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Bush's service record

AS IS HAPPENING with too many issues in this vituperative political campaign, the question of President Bush's military service has generated far more name-calling than factual analysis, on both sides.


Since significant uncertainties remain, the next step should be for the president to clarify his Vietnam-era service in the Texas Air National Guard. In particular, Bush should offer whatever evidence he can of his participation at Guard meetings during a year-long period when there is no record of his attendance. Bush should also explain why he let his flight status as a jet pilot lapse in 1972, when he had two years of his Guard commitment to go.

On the basis of the available evidence, much of it dug up in 2000 by Globe reporter Walter V. Robinson, it seems clear that Bush, like many thousands of other young Americans, worked the system to his best advantage. Because his family had more clout than most, he was exceptionally successful.

In brief, Bush gained one of the highly competitive National Guard slots -- making it unlikely he would be sent to Vietnam -- through family connections; was made an officer after a relatively short training period; got permission to move to Alabama to work on a political campaign but was not recorded as keeping up his Guard duty there; and was given an honorable discharge eight months before his six-year commitment was up as he was starting Harvard Business School.

It also appears that he was allowed to make up for some missed duty by attending a flurry of drills in 1973.

This record does not support the charge of "deserter" leveled shamefully by film maker Michael Moore. But Bush's camp is out of line in suggesting that any questioning of this record is outrageous. Bush has chosen to let these factual gaps persist for four years. He should fill them in as best he can now.

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