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Records Show Gaps
by Randall Mikkelsen
appearing on rense.com
February 11
, 2004

WASHINGTON (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 military obligations.

"These 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.

The issue has sidetracked the Bush team as his re-election effort gets under way.

McClellan 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.

"He (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.

Although 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.

The documents show long gaps in Bush's Guard service, from May through late October 1972, and mid-January through early April 1973.

Bush 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.

The 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.

The records may not end the controversy.

The 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.

The 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."

Bush 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.

The 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.

In 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," he said.

Massachusetts 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 military record.

He declined to comment on the new records, saying: "It's not my story. It's not my question."

The 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.

McClellan said the payroll records were proof of Bush's service.

But 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 I missed."

Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2004 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

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