Under pressure from Democrats who claimed he had been “AWOL” or a “deserter” during his time in the Texas Air National Guard, President Bush today released new documents detailing his service in 1972 and 1973.
In recent weeks, critics had suggested that the president did not meet Guard duty standards during the period from May 1972 until May 1973. Other than the president’s recollection that he served during that time, there has, until now, been no evidence that he actually reported for duty. The new documents, which consist of pay records and attendance reports, show that the president missed some months of service during that period but met the yearly requirement for satisfactory service. (Click here for documents 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.)
The record “clearly shows that First Lt. George W. Bush has satisfactory years for both 72-73 and 73-74, which proves that he completed his military obligation in a satisfactory manner,” wrote retired Colonel Albert Lloyd, a Guard officer who reviewed the records at the request of the White House, in a letter released at today’s press briefing.
According to Lloyd, guardsmen were required to accumulate 50 points per retirement year in order to meet Guard standards. The records show that the president accumulated 56 points in the May 1972 to May 1973 time period. The president accumulated another 56 points in the months immediately after May 1973, shortly before he left the Guard to attend Harvard Business School.
The records do not address the question of where the president was when he served his Guard duty. A retired official of the Alabama Air National Guard has said he has no recollection of the president’s reporting for duty in 1972.
Indeed, the records show that the president did not earn any points for service in May, June, July, August, or September 1972. He began to earn points again in October 1972, and by May 1973 had collected enough points to satisfy Guard requirements for the year.
The president’s service was measured on a May-to-May basis because he first joined the Guard in May, 1968. There are no questions about his service for his first four years in the Guard; indeed, the Boston Globe reported in 2000 that during that time the president “logged numerous hours of duty, well above the minimum requirements for so-called ‘weekend warriors.’”
When he left the Guard, in 1973, the president was honorably discharged. The White House has maintained that that fact alone proves the president completed the necessary Guard requirements. But Democrats, including presumptive presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry, have said that the simple fact of an honorable discharge does not prove that the president did his duty.
The White House hopes that the release of documents today will quell criticism over the president’s service. However, if Tuesday’s press briefing was any indication, the questions will persist. Reporters from the broadcast television networks grilled White House spokesman Scott McClellan about the months in which the records do not show any service points earned by the president. McClellan, beyond stating repeatedly that the records prove the president met his obligations, was otherwise not familiar with the details of the documents, and the White House did not provide an expert who could interpret them for reporters.