February 18, 2004
POLITICS: No AWOL Here
More reactions from military sources to the "AWOL Bush" nonsense. From Bush's visit yesterday with a National Guard unit in Louisiana:
In interviews, soldiers brushed off the flap about Bush's record.
Staff Sgt. Jim Lee, an Arkansas National Guardsman, said, "I think he did his duty. We're certainly supportive of the president. We're all Guardsmen, so we know what happens when you transfer from one state to another. The records get convoluted."
Pfc. Allen Harmon, also from Arkansas, said, "In a sense you've got to look at people's past. But right now, he's doing a good job."
First Lt. Jason Cannon, a soldier of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment who was wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq, said, "I think it was a really long time ago. The press gets focused on things that aren't that important. I don't think he was AWOL. I've been in the Guard. He switched states. It looks like he was looking for a place to drill."
Pfc Willie Wade, a guardsmen majoring in education at Grambling State University, said, "I wondered (about Bush's Guard flap) when I first saw it. I take it he fulfilled his duty. They showed the papers."
Then there's Phil Carter, who strains to find a reason why the controversy should continue, but admits up front that
The issue has never been whether he was guilty of desertion or being AWOL--two slanderous charges leveled without regard for the facts. The real issue has always been the character of his service, and whether it was good enough to set the example for America's 1.4 million citizens in uniform.
As an initial matter, it should be clear that Bush did volunteer to serve as a fighter pilot when he was under no compulsion to do so. President Bush could have avoided the draft through other means that were far safer than flying the F-102--an aircraft sometimes called the "widowmaker" for its propensity to crash. Despite efforts by some pundits to create one, there is no real analogy between the president's military service and the efforts by former President Bill Clinton to avoid military service, except that both happened within the larger context of the Vietnam War.
This should come as a surprise to those commenters who cite Carter as an authority on the "AWOL" charge, but Carter is out in front of where the goalposts have been moved by Democrats desperate to keep the issue alive.
Accuse first, get your story figured out afterwards.