There's no question that the idea that Bush may have been AWOL during part of his tenure in the Guard is intriguing. But it's not nearly the most offensive aspect of his military history, and it's mired in uncertainty. We need to avoid getting caught up in the legalistic AWOL/not-AWOL arguments, and focus on what Bush himself admits when asked how he got out of the Guard 8 months early: "I was going to Harvard Business School and worked it out with the military."
Imagine with me a soldier named Joe Smith, from Southeast DC. Corporal Smith joined the DC Guard to pay for his undergrad degree at UDC -- he was the first member of his family to earn a four-year degree. Smith has been posted in Tikrit for the past six months, and despite the fact that his Guard commitment was due to end on Dec. 31, he isn't allowed to leave the service, due to Bush's stop-loss orders
. But Smith applied to business schools before leaving for Iraq, and has just been accepted into Howard Business School.
Will Corporal Smith, who has already served longer than the term for which he signed up -- and who has served in a war zone -- be able to "work it out with the military" so that he can go to the "other" HBS? Hell no. And that, folks, is a powerful testament to the arrogant sense of entitlement that permeates every cell of George Walker Bush. The fact that he can characterize his service as entirely honorable, and apparently believes that it was somehow normal to "work out" a deal with the military so that he could return to his Ivy League roots -- at the same time that he keeps Guard members in Iraq long past the time when they should have gone home -- is appalling and foreign to regular Americans.
Bush got into the Texas Guard pilot program despite abysmal test scores, during a time that there was a draft on for an overseas war, and he was able to bail out early on that
because he wanted to go to b-school. Today, Bush issues stop-loss orders that keep Guardsmen like Corporal Smith -- who unlike Bush, serve in an overseas war -- in the service indefinitely. And unlike George Walker Bush, son of a Representative/Ambassador/RNC chair and grandson of a Senator, the Smiths of today's Guard don't get to make it all stop just because they want to kill time at business school.
is an issue which will resonate with Americans. Bush has never played by the rules forced on the rest of us, and his b-school/Guard dealings highlight the imbalance of the playing field.