February 07, 2004

Now Comes Benjamin Barnes with a Sworn Deposition in the Matter of George W. Bush...

Kevin Drum reminds us of ancient history. "But that was in another country, and the wench is dead," no? No. It is potentially a big deal: "what is a big deal is that it makes it rather more plausible that Bush continued to receive special treatment throughout his career in the Guard and for many years after."

Calpundit: Bush, Barnes, and the National Guard: Since the whole Bush AWOL thing has popped back onto the radar screen lately, I thought everyone might enjoy a trip into the memory hole. This is from 1999:

In a written statement under oath presented on Monday, Ben Barnes, a former speaker of the Texas state legislature, said that in 1968 he asked the head of the Texan Air National Guard, General James Rose, to give the young Mr Bush a place on a pilot-training programme, automatically excusing him from the draft.

....In his deposition, Mr Barnes said he had been asked to intervene by a Bush family friend, Sid Adger, but he did not know whether George Bush Sr, then a congressman, knew about the request. The former president said recently that he was "almost positive" that he had never discussed the matter with Adger, who died three years ago, and never asked for help. Rose died in 1993.

Ben Barnes was one of the most powerful politicians in Texas in the 60s and 70s — "the next LBJ" — until an unfortunate scandal derailed his career (although fret not for Barnes: his consolation prize was becoming a garden variety Texas tycoon and political fixit man). Sid Adger was an oil magnate and friend of the Bush family.

So did George W. Bush get some high-level help getting into the Texas Air Guard? Of course he did, and it came from higher up than Adger, who didn't just wake up one morning and decide to call Barnes for no reason. Somebody asked him to. Hell, even the official denials from the Bush camp are obviously just pro forma.

But the thing is that no one cares. Sure he got special treatment, but so did lots of other folks and that was 35 years ago anyway. It's just not that big a deal.

However, what is a big deal is that it makes it rather more plausible that Bush continued to receive special treatment throughout his career in the Guard and for many years after. More on that later.

Posted by DeLong at February 7, 2004 04:47 PM | TrackBack

Comments

The great part is, if these two gentlemen were Clinton family friends their deaths would almost certainly be chalked up as Clinton-kills.

Posted by: Aaron on February 7, 2004 04:55 PM

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And then Ben Barnes wins the lottery for GTech.

http://www.gregpalast.com/detail.cfm?artid=233&row=1

Greg Palast tells us how it happened:

It’s 1997. Top-gun George Jr. is governor and GTech is in deep doo-doo with Texas lottery regulators. Texas is the nation’s biggest, most lucrative lottery and GTech was about to lose its contract, worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The state’s lottery director was sacked following revelations that GTech had put the director’s boyfriend on the company payroll while he was under indictment for bribery. A new clean-hands director, Lawrence Littwin, ordered an audit, terminated GTech’s contract and put it out for rebid. Littwin also launched an investigation into GTech’s political donations.

Then a funny thing happened: The Texas Lottery Commission fired Littwin.

Almost immediately thereafter, the Bush-appointed commissioners canceled the bidding for a new operator, though the low bidder had already been announced to replace GTech. The commissioners also halted the financial audit, ended the political payola investigation and gave the contract back to GTech.

Why did the Texas government work so hard at saving GTech’s license? A letter to the U.S. Justice Department – I have obtained a copy – provides some fascinating details. The writer points to one Ben Barnes, a lobbyist to whom GTech paid fees of $23 million. Way back in 1968, according to the whistleblower, an aide to Barnes – then lieutenant governor of the Lone Star State – quietly suggested to Air Guard chief Brig. Gen. James Rose that he find a safe spot in the Guard for Congressman George Bush’s son.

Whether the Bushes used their influence to get young George out of serving in Vietnam was a big issue during George Jr.’s neck-and-neck race for governor against Ann Richards in 1994. Bush’s opponents, however, did not know of Barnes’s office’s contact with General Rose, so the story died.

The letter ties Barnes’s knowledge of Governor Bush’s draft-dodging to GTech’s exclusive deal with the state: “Governor Bush . . . made a deal with Ben Barnes not to rebid [the GTech lottery contract] because Barnes could confirm that Bush had lied during the ’94 campaign. During that campaign, Bush was asked if his father, then a member of Congress, had helped him get in the National Guard. Bush said 'no'...George Bush was placed ahead of thousands of young men, some of whom died in Viet Nam...Barnes agreed never to confirm the story and the governor talked to the chair of the lottery two days later, and she then agreed to support letting GTech keep the contract without a bid.”

The whistleblower remained anonymous, but offered to come forward later to authorities. Fingering Barnes, a Democrat, as the man who put in the fix for the Bushes with the Air Guard seemed wildly implausible. The letter remained sealed and buried. No investigation followed, neither Barnes nor the letter writer were called by the Feds.

Posted by: Kosh on February 7, 2004 05:04 PM

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correction: "and, BESIDES, the wench is dead."

Posted by: red on February 7, 2004 06:01 PM

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Here's a bit of Greg Palast on Bush:

FORTUNATE SON
GREG PALAST'S INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW EDITION OF JIM HATFIELD'S BIOGRAPHY OF GEORGE W. BUSH
Monday Jan 12, 2004

'THERE IS A SPECIAL PLACE IN HELL FOR PUBLISHERS WHO RUN FROM THEIR AUTHORS LIKE CRAVEN DOGS, WHO DON'T MIND SENSATIONALISM THAT SELLS ... UNTIL THE GAME GETS ROUGH." HORNS & HALOS, the documentary about the publication of this book, will screen on CINEMAX February 18th, 2004 at 7PM.

