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George W. Bush's Bright Shining Lies
February 21, 2004
By W. M. Tippins

George 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 duckie.

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 fire!

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.

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