September 04, 2004

This is called a 'preemptive strike'
Posted by McQ

This weekend we'll be treated to a "60 Minutes" segment about former Texas Lt. Governor Ben Barnes and how he helped young George Bush secure a slot in the "Champagne Unit" of the Texas Air National Guard. The unit was refered to as such because it contained so many son's of prominent Texans.

But first let's dial up the "Way Back Machine" and revisit recent history.

Remember the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth? Remember a guy named Bob Perry? Bob Perry is the guy who gave the SBVT $200,000 and supposedly had some sort of connection with Karl Rove ... right? How could we forget this nifty diagram in the NYT?

It was enough, declared the main stream media, to brand the SBVT as smear mongers funded by the Republicans. And because it was a Republican smear, they sniffed, we can ignore it as just more dirty politics. Bob Perry's supposed acquaintence with Karl Rove as well as the money donated to the SBVT proved enough, in terms of Republican connections to discredit the SBVT in the eyes of the MSM.

Well, if that's the conclusion it has reached about the SBVT, it would have to reach the same conclusion for Ben Barnes if it could be shown that Ben Barnes had connections to the Kerry campaign, wouldn't you say?

Take a gander. Third name down.

Makes Bob Perry look like a piker, doesn't it? And his contributions aren't to a 527.

One wonders what conclusion the MSM will draw from "60 Minutes" this week with this in evidence?

By the way ... given the evidence, I don't question Ben Barnes timing at all. But I do question "60 Minutes" journalistic integrity.

More on Ben Barnes here (hat tip to VRWC Jedi for link).

UPDATE II (JON): So far, we're hearing one side of the story from Barnes--a side he's alleged before. But let's be very clear about what the allegation is. As the Washington Post reported in 1999...

But Ben Barnes, who later was lieutenant governor, said the request for his help came from a Bush family friend – not Bush or his father, who then was a congressman.
... [Barnes] lawyer issued a written statement saying Barnes had been contacted by the now-deceased Sidney Adger, a Houston oilman and friend of the elder Bush.

"Mr. Barnes was contacted by Sid Adger and asked to recommend George W. Bush for a pilot position with the Air National Guard. Barnes called Gen. (James) Rose (Texas Air Guard commander) and did so," the statement said.

"Neither Congressman Bush nor any other member of the Bush family asked Barnes' help. Barnes has no knowledge that Governor Bush or President Bush knew of Barnes' recommendation," the statement said.

So, while Barnes is alleging "assistance", there is no allegation that Bush was involved. But, let's note what else is not exactly settled. Barnes claims he made a call....but did that call actually make any difference?

Well, if Barnes claims it did, he's the only one. According to the Dallas Morning News

Records provided to The News by Tom Hail, a historian for the Texas Air National Guard, show that the unit Mr. Bush signed up for was not filled. In mid-1968, the 147th Fighter Interceptor Group, based in Houston, had 156 openings among its authorized staff of 925 military personnel.

Of those, 26 openings were for officer slots, such as that filled by Mr. Bush, and 130 were for enlisted men and women. Also, several former Air Force pilots who served in the unit said that they were recruited from elsewhere to fly for the Texas Guard.

Officers who supervised Mr. Bush and approved his admission to the Guard said they were never contacted by anyone on Mr. Bush's behalf.

"He didn't have any strings pulled, because there weren't any strings to pull," said Leroy Thompson of Brownwood, who commanded the squadron that kept the waiting list for the guard at Ellington Air Force Base. "Our practices were under incredible scrutiny then. It was a very ticklish time."
According to several former officers, the openings in the unit were filled from a waiting list kept in the base safe of Rufus G. Martin, then an Air National Guard personnel officer.

In a recent interview, Mr. Martin of San Antonio said the list was kept on computer and in a bound volume, which was periodically inspected by outside agencies to make sure the list was kept properly.

Mr. Bush said he sought the Guard position on his own, before graduating from Yale University in 1968. He personally met with Col. Walter B. Staudt, commander of the 147th group.

In an interview, Mr. Bush said he walked into Col. Staudt's Houston office and told him he wanted to be a fighter pilot.

