(Reuters) - President Bush was absent for long
periods of his final two years of National Guard
duty but met service requirements, according to
new records cited by the White House in an effort
to refute accusations he shirked Vietnam War-era
documents clearly show that the president fulfilled
his duties," White House spokesman Scott
McClellan said on Tuesday during a contentious
press briefing as he sought to quell a controversy
over whether Bush skipped Guard duty.
issue has sidetracked the Bush team as his re-election
effort gets under way.
said the White House learned on Monday that pay
and service records had been found that documented
Bush's service as an F-102 jet pilot in the Texas
Air National Guard, which is part of the U.S.
part-time military system.
(Bush) completed his military obligation in a
satisfactory manner," retired Air Force Lt.
Col. Albert Lloyd, a personnel specialist, said
in a written description of the records that was
also issued by the White House.
the records, some of which had been previously
released, were not fully legible, Lloyd said they
reflected that Bush earned the required number
of service points.
documents show long gaps in Bush's Guard service,
from May through late October 1972, and mid-January
through early April 1973.
spent part of the fall of 1972 working on a political
campaign in Alabama, but he performed "equivalent
duty" while out of Texas, McClellan said.
records show Bush earned service points and was
paid for duty in late October and November of
1972, but officials could not specify which dates
he served in Alabama. They also could not explain
the gap in 1973.
records may not end the controversy.
Democratic Party said in a statement, "There
is still no evidence that George W. Bush showed
up for duty as ordered while in Alabama."
It noted an evaluation report from superiors in
Texas said Bush had not been "observed"
from April 1972 to May 1973.
White House later said the evaluation reflected
that Bush was no longer serving as pilot during
that period, but that Bush recalled serving in
a "nonflying status."
left, with an honorable discharge, eight months
shy of the obligatory six years' service on Oct.
1, 1973, to attend Harvard Business School. The
heaviest Guard service in his last two years came
in July 1973, when he was paid for 19 days.
National Guard and reserves, rarely called up
during the Vietnam War, came to be regarded as
"draft havens for relatively affluent young
white men," the Air National Guard says in
a history on its Internet site.
an NBC interview broadcast on Sunday, Bush acknowledged
he had not volunteered for the "political
war" in Vietnam, but said he supported the
government and would have gone had his Guard unit
been called. "I put in my time, proudly so,"
Sen. John Kerry front-runner in the race for the
Democratic presidential nomination who volunteered
for and was decorated for his duty in Vietnam,
has said Bush should answer questions over his
declined to comment on the new records, saying:
"It's not my story. It's not my question."
Bush team has responded aggressively to the criticisms
that could tarnish the president's portrayal of
himself as a "war president" leading
the country in a fight against global terrorism.
said the payroll records were proof of Bush's
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, writing
of his own Guard service, said: "For two
years or so, I played a perfectly legal form of
hooky. To show you what a mess the Guard was at
the time, I even got paid for all the meetings
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