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Thursday, September 09, 2004

Q & A 

Josh Marshall, today:
And here we get down to a specific and perhaps touchy point. Why wouldn't Bush show up for that physical? An Air Force pilot's physical is a bigger deal than the one civilians get on a routine basis. But still, it's not that big a deal. Even if he didn't think it was necessary, why disobey a direct order to get around it?

And on this point let me make a more general suggestion. The White House's story has changed many, many times on the Guard matter. And they've been careful -- and wisely so -- to avoid make definitive statements that would limit their room for maneuver after future revelations.

There are now two news organizations actively at work (and at least one of them is pretty far along) on a story about just why Bush was having those problems in the Guard in 1973. With that in mind, now my might be a good time to press a few more specific questions.
Eric Boehlert of Salon, 2/6/04:
Which is where Air Force Regulation 160-23, also known as the Medical Service Drug Abuse Testing Program, comes in. The new drug-testing effort was officially launched by the Air Force on April 21, 1972, following a Jan. 11, 1972, directive issued by the Department of Defense. That initiative, in response to increased drug use among soldiers in Vietnam, instructed the military branches to "establish the requirement for a systematic drug abuse testing program of all military personnel on active duty, effective 1 July 1972."

It's true that in 1972 Bush was not on "active" duty: His Texas Guard unit was never mobilized. But according to Maj. Jeff Washburn, the chief of the National Guard's substance abuse program, a random drug-testing program was born out of that regulation and administered to guardsmen such as Bush. The random tests were unrelated to the scheduled annual physical exams, such as the one that Bush failed to take in 1972, a failure that resulted in his grounding . . . .

. . . Bush insisted he hadn't taken any drugs while serving in the Texas Air National Guard, between 1968 and 1974. "I never would have done anything to jeopardize myself. I got airborne and I got on the ground very successfully," he told reporters on Aug. 19, 1999. But today we know that for his last 18 months in the Guard, from April '72 to late '73, Bush didn't have to get airborne, because he simply quit flying.

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