BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A Republican official who worked with George W. Bush in an Alabama campaign in 1972 said Thursday she recalled him talking about his National Guard (search) duty and seeing him in uniform before the election that year.
Jean Sullivan, an Alabama GOP leader who worked with Bush in the Senate campaign of Winton "Red" Blount (search) in 1972, said she recalled even then hearing rumors about whether Bush was fulfilling his Guard obligations.
She blamed those rumblings on some within the Alabama Guard who were resentful because Bush was from Texas and was spending only the minimum amount of required time on duty.
"It was just some idiots," said Sullivan, who is about 70 but wouldn't give her exact age. "He didn't do anything wrong," Sullivan, a former Republican national committeewoman from Selma, told The Associated Press as the election-year flap about Bush's Vietnam-era service persisted.
Sullivan said she was so upset at the time that she called an Alabama Guard commander — she couldn't recall his name — to explain that Bush was doing all he could while working "like a dog" on the campaign.
"The man called me back and apologized. I thought it was gone forever," Sullivan said. "And then I started hearing all this stuff a couple of weeks ago."
Democrats, trying to turn Bush's record into a campaign issue, have suggested he shirked his duty. The Democratic National Committee brushed aside a White House attempt to quell the controversy by releasing records of a dental examination done on an Alabama National Guard base in January 1973 — after Bush was said to have returned to Texas.
"As we sift through the wreckage of George W. Bush's credibility, we're left with looking at dental records and ironically they raise more questions than answers," DNC communications director Debra DeShong said. "Why was the president in Alabama getting his teeth checked when we were told he was in Texas at that time? And where are the rest of the records the president promised the American people, from the Oval Office, that he would release?"
The White House said that the dental record is evidence that he was with the Guard in Alabama. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush returned to Texas after Blount lost the election but came back to Alabama later.
Winton Blount III of Montgomery, one of Blount's sons, said Bush came back to Montgomery after the November vote to finish his Guard duty for the year.
C. Murphy Archibald, Blount's nephew and an attorney in Charlotte, N.C, said he had tried to talk with Bush about the military when he learned he was in the Guard but that Bush didn't seem interested.
"He simply wouldn't respond," Archibald said. "Maybe he's a private guy. I have no idea."
Bush has said that he performed the duty with the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group in Alabama but that he cannot recall exactly what he did.
More than a dozen members of the 800-person unit, including its commander, told The Associated Press this week they have no recollection of Bush. But they added that doesn't mean he wasn't there.
Emily Marks Curtis, who dated Bush during the months he spent in Alabama, said she can't remember seeing him in uniform or going to Guard duty.
"He thought too much of his family to have ever thought about shirking," said Curtis.