Absent Without Leave

Did George W. Bush go AWOL? Most definitely. Instead of serving our country as claimed in his autobiography A Charge to Keep, Bush disappeared for much of his 1972-73 posting to the National Guard. A visit to the dentist doesn’t change the fact that very few of, if any, Bush’s peers remember him, and his plane’s growing obsolescence (the F-102 was being phased out of service) doesn’t excuse the inability to take a routine physical — a physical that, by the way, would show proof of drug use.

Having studied Bush’s character it is hardly surprising he’d shirk even the cushiest of military positions. Why submit to a regimen of discipline when you can take off and work on a senate campaign? Thanks to your well-connected father, you’ll never have to worry about a reprimand — who’d give a dishonorable discharge to the son of one of the Republican elite?

The whole affair is being raised as a stark reminder of Bush’s performance as Commander-in-Chief. With a nation weary of casualty reports and shrinking public services, painting Bush as someone with thirty years of military incompetence must be ripe fodder for the Democrat Party. Casting decorated war veteran John Kerry as his foil only adds to the drama.

I find it amusing White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan would have the temerity to stare at reporters and lambaste them for bringing up this topic during an election year. Apparently questions about Bush’s military service “have no place in politics and everyone should condemn them,” that they “represent the worst of election-year politics.” Hah hah hah! What?!

Last I checked, contrasting Bush’s hawkish take on foreign affairs with his shoddy ability to participate in them is an extremely telling thing, particularly when Bush’s current agenda includes widening the War on Terror to Syria and Iran. Should we condemn the obvious irony that the leader of the military should have been kicked out of the National Guard were it not for his parents’ connections?

Opponents of the current administration are jumping on this because it’s an important indicator of the moral compass of the leader of the United States. Unlike character assassination issues such as Howard Dean’s joyous scream, abandoning your post, whether it was 30 days or 30 years ago, is of major concern. In fact, it makes you a deserter.

However, the heart of this issue is why this wasn’t an issue in 2000 like it is now?

While rumblings about Bush’s inadequacies as a pilot began as early as the 1970s, the Boston Globe ran an article documenting Bush’s record on May 23, 2000, more than five months before election night.

During 2000, I remembered a lot of smear tactics used against Bush’s opponents — John McCain’s family owned slaves in the 19th century, Gore invented the Internet, etc. The former has no bearing on politics 150 years later and the latter is patently untrue, but not much was said about Dubya’s grandfather aiding and abetting the Nazis.

Finding out in 2000 that Bush failed to report to duty for a year would have been a huge campaign issue, one that could have crushed Bush’s chances at the presidency while raising the spectre of hypocrisy on the failure of children of politicians to see combat.

Conversely, during the 1992 elections pitting Bill Clinton against Bush the Elder, Clinton’s evasion of military duty was a major battle point for the Republicans. Clinton’s effectiveness is still under fire — the GOP is trying to blame his administration for poor Iraq intelligence.

Why is it good for the goose and not the gander? Because for the most part American media is 1) biased towards the right, and 2) completely incapable of reporting real news if it might ruffle any feathers.

Thanks to government deregulation, right-wing supporters like mogul-cum-citizen Rupert Murdoch own a huge number of television stations and newspapers around the world. Not surprisingly, every one of these media outlets trumpets a pro-Bush stance in the realm of world affairs. And other media giants like Viacom and AOL Time Warner don’t want to piss off those in power since their ability to absorb even more of the nation’s culture and individuality is precipitated by FCC Chairman Michael Powell, son of Colin, Bush’s wingman. Why do something wild like report news of genuine controversy when there are profits to be made at the expense of the collective American intellect?

The only reason Bush’s foibles are coming to light now are because it’s simply impossible to avoid talking about it. Like the war in Iraq, one can’t dismiss the disastrous consequences any longer. The independent and foreign press have been reporting these topics for years. People eventually wake up and wonder why things are the way they are. Staring at the rising costs of war and the hatred the world has for American policy, even the most jaded supporter realizes something is wrong.

So while I smile every time I see McClellan’s oversized head puff and swell when he’s brought to task by people finally doing their job, it’s still too little too late. Where were the news items slamming the war, denouncing policy and condemning the president for his monstrous stupidity when it was relevant? Op-ed pieces written in February of 2004 decrying war do little good now; they would be far better served to the public in March of 2003 when they might have mattered. Covering Bush’s military malfeasance now that it’s popular is pretty disingenuous.

Report that the president lied. He lied to start a war. Because of his lies, over 500 Americans are dead. Haven’t people been impeached for less?