- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 5, 2004

For months now, we have seen the fringe elements of the Democratic Party peddling cheap conspiracytheoriesagainst President Bush. Even some prominent liberal figures in the party have engaged in this foul rumor mongering.

Sen. Ted Kennedy alleged the Iraq War was “made up in Texas” for political purposes. Howard Dean floated the “interesting” theory that the president was forewarned of the attacks on September 11.

Not to be outdone, Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe has joined the cacophony, stating that Mr. Bush “was AWOL in the Alabama National Guard.” Further, Mr. McAuliffe declared that “George Bush never served in our military in our country.”

Contrary to these bogus allegations, the president was honorably discharged from the NationalGuard.Infact,the nonpartisan Annenberg Center at the University of Pennsylvania thoroughly investigated and dispelled these false charges. The Annenberg Center reported, “The Associated Press quoted two friends who worked with Bush in the Blount campaign as saying they recall him attending Air National Guard drills in Alabama.” And they concluded, “The fact is Bush was honorably discharged without ever being officially accused of desertion or being away without official leave.”

Mr. McAuliffe’s charges are irresponsible, ignorant and invalid. Especially troubling is that Mr. McAuliffe believes that serving in the National Guard does not constitute serving in the United States military.

To imply that the National Guard is not “military service” is to dismiss the sacrifices of the tens of thousands of National Guardsmenand-women presently serving and is a slap in the face to their service and their families.

As veterans of the armed services, we find his characterization insulting and demeaning. Mr. McAuliffe cheapens the National Guard by saying it is not “military service,” and he also implies that the guard would give an honorable discharge to someone who did not show up for service. His baseless insinuation diminishes the National Guard as an institution, and he owes an apology to the guardsmen and -women in uniform serving our country and protecting their fellow Americans.

In recent weeks filmmaker and Wesley Clark supporter Michael Moore made a similar accusation to much ridicule. Peter Jennings called Mr. Moore’s accusation “a reckless charge, not supported by the facts.” It is embarrassing that the chairman of the Democratic Party is now taking cues from a fringe political activist with no credibility.

As the Democratic Party’s frontrunner, Sen. John Kerry has an obligation to repudiate these charges. During the 1992 campaign, Mr. Kerry defended then-candidate Bill Clinton, saying, “We do not need to divide America over who served and how. I have personally always believed that many served in many different ways … We certainly do not need something as complex and emotional as Vietnam, reduced to simple campaign rhetoric.” Mr. Kerry should not allow his party to politicize service to the country now that they believe it is politically expedient.

Mr. Kerry needs to refute the statements of Mr. McAuliffe. Mr. Bush is the commander in chief of the United States. Slandering him with a knowingly false, personal attack during a time of war is an outrage and is unacceptable.

In America, we enjoy the freedom to disagree over foreign policy — and we all know that the national parties offer vastly different visions for our future. But lies and false accusations like the one leveled by Mr. McAuliffe have no place in our public discourse — ever.

A 29-year Air Force veteran, Rep. Sam Johnson, Texas Republican, spent seven years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Rep. Mark Kirk, Illinois Republican, is an active Naval Reserve intelligence officer and is the only member of Congress to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Rep. Steve Pearce, New Mexico Republican, served four tours in Vietnam flying C-130s.

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