Has Clinton assigned Kerry an impossible task?
From his hospital room, Bill Clinton gave John Kerry good advice: “Stop talking about Vietnam.” But the Kerry campaign and its 527-type surrogates like “Texans for Truth” aren’t listening and may even be using forged documents to attack the military service of then Lt. G.W. Bush.
Bear in mind, John Kerry has personally attacked and denigrated the Air Guard service of President George. W. Bush. But President Bush and Vice President Cheney have never said one bad word about the military service of John Kerry.
Fortunately for President Bush, the official Air Force and Air Guard records clearly show Lt. G.W. Bush more than fulfilled his military commitments and earned an Honorable Discharge. Here’s how:
Starting in May of 1968, Lt. G.W. Bush began 80 active-duty weeks of flight training culminating in certification to fly the super-sonic F-102 Delta Dagger Interceptor, an aircraft purpose-built to fly as high as 58,000 feet to defend the continental United States against the nuclear Soviet Bear and Bison bombers.
But the F-102 interceptor was ill-suited to Vietnam. Unsuccessful attempts were made to find a suitable role for the F-102. So, by December 1969, the few F-102s that had been sent to Vietnam were withdrawn.
Thus, about the time Lt. G.W. Bush was qualified to fly the F-102, all of the F-102s were back in the States in Active and Air Guard units and sitting on hot-pad alert in case Air Defense Command detected penetration of U.S. airspace by Soviet bombers.
Guardsmen were required to earn 50 “federal” points per year. Lt. Bush earned 253 points his first year, 340 points his second year, 137 points his third year and 112 points his forth year. By 1972, with the war winding down, the Air Force and the Air Guard had too many pilots. In addition, the F-102 was being replaced by the even faster F-106, making it a waste of money to retrain short-time reservists to fill cockpit seats needed by career pilots.
Lt. Bush decided to quit flying, transferring to a non-flying assignment with the Alabama Air Guard while he worked on an Alabama U.S. Senate campaign. For that May to May reporting year, he only earned 56 federal points. Then, with permission to leave the Air Guard to attend the Harvard Business School, Lt. Bush worked in June and July of 1973 to earn another 56 points. That exceeded his minimum 50-point requirement for 1973-74.
Thus, with five years and four months of service, Lt. Bush had more than enough points to complete his six-year commitment and was released with an Honorable Discharge in 1973.
Bill Clinton told John Kerry to talk about the bread and butter issues American families discuss around the kitchen table. That seems more sensible than Kerry’s desire to debate what happened over three decades ago. Meanwhile, the Bush campaign makes no secret of its hope that Kerry will continue to campaign on his disputed Swift Boat service, and that the unfounded charges of Lt. Bush being AWOL will continue as well.
Bush’s official records are solid. So solid it appears the Kerry camp may have forged some unofficial documents and peddled them to Democrat fund-raiser, Dan Rather, and “60 Minutes.”
While the Bill Clinton of humble Arkansas origins had the ability to sit around kitchen tables and “feel the pain” of ordinary American working families, Clinton is asking John Kerry to do the uncomfortable, if not the impossible.
Can a candidate who serially married two of America’s wealthiest women (one a billionaire), and who never held a private sector job, relate to workaday Americans? Can a candidate with palatial mansions scattered around the world, a private jet and a huge yacht relate to you and me?
For John Kerry, that may prove more difficult than trying to explain his actions in Vietnam and after.
William Hamilton is a syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today who served two years with the 1st Air Cavalry Division in South Vietnam and Cambodia.
©2004. William Hamilton.