October 16, 2000
Friends in the Press
There is now a long record of the major news media excusing, ignoring or forgetting Bush’s growing list of false, misleading or hypocritical statements on issues from the serious to the trivial.
Though the press occasionally notes Bush’s mangled syntax, the Texas governor seems to have inherited the friendly press coverage that his well-connected father received during his 12 years as vice president and president.
The list of Bush’s deception and hypocrisy is a long one, reaching from his youth to today’s campaign. Here is a sample:
--As a young man, Bush supported the Vietnam War. “My first impulse and first inclination was to support the country,” Bush recalled in an interview. [NYT, July 11, 2000]. But Bush avoided service in the war by joining the Texas Air National Guard.
Bush has said no one to his knowledge helped him get into the National Guard. “I asked to become a pilot,” Bush said. “I met the qualifications, and ended up becoming an F-102 pilot,” The Associated Press reported. Bush insisted that he knew of no special treatment. [AP, July 5, 1999]
But the record indicates that, despite having the lowest acceptable score for entry, Bush jumped over other young men waiting to get into the National Guard.
Other accounts suggest that a “good friend” of Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, then a congressman from Houston who supported the war, weighed in with Ben Barnes, the Texas Speaker of the House, to arrange a slot for George W. Bush. [The Guardian (U.K.), July 29, 1999]
Sometime in late 1967 or early 1968, Barnes “personally asked the top official of the Texas Air National Guard to help George W. Bush obtain a pilot's slot in a Guard fighter squadron,” The Washington Post reported. [Sept. 21, 1999]. On Sept. 27, 1999, Barnes submitted a sworn statement that he helped Bush by contacting Brig. Gen. James M. Rose.
--Bush has a one-year gap in his National Guard duty from 1972-1973 when he was supposed to have transferred from the Texas Air National Guard to the Alabama Air National Guard.
According to the Boston Globe, “In his final 18 months of military service in 1972 and 1973, Bush did not fly at all. And … for a full year, there is no record that he showed up for the periodic drills required of part-time guardsmen.” [Boston Globe, May, 23, 2000]
Bush has said that he has “some recollection” of attending drills that year, but has not been more specific. Under Air National Guard rules at the time, anyone who did not report to required drills could be inducted in the draft to serve in Vietnam, according to the Globe. That never happened to Bush.
The press has reported these gaps in Bush’s record, but has not pressed the issue as a story worthy of determined pursuit or pundit show commentary. Similarly, Bush’s implausible answers have not led to questions from the media about Bush’s veracity.
By contrast, the press has dwelled on Gore’s supposed exaggerations about the dangers he faced as a U.S. Army reporter in Vietnam. Gore volunteered for the war, although he and his father, a senator from Tennessee, opposed it.
It is not clear how today’s reporters, who were not present with Gore in Vietnam, would have anyway of checking how much danger Gore might have encountered. But they have judged him a liar nonetheless.
--Early in the campaign, Bush faced short-lived press scrutiny of his possible drug use. To date, Bush has never answered the question of whether, when, how much or specifically what illicit drugs he used in his early adulthood.
The press accepted Bush’s carefully parsed statement in which Bush denied recent drug use while refusing to acknowledge earlier drug use.
While ducking questions about cocaine and other illegal drugs, Bush has confessed to drinking heavily well into his adult years. As part of his biography, he has described how he woke up after his 40th birthday party with a hangover and decided to stop drinking for good.
“It’s hard to usher in the responsibility era if you behave irresponsibly,” Bush has declared even while avoiding questions about his own youthful indiscretions. [U.S. News and World Report, Nov. 16, 1998]
By contrast, Gore has admitted smoking marijuana as a young man.
--As Texas governor, Bush boasts that he knows how to work in a bi-partisan manner. One of his examples is the expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program [CHIP]. “In 1999, Governor Bush and the Texas Legislature worked together to implement the CHIPs program for more than 423,000 children,” the Bush campaign has said.
Yet, according to the Houston Chronicle, Bush tried to block the Democratic initiative in the Texas Legislature to expand the CHIP program to children of parents earning up to twice the federal poverty level (about $33,600 for a family of four). Bush favored instead covering parents up to only 150 percent of poverty (about $25,200 for a family of four). [Houston Chronicle, Aug. 30, 2000].
After losing the legislative battle, Bush turned around and claimed credit for the CHIP expansion and his success in working with Democrats.
--Bush has made as a centerpiece of his campaign the theme that he would change the “tone” of Washington and restore “dignity” to the White House.
Yet, during the Republican primaries, the Bush campaign targeted Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for personal attacks. By fall 1999, McCain, who spent five years in a North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp, had narrowed Bush’s lead and the Bush assault began.
In October 1999, McCain said, “'Apparently the memo has gone out from the Bush campaign to start attacking John McCain, something that I'd hoped wouldn't happen.”' [AP, Oct. 26, 1999]
Bush’s negative attacks intensified after McCain won the New Hampshire primary. Seeking to rebound in South Carolina, Bush visited Bob Jones University and refrained from criticizing the school’s ban on interracial dating and its anti-Catholic views. Bush also wouldn’t take a position on removing the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse.
After winning the South Carolina primary, Bush apologized for having spoken at Bob Jones without "disassociating myself from anti-Catholic sentiments and racial prejudice."
--As McCain remained a threat, Bush’s campaign ran a misleading ad attacking the senator for not supporting breast cancer research.
The ad cited an omnibus spending bill, which McCain voted against not because of the breast cancer research but because of the enormous spending included in the entire package. McCain complained, but the Bush attack strategy worked.
--After securing the Republican nomination, Bush renewed his pledge to run a positive general election campaign. But again, the promise lasted only until the governor found himself lagging in the polls.
Bush again broke his promise, unleashing his campaign to tear down Gore’s character, ironically, targeting Gore’s credibility.
The news media observed the changed tactics but took little notice of how Bush was violating his own pledge.
Instead, the press happily joined in repeating many of the canards about Gore’s honesty, these largely mythical and exaggerated press accounts that the media have repeated over and over for many months -- Love Story, Love Canal, “inventing” the Internet, etc., etc.