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Hidden Details on Bush’s Guard Form Revealed

Times Staff Writers

White House officials on Thursday released information that had been withheld from earlier disclosures of President Bush’s National Guard record, showing that Bush was cited for a prank in college and that as a teenager he was involved in two traffic collisions and received two speeding tickets.

The information, which had been blacked out in a copy of the application released when Bush was running for president four years ago, was provided by White House spokesman Scott McClellan while traveling with Bush to an education and job-training event in Pennsylvania.

The disclosure marked the third time this week that the White House had provided new details about Bush’s service in the Guard in Texas and Alabama during the Vietnam War. The details came after Bush pledged on national television Sunday to “absolutely” release all his records in an effort to end speculation that he did not fully complete his military obligation.

On Tuesday, White House officials released pay records that they said proved Bush did appear for duty with the Guard in Alabama in late 1972, a period that the president’s critics have focused on in raising questions about his service. Bush had been given permission to transfer to Alabama from Texas to assist the Senate campaign of a friend of his father’s.

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On Wednesday night, the White House released records from a January 1973 dental exam that Bush took at the Montgomery, Ala., airfield -- another sign that he was indeed there during that time period.

Then Thursday morning, McClellan -- responding to a copy of the partially blacked-out application that had surfaced anew in several newspapers and in an upcoming book -- revealed for the first time the portion of the document that had been excised. The document was part of a May 1968 background check that Guard applicants were required to fill out.

McClellan showed the full document to reporters but did not release copies.

On the form, Bush was asked: “Have you ever been arrested, indicted or convicted for any violation of civil or military law including minor traffic violations? (If YES, explain stating nature of offense, date, name and place of the court and disposition of the case.)”

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According to McClellan’s unaltered copy, Bush responded: “Misdemeanor, New Haven, Connecticut, December 1966, charge dismissed.

“Two speeding tickets, July ’64 and August ’64, $10 fine, Houston traffic court.

“Two collisions, July ’62 and August ’62, $25 fine, Houston traffic court.”

McClellan and other White House officials refused to provide any more information about the citations, with deputy press secretary Trent Duffy saying they did not intend to release anything more on the matter.

The New Haven incident is an apparent reference to a college fraternity prank Bush participated in while attending Yale University. He and others reportedly were arrested for taking a Christmas wreath from a hotel.

That incident was widely reported during the 2000 presidential campaign. The two speeding tickets and the two collisions were not previously known.

The White House is releasing the material from Bush’s record amid growing allegations -- mostly from Democrats -- that the president did not fulfill the latter part of his six-year Guard commitment because he did not attend to duties in Montgomery or in Houston.

White House officials previously said they had released all relevant records available to them; but this week they repeatedly provided new information, much of which suggested that Bush did in fact fulfill his Guard obligation.

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Pilot logs and unit diaries that might be part of a Guard pilot’s record have not been released. It is not known whether those documents exist in Bush’s record, but such information would add details of his service experience.

The White House has not fully explained several aspects of Bush’s Guard record, including two suspensions for “failure to accomplish” a physical examination and the fact that no one has stepped forward from the Alabama squadron who remembers Bush being there.

There also have been allegations that material unfavorable to Bush was removed from his Guard record -- a charge that arose in 2000 and which has been given new life in some newspapers and in a new book that covers some of his military experience.

Those allegations come from Bill Burkett, a former lieutenant colonel in the Texas National Guard. For some years, he has complained that while Bush was Texas’ governor, his staff destroyed or blacked out parts of his Guard records to “make sure nothing will embarrass” him.

Questions about Bush’s service have echoed across the Internet, with critics of the president and some former Guard members claiming he received preferential treatment because of his family pedigree.

McClellan said Thursday, “I’m just amazed by the kinds of conspiracy theories that some have chosen to pursue. The facts are very clear. But there are some that are simply not interested in the facts.”

While contending that the Guard had blacked out the arrests in the application form for privacy reasons, McClellan would not explain why the White House had an unaltered copy.

Serrano reported from Washington and Chen from Harrisburg, Pa.

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