"He told me they were looking for pilots," Mr. Bush said. He said he was told that there were five or six flying slots available, and he got one of them.

While Guard slots generally were coveted, pilot positions required superior education, physical fitness and the willingness to spend more than a year in full-time training.

"If somebody like that came along, you'd snatch them up," said the former commander, who retired as a general. "He took no advantage. It wouldn't have made any difference whether his daddy was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."

Bobby Hodges, the group's operations officer, and others familiar with Guard rules said Mr. Bush made it to the top of the short list of candidates who could pass both the written officer test and a rigorous flight physical to qualify for the three to four annual pilot training "quotas" allotted to the unit.

Mr. Hodges and Gen. Staudt are the two surviving members of the military panel that reviewed and approved Mr. Bush's officer commission.

Most of those wanting to get into the Guard at that time, they said, didn't want to put in the full year of active service that was required to become a pilot.

My apologies for the FreeRepublic link, but it's the only place with the full story. I've checked around, and I'm comfortable with the accuracy of the story. It's listed as "Dallas Morning News | July 4, 1999 | Pete Slover, George Kuempel", so skeptic should be able to check it, perhaps on Lexis-Nexis. Further, a google-search for ["Pete Slover" "George Kuempel" + Bush] turns up all manner of lefty sites who apparently found the article credible enough to cite in critiques of Bush's record....though, perhaps due to the exculpatory evidence, many don't see fit to link, or reproduce it.

And when the LA Times spoke to then-Col. Staudt....

Bush's application, as well as his commission, were handled by then-Col. Walter B. "Buck" Staudt, who said, "Nobody did anything for him…. There was no … influence on his behalf. Neither his daddy nor anybody else got him into the Guard." Staudt, who retired in 1972 as a brigadier general, said Bush was enrolled quickly because there was a demand for pilot candidates.

So, while Ben Barnes is right to be embarrassed about his actions at the time, there's no real evidence that he did anything more than prostitute himself. There is simply no evidence that his actions had a bearing on Bush's path in the Texas National Guard. Or even, necessarily, that his call was relayed to the people making the decisions.

One wonders whether 60 Minutes will ask anybody involved in that chain of events beyond Ben Barnes?

: More on Barne's contributions thru "Open Secrets".



Somehow I just don't think 60 Minutes will be asking Barnes about those contributions. WOW -- Barnes must really, really like Kerry because I feel sure there are no strings attached.

However, the NYT or WaPo might be interested. Especially, Richard Cohen or Paul Krugman. LOL

Posted by: Kathy at September 4, 2004 06:20 PM

There is a well researched 2-part article exposing Ben Barnes past at The Blogspirator.

The Dirt on Ben Barnes Claims about Bush and the Air National Guard

Posted by: VRWC Jedi at September 4, 2004 06:34 PM

Oops, the Ben Barnes article at Blogspirator is here:

Your HTML link posting thingy is broken, dude!

Posted by: VRWC Jedi at September 4, 2004 06:37 PM

Just checked the links ... they're all working.

Posted by: McQ at September 4, 2004 06:41 PM

Hmmm... McQ seems your traffic to the CapitalEye site has caused a problem. This is what I just received:

503 Service Unavailable

The server has been placed offline by the operator. Please try again later.

Posted by: Marc at September 4, 2004 06:56 PM

"60 Minutes" journalistic integrity?

Posted by: James Henry at September 4, 2004 07:03 PM

Marc: Probably has more to do with the Captain's Quarters link than ours. Looks like it got overwhelmed. Take a look at CQ. He's copied the top three contributors in his story.

Posted by: McQ at September 4, 2004 07:05 PM

Michael Dobbs' WaPo article about this press-stopping new story is self-fisking, but I've blogged about it here, and some of my commenters have had interesting takes. (Sorry to link-whore, McQ, but I figured it's better than a long cut and paste.)

I'm actually old enough to remember Ben Barnes' implosion here Texas in the early 1970s — he was the fair-haired boy, the proto-Bill Clinton of Texas politics. Crooked, though, and got caught; there's a good reason he hasn't been in the public eye in Texas for the last 30 years.

