Bush opens wide in war service rumpus

The White House released a copy of a dental examination that President George Bush had in the National Guard in Alabama during the Vietnam War to rebut suggestions made by Democrats who have questioned whether the president ever showed up for duty there.

The White House released a copy of a dental examination that President George Bush had in the National Guard in Alabama during the Vietnam War to rebut suggestions made by Democrats who have questioned whether the president ever showed up for duty there.

A copy of the dental examination carried out on January 6, 1973, shows the president was serving at Dannelly Air National Guard Base, which is south of Montgomery, Alabama, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

Earlier in the day, McClellan hardened its defence of Bush’s Guard service, saying critics were “trolling for trash” for political gain.

Bush completed most of his National Guard training in Texas, but in 1972 was allowed to leave and perform his duties in Alabama so he could work on a Senate political campaign.

Democrats have been scrutinising a one-year period of Bush’s Guard service that began in May 1972, saying they have seen no evidence that Bush ever served in Alabama.

Several members of an Alabama unit Bush was assigned to have said they could not recall seeing him.

According to the White House, the dental examination shows Bush did report for duty in Alabama. The examination, however, was done after November 1972, when earlier reports have said Bush returned to Texas.

Bush said in a television interview last weekend that he would be willing to open his entire military file and would “absolutely” be willing to authorise the release of anything that would put the matter to rest.

Democrats are delving into Bush’s service, especially since Vietnam veteran John Kerry has become the Democrats’ president front-runner. The party chairman, Terry McAuliffe, helped resurrect long-running questions about Bush’s National Guard record when he charged that the president had been “AWOL,” or absent without leave, during his time in Alabama.

Democrats say they want to see paperwork that would shed light on why Bush missed an annual physical examination in May 1972. The White House says he did not need to get one because he was not flying at the time.

Bush enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard at Ellington Air Force Base in Texas in May 1968. He spent most of his service time based near Houston.

In May 1972, records show Bush requested and got permission to perform his duties in Alabama while he worked as political director on the Senate campaign of Winton “Red” Blount, a Bush family friend.

Democrats are focusing on a one-year period, from May 1972 to May 1973, in which Bush was assigned in Alabama and then was back in Texas.

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