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AWOL Forget Waldo! Where was GEORGE?
by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
Zepp's Commentaries
February 14, 2004

The White House has a tacit tradition, going back to the days of the Roosevelt administration, of releasing news that they think will have negative political repercussions on Fridays, preferably in the afternoon. The reason for this is that Saturday's newspaper is the one least read. By releasing a news story at a time when most people are packing for a weekend ski trip, or spending a day working in the yard, or other forms of recreation, the exposure the story gets is minimized.

Thus it was that the administration released George W. Putsch's military records at 5:25 on a Friday afternoon, just 24 hours after refusing to commit to a release of the medical records any time soon.

At first, everyone thought it was just another incredibly blatant and bare-faced lie from an administration that has made an art form, not to mention a national policy, of blatant and bare-faced lies.

Of course, the administration simply wanted to defuse the anticipation, and perhaps catch the press, and the public, by surprise. One of the more interesting elements of the release was that reporters were allowed to spend all of 20 minutes looking over the one copy of Putsch's medical records that the White House had, and could not make copies or remove the original. Supposely it was to "protect the President's privacy," although they made a big production of his uniformly excellent medical exams now.

The odd thing is that despite the games the admin played, the files contained no "smoking gun." There was nothing that showed he was NOT in Alabama in 1972-3.

Of course, the problem was that the files showed nothing to indicate that he WAS in Alabama during that last year. And the military isn't exactly noted for its slap-dash and feckless attitude towards record-keeping. Everything has a form, and all the forms are in triplicate, and there were more people pounding away on typewriters than there were people carrying guns in 1973. Clackity clack, clackity clack. Even the latrine toilet paper is in triplicate.

There should have been dozens of documents showing that Putsch was billeted, authorized to use the mess and other facilities, training session attendance and completion, drills performed, hup two three four.

There's nothing, save documents the White House produced on Wednesday showing that he went to the dentist on January 6th, 1973 in Alabama. This demonstrated two things: that he kept a dental appointment in Alabama on 1/6/73, and that 2) he had teeth.

So the questions continue to build. These same questions have dogged him in every campaign he's been in (all four of them), but in the previous three, it didn't matter that much. It was well known that the National Guard had soft billets for what then were called "Fortunate Sons:" scions of the rich and powerful who wanted military service on their resumes but didn't want to risk actually getting shot at. Putsch, son of a rich and influential Congressman and grandson of a rich and influential grandfather and a New England blueblood, had strings pulled, and landed ahead of 500 more qualified candidates in a squadron devoted to teaching the rich and useless how to fly planes that were obsolete and would never see combat. (The Air Force had retired the F-102 from active service several years before Putsch joined, and since that was the ONLY plane he learned to fly, it meant that as a pilot, he would never be sent into a war zone).

Well, that was the sort of crap that went on back then, and it was one of the reasons why people eventually came to hate that miserable little war and the system in general with such passion. Putsch's role in it was contemptible, but it was 30 some years ago, and it's not like he killed someone. At least, not directly.

But now he's started two wars, and neither of them is going very well, and he strutted around, Mussolini-like, in the flight suit in a contrived and expensive photo-op, and declared himself to be a "war president," and suddenly people want to know more about this man whose attitude toward killing lots of people and lying to the public about it is as cavalier and feckless as his attitude toward looting the national treasury on behalf of his corporate buddies.

I think I've solved the mystery of the last year.

Not where he was, exactly, but why he dropped off the radar so suddenly.

His evaluations during the first four years are surprisingly good. He is deemed good leadership material, exercising good judgment, enthusiastic about flying (he was even seriously considering making it a permanent career), and competent and reliable.

Doesn't sound much like the stumbling, thin-skinned, arrogant, incoherent bozo we have now, does it?

Suddenly, he lost interest in flying. The White House claims that when he transferred to Alabama he didn't bother to take his physical because he knew he wouldn't be flying anyway. A good a reason as any to ignore a direct order, obviously.

But wasn't this the mature, responsible guy with the great aptitude and sound leadership judgement, the one who was thinking of making flying his life's work?

And why did he supposedly go to Alabama? To get a truly mediocre party hack, one William Blount, elected to the Senate. And Blount was a hack. He was Nixon's Postmaster General. You just don't get hackier than being the P-G for a corrupt administration. And the election was a lost cause: the great realignment in the south was just getting started, and most of the bigots and bully boys all still voted Democrat. Alabama wasn't going to elect any Republican, not even Jesus Christ, to the Senate in 1974. And they didn't.

So if he went to Alabama at all (beyond getting his teeth seen to), the rationale sounds like a ploy to get a potential embarrassment out of sight as quickly as possible. (There's some evidence that suggests that he was actually reassigned to ARF, or Air Reserve Force, an outfit based in Colorado. It was an "odd squad" a place where the National Guards sent their screwups, often as a step before shipping them off to Vietnam where they could reflect on their sins at leisure. There's only slightly more evidence that he was there rather than Alabama in the form of one payroll sheet with "ARF" at the top. And weak evidence is weak evidence, so I'm inclined to take it with a grain of salt).

So you have a promising officer who suddenly loses interest in what he's doing, and one way or another, gets shunted off into a nook where he isn't going to be conspicuous. After vanishing for about 14 months, he's suddenly issued an honorable discharge, six months early. Not the sort of thing you expect to see, especially when the officer is a scion in one of the richest and most powerful families in America.

I think this is the time in George's life where either his alcoholism really started to get out of control, or he got his coke problem. This whole story has all the earmarks of the military trying to deal with a celeb who has fallen off the wagon hard, and they are trying to cover his ass.

That would explain the reticence in sharing his medical records from that time, and it would explain the sudden abandonment of his career and his being shunted off to either political make-work or military purgatory.

It also explains the claims by Lt. Col. Bill Burkett, Rtd., that Bush people leaned on the NG to have his records scrubbed of embarrassing information. It seems pretty likely that whatever happened in the spring of 1972, it would cause the dry drunk in the White House today considerable embarrassment.

This story has finally broken out after being an issue on the edge for the past ten years. Paul Krugman, the brilliant columnist for the NY Times, observed last week that the scandal, while not massive in and of itself, was a massive threat to the administration, which had carefully crafted a "cult of personality" to make Putsch look competent, able, and unbeatable, and that without that series of stage props, there wasn't even a man behind the curtain.

This could destroy the Putsch junta.

Posted: February 16, 2004


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