Dobbs' article — apart being a waste of his time when he has other things he ought to be writing about IMHO — makes clear that there's nothing new here. This is purely recycled stuff from 1999 that's being trotted out to try to put the spotlight back on Dubya instead of on SwiftVets vs. Kerry.

Posted by: Beldar at September 4, 2004 08:01 PM

That's ok. I understand the Guardian in the UK is printing a story that Bush - get ready to gasp- used to be a drunk!

Oh yeah, Susan Estritch commands, and the media vassals dance.

I'm going to the Swiftboat site now to contribute.

Posted by: shark at September 4, 2004 08:24 PM

I am not sure what to make of this? It appears to be a real book.

Apparently the book will describe George Sr as a child molestor and GWB as a closet homosexual.

So the media is trying their best. If AQ was only as capable as the MSM, then America would be a wahabi state in the caliphate.

I see that the book will be published in Briatian. With Britain's libel laws, I hope they take her to the cleaners.

Posted by: capt joe at September 4, 2004 08:42 PM

It is. Kitty Kelly writes badly researched and referenced books about celebrities. They're thinly disguised hit pieces.

Just another in a long line of Bush bashing books. The market is slightly saturated in that genre ... just ask Maureen Dowd.

Posted by: McQ at September 4, 2004 08:48 PM

Saturated? There's an understatement.
There are fewer books written on biblical interpretation, and I think, maybe, Barnes and Noble is considering replacing the American History section with one called "George Bush is Satan"

Posted by: looker at September 4, 2004 08:58 PM

I was taking Texas History in junior high when Sharpstown broke. While the Republicans were catching it on a national level with Watergate, the Texas Democrats were catching it at the state level over Sharpstown. That and local corruption by county judge candidates have helped to turn the old home town into a fairly Republican area (Ron Paul is their congressman).

Gus Mutscher (sp?) was the Speaker of the Texas House, and he was in deeper doo-doo than Barnes, but Barnes-baby ain't pure as the driven snow himself.

Posted by: David R. Block at September 4, 2004 09:26 PM

Yeah, more recently it was GTECH and the TX state lottery. However from what I see Barnes keeps getting caught associating with people with their hands in the till, but his hand never gets caught. Make of that what you will.

Again though, all this stuff is old news.
Getting Granny to recollect "Georgies" history is cute. I'm sure her job was to know exactly what GW was doing at all times. Right up there with me saying my brother-in-law was supposedly in Vietnam, but having never seen him there myself you know, well land sakes, I can't say
he had anything to do with it.

Every time they trot this stuff out I'm amazed, and you know, on reflection, I don't know WHY I'm amazed. It's SOP for them. They really ARE banking on the swing voters being that stupid.

Posted by: looker at September 4, 2004 10:05 PM

And what's the recorded info on Jake Johnson, a key piece in the story since he's related that the conveniently now dead Gen Rose told him he got Bush accepted in the Guard.

The "it has been reporteds" and "my wife's uncle's brother-in-law has said"'s I find in web references on the entire story are a bit credibility straining. There's no fact here, it's all unsubstantiated and unverifiable allegation, like Granny's recent recollection of Georgies time in Alabama.

Posted by: looker at September 4, 2004 10:42 PM

"Saturated? There's an understatement."

Just remember, looker: the ones you see are there because they haven't sold!

Saw it in June when looking for a particular Reagan book, and all I found were Bushhitler tomes in great stacks. Grabbed a manager and testily asked him why there weren't any Reagan books. He said, "We can't keep them in stock. I wish they'd send us Reagan books instead of all this "Bush sux" stuff which we can't GIVE away."

heh. The remainder bin.

Posted by: Jumbo at September 4, 2004 11:13 PM

For what it's worth, the "official" 60 Minutes web site does not list the Barnes interview in its "Up Next" section for the 9/5/04 broadcast. Doesn't mean it won't air, of course, but it's not on the official schedule.

If you haven't done this already, McQ, please consider calling or e-mailing 60 Minutes with your research on Barnes. At least then they can't claim they didn't know.

