- Is President George W Bush, who weaves a narrative about
himself as a man of God, actually a charlatan? Is he really a wolf in sheep's
clothing? Is his faith a sham? Is he more bad boy than born again? More
playboy than penitent?
- This past month has seen John Kerry, Bush's Democratic
rival for the White House, take one almighty pasting from the Republican
right wing over accusations that he exaggerated his military record in
Vietnam. Kerry, a many times decorated navy Vietnam veteran, said the smear
campaign was orchestrated by a Bush team desperate to divert attention
from the woeful state of the US economy and the running sore of Iraq.
- But this week it's Bush's turn to line up for a beating.
But where Kerry has a single questionable question mark hanging over his
past, Bush's charge sheet for alleged wrongdoing has got it all ñ
sex, drugs, cowardice, cruelty; his alleged failings and foibles are imperial
- These are the issues being debated as a result of further
revelations into the shrouded past of the President.
- His Military Record
- President Bush has wrapped himself in the Stars and Stripes
since the horror of September 11. His presidency has pushed a simple message:
America is in danger and he's the man to keep the people safe; he'll take
the fight against the terrorists abroad and he's proud of the USA's troops.
- If that is the case, why is Bush mired in a scandal about
his Vietnam-era service, or lack of, with fresh allegations that he was
able to sneak out of serving his country overseas because his daddy was
famous, powerful and rolling in cash?
- Bush joined the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam
war as a pilot and never left the country. He even cut short his military
commitment in 1973. In 1989, he told a local newspaper in Texas: "I
regret not having gone to Vietnam." He went on to say that "I
did my time" and "I did my duty".
- Despite Bush's claims, his service in the home-based
National Guard is highly questionable. CBS Television's acclaimed 60 Minutes
programme interviewed Ben Barnes, a former speaker of the Texas House of
Representatives, who said that he pulled strings for a Bush family friend
to get George Jr into the National Guard so he could avoid service in Vietnam.
- "I was a young, ambitious politician," Barnes
said, "doing what I thought was acceptable, that was important to
make friends " I would describe it as preferential treatment.
- "I was maybe determining life or death and that's
not a power that I want to have. I've thought about it an awful lot. You
walk through the Vietnam memorial and, I tell you, you'll think about it
a long time."
- CBS also produced documents which allegedly showed that
in 1973, Bush's superior officer complained of being pressurised to "sugar-coat"
an annual officer evaluation for Bush even though the future President
had not been at the base for the year in question. His opponents accuse
him of going awol ñ absent without leave.
- According to airforce records, Bush did not meet his
military commitments. On July 30, 1973, shortly before he moved from Houston,
Texas, to Harvard to take an MBA course, he signed a document that declared:
"It is my responsibility to locate and be assigned to another reserve
forces unit or mobilisation augmentation position. If I fail to do so,
I am subject to involuntary order to active duty for up to 24 months."
- Bush didn't sign up with a National Guard unit when he
moved to New England ñ but nor did he get drafted as a punishment.
In May 1968, Bush signed a "statement of understanding" that
he would "achieve satisfactory participation", including attendance
at 24 days of annual weekend duty and 15 days of annual active duty at
home. The document also said that Bush would face two years in Vietnam
for "unsatisfactory participation".
- Bush performed no service for an entire six-month period
in 1972 and for a period lasting almost three months in 1973, yet Bush's
unit certified in late 1973 that his service had been "satisfactory".
His opponents say this was favouritism shown to a wilful rich boy.
- Retired army colonel Gerald A Lechliter, who has studied
Bush's military records, says: "He broke his contract with the United
States government - without any adverse consequences. And the Texas Air
National Guard was complicit in allowing this to happen. He was a pilot.
It cost the government a million dollars to train him to fly. So he should
have been held to an even higher standard."
- The unit that Bush was assigned to was known as the Champagne
Squadron because of the number of sons of American millionaires who served
in it. The unit included the sons of former Texas governor John Connally
and former senator Lloyd Bensten, as well as several members of the Dallas
Cowboys American football team.
- Retired Lt Col Albert C Lloyd Jr said that by not joining
a unit in Massachusetts, Bush "took a chance that he could be called
up for active duty, but the war was winding down and he probably knew that
the airforce was not enforcing the penalty".
