. However, older lies
- lies that should have been scrutinized more closely in 2000
- bother me, too. The failure to learn the truth about George
W. Bush in 2000 resulted in his becoming the 43rd president
and, ultimately, in the deaths of over 535 US military men
and women and thousands of Iraqis.
The "mad, bad war," as Col. David Hackworth called Vietnam,
has come back to haunt Bush. Actually, his perfectly understandable
avoidance of the Vietnam War and the ramifications of that
avoidance haunt him. I can understand avoiding Vietnam. Had
I to do it over again, I would have avoided Vietnam too. However,
I went. I flew my 250 some-odd combat missions and came back
365 days later. Bush scored a much sought-after slot in the
Texas Air National Guard (TANG), after scoring in the abysmal
25th percentile on his Air Force pilot aptitude test. Luckie
The story should end with George W. Bush serving his full
TANG commitment and being discharged, with the rank of captain.
However, First Lieutenant George Bush was discharged
early, to attend graduate school at Harvard according to his
account. A number of contradictions in Bush's TANG record
have re-kindled scrutiny that was far from adequate, considering
the implications, during the 2000 campaign. Those contradictions
include drill attendance at his Ellington, AFB, TANG unit
and questions concerning Bush's duty with the Alabama Air
National Guard (AANG). The White House spins wildly trying
to stamp out these pesky little brush fires.
What the spin-miesters are avoiding, however, is the beta-star
in the Bush constellation of lies: Lt. Bush's "missed" flight
physical and subsequent suspension from flying. It is not
spin-able because Bush, unwisely and uncharacteristically,
told an itsy-bitsy white lie about the flight physical that
was so disingenuous and transparent that it has now become
an egregious damn-lie. Bush flippantly explained that he did
not comply with the requirement to get his flight physical
because his personal physician was not available. Pants on
Lt. Bush lost his qualification to fly the F-102 when he
failed to take his flight physical in July of 1972 and was
suspended from flying the next month, August 1972. This is
the most salient point of Bush's short, and oh-so-sweet, service
record. As a former military pilot and airline captain, I
can only imagine the reasons for not taking a mandatory flight
physical, and none of those reasons are pretty.
Why did Lt. Bush, apparently on his own, decide not to submit
to a mandatory flight physical and incur a suspension from
the flying that he told Tim Russert on Meet the Press
(February 8, 2004) he "loved"? There is no record that Lt.
Bush ever obtained the medical qualification required by regulations,
nor is there any record of Bush ever flying a military sortie
after his suspension in mid-1972.
The missed flight physical becomes the crux of Lt. Bush's
problems with his guard service. Why would TANG want him back
in the unit if he were not qualified to fly? Why would AANG
take him, even into a non-flying billet, given that he had,
de facto, disobeyed an order to take a flight physical?
Submission to the annual flight physical, required of all
pilots operating under the auspices and regulations of the
air force (as was TANG), was not an option; it was a mandate.
In July 1972, by skipping his flight physical, Lt. Bush also
failed to comply with new USAF regulations concerning mandatory
drug testing. USAF regulations are not bent or broken without
serious consequences, for most people. All other issues regarding
Lt. George W. Bush's service record in the Air National Guard
derive from the missed flight physical. Expect the self-proclaimed
"war president," Mr. Bush, to get hammered on this in the
months to come. Meanwhile, don't look for any RNC campaign
ads on TV with Bush doing his vainglorious strut on the flight
deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. The aircraft carrier publicity
stunt is now prime-time fodder for the Democrats.
W. M. Tippins is an aviation writer and a retired airline
captain. He flew 250 combat missions in Vietnam in 1970-71
while Lt. Bush was chasing skirt and eating pizza.