TODAY WASHINGTON --As Texas Gov. George W. Bush
prepared to run for president in the late 1990s,
top-ranking Texas National Guard officers and
Bush advisers discussed ways to limit the release
of potentially embarrassing details from Bush's
military records, a former senior officer of the
Texas Guard said Wednesday. Bush sits at the controls
of a F-102 'Delta Dagger' interceptor at Ellington
Field, near Houston, in 1968.
second former Texas Guard official, who spoke
only on condition of anonymity, was told by a
participant that commanders and Bush advisers
were particularly worried about mentions in the
records of arrests of Bush before he joined the
National Guard in 1968, the second official said.
Burkett, then a top adviser to the state Guard
commander, said he overheard conversations in
which superiors discussed "cleansing" the file
of damaging information.
White House dismissed Burkett's charge Wednesday.
It is an "outrageously false statement," said
White House communications director Dan Bartlett,
who handled the records in the late 1990s as an
aide to Gov. Bush. Administration officials dismiss
Burkett as a disgruntled former Guardsman who
had a falling-out with his superiors.
forms in Bush's publicly released military files
--his enlistment application and a background
check -- contain blacked-out entries in response
to questions about arrests or convictions. Bush
acknowledged in biographies published in 1999
that he was arrested twice before he enlisted
in the Air National Guard: once for stealing a
wreath and another time for rowdiness at a Yale-Princeton
nature of what was blacked out in Bush's records
is important because certain legal problems, such
as drug or alcohol violations, could have been
a basis for denying an applicant entry into the
Guard or pilot training. Admission to the Guard
and to pilot school was highly competitive at
that time, the height of the Vietnam War.
National Guard cited privacy as the reason for
blacking out answers. The full, unmarked records
have never been released. Bartlett did not respond
Wednesday to a request to release the records
with nothing blacked out, which Bush could do
as the subject of the records.
says that the state Guard commander, Maj. Gen.
Daniel James III, discussed "cleansing" Bush's
military files of embarrassing or incriminating
documents in the summer of 1997. At the time,
Burkett was a lieutenant colonel and a chief adviser
to James. He says he was just outside James' open
office door when his boss discussed the records
on a speakerphone with Joe Allbaugh, who was then
Gov. Bush's chief of staff.
Burkett's account, Allbaugh told James that Bush's
press secretary, Karen Hughes, was preparing a
biography and needed information on Bush's military
an interview, Burkett said he recalled Allbaugh's
words: "We certainly don't want anything that
is embarrassing in there." Burkett said he immediately
told two other officers about the conversation
and noted it in a daily journal he kept. The two
officers, George Conn and Dennis Adams, confirmed
to USA TODAY in 2002 that Burkett told them of
the conversation within days.
afterward, there was a series of meetings of top
commanders at Texas Guard headquarters at Camp
Mabry. Bush's records were carried between the
base archives and the headquarters building, according
to Burkett and the second Guard official, who
meetings were confirmed in a 2002 interview by
USA TODAY with William Leon, who was the state
Guard's freedom-of-information officer in the
1990s. He was involved in discussions about what
to release. Leon declined to comment on the substance
of the meetings except to say, "We were making
sure we released it properly and made sure we
did it in a timely manner."
at home Wednesday night, he refused to talk to
a reporter. He said: "Don't ever call me again
at home. I'll call your publisher and sue you."
first made his allegation just before the 2000
election, when it was carried on some Internet
sites but went largely unreported by mainstream
news media. The issue resurfaced Wednesday in
the Dallas Morning News as Bush's military record
took center stage in the presidential campaign.
James and the White House denied Burkett's story.
As president, Bush has since elevated James to
be director of the Air National Guard for the
an interview that aired Sunday on NBC's Meet the
Press, Bush said he fulfilled his Guard commitment
and offered to make his records public. Host Tim
Russert asked, "Would you authorize the release
of everything to settle this?" Bush replied, "Yes,
then, White House officials have released only
documents concerning whether Bush fulfilled his
service obligations. White House statements have
not addressed the release of any papers that could
show disciplinary actions, medical exams, legal
scrapes and the like.
Tuesday, the White House released pay records
from a military archive in Denver that it said
showed Bush was paid for at least the minimum
training time he was obligated for in 1972 and
the records showed only what days he was paid
for, not where he was or what duty he performed.
Neither did they address outstanding questions
about why Bush missed a required physical in 1972,
forcing him to stop flying, or what happened during
a five-month gap in 1972 when Bush didn't show
up for training.
reporters asked for further evidence Tuesday,
Bush press secretary Scott McClellan said, "Obviously,
if there's any additional information that came
to our attention that was relevant, we would make
that information available."
Wednesday, McClellan said those seeking additional
details on Bush's records are "trolling for trash
for political gain," and engaging in "gutter politics."
didn't directly answer a question about why Bush
had missed his physical.
Bartlett said: "The issue is about the president's
service in the National Guard. The president said
he was committed to releasing any records we have
to show that he served."
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