- Lawrence J Korb, an assistant secretary of defence in
the Reagan White House, said Bush "gamed the system", adding:
"If I cheat on my income tax and don't get caught, I'm still cheating
on my income tax."
- When Bush enlisted in the US equivalent of the Territorial
Army, he was given an automatic commission as a second lieutenant and underwent
flight training for 13 months. In June 1970, he began what should have
been a four-year posting with the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. However,
in May 1972 he moved to Alabama to work on a US senate campaign on the
condition that he trained with the National Guard in that state.
- Nobody has come forward with any memory of Bush serving
in the National Guard while in Alabama or when he returned to Texas in
1973. In Alabama, Bush was removed from flight status as he failed to take
an annual physical test in July 1972.
- His last physical test had been in May 1971. Major General
Paul A Weaver Jr, who retired in 2002 as head of the Pentagon's Air National
Guard, said: "There is no excuse for that. Aviators just don't miss
their flight physicals."
- After inspecting Bush's brief record of flying, Weaver
said: "I would not have let him near the airplane." Weaver added:
"It appears that nobody wanted to hold him accountable." Former
friends of the Bush family have said that Bush was sent to Alabama as he
kept "getting in trouble and embarrassing the family".
- In May 1973, Bush's superior officers said they could
not complete his annual performance review as he had not been seen at the
base in Houston for 12 months. Terry McAuliffe, chair of the Democratic
National Committee, said that "the President did not serve honourably".
- Memos uncovered by CBS purport to show that Bush's superior
officer, Lt Col Jerry B Killian, felt he was being forced by his own commander,
Brigadier General Walter B Staudt, to go soft on Bush for his underperformance.
- The memo, dated August 1973, shows the political clout
that Bush had and an attempt, opponents say, to embellish his service record.
Bush's father was a Houston congressman at the time of the Vietnam war.
- Another Killian memo, headed "Subject: CYA"
- a military acronym for "cover your ass" ñ reads that
Staudt "has obviously pressured [Major-General Bobby W] Hodges more
about Bush. I'm having trouble running interference and doing my job".
- The memo adds that Killian received "a message today
regarding Bush's [annual officer efficiency report] and Staudt is pushing
to sugar-coat it". Killian also felt that Bush was "talking to
someone upstairs" to engineer a move to Alabama.
- Robert Strong, a friend of the late Killian who ran the
Texas Air National Guard offices, said that because of Bush Killian had
"found himself between a rock and a hard place".
- CBS reported that the White House did not dispute the
authenticity of these documents. However, some questions have been raised
about their provenance, with typographical experts saying the documents
were produced by computers, not 1970s typewriters.
- CBS, however, said it had the documents authenticated
by its own experts. CBS also spoke to Killian's superior, Major-General
Hodges, who said the sentiments in the memos were the same as Killian expressed
to him. However, Marjorie Connell, Killian's widow, said she didn't believe
her husband would have used the words in the memos.
- In a reversal of the sniper attacks launched on John
Kerry and his military record by the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth organisation's
adverts on TV, an outfit calling itself Texans for Truth is going to start
running television ads asking if Bush ever served with a unit in Alabama.
The Republicans have already rubbished the planned ads as unfair and playing
- Cocaine, Booze And Abortions
- Being proved to be a little yellow- bellied about fighting
in Vietnam would be mere collateral damage to the Bush campaign compared
to the all-out nuclear holocaust which would ensue if the allegations made
about Dubya's cocaine use and abortion-fixing, in biographer and muck-raker
Kitty Kelly's forthcoming book on the Bush family, stand up to scrutiny.
- Bush's stance as a strongly moral Christian who prizes
family values and Biblical ethics is just as powerful a pull on his supporters
as his patriotism and militarism. Bush has come out as bitterly opposed
to abortion. His acceptance speech for the presidential nomination at last
month's Republican Party Convention in New York City was peppered with
sentiments about the rights of the unborn child and the wrongs of gay marriage.
- The Republican party faithful see the President as a
man of moral rectitude who will keep the liberal barbarians from the gates.
