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Is/Ought And The National Guard

Lindsay Beyerstein thinks that whether or not anything should hinge on the Bush National Guard issue, a relatively large quantity of swing votes do so hinge, because this is the sort of thing swing voters care about. I note for the record that what I was trying to say in the post she criticizes is that the Bush/Guard doesn't especially hinge on the authenticity of the Killian memos. Nevertheless, I also think she's wrong about the issue she raises. This is the kind of stuff that would have been devastating to the Bush campaign in 2000 if it had been properly investigated by the media (and the Gore campaign) back then, but I suspect that for an incumbent president these sorts of revelations about past character are pretty unimportant. What's more, Bush's self-constructed narrative about his life includes the notion that none of his misbehavior before the age of 40 really counts because that was before he was "born again" and constructed his current self. Insofar as people buy that theory, it should be enough to tide him over whatever he did in 1971. Insofar as people don't buy that theory (and I don't really think they should), the fact that he was an alcoholic, a drug user, and a general fuckup are enough to condemn him.

But on the off chance that the Guard story really might matter to some people, let's note that, Killian aside, he lied about his military record then went on to tell some meta-lies about it in 1999 and some lies about a different aspect of the story in 1998. The last point -- which has nothing to do with Killian -- is, to me, the most damning one. Getting into the Guard in the first place was an act of shirking on George W. Bush's part, not an act of conscience. He supported the Vietnam War but was not only unwilling to serve in it, he was willing to have his family pull strings in order to allow him to evade service. Some other young Texan was forced against his will to serve in Lt. Bush's stead, and a rather large number of those forced to serve in a war Bush supported but couldn't be bothered to fight found themselves killed, taken prison, or suffering from rather severe mental or physical trauma. It's a kind of moral cowardice -- and unwillingness to take responsibility for the consequences of your political views -- that's been repeated time and again while in office. And, as he does about everything else, he lied about it.

September 12, 2004 | Permalink


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