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White House: Nothing New in Latest Reports About Bush Service During Vietnam War - 2004-09-09

White House aides are defending President Bush against new allegations relating to his military service during the Vietnam War, which he served in the United States. Democrats say the president used family connections to avoid serving overseas.

White House Spokesman Scott McClellan says there is nothing new in separate media reports questioning the propriety of the president's service in the Texas Air National Guard.

A television news program interviewed a former Texas politician, who said the Bush family asked him to give "preferential treatment" to the young George W. Bush, to get him into the Guard. At the time, entering such U.S.-based units significantly reduced the likelihood that those young men would be sent to Vietnam.

Another news report says recently released records show Mr. Bush was suspended from flight status for failing to perform up to standards and failing to take his annual physical as ordered.

While not contesting the authenticity of these latest reports, White House officials are dismissing them as partisan politics.

Briefing reporters on Air Force One on the way to a campaign stop in Pennsylvania, Mr. McClellan said the president would never have been honorably discharged from the Texas National Guard, if he had not satisfactorily met his military obligations.

He said these are the same attacks that are made every time Mr. Bush is up for election. The White House spokesman said Democratic challenger John Kerry "will do anything he can to avoid defending his record."

Political attacks over the two candidates' military service during the Vietnam war have included allegations against Senator Kerry that he has embellished stories about his time in combat in Vietnam, where he was wounded three times.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe says his party will pummel Mr. Bush throughout the run-up to November's election, with allegations that the president used family connections to get into the guard, and then shirked his duties there.

White House spokesman McClellan dismissed the latest media reports as part of coordinated attacks by Democrats, at a time when Senator Kerry is falling behind in the polls.

The latest CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll shows President Bush leading Senator Kerry by 14 percentage points in Missouri, and ahead by eight points in Ohio, both key swings states in this election.

Senator Kerry leads in Washington State, which is another of the roughly dozen states, which could go either way in this vote. In Pennsylvania, the poll shows the men in a statistical dead heat.