But if, as alleged by Kelly, Bush used class A drugs and arranged for doctors
to "kill" his own baby ñ as many in the party would regard
an abortion ñ that would hole Bush below the waterline and scupper
his chances of re-election.
- Kelly - the bitch of biographers who has already assassinated
the characters of such luminaries as the Reagans, Frank Sinatra, Jackie
Onassis and the Windsors - says she spoke to the President's sister-in-law
Sharon Bush, who divorced the President's brother, Neil.
- Sharon Bush apparently told Kelly: "The President
did coke at Camp David when his father was President [1989-93] and not
just once either." Camp David is the US presidential retreat. Sharon
Bush, however, is now denying that she made the cocaine claim to Kelly.
- Proof of coke use in the late 1980s and early 1990s would
mean that Bush used the drug after his reported conversion to Christianity.
If that was proved to be the case then the one thing that protects Bush
from his hard- partying past ñ his born-again status and his repentance
for past sins ñ would fall to bits. The cocaine claim is therefore
political dynamite. Bush has pursued America's so-called war on drugs with
a vengeance. US jails, which now have the highest population figure ever,
are filled with drug users.
- Even more damaging is the allegation aired by Kelly in
her book, The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty, that she has
gathered "a great deal of circumstantial evidence" that the President
helped arrange for a girlfriend to have an abortion in the 1970s.
- Kelly says four friends of the woman who had the abortion
provided affidavits to the authoritative US current affairs magazines Time
and Newsweek about the abortion but the magazines did not run with the
- Kelly also brings up allegations of George Bush Sr's
affair with his English secretary Jennifer Fitzgerald, which apparently
devastated Barbara Bush, his wife. The book further delves into the sexually
transmitted diseases which have afflicted one of Bush's brothers following
his habitual use of Asian prostitutes.
- Sharon Bush told Kelly: "The Bushes don't practise
what they preach." Bush has always been evasive about drugs. During
his first presidential campaign, he said: "The current FBI form asks
the question, ëDid somebody use drugs within the last seven years?'
I will be glad to answer that question and the answer is no."
- Kelly quotes a former lieutenant, who refers to Bush
not taking his medical during his Air National Guard days, saying: "There
is circumstantial evidence pointing to substance abuse by Bush during this
- The book claims that Bush first used coke at university
in the mid-1960s. Kelly quotes two sources, one of whom says Bush sold
him the class A drug. Another acquaintance of Bush says that after work,
Bush, in his mid-20s, "liked to sneak out back for a joint of marijuana
or into the bathroom for a line of cocaine".
- There are even claims that First Lady Laura Bush was
a drug dealer in her youth. She is the darling of the US right, adored
for her schoolmarm demeanour and whiter-than-white aura, and one of the
biggest assets in Bush's attempt to appeal to middle America. But Kelly
says she was the "go-to-girl for dime bags" of grass at the Southern
Methodist University. Kelly quotes a PR executive, Robert Nash, who says:
"She not only smoked dope but she sold dope."
- Laura was also involved in a car smash that killed a
friend when she was 17. The accident happened when she ran through a stop
sign in her Chevrolet sedan on a clear night in November 1963, drove into
an intersection and struck the Corvair sedan of 17-year-old Michael Douglas.
No charges were ever filed.
- Laura is also supposed to have had to flee her marital
home on a number of occasions because of Bush's apparently abusive behaviour.
However, the police were said to have never been involved.
- A friend of Bush, Tobery Macdonald, says: "Poor
Georgie. He couldn't relate to women unless he was loaded." Another
"friend" added: "He went out of his way to act crude. It's
quite amazing that someone you held in such low esteem became President."
A third says Bush wasn't interested in anything except "booze and
- In 1976, Bush was found drunk driving down his parents'
street in Washington. When his father challenged him, Bush apparently offered
to fight his dad, saying: "You wanna go mano a mano right here?"
- His consumption of alcohol ñ primarily beer and
whisky ñ turned him into a belligerent boor. At one society party
in Houston, he asked an older woman: "So, what's sex like after 50,
- Bush allegedly confronted his alcoholism in 1986 ñ
a decision he says set him off on the road to being born again. He dried
out, joined an evangelical group and found the Lord.
