Thursday, February 19, 2004

Against conventional wisdom, the right continues to be adamant in insisting that the National Guard was not a means to avoid service in Vietnam.

Former congressman Bob Dornan was one of the latest to spin this tale, doing so Monday on Hardball with Chris Matthews. The same man who once referred to Bill Clinton as "Chicken Little from Little Rock," made it sound as if National Guardsman Bush, for the duration of his service, was mere seconds away from being called to Vietnam.

Take a look at this exchange between Mr. Dornan and Matthews:

MATTHEWS: The Guard was not a way to Vietnam. It was a way to get out of going to Vietnam. That is a fact. And, usually, to get in the Guard, unless you were lucky, you needed political connections. And you point out the president. These are just facts. I don‘t hold it against him, but these are facts.

Let me go to Bob Dornan.

You didn‘t serve in the Guard. Tell me about what you think of Bush having chosen to go to the Guard during the Vietnam War?

DORNAN: Well, now, wait a minute.

Chris, I joined in the Korean War at 19 as a four-year enlisted man, took my pilot training test within six weeks, passed with perfect scores, was afraid I‘d miss the Korean War. And I did. But I eventually got into F-86 saber jets, then 100s. Then I did fly in the Guard, F-86Hs at Van Nuys. And I was a better pilot, had more time, and flew on the gunnery ranges up in the Mojave than I did when I was a 100 pilot.

Now, let me add to your history. I can hear Jim‘s voice. He is sincere. He‘s done a lot of research. And I am trying to sort this out, too. But I think I have a solution. LBJ called up six air National Guard squadrons, but they were all F-100s, my aircraft, not F-102 Interceptors to guard America.

Two went to Korea. It was all triggered by the USS Pueblo. Our hero from the Pueblo just died a few days ago. They went to Korea to sit runway watch. They never saw combat. Four formed a wing at Tuy Hoa, became the 35th Fighter Wing, and flew in combat a whole year, all F-100 Guard pilots;

102s went to Vietnam in active duty station in ‘65, three years before Bush went into Guard, flew MiG CAP out of Danang.

There were no MiGs coming South. They sent them home and no F-102s went back. One of those men was lost, missing in action. I took his wife to Vietnam in 1971, Liz Brashir (ph), with five wives and mothers.

In the world of Bob Dornan, the fact that a fraction of National Guard pilots saw duty in Vietnam makes George W. Bush a war hero.

Indeed, compare Mr. Dornan's account of the Vietnam-era National Guard with that of Charles Black, George H.W. Bush's senior campaign strategist in 1992.

"Everybody our age preferred not to go if you didn't have to. Everybody sought perfectly legal means of getting out of it, with the Guard (my emphasis) and the Reserves and those kinds of things."

(The Wall Street Journal, "Lasting Debate on Clinton Draft Record Focuses on 2 Questions Raised by Critics: Were Strings Pulled and Was He Really Open to Induction?" 09.10.92)

My, how the tables have turned since 92...


At things fall apart, we recognize that posts like this do nothing to prevent the ongoing decay of our political discourse.

However, we also recognize that from 1992 to the near-present, Republicans on Capitol Hill ran amok, poisoning reasonable debate beyond repair through fables such as Whitewater, Troopergate and (how could we forget?) the Clinton Death Squads.

Finally, over 10 years later, Democrats have found their mojo and begun to fight back.

Thus, naturally, the Republicans cry "halt."

things fall apart would like to suggest a simple answer: "Not likely."