CBS Docs Aside; Did Bush Complete Service?

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Sept. 20, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: This man, Bill Burkett (search), whom CBS now says was the guy that gave them the documents, but we don't know for sure where he got them.

But what if CBS' story had checked out? What would it have told us about the president and his Guard service? We might know that Mr. Bush had some help getting into the Guard and some help getting out after not taking a required physical. But what about his discharge, did he earn it? What did Mr. Bush do while in the Guard?

For answers, we turn to Byron York (search), White House correspondent of "National Review," who has written on this issue.

Byron, thanks for coming in. Tell me what you can about the president was in the Guard for how many years and what did he do to get himself through the service and out?

BYRON YORK, "NATIONAL REVIEW" WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, in May 1968, he signed up for six years in the Guard. And I think there is a kind of popular impression that his father got him in, he didn't show up and then he got out early. But that really kind of ignores what happened during his term in the Guard.

HUME: Byron, one quick question.

YORK: Sure.

HUME: Could his unit have been called up and could he have ended up in Vietnam?

YORK: Yes. It could indeed have happened.

HUME: But it didn't. It just didn't happen.

YORK: It did not happen.

HUME: Right.

YORK: But the first thing Bush did is that he underwent 53 weeks of flight training.

HUME: Is he full time in the Guard now?

YORK: This is not 53 weekends. This is 53 weeks of full-time flight training. You don't learn how to fly a fighter plane in a couple of weeks. Then he went to 21 additional weeks, full-time, of flight interceptor training because the F-102 plane he flew was an interceptor fighter. And then he went to additional training. And when you add it all together, to begin with, he went to about two years of full-time active duty training. After that, he did settle into the flying several times a month routine that Air National Guard officers were doing at the time. And he racked up hundreds and hundreds of hours doing it. So really in his first four years, he was actually quite active in the Guard.

HUME: Now, I take it that Guard service is measured and credit given by the National Guard on the basis of points.

YORK: Right. The way it was measured there were points that you, as a Guardsman, accumulated toward your retirement. And the minimum standard per year, as a Guardsman, was that you had to get 50 points. And so one thing you can do with the records that the White House released is look through...

HUME: Now, we've got a table here showing what your investigation indicated he earned, right?

YORK: These are things added up from the documents the White House released in February. And they show that in his first full year, which was May '68 to May '69, Bush accumulated more than 253 points, next year 340, next year 137, then 112. What you can see is in the last two years of his six-year commitment, he gets just 56 points a year, which is very close, just above the minimum of 50 that you need to accumulate each year.

HUME: Now, some questions have been raised about those last two years and perhaps about these points. Explain how he did get those points, if you can.

YORK: Well, as you know, in the spring of 1972, he asked to leave Texas to go to Alabama to work on a Senate campaign. He was granted permission to go to an Air National Guard base in Alabama. And he missed several months. I mean there are several months in 1972 where he did not show up. There is no record that he showed up for duty in Alabama.

HUME: So a guy doesn't show up for duty. Is that in itself enough to mean that you haven't met your requirements?

YORK: Not that I understand it. The people who were in the Guard at the time tell me that this was not at all uncommon.

HUME: So what did you do then?

YORK: Well, you made it up. So what Bush did was in late 1972 and early 1973, you can see different periods in which he had kind of a flurry of activity, in which he went to drills enough to accumulate more than the minimum of points that he needed. It was nothing like he had done in the first couple of years where he got hundreds of points, but it was more than what was required. Then, as you know, he asked to be let out of his Guard service completely to go to Harvard Business School.

HUME: Now, that would have been prior to the end of the six-year period, correct?

YORK: That's exactly right.

HUME: Now that was the period where there are some documents suggesting that this is when he going to go to Boston, right? And to go to what? Harvard Business School (search).

YORK: Exactly.

HUME: Some documents indicated he was supposed to find a unit up there to report to, but he never did. What about that?

YORK: Well, as I understand it, in May 1973, the sixth year began. And in June and July, he did a lot of activity, accumulated 56 points just in those two months. So he kind of covered it. He asked for a discharge in October, was granted an honorable discharge from the Air National Guard. And as I understand it, that ended his...

HUME: And by that time, he did have enough points?

YORK: He did. And that ended his obligation. So he served five years and four months of a six-year...

HUME: So he didn't need to report in Boston? Legitimately didn't need to report?

YORK: No. It was after he received his honorable discharge, he did not have a further obligation.

HUME: All right. Well, not at great length but very succinctly, that seems to be what George Bush did to get his points.

Thank you, Byron.

YORK: Thank you.

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