President Bush Military Service Controversy - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

2/18/04

President Bush Military Service Controversy

As the democrats get closer to finding their presidential candidate, fewer of their attacks are being aimed at each other. They're beginning to turn their attention toward the President. Some have come right out and said President Bush shirked his responsibility as an Alabama National Guardsman in the early 70s. It's a story you've probably seen on all the networks numerous times. But it turns out, the networks may be holding something back. Reporters at a Montgomery, Alabama television station, owned by the same company that owns KLTV, have found evidence that bolsters the president's claims about his military service. The folks at WSFA-TV helped us find a man who says the president not only served in the National Guard... He says he served well. And there's a good chance this man knows what he's talking about. He was the president's immediate supervisor.

For politicians of the Vietnam generation, it's the issue that won't go away. What was your role in the war? John Kerry has a well documented war-hero past. The president served in the Texas Air National Guard. Not much to dispute there.

What's dogging the president, is what came next.

In May, 1972, Bush transferred to Montgomery, Alabama to work on a senate campaign for the father of Winton Blount, III. The younger Blount says of the president's service today, "This issue has no legs. He was there and he served."

No one disputes the fact Bush spent that year campaigning for senate candidate Winton "Red" Blount. But many of the president's opponents say there's no convincing proof he ever showed up for this Alabama National Guard duty.

And with John Kerry the Democrat's prospective nominee, the issue... the comparison, is red meat they can't pass up. "I look forward to that debate when John Kerry, a war hero a chest full of medals, is standing next to George Bush, a man who was A.W.O.L in the Alabama National Guard," says D.N.C. Chairman, Terry McAuliffe.

Last week, the president released his entire military record... more than 440 pages. Democrats say it's full of holes. But his most convincing evidence may come from a retired lieutenant colonel from the Alabama National Guard, who so far, has been asked only by our station in Montgomery, to tell his story. "He was assigned to sign in at my group, my area," says Ret. Lt. Col. Bill Calhoun. "And he came in every drill. He made his drills on time... put in his two days each month."

Other former National Guard members give conflicting accounts of Bush's attendance during the year in question. As for the son of the man who brought Bush to Alabama in the first place, he has little doubt how this will all turn out. "I think Osama bin Laden will be captured and he'll get 53 percent of the vote... George Bush will. And if he's not (captured)... he'll get 52 percent."

Today, first lady, Laura Bush talked publicly for the first time about the controversy. You may have seen it on ABC News. The first lady says she knows the president served his time with the Alabama Guard because he told her so. And she says, if he had not, he would not have received his honorable discharge.

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