September 20, 2004


Portrait of George Bush in '72: Unanchored in Turbulent Time (This article was reported by Sara Rimer, Ralph Blumenthal and Raymond Bonner and written by Ms. Rimer, 9/20/04, NY Times)

Nineteen seventy-two was the year George W. Bush dropped off the radar screen.

He abandoned his once-prized status as a National Guard pilot by failing to appear for a required physical. He sought temporary reassignment from the Texas Air National Guard to an Alabama unit but for six months did not show up for training. He signed on as an official in the losing campaign of a Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, and even there he left few impressions other than as an amiable bachelor with a good tennis game and a famous father.

"To say he brought in a bunch of initiatives and bright ideas," said a fellow campaign worker, Devere McLennan, "no he didn't."

This year of inconsequence has grown increasingly consequential for President Bush because of persistent, unanswered questions about his National Guard service - why he failed to take his pilot's physical and whether he fulfilled his commitment to the Guard. If anything, those issues became still murkier this past week, with the controversy over the authenticity of four documents disclosed by CBS News and its program "60 Minutes" purporting to shed light on that Guard record.

Still, a wider examination of his life in 1972, based on dozens of interviews and other documents released by the White House over the years, yields a portrait of a young man like many other young men of privilege in that turbulent time - entitled, unanchored and safe from combat, bouncing from a National Guard slot made possible by his family's prominence to a political job arranged through his father. [...]

After basic training and a year at flight school in Georgia, he was assigned to Ellington Air Force Base outside Houston, where he flew F-102 fighter jets. In March 1970, with his father, himself a World War II Navy pilot, in Congress, the Texas Air National Guard issued a news release announcing that the young Mr. Bush "doesn't get his kicks from pot or hashish or speed," but from "the roaring afterburner of the F-102." As he wrote in his autobiography, "It was exciting the first time I flew, and it was exciting the last time." In a November 1970 evaluation, his squadron commander, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, called him a "top-notch" pilot and a "natural leader."

By 1972, though, something had changed; the excitement seemed to have waned. Mr. Bush's flying buddy from Ellington, Dean Roome, said Mr. Bush may have been frustrated because the unit's growing role as a training school left young pilots fewer opportunities to log hours in the air. Others who knew him believe he simply lost interest. He was once again at loose ends, without a regular job, having left Stratford after a year or so, unhappy in the company's buttoned-down atmosphere.

Whatever precisely was drawing Mr. Bush away from flying, it was then, in the spring of 1972, that the Alabama job came along. He had worked for Jimmy Allison before - on a 1968 Senate campaign in Florida - but this would be his first full-time job in the family business, politics. [...]

By the summer of 1973, Mr. Bush had decided to go to Harvard Business School.

Mr. Bush seems a rather typical young man of his age, though one with better opportunities. It's interesting that his adulthood really begins with the decision to get the MBA, which he didn't even tell his father he was applying to school for.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 20, 2004 8:00 PM

Bush and I are the same age.

In 1972, I was working and raising a family, and all the guys from my high school class ('64) were either working or in graduate school.

Being a wastrel wasn't typical where I come from

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 21, 2004 2:01 AM

I know Harry and look what you have accomplished (me too) in comparison to that bum Bush.

Posted by: h-man at September 21, 2004 5:54 AM


George didn't turn out to be a bum, but he wouldn't be President if his last name wasn't Bush.

It's difficult to compare Bush to anyone who didn't have a famous name or come from money.

It's even possible that Paris Hilton might someday grow up and do something constructive, so a better comparison would be President Bush, and Paris at age 60.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 21, 2004 7:04 AM


See, there really is a point to aristocracy.

Posted by: oj at September 21, 2004 7:17 AM

The Left's best piece of ammo:

"W didn't come up with any big ideas in 1972."

Priceless. W will have 4 more years.

Posted by: Tom at September 21, 2004 8:12 AM

You know,much the same could be said of JFK in his ONI billet in S. Carolina, arranged by his father's friend, James Forrestal, until his
indiscretions with a Nazi agent, forced him to
take the PT boat slot in the Solomons

Posted by: narciso at September 21, 2004 9:29 PM

I'm just saying that turbulent times didn't have anything to do with it.

They were just as turbulent for me and my friends.

And, besides, I have three swell kids. I've accomplished everything I set out to accomplish.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 22, 2004 9:25 PM

W almost has. Aristocrats just have higher goals.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2004 11:23 PM

Aristocrats can afford to have higher goals.

When you know movers and shakers from the highest ranks of government and commerce, and you're related to some of them, it's easy to decide to change society.

Not that it's easy to actually do it, but it's easy to decide to try.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 23, 2004 6:16 AM

I'd rate him as an almost complete failure.

As a businessman, father, and politician

Insofar as I understand his goals, I don't consider them high

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 23, 2004 4:48 PM

Yes, it's that failure of understanding that makes all the difference in how high you've risen respectively.

Posted by: oj at September 23, 2004 5:04 PM