Jim Hatfield? Wasn't he some kind of whack-o? Some kind of Conspiracy Theorist with fruitcake ideas out to get the Bushes? I've got to admit it. That's the first thing that popped into my head when Soft Skull suggested I write an introduction to the new edition of Hatfield's Fortunate Son. But then I read the book. Twenty pages in, I'm wondering, So where’s the goofball info? Where are the rumors and unsupported claims? Not only is the information solid, the writing well-considered and thoughtful, but damn, this Hatfield guy actually likes the Bushes – even if, good journalist that Hatfield is, he has to lay out the facts both flattering and less so. Just read Hatfield on Bush Sr's comforting Barbara over the death of their young daughter: deeply sympathetic, without a hint of Texas irony or shots at the Bushes for politicizing personal tragedy. I wonder if I would have been so nice to the serial presidents. What you get here is the drumbeat of fact after fact after fact on the rise of a president born with a silver oil well in his mouth. It's without invective, even without the usual speculation common to political bios, but it is devastating. Gone is the Hollywood re-make of Dubya as Just Plain Folks who happened to pick up a few dollars in the oil and sports biz. This is about a guy who stuffed his pockets and built a career on a combination of daddy's Rolodex, political venom and rich-kid contacts. The big boys didn't help Bush, they invested in him. But unlike the investors in Dubya's shaky oil-well partnerships, the money-bags who bet on Junior Bush hit a gusher. Never have so few enriched themselves for so long at the expense of so many. I owe Hatfield big time. Fortunate Son is the unacknowledged Chapter One of my own book on the Junior Bush Administration. In reading Hatfield’s description of Bush’s rise to Governor of Texas, we see that history repeats itself with horrifying predictability: first as farce and then as Presidency. In November 2001, for BBC Television, I reported that FBI agents, prior to September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, told me that the Bush Administration had put the kibosh on investigations of Saudi Arabian funding of terror groups including a see-no-evil policy on members of the Bin Ladin family (excluding the evil Osama). It just didn’t make sense to me until I read Jim’s book: how young Dubya struck it rich in the oil business drilling nothing but dry holes ... except for the hole he drilled into the pockets of Sheikh Abdullah Bakhsh (a Bin Ladin family advisor) and the story of the extraordinary contract granted Bush’s oil company, Harken, by a Persian Gulf emirate. You can’t understand our White House today – the oil company wet dream of an Energy Plan, the Kiss-Me-I’m-Saudi foreign policy – without reading the rise and reign of Governor Dubya. ‘Vending machine government is what it is,’ Houstonian LaNell Andersen told me,’You put the money in, and the policies come out.’ LaNell has reason to be angry, suffering from diseases linked to the filth spewed into the air above the Houston ship channel by Exxon-Mobil and Bush’s other major political donors. It’s not as simple as ‘this lump of cash for this change in regulations.’ As one CIA agent put it: suggesting an investigation of your President’s or his daddy’s business partners is not a career-maker. It’s a web of relationships, one hand - or one wallet - washing another. Somehow those that took care of the Bush family get taken care of. For example, while investigating the theft of the vote in Florida, I discovered that a company, ChoicePoint, had given a list of 57,000 ‘felons’ to the office of Secretary of State Katherine Harris prior to the 2000 election – and she ordered the removal of these criminals from the voter rolls. In fact, 95% of those on the list were innocent of crimes – but the vast majority were guilty of being African-Americans and Democrats. That was the election. Lo and behold! The big winner in the contracting game that is the Bush War of Terrorism: ChoicePoint, the database company whose computers made George our President. Hatfield showed us the pattern: investigative reporters today just have to fill in the new names. I have a couple of complaints about the book. Hatfield could have been tougher. Take the story of Gtech, the dodgy lottery company. Did GTech save its billion-dollar contract with the State of Texas because their lobbyist knew the secret of how young George Junior got into the Texas Air Guard? Hatfield, thorough as they come, would have known the story, but must have left it out rather pile on an accusation which needed further corroboration. Hatfield's sin then, if any, was over-cautiousness. And that is why it borders on criminal that Hatfield was smeared with the charge of making an unsubstantiated accusation. It all came down to the astonishingly insignificant information that Junior Bush got caught with a bit of cocaine in 1972. Hey, what's a little toot between friends, Mr. Rove? Why did the Bush Battalions go hunting for Hatfield and force St. Martins to run, hide and withdraw the book? Every political hack in D.C. knows that the way to cover personal transgressions is to give the goobers the old I-Sinned-As-A-Youth-Then-Found-Jesus routine. Hatfield reports -- without laughing out loud -- Bush's famous soul-saving walk on the beach with Billy Graham. Hatfield’s revelation of the nose-candy bust blows Bush’s cover as just a kid with a few boy-will-be-boys DWI tickets. Yet in the revelation of the cocaine story, Hatfield doesn't gloat, doesn't say,'Gotcha!' -- he just reports. And for that sin – reporting – Jim Hatfield was driven to his death. So God Bless America. And God bless Soft Skull for keeping this book alive. There is a special place in hell for publishers who run from their authors like craven dogs, who don't mind sensationalism that sells ... until the game gets rough. I suspect that for my own sins, I'll end up in the Flames – but when I do, at least I'll have the comfort of seeing the spineless executives of St. Martin's Press roasting with me.

Posted by: Cal on February 7, 2004 07:27 PM

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Slightly off-topic, but not seriously so: in an attempt to determine the staying power of the Bush/AWOL meme, I've been tracking the number of stories that include various keywords (Bush, AWOL, deserter, service record) for the last 2 weeks.

The daily updates report can be found at http://unfutz.blogspot.com/2004_02_01_unfutz_archive.html#107577694535521806

Posted by: Ed Fitzgerald (unfutz) on February 8, 2004 12:25 PM

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Cal -thanks for the link to Hatfield's Fortunate Son --A truly disturbing book.

Posted by: calmo on February 11, 2004 01:43 AM

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