Posted by: Ellis Wyatt at September 5, 2004 12:17 AM

Jumbo - I do admit to a certain amount of gloating on one thing - a LOT of those books were marked at the "everyone wants this book!"
price of 30% off. Including Moron Dowd's latest.
Didn't notice that problem when I paid the full price (okay, my B&N discount card gets 10% off)
for "Micheal Moore is a Stupid Fat White Guy".

God how I love repeating that title.

Posted by: looker at September 5, 2004 08:03 AM

Who cares about Barnes? We all knew in 2000 that GWB was a screwup before age 40 and he was voted into office anyway. Plus, GWB has never touted his National Guard service as a reason to qualify him for president. And if anyone asks him about Barnes during this election cycle, he is likely to deflect the question and point to his accomplishments fighting the war on terror, which are the only qualifications that matter.

As for 60 minutes, I don't watch it anymore.

Posted by: pdq332 at September 5, 2004 09:13 AM

Professor Bainbridge soes a great job of skewering the myth that Dems are fighting fair.

Posted by: capt joe at September 5, 2004 12:36 PM

"As for 60 Minutes, I don't watch it anymore."

Sometimes I do, but only to look for clues that might help me determine whether CBS uses the same embalming techniques on Mike Wallace that the Soviets used on Lenin.

Posted by: Jumbo at September 5, 2004 02:39 PM

The Barnes story, even if absolutely true rates a big fat "so what?" to anyone with a functioning brain. Ever look for a job? Getting hired is always easier if you have a friend that knows someone in the company.
A family friend may or may not have called a Texas Pol. The Texas Pol may or may not have called a Texas Air Guard honcho and said something along the line of 'take a look at this kid, he might be what you're looking for'.
Bush was looking for a job. If I were looking for a job I wouldn't put down homeless eople as my references, nor would I put down a bunch of people that hated me. Most especially, if any potential references had a connection with the honchos of the outfit I was trying to hire on to, that's who I'd use. Oh, and I'd tell them I was using them as references. I wouldn't ask them to make any calls on my behalf, I sure wouldn't complain if they did.
Bush may be guilty of having references on his job application. So what?

Posted by: Peter at September 5, 2004 02:54 PM

Now, don't diss on Lenin - a Russian friend of mine used to joke the lines were long at the tomb because it's the only thing they never ran out of.

Posted by: looker at September 5, 2004 03:41 PM

Mmmmm, now what was it, other than the death of the only other witness to this supposed request, that pricked poor Mr. Barnes' battered conscience?

Posted by: Jumbo at September 5, 2004 10:31 PM

Oh, probably his sudden desire to see the triumph of truth (or whatever version of reality would be most convenient for John Kerry at this point it time...want to borrow his hat?, he got it in Cambodia).

Posted by: looker at September 6, 2004 08:37 AM

McQ: Here's some more links on the availability of pilot slots in the TANG:

*Jon's old entry on the Dallas Morning News article, with links to the Daily Howler.

*A Bill Hobbs post with more links.

Of course, I suspect most of the public already thinks (in the absence of evidence) that Bush's dad pulled strings for him, so new charges that try to prove that are unlikely to make a dent.

Posted by: Crank at September 7, 2004 05:05 PM

Questions about SBVT arose from its being a 527 org and such an organization’s coordination with a candidate (GWB) being a violation of federal law. The resignation of a senior Bush staff member and another lesser campaign operative for participation in the SBVT activities seems to be evidence of such unlawful coordination. While the contributions from Ben Barnes are startling, to say the least, they were entirely legal and were reported early on by Kerry himself, as is required by law. I am continually astonished at the hard 180 on military service by a candidate (or the lack thereof) being executed by those who freely hurled insults at Bill Clinton for going to England on a Fulbright Scholarship during the Vietnam War. In their tight turn, they now expect others to ignore the fact that GWB has a “spotty” record of service during the same period. After all, wherever he was (And, there are some REAL questions about that, and his recent forthrightness regarding where he was and what he was doing.), it is clear that GWB was never in Vietnam.

Posted by: Jim Bishop at September 9, 2004 02:07 AM