Bush pressured on military gaps

By Susan Milligan, Globe Staff, 11/3/00

WASHINGTON -- Democratic military veterans in the US Senate lashed out yesterday at Governor George W. Bush of Texas for failing to explain his apparent extended absence during his tenure in the Texas Air National Guard.

"The question is, where were you, Governor Bush?" said Senator Daniel Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii and a World War II veteran.

"What would you do as commander-in-chief if someone in the National Guard did the same thing?" Inouye asked during a telephone address to supporters of Vice President Al Gore in Nashville yesterday.

Inouye joined several colleagues, Senators Bob Kerrey, Democrat of Nebraska, and Max Cleland, Democrat of Georgia, in raising harsh questions about Bush's role during the Vietnam War.

The remarks were in response to a Globe article this week showing that Bush stopped flying after 22 months within his unit of the Texas Air National Guard. Further, the article reported, Bush failed to show up for required Guard drills during a six-month stay in Alabama, and he was lax even after returning to Houston.

"At the least, I would have been court-martialed. At the least, I would have been placed in prison," Inouye said.

Bush "made a commitment to the Texas Air National Guard, and God bless him for doing so," said Kerrey. But "if you're going to make a commitment to join the Guard, especially at that time, you've got to keep that commitment," Kerrey added.

Bush has refused to be interviewed by the Globe on the topic of his military service. His spokesman, Dan Bartlett, yesterday called the questions about the governor a "scurrilous charge" of a "desperate" Gore campaign.