NATIONAL GUARD UDPATE….There have been a couple of interesting new items about George Bush’s National Guard record today.

First, Salon reports that George Bush didn’t move to Alabama (and quit going to Guard drills) in 1972 because he was offered a job on Winton “Red” Blount’s Senate campaign. Rather, Bush’s father called an old family friend, Jimmy Allison, who was managing Blount’s campaign, and pulled some strings:

In the spring of 1972, George H.W. Bush phoned his friend and asked a favor: Could Allison find a place on the Senate campaign he was managing in Alabama for his troublesome eldest son, the 25-year-old George W. Bush?

“The impression I had was that Georgie was raising a lot of hell in Houston, getting in trouble and embarrassing the family, and they just really wanted to get him out of Houston and under Jimmy’s wing,” Allison’s widow, Linda, told me. “And Jimmy said, ‘Sure.’ He was so loyal.”

This is both interesting and plausible, but probably pretty meaningless. I doubt that this story is going to draw much blood.

However, that’s decidedly not true for today’s second story: Ben Barnes, former Speaker of the House in Texas, has finally decided to go very public with the news that he was the one who called in some favors and got Bush into the “Champagne Unit” of the Texas Air National Guard in 1968.

Now, this is not actually fresh news: as I’ve mentioned before, Barnes testified under oath about this in 1999. Overall, though, Barnes has kept a very low profile about this and has studiously avoided bringing it up in public.

But apparently the Swift Vets have gotten him very, very mad, and on Wednesday he’ll be on 60 Minutes II with Dan Rather to tell the whole story. The difference between a newspaper article and a 60 Minutes segment is huge, and this is going to bring the whole National Guard story back into circulation for another go around.

Is it good for America to choose our president based on what John Kerry did in 1968 vs. what George Bush did in 1968? Nope. But between the Swift Boat smear artists and tonight’s convention speeches, the Republicans have made it very clear that they think this election is going to be won in the gutter. I suspect that by the time it’s all over, they’re going to rue that decision.

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