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Volume 69, Issue 94, Thursday, February 19, 2004

Opinion
 

Bush's records relevant

By David C. Salinas

Less than a month ago, political filmmaker Michael Moore stood on a New Hampshire stage at a Wesley Clark rally and shouted, "I want to see that debate between the four-star general and the deserter."

People criticized Moore and asked Clark to disavow his supporter's statements, and the story seemed to die there. But recently, Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe said George W. Bush had been absent without leave from the Alabama National Guard, and that apparently got the press going.

The subject was dormant during the entire 2000 presidential campaign, but the national press has awoken and started grilling White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan on exactly where the president was during his days in the National Guard.

Last week, the White House released pay stubs and dental records, but there is still a seven-month gap that has not been explained. But the question being asked by conservatives and some in the media is: Does this even matter? 

The answer to that is a resounding "Yes."

In terms of the 2004 elections it is important to compare the pasts of both candidates. While their ideas for the future are more important, we have to look back to see what they've endured and achieved in order to trust what they say now. This election will be fought over many issues, but the most critical will be national defense. 

If John Kerry is the democratic candidate, the Republican Party can no longer say it has the stronger candidate on defense. For the past 40 years Republicans have dominated the issue, but that likely won't be the case this time around.

Kerry volunteered for service in Vietnam and received the Silver Star and Bronze Star. If anyone says Kerry is weak on defense, I suggest telling Jim Rassman that.

While Rassman was floating in the water after being shot at by North Vietnamese troops, Kerry spotted him, turned his boat around and pulled him out of the water.

Just to put this into perspective, during a debate on Crossfire, Cliff May, a conservative, said that like Bush, Kerry got out of his duties four months early.

The only difference is that Bush got out of National Guard duty to go to Harvard Business School, while Kerry was allowed to leave early because he received three Purple Hearts after being wounded on three separate occasions.

But whether Kerry is the nominee or not, it's important to know Bush's military record to know what kind of commander-in-chief he can be.

I know some will probably say, "Well, what about Bill Clinton?" First of all, we all miss the eight years of peace and prosperity Clinton brought us, but it's time to move on. The Clinton bashing is old and isn't going to work this time. Besides, when Clinton was elected we didn't have two foreign wars being fought and had not been attacked by terrorists. Military experience matters more than ever now.

Some will also say, "George Bush was in the National Guard, why are you denigrating the people in the National Guard who are fighting overseas right now?" I'm not, or not today's National Guard, anyway. During Vietnam less than 1 percent of the National Guard was deployed to Vietnam; today 25 percent is in Iraq.

I don't question Bush for joining the National Guard at the time. But there are a few questions I wish I could ask him.

Like, how was he able to jump ahead of 500 others on a waiting list to join the Guard? Why is there a seven-month gap of service between 1972 and 1973? Why did his commanding officer in Houston, Col. Hodges, say he never saw Bush again after he went to Montgomery? 

Most importantly, why was the president so willing to avoid Vietnam, but now seems so willing to send others to fight and die in Iraq?

I guess when it's your own life on the line, you are a little more cautious, right?

Salinas, a columnist for The Daily Cougar, 
can be reached at davidcsalinas@yahoo.com.

 

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