Man Says He OK'd Bush for Guard
By Michael Holmes
Associated Press Writer
Monday, Sept. 27, 1999; 7:01 p.m. EDT AUSTIN, Texas The former speaker of the Texas House of Representatives acknowledged Monday that he called the head of the Texas Air National Guard in 1968 to recommend George W. Bush for a pilot slot during the Vietnam War.
But Ben Barnes, who later was lieutenant governor, said the request for his help came from a Bush family friend not Bush or his father, who then was a congressman.
The Texas governor and Republican presidential front-runner, meanwhile, insisted again that neither he nor his father sought such assistance when he joined the Guard.
"I can tell you what happened. Nothing happened. My Guard unit was looking for pilots and I flew for the Guard," Bush said at a campaign appearance south of Houston.
"I'm proud of my service and any allegation that my dad asked for special favors is simply not true. ... I didn't ask anybody to help get me to the Guard either," Bush said.
Barnes, a Democrat, has been at the center of questions about Bush's Vietnam-era service for several weeks.
His name surfaced in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Dallas by the former executive director of the Texas Lottery. Lawrence Littwin has sued GTECH Corp., the lottery operator, alleging that the company is to blame for his firing in 1997, after four months on the job.
According to court records, Littwin's lawyers wanted to question Barnes, who used to lobby for GTECH, about whether GTECH was allowed to keep its lucrative state contract in exchange for Barnes' silence about the Guard matter.
That theory has been dismissed as unfounded by GTECH, Barnes and Bush.
Barnes testified for several hours Monday in a deposition in the case. Afterwards, his lawyer issued a written statement saying Barnes had been contacted by the now-deceased Sidney Adger, a Houston oilman and friend of the elder Bush.
"Mr. Barnes was contacted by Sid Adger and asked to recommend George W. Bush for a pilot position with the Air National Guard. Barnes called Gen. (James) Rose (Texas Air Guard commander) and did so," the statement said.
"Neither Congressman Bush nor any other member of the Bush family asked Barnes' help. Barnes has no knowledge that Governor Bush or President Bush knew of Barnes' recommendation," the statement said.
Barnes also said he met in September 1998 with Donald L. Evans, a longtime friend and chief fund-raiser for Governor Bush. Barnes told Evans about Adger's request, and "Governor Bush wrote Barnes a note thanking him for his candor in acknowledging that Barnes received no call from any member of the Bush family."
In an interview with The Associated Press, Evans said he met with Barnes on his own initiative, without informing the governor in advance. At the time, he was Bush's gubernatorial campaign chairman and was concerned only about that contest, Evans said.
Bush joined the National Guard in 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War, serving until late 1973.
The Republican governor has said for several years that he received no special treatment. Both he and his father, the former president, have said they didn't ask for help in finding the Guard opening.
"I don't know if Ben Barnes did or not but he was not asked by me or my dad," Bush said Monday.
"People are relying on whether a man who is deceased (Adger) tried to help. I can just tell you, from my perspective, I never asked for, I don't believe I received any special treatment," Bush said.
Bush indicated that he wasn't concerned about Barnes' deposition.
"I think everybody ought to tell the truth when they're being deposed. I'm confident he will," Bush said. "I'm not sure what Ben Barnes is going to say. But I know what the facts are."
Asked if he considered questions about his National Guard service a personal attack, Bush replied, "I think it's just politics."
EDITOR'S NOTE Associated Press reporter Michael Graczyk contributed to this report.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press