Bush’s Superficial Wounds in the Vietnam Era
The debate that a handful of Texas multi-millionnaires close to the Bush family have cleverly manufactured over John Kerry’s war record is absurd in every way. The charges that they have put some vets up to making against Kerry are false and can be demonstrated by the historical record to be false. Most of those making the charges have even flip-flopped, contradicting themselves. Or they weren’t eyewitnesses and are just lying.
But to address the substance of this Big Lie is to risk falling into its logic. The true absurdity of the entire situation is easily appreciated when we consider that George W. Bush never showed any bravery at all at any point in his life. He has never lived in a war zone. If some of John Kerry’s wounds were superficial, Bush received no wounds. (And, a piece of shrapnel in the forearm that caused only a minor wound would have killed had it hit an eye and gone into the brain; the shrapnel being in your body demonstrates you were in mortal danger and didn’t absent yourself from it. That is the logic of the medal). Kerry saved a man’s life while under fire. Bush did no such thing.
What was Bush doing with his youth? He was drinking. He was drinking like a fish, every night, into the wee hours. For decades. He gave no service to anyone, risked nothing, and did not even slack off efficiently.
The history of alcoholism and possibly other drug use is a key issue because it not only speaks to Bush’s character as an addictive personality, but may tell us something about his erratic and alarming actions as president. His explosive temper probably provoked the disastrous siege of Fallujah last spring, killing 600 Iraqis, most of them women and children, in revenge for the deaths of 4 civilian mercenaries, one of them a South African. (Newsweek reported that Bush commanded his cabinet, “Let heads roll!”) That temper is only one problem. Bush has a sadistic streak. He clearly enjoyed, as governor, watching executions. His delight in killing people became a campaign issue in 2000 when he seemed, in one debate, to enjoy the prospect of executing wrong-doers a little too much. He has clearly gone on enjoying killing people on a large scale in Iraq. Drug abuse can affect the ability of the person to feel deep emotions like empathy. Two decades of pickling his nervous system in various highly toxic substances have left Bush damaged goods. Even for those who later abstain, “visual-spatial abilities, abstraction, problem solving, and short-term memory, are the slowest to recover.” That he managed to get on the wagon (though with that pretzel incident, you wonder how firmly) is laudable. But he suffers the severe effects of the aftermath, and we are all suffering along with him now, since he is the most powerful man in the world.
We all know by now that Bush did not even do his full service with the Texas Air National Guard, absenting himself to work on the Alabama senate campaign of Winton “Red” Blount. Whether he was actually AWOL during this stint is unclear. But it is clear that not only did Bush slack off on his National Guard service, but he also slacked off from his campaign work.
This little-noted interview with Blount’s nephew Murph Archibald, which appeared on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered on March 30, 2004, gives a devastating insight into what it was like to have to suffer through Bush in that period.
“All Things Considered (8:00 PM ET) – NPR
March 30, 2004 Tuesday
This campaign season, there have been questions about whether George W. Bush fulfilled his obligations to the National Guard as a young lieutenant in the early 1970s. For weeks, reporters scoured Alabama in search of pilots or anyone who might have remembered seeing Mr. Bush at the time he was serving in the National Guard there. There is one place in Alabama where Mr. Bush was present nearly every day: the headquarters in Montgomery of US Senate candidate Winton “Red” Blount. President Bush has always said that working for Blount was the reason he transferred to the Alabama Air National Guard. NPR’s Wade Goodwyn has this report about Mr. Bush’s time on that campaign.
WADE GOODWYN reporting:
In 1972, Baba Groom was a smart, funny young woman smack-dab in the middle of an exciting US Senate campaign. Groom was Republican Red Blount’s scheduler, and in that job, she was the hub in the campaign wheel. Ask her about the handsome young man from Texas, and she remembers him 32 years later like it was yesterday.
Ms. BABA GROOM (Former Campaign Worker): He would wear khaki trousers and some old jacket. He was always ready to go out on the road. On the phone, you could hear his accent. It was a Texas accent. But he just melded with everybody.
