Sunday, September 12, 2004

Why George Bush’s Vietnam Service Doesn’t Matter
Michael Marriott

Imagine for a moment Donald Trump in front of a corporate board of directors as candidate for the job of CEO. During the course of the interview a director asks Trump about an entry level job as clerk he held thirty plus years ago. The director points out that according to sundry personnel records recently assembled, the Donald had missed work, been insubordinate and in general failed to fulfill his job responsibilities. Trump looks befuddled, as this job decades past has nothing remotely to do with the job under consideration, running a vast and important corporation. Further, even should some tenuous link be established, Trump has since amassed tremendous experience directing the affairs of enterprises that have hired thousands of clerks. His managerial prowess is such that he has operated hundreds of companies and created billions of dollars of wealth. Still, persists the skeptical director; how can Trump possibly claim to be an astute, successful executive if the record shows he could not even make it as a clerk? The director’s ignorance of reality is stunning, his inability to think cogently disheartening. The interview ends as Trump storms out; sickened by the irrelevance of the asinine questioning he has just endured.
The persistent, ad nauseum questioning of George W. Bush’s National Guard service in the early 1970s is equally asinine, and precisely for the same reasons. For those who cannot understand why let me enlighten you: President Bush has accumulated four years worth of experience as commander-in-chief of the American armed services during wartime. It is an objective fact that Bush has for four years directed the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and yes, the National Guard. He has issued orders to generals and admirals. He has forged military strategy as well as formulated the political context within which that strategy is executed. So overwhelming is his experience as commander-in-chief that his National Guard service in the 70s has as much significance to the 2004 election as Bush’s choice of ties for his wedding in 1977.
Nothing relating to Bush’s 70s military service can possibly be relevant today given his current office. Bush’s four years as commander-and-chief trump each and every question relating to his choices during the Vietnam War. Did Bush show up for a physical? Maybe so, maybe not, but, to my recollection, during the four years he has held the office not one issue he has faced tie back to a missed physical in the 1970s. Did Bush lie about his service? And if he did can we trust him as president? A pointless question indeed as his truthfulness as president may now be evaluated across the time he actually held the office.
Thus to focus on Bush’s National Guard service is totally and absolutely irrelevant to the issue of whether he deserves a second term as President of the United States. He possesses a history regarding the job he now seeks, namely his concrete experiences and decisions as President of the United States. These are the criteria by which we must judge his fitness to serve another four year term.
That the brain numbed national media pursues this story is revealing, but not about President Bush. First, media obsession with this story demonstrates that logic and reason are alien notions during national elections. Although character assassination has a long history in American presidential elections, personal, ad hominem attacks are now the exclusive method of discourse, ousting the quaint notion of rational discussion of ideas, at least for the Democrats. Second, it is obvious that the Democratic Party is still powerful enough to set the editorial agenda for most media outlets in this country. It strikes one as extremely curious that news editors across the nation suddenly, simultaneously, and without question decided in unison that Bush’s Vietnam War record was AGAIN worthy of attention and scrutiny. That such a tired story can be resurrected as Kerry sinks in the polls is telling. Finally, it cannot escape notice that more weight is currently given to George Bush and the Vietnam War than to George Bush and the war on terror occurring today. This is disconcerting as all of us living today desire to continue living; call it an affectation on my part that I enjoy breathing.
I have disagreements with President Bush based on his record of the past four years. For instance, Iran was (and is) a much more compelling target than Iraq in the fight against Islamic terrorism. His actions during the early 70s interest me not at all. The war on terror and one’s willingness to fight it actively makes ones past actions relevant if one desires to be president. In Bush’s case, his record as president is certainly germane. In Kerry’s case, his record as senator and “peace” activist is all we can draw on. That Kerry secretly negotiated with the North Vietnamese during a time when our soldiers were in the field says much about his view of our country and its enemies in time of war. That Kerry has consistently voted against modernizing our armed services says much concerning his view of government’s primary responsibility, national defense. That Kerry himself bases his qualifications for the presidency on his Vietnam service catapults the counterclaims of his fellow veterans to center stage. The fact that Kerry cannot defend his purported war record is his deficiency, not that of George Bush.

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