Transcript Part II: Ben Barnes

<B>Dan Rather</B> Interviews Man Who Helped Get Bush Into National Guard

Read Part II of Dan Rather's interview with Former Texas House Speaker and Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes, the man who says he helped get President George W. Bush into the National Guard.
DAN RATHER:
Did you get a number of people, deferments of this sort, if we can call it that, or into the Guard? Or was this a rare case?

BEN BARNES:
There were several, Dan. There were a number. Not a lot. But there were several young men that I got into the Guard -- I helped get into the Guard.

DAN RATHER:
And is there a profile for all those people that you helped get in a Guard? A general profile?

BEN BARNES:
Probably. Maybe with with one or two exceptions. But probably a general profile. They were somebody that was-- that was known, or known to me, or friends, or political supporters.

DAN RATHER:
Well, here's the point. Was this or was this not something pretty special? Or were you kind of running your own, "Get out of the service" operation, as house speaker?

BEN BARNES:
Oh, no. It was something that was very special. I mean, and again, it's something that I'm not very proud of. That's one of the reasons I'm here.

DAN RATHER:
Uh-huh (AFFIRM). And I want to move on. So, it was -- these were special cases. It wasn't something you did by the dozens of hundreds?

BEN BARNES:
No.

DAN RATHER:
You're a Democrat. Lifelong Democrat. You're a supporter of John Kerry. Fair to say that you're in Sen. Kerry's inner circle?

BEN BARNES:
I don't know that I'm in his inner circle. I know I'm a supporter of Sen. Kerry. And I've supported him from the very first.

DAN RATHER:
You know that there are people who seeing this are going to say, "Well, Ben Barnes came forward now because he wants to help Sen. Kerry's campaign." How do you answer that?

BEN BARNES:
Well, I've been helping Sen. Kerry's campaign from the first day announced. And when I started being quoted on the Internet, and being quoted other places, some as I said, correctly, or-- and other times, incorrectly, I just thought it was time for me to once and for all, there was just too much speculation. There are too many people that are putting words in my mouth.

Too many things that were being said that were wrong. I decided that I wanted to set the record set. And I wanted to let the American people know exactly what happened.

DAN RATHER:
I know that you must have said to yourself before you came here for this interview, "Boy, there's one thing. If I don't get across anything else, there's one thing more than any other I want to get across in this 60 Minutes interview." And if you were saying that to yourself, I want to give you an opportunity now to make sure that you've said what you came to say, how you intended to say it.

BEN BARNES:
I came to say, what I've attempted to say exactly what the facts were in 1968, and what I did, and what I did not do. I did not come here to play havoc with Gov. Bush, with President Bush's presidential campaign. I did not come here to do anything personal against President Bush.

This is not-- I'm not here as a Kerry surrogate. I'm here as a person who served our state, and who made decisions. Some right decisions, and some wrong decisions. But I wanted to let everyone know exactly what the facts were back in-- in that year of some 40 years ago.

DAN RATHER:
And review for me quickly now -- checklist of what you consider to be the most important facts about your involvement with getting George W. Bush into the National Guard.

BEN BARNES:
Well, Sid Adger, and not the Bush family came to see me, to ask me to get-- President Bush-- George W. Bush into the National Guard, which I made the call to Gen. Rose. And he was accepted. Whether he was accepted solely because of my call, I do not know. As we have discussed, he was the son of a very prominent Congressman from Texas.

And I don't know what happened after he got in the Guard. I don't know what happened-- from really in his life, from 1960-- 8 until-- when he surfaced in Texas as the owner of the -- one of the owners of the Texas Rangers baseball team, and then came back, and ran for governor. And that's when our paths crossed again.

DAN RATHER:
Did you get any reports on how he was doing in the National Guard?

BEN BARNES:
No. I didn't get any reports.

DAN RATHER:
Nobody said whether he's doing a good job, or bad job? You just never heard anything?

BEN BARNES:
I never heard anything. And I don't think I ever heard a report on any -- from any of the young people that I got in the International Guard. But that was a long time ago.

DAN RATHER:
Uh-huh (AFFIRM). You (UNINTEL PHRASE) in politics, to say the least. Were you surprised when accusations, and I underscore the word, "Accusations," that George W. Bush didn't complete his commitment, his six-year commitment to service? Were you surprised to hear those accusations?

BEN BARNES:
No, I was surprised to hear.

DAN RATHER:
Why?

BEN BARNES:
Well, you know, I think that I didn't know him. I knew his family. And I have tremendous respect for his father -- for his father's military record, and for his service -- and the various incendiary positions he'd served our country. I have-- I had tremendous respect for the Bush family. And so -- I-- was surprised to hear that.

DAN RATHER:
Well, George Bush I, if we can call him that, President George Bush I had an exemplary war record. Combat zone, hero of World War II. When the request came to get his son a privileged, a special place, were you surprised at that?

BEN BARNES:
Dan, to be very honest, I don't think that I really was familiar with President Bush's -- I's military record when Sid Adger came to my office. It's