The moral dictates of the Christian right are nothing compared with the concerns of the protectors of public morality in the press corps. Ever vigilant in our behalf, they recently condemned Michael Jackson (Who needs a trial with the people’s advocate Nancy Grace and CNN judge Larry King on the job?). But even Jackson didn’t have the audacity to say what Michael Moore said—that the president of the United States is a deserter. Yes, indeed. He said that. Not only did Moore say it, but he said it in public on a stage in the midst of a political campaign. In the midst of a war, no less. The press corps blushed in shame for all of us and promptly condemned Moore as an ignorant fool who ought to stick with his disgusting comedy shows.
Fortunately for us, Michael Moore is crazy like a fox. By calling Bush a “deserter,” (video) he got the big-time journalists—horrified David Broder, incredulous Peter Jennings, outraged Robert Novak, nonplussed Tim Russert—to openly raise the deserter issue before millions. It is now a political topic once again. As the journalists damn Moore, the populace is once again wondering, well, maybe Bush is a deserter after all. And the idea of a deserter running this war makes it even more sick than it already is. Consider that this weekend warrior is already responsible for the following toll in Iraq: 513 GIs sent to their death; 8,000 medevacked out of Iraq; 2,919 wounded (missing arms or legs, or blinded, or psycho); and at least 22 GI suicides. God only knows how many Iraqi men, women, and children. And when it was his turn to fight for his country, Bush booked.
What are the facts? The single best rundown on this issue was contained in an article by Walter V. Robinson of The Boston Globe on May 23, 2000. On May 28, 1968, Bush enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard’s 147th Fighter-Interceptor Group at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston and was selected for pilot training. In July of that year a board of officers said he should be commissioned as a second lieutenant; he left for six weeks of basic training and was commissioned that September 4. Then he took off for eight weeks to work on a Florida Senate campaign. Next he attended and graduated from flight school (November 25, 1968, to November 28, 1969). He trained full-time to be an F-102 pilot at Ellington, where from July 7, 1970, to April 16, 1972, he attended frequent drills and alerts.
From this point on, his record is murky. Bush’s records reveal no sign he showed up for duty during his fifth year as a guardsman, according to the Globe. On May 24, 1972, Bush had moved to Alabama to work on a Senate race and received permission to serve with a reserve unit there. Headquarters ordered that he serve with a more active unit, and on September 5, 1972, he got permission to perform his Guard duty at the 187th Tactical Recon Group in Montgomery. But there is no record of his turning up, and the unit commander says he never did. From November 1972 to April 30, 1973, Bush was in Houston but didn’t go to his Guard duties. In May 1973, two lieutenant colonels in charge of Bush’s Houston unit were unable to rate him for the prior 12 months, claiming he had not been at the unit during that time. From May to July 1973, Bush logged 36 days on duty after special orders for active duty were issued to him. His last day in uniform was July 30, 1973, and that October 1, after beginning Harvard Business School, this weekend warrior was discharged from the Texas Air National Guard. That was eight months before his Guard tour was scheduled to expire.
If the president wasn’t a deserter, what was he?