Molly Ivins

Not So Swift


We were bound to get at least one good laugh out of Swift Boat Veterans for Humongous Lies, and what a pip it is. Upon being identified as the lawyer both for the Bush-Cheney campaign and the Swift Boat Liars, Benjamin Ginsberg bravely offered his resignation to the campaign, which has said repeatedly it has NO connection to the Liars.

He made the following poignant argument in a letter to the president, which I know will touch you as deeply as it did me (emphasis added): “I cannot begin to express my sadness that my legal representations have become a distraction for the critical issues at hand in this election. I feel I cannot let that continue, so I have decided to resign as national counsel to your campaign to ensure that the giving of legal advice to decorated military veterans, which was entirely within the boundaries of the law, doesn’t distract from the real issues upon which you and the country should be focused.â€

Do you love it?

The Swift Boat Liars are of interest only as a perfect case for those in media studies to see exactly how this stuff spreads, although it does dig up yet again the issue of how George W. Bush spent the Vietnam War. Here’s a review of the state of play on that story. USA Today recently rehashed the remaining questions:

Why did Bush, described by some of his fellow officers as a talented and enthusiastic pilot, stop flying fighter jets in the spring of 1972 and fail to take the annual physical exam required by all pilots?

What explains the gap in the president’s Guard service in 1972-1973, a period when commanders in Texas and Alabama say they never saw him report for duty and records show no pay to Bush when he was supposed to be on duty in Alabama?

A third question from USAT—did Bush receive preferential treatment in getting into the Guard and getting a coveted pilot slot—is a non-question. Of course he did. It was the peak of the Vietnam War, and there was waiting list of over 100,000 men to get into the Air National Guard. A friend of Daddy Bush named Sid Adger called the then-lieutenant governor of Texas, Ben Barnes, and asked him to get Rep. Bush’s son George into the section of the Texas Guard known as the “champagne unit.â€

Adger was a prominent Houston businessman who belonged to the same clubs as Poppy, sent his kids to the same schools, and had sons in the champagne unit. The son of former Texas Gov. John Connally had joined, the son of Sen. Lloyd Bentsen joined, as did some players for the Dallas Cowboys.

Barnes called Brig. Gen. James Rose of the Guard and recommended Bush for a pilot position. Bush got a direct commission and was assigned one of the last two pilot slots in the state after scoring the absolute numerical minimum (25) on the qualifying test. For years, Bush claimed a friend whose name he didn’t remember had told him of an opening in the Guard, that he applied through regular channels and was accepted.

The ’72-’73 gap in Bush’s Guard record might have been explained by old Pentagon records but—gosh darn it, those very records turn out to have been destroyed by mistake. Don’t you know Bush was upset that the records that could have proven his story turned out to be gone? Several newspapers have put in freedom-of-information requests for still other records, but nothing has been forthcoming so far.

Meanwhile, in a war of somewhat more immediate relevance in a place called Iraq, things are going so badly we find deserters from the ranks. Not the military ranks—the political ranks. The latest defector—a.k.a. person recognizing reality and showing some common sense—is Republican Rep. Doug Bereuter of Nebraska, who said “it was a mistake†to go into Iraq.

William F. Buckley, the conservative godfather, has also concluded that had he known in February 2003 what we know now, “I would not have counseled war against Iraq.â€

Among those who are seeing the light, Max Boot, a noted neo-con, thinks Donald Rumsfeld should resign over Abu Ghraib. The editors of The National Review blame the administration for being unprepared for the occupation. Tucker Carlson of “Crossfire†repents, as does Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek. Thomas Friedman and David Brooks of The New York Times are both big enough to say they were wrong.

According to those who understand politics on the right better than I, the neo-cons are now in disgrace with the conservatives OR the “paleo-conservatives†are about to be chucked out of the party by the neo-cons.

Molly Ivins is a nationally syndicated columnist. Her new book with Lou Dubose is Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush’s America (Random House).