Former Texas House speaker Ben Barnes said he is "more ashamed at myself than I've ever been" because he helped President Bush and the sons of other wealthy families get into the Texas National Guard so they could avoid serving in Vietnam.
"I got a young man named George W. Bush into the National Guard . . . and I'm not necessarily proud of that, but I did it," Barnes, a Democrat, said in a video clip recorded May 27 before a group of John F. Kerry supporters in Austin.
Barnes, who was House speaker when Bush entered the Guard, later became lieutenant governor.
The video was posted June 25 on the Web site www.austin4kerry.org but received little notice before Friday, when Jim Moore, an Austin-based author of books critical of Bush, sent e-mails calling attention to it as Republicans prepare to convene in New York.
Bush joined the National Guard in 1968 and served until 1973. He has said he received no special treatment and did not seek help to be admitted to the Guard.
Barnes said he became ashamed after walking through the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and looking at the names of the dead. "I became more ashamed of myself than I've ever been, because it was the worst thing I did -- help a lot of wealthy supporters and a lot of people who had family names of importance get in the National Guard," he said.
Barnes said Saturday in a telephone interview that the video "speaks for itself."
He declined to answer questions about what role he had in helping Bush, but he said he may have more to say next week.
Earlier Saturday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said of Barnes's comments: "It is not surprising coming from a longtime partisan Democrat. The allegation was discredited by the commanding officer. This was fully covered and addressed five years ago. It is nothing new."
Five years ago, Barnes's lawyer issued a statement saying Barnes had been contacted by the now-deceased Sidney Adger, a Houston oilman and friend of Bush's father, who was then a congressman. Adger asked Barnes to recommend Bush for a pilot position with the Air National Guard, and he did, the statement said.