Amid new questions, Bush defends military service; Says neither he nor father sought help joining Guard


WINDHAM, N.H. -- Texas Gov. George W. Bush, facing renewed questions about his Vietnam-era military service, said yesterday that neither he nor his father asked a family friend to help him get into the Texas Air National Guard.

"If the people would listen to the commander of the unit that accepted me as a pilot, he said there was no special favoritism," Bush said after speaking to the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce.

"They were looking for pilots, and I was honored to serve."

Reporters pressed Bush on his Guard service after the Dallas Morning News reported that former Texas House Speaker Ben Barnes told friends recently that Houston oilman Sidney Adger approached him in the late 1960s about securing a Guard spot for Bush.

Bush said yesterday that his family never sought such help.

"No Bush ever asked Sid Adger to help," the governor said.

Asked whether it was important for voters to know if presidential candidates had avoided serving in Vietnam, Bush said: "What's important to know is that a candidate served, and I did. I became an F-102 pilot and had my unit been called up, I'd have gone to Vietnam."

In Austin, Texas, yesterday, Barnes' lawyers asked a federal judge to throw out a subpoena for his testimony about Bush's entry into the Guard.

Attorneys for ex-lottery director Lawrence Littwin, who was fired in 1997, want to question Barnes under oath about the allegation.

In a motion filed in Austin before U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, Barnes' lawyers argued that executive privilege should protect Barnes from testifying about his Guard decision-making when he was lieutenant governor.

"Such information is exempt from discovery" because Barnes "was clearly performing his executive duties when making such deliberations and implementing the ensuing decisions," the motion said.

The legal arguments did not note that at the time Bush was seeking entrance to the Guard -- late 1967 or early 1968 -- Barnes was Texas' House speaker, and did not become lieutenant governor until 1969.

No hearing has been set on the motion.

Barnes, a Democrat, has declined to comment. His deposition was scheduled for today.

Pub Date: 9/09/99

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