Ever since George W. Bush began running for public office in the 1990s, questions have been raised in the public eye about his service in the Air National Guard during the late 1960s and early 1970s -- when countless American soldiers (John Kerry among them) were serving heroically in Vietnam. By the time of the presidential race in 2000, it was clear that Bush's record of service contained several troubling gaps -- especially in the period between May 1972 and May 1973, when Bush was supposed to have transferred to the Alabama Air National Guard. In early 2004, as the election season heated up, the White House bowed to pressure and released a host of documents related to Bush's service, promising that this disclosure would put the matter to rest. Yet the documents raised as many new questions as they answered. Now, for the first time, the comprehensive written record of George W. Bush's military career -- more than 250 pages in all -- is presented in book form. In his introduction and commentary, longtime activist and author Glenn W. Smith, the founder of Texans for Truth, highlights such questions as:
- How did Bush secure his acceptance into the National Guard, despite a long waiting list? Did his father pull strings, as some have alleged, to help him avoid the draft?
- Why did Bush suddenly stop performing his Guard service from mid-1972 to mid-1973, as the documents show?
- Did Bush truly perform sufficient duties to qualify for the honorable discharge he received, or was he given special consideration?
- In the summer of 1972, Bush failed to appear for his required physical, and was consequently suspended from flying. Why didn't he take the physical? And why has he claimed that he kept flying for the Guard?
- If Bush was present at the National Guard base in Montgomery, Alabama, during the disputed period, why has no one accepted the White House's pleas to step forward and confirm that he was there?
- And how do the now-discredited "Killian documents," first aired on 60 Minutes in September 2004, affect our understanding of Bush's Guard status?
Unfit Commander also tracks the Bush administration's efforts to defuse the controversy, from Bush's own claim that he "put in his time," to the White House's record of unyielding non-denial denials despite the persistent questioning of the press. And at the heart of the book are the documents themselves: from Bush's agreement that "failure to satisfactorily complete [full] pilot training will result in my being discharged," to his supervisor's statement that "Lt Bush has not been observed at this unit" during the critical period. A provocative exploration of this commander in chief's spotty record of personal military service, Unfit Commander is the place to start for anyone interested in getting at the truths of President Bush's character.
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About the Author
Glenn W. Smith is the executive director of Texans for Truth, an arm of DriveDemocracy.org, a Texas-based grassroots organization that seeks to increase political participation by helping ordinary people make their voices heard in politics. A former journalist and longtime behind-the-scenes adviser to several U.S. senators and governors, Smith has also advised major U.S. businesses and institutions on communications strategies and served as a consultant to the Rockridge Institute, a progressive think tank based in California. The author of The Politics of Deceit, Smith lives in Austin, Texas.