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Election finger-pointing has just begun

Was President Bush AWOL from the National Guard in the early1970s?

Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe says Bushwas AWOL as do other prominent Democrats. This is a troublesomecharge against a President who led troops to war in Iraq and is nowfighting a political war of his own during an election year.

The accusations appeared four years ago during Bush’s firstpresidential campaign. Not surprisingly, they are appearing againas Democrats — desperate to regain the White House — search forways gain voter support.

A search of a FactCheck.org, a website of the Annenberg PublicPolicy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, gives someinteresting insight into the growing political controversy.

* Records show that National Guard officials credited Bush withenough points to meet the minimum requirements for the 12-monthperiod.

* Payroll records show payments for 82 days of service in 1972and 1973.

* A six-month gap between April 16 and late October of 1972exists, but records show Bush received permission to attendnon-flying drills after he was grounded for not taking a requiredphysical exam. He did not receive pay or credits during theperiod.

* Pay records show he was paid and credited for drills inOctober and November of 1972 as well as January and April of1973.

* There was a furry of activity by Bush in May, June and July1973 as he was applying for early release to attend HarvardBusiness School. All in all, he was credited with 38 days ofservice, more than he received in all of 1972!

* He was given an honorable discharge eight months before theend of his six-year term of service.

While these facts are unlikely to satisfactorily resolve allquestions about Bush’s service record, those who want to criticizehim will undoubtedly do so. So is the game of politics.

What is troublesome about all this is the damage Sen. Kerry andothers are doing to the nation’s morale in the name of winning theDemocratic nomination. The debate between candidates should be morein the form of what they, as President, want to do to build thisnation, not just digging for dirt to rally supporters.

No doubt, George Bush has problems not only at home, but also onthe world stage with recent developments surrounding thecredibility of CIA intelligence information on Saddam’s weaponscapability. One can only hope that like the hole in which Saddamwas discovered, so will the elusive weapons of mass destructionsoon be found. Otherwise, the President has some seriouscredibility problems ahead.

A presidential election year is full of surprises. You can betthe finger-pointing has just begun on both sides.

Unfortunately, Election Day is 261 days away.

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, Miss.39602, or send e-mail to bjacobs@dailyleader.com.