- Kelly's book quotes a family friend saying of Bush: "George
has no humility whatsover about being President. He really thinks he deserves
the office; that it's his by merit, not default. With each political job
he's had, he's gotten worse, more arrogant. Now he's unbearable."
Kelly's book concludes that Bush's faith makes him invulnerable to self-doubt
ñ just like his political friend and fellow Christian Tony Blair.
- A Caring Christian, A Compassionate Conservative?
- America may not have the same sensibilities about the
death penalty as "old" Europe, but there can't be many US citizens
who embrace the killing of their fellow man as gleefully as the President.
- Perhaps the most disturbing example of Bush's zeal for
the Death House was shown in 1998 when he was governor of the state of
Texas. Karla Faye Tucker was then facing execution by lethal injection.
The former teen prostitute had committed murder after a three-day drug
binge and later underwent a religious conversion in jail. As a born-again
Christian ñ just like Bush ñ many religious leaders wanted
her life spared. Tucker even appeared on Larry King's TV show to discuss
her case. Bush was caught out by a reporter mocking the condemned woman.
Sneering at her, he put on a whiney voice, pouted his lips and whimpered:
"Please, don't kill me." Significantly, Tucker had never even
asked for mercy while on King's show.
- Bush later claimed in his biography, A Charge To Keep,
that he had a "restless night" before Tucker's execution and
"felt like a huge piece of concrete was crushing me" as he waited
for her to die. Bush said reading her postmortem was "one of the hardest
things I have ever done", adding that the whole experience left him
"heavy of heart".
- Bush said he denied her a clemency appeal - which was
based on the fact that her conversion had rehabilitated her ñ saying:
"I have concluded judgments about the heart and soul of an individual
on death row are best left to a higher authority."
- When governor of Texas between 1995 and 2000, Bush presided
over more than 120 executions - that accounts for about a third of the
executions in the entire USA during the same period.
- Bush objected to a bill to stop the state executing people
with mental problems. He also vetoed a unanimous bill by the Texas legislature
requiring the appointment of a lawyer to an accused within 20 days. Most
states require a lawyer be appointed within 72 hours.
- In Texas, judges appoint lawyers for defendants. The
bill which Bush vetoed would have allowed an independent body to appoint
lawyers. There were concerns that the appointment of lawyers was being
influenced by the fact that lawyers were making campaign contributions
to judges. A survey by the State Bar of Texas found that half of all judges
believed campaign contributions from attorneys were a factor in judges
considering which lawyer to assign to which case.
- Dodgy Deals And Insider Trading Allegations
- Since his days in Yale, Bush has been strongly anti-intellectual
and rampantly pro-business. Until the age of 30, he didn't really do very
much of anything, but by 1977 he started to use his family's powerful connections
to raise money for an oil business.
- He describes his attitude to business as a "bulldog
on the pantleg of opportunity". However, in all Bush lost some $2
million of other people's money in failed business ventures while still
managing to walk away in 1990 with $840,000. One of his ventures was called
Arbusto, which the President thought meant "bush" in Spanish
- it actually translates as "shrub". Shrub has now stuck as the
nickname for him by his Texan detractors.
- The most questionable business venture of Bush's oil
career came while he was with the Harken Energy Corporation. Harken made
investments in the Middle East in the run-up to the invasion of Kuwait
by Saddam . At the time, Bush Sr was the 41st President of the USA and
Bush Jr was on the board of Harken. Harken took a pasting on the stockmarket.
In June 1990, Harken consultants said only "drastic action" could
save the company. Bush sold his entire stock in Harken before information
about the dire state of the company was known publicly ñ despite
a legal requirement on him to notify the Securities Exchange Commission
immediately. Bush didn't report his sale for eight months.
- Bush ñ who now stakes his fiscal reputation on
the fact that he loves to slash taxes and not spend public money unwisely
ñ took a hefty slice of taxpayers' cash when he later bought the
Texas Rangers baseball team. He persuaded the city of Arlington to finance
a new stadium for his team using public taxes. Arlington contributed $191m
in public subsidies. Bush's stake in the Rangers was later valued at rising
from $640,000 to $15.4m.
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