GOODWYN: The candidate Mr. Bush was working for, Red Blount, had gotten rich in Alabama in the construction business. Prominent Southern Republicans were something of a rare breed in those days. Blount’s support of the party led him to be appointed Richard Nixon’s postmaster general. In Washington, Blount became friends and tennis partners with Mr. Bush’s father, then Congressman Bush. That was how 26-year-old Lieutenant Bush came to Montgomery, at his father’s urging . . . It was Mr. Bush’s job to organize the Republican county chairpersons in the 67 Alabama counties. Back in 1972 in the Deep South, many rural counties didn’t have much in the way of official Republican Party apparatus. But throughout Alabama, there were Republicans and Democrats who wanted to help Red Blount. It was the young Texan’s job to find out what each county leader needed in the way of campaign supplies and get those supplies to them. Groom says this job helped Mr. Bush understand how even in a statewide Senate campaign, politics are local.
. . . Murph Archibald is Red Blount’s nephew by marriage, and in 1972, he was coming off a 15-month tour in Vietnam in the infantry. Archibald says that in a campaign full of dedicated workers, Mr. Bush was not one of them.
Mr. MURPH ARCHIBALD (Nephew of Red Blount): Well, I was coming in early in the morning and leaving in mid-evenings. Ordinarily, George would come in around noon; he would ordinarily leave around 5:30 or 6:00 in the evening.
GOODWYN: Archibald says that two months before the election, in September of ’72, Red Blount’s campaign manager came to him and asked that he quietly take over Mr. Bush’s job because the campaign materials were not getting out to the counties.
Mr. ARCHIBALD: George certainly didn’t seem to have any concerns about my taking over this work with the campaign workers there. My overall impression was that he didn’t seem as interested in the campaign as the other people who were working at the state headquarters.
GOODWYN: Murph Archibald says that at first, he didn’t know that Mr. Bush was serving in the Air National Guard. After he found out from somebody else, Archibald attempted to talk to Mr. Bush about it. The president was a lieutenant and Archibald had been a lieutenant, too; he figured they had something to talk about.
Mr. ARCHIBALD: George didn’t have any interest at all in talking about the military. In fact, when I broached the subject with him, he simply changed the subject. He wasn’t unpleasant about it, but he just changed the subject and wouldn’t talk about it.
GOODWYN: Far from Texas and Washington, DC, Mr. Bush enjoyed his freedom. He dated a beautiful young woman working on the campaign. He went out in the evenings and had a good time. In fact, he left the house he rented in such disrepair–with damage to the walls and a chandelier destroyed–that the Montgomery family who owned it still grumble about the unpaid repair bill. Archibald says Mr. Bush would come into the office and, in a friendly way, offer up stories about the drinking he’d done the night before, kind of as a conversation starter.
Mr. ARCHIBALD: People have different ways of starting the days in any office. They’re going to talk about their kids, they’re going to talk about football, they’re going to talk about the weather. And this was simply his opening gambit; he would start talking about that he had been out late the night before drinking.
GOODWYN: Archibald says the frequency with which Mr. Bush discussed the subject was off-putting to him.
Mr. ARCHIBALD: I mean, at that time, I was 28; George would have been 25 or 26. And I thought it was really unusual that someone in their mid-20s would initiate conversations, particularly in the context of something as serious as a US senatorial campaign, by talking about their drinking the night before. I thought it unusual and, frankly, inappropriate.
GOODWYN: According to Archibald, Mr. Bush would also sometimes tell stories about his days at Yale in New Haven, and how whenever he got pulled over for erratic driving, he was let go after the officers discovered he was the grandson of a Connecticut US senator. Archibald, a middle-class Alabama boy–who, by the way, is now a registered Democrat–didn’t like that story.
Mr. ARCHIBALD: He told us whenever he was stopped, as soon as the law enforcement found out that he was the grandson of Prescott Bush, they would let him go. And he would always laugh about that. ”
Goodwyn dutifully notes that Baba Groom didn’t remember George telling drunk stories. But that means nothing, since they weren’t the sort of things guys like Bush told the “girls”. He was trying to buddy with Archibald and impress him.
Again, decades of this sort of behavior do not leave a person untouched. Our world is in crisis and our Republic is in danger. It should not be left in the hands of a man who spent his life like this.