Ben Barnes Sorry He Used His Power for Bush

Tonight on 60 Minutes, Dan Rather interviewed Ben Barnes, the Texas Speaker of the House during Vietnam who got President Bush in the National Guard. He said he was sorry he had the power he used to decide who would go to Vietnam and who would go to the Guard.

"I've thought about it an awful lot and you walk through the Vietnam memorial, particularly at night like I did a few months ago and, I tell you, you'll think about it a long time. ...I don't think that I had any right to have the power that I had to choose who was going to Vietnam and who was not going to Vietnam. That's power. In some instances, when I looked at those names, I was maybe determining life or death and that's not a power that I want to have. ..."

Rather also outlines four documents he obtained from the personal files of Col. Jerry Killian, Mr. Bush's squadron commander:

  • The first memo is a direct order to take "an annual physical examination" – a requirement for all pilots.
  • Another memo refers to a phone call from the lieutenant in which he and his commander "discussed options of how Bush can get out of coming to drill from now through November." And that due to other commitments "he may not have time."

On August 1, 1972, Col. Killian grounded Lt. Bush for failure to perform to U.S. Air Force/Texas Air National Guard standards and for failure to take his annual physical as ordered. A year after Lt. Bush's suspension from flying, Killian was asked to write another assessment. Killian's memo, titled 'CYA' reads he is being pressured by higher-ups to give the young pilot a favorable yearly evaluation; to, in effect, sugarcoat his review. He refuses, saying, "I'm having trouble running interference and doing my job."

The White House says Ben Barnes is lying:

White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett. "They play dirty down in Texas. I've been there. I see how it works. But the bottom line is that there is no truth to this."

On the missed physical....the White House is at odds with some other evidence:

The White House has said the physical was "not necessary" because the president stopped flying. And where the White House says the president's flying status was revoked simply for missing that physical, the memo points to both the missed physical and "failure to perform to (USAF/TexANG) standards."

More questions:

There are new questions as to why, when he moved to Massachusetts to attend Harvard Business School, Mr. Bush did not sign up with a reserve unit there, as he promised in a letter when he left the Texas National Guard. And why, with his erratic attendance record, he was subject to neither discipline nor active duty call-up as provided for in his contract with the Guard.

Then there's this assessment of Bush:

Larry Korb, an assistant Secretary of Defense under President Reagan has reviewed the Mr. Bush's record and believes he did not fulfill his contract. "Essentially, Bush gamed the system to avoid serving his country the way that most of his contemporaries had to," Korb said.

Update: Kevin Drum has this assessment:

This story is a perfect demonstration of the difference between the Swift Boat controversy and the National Guard controversy. Both are tales from long ago and both are related to Vietnam, but the documentary evidence in the two cases is like night and day. In the Swift Boat case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence indicates that Kerry's accusers are lying. Conversely, in the National Guard case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence provides additional confirmation that the charges against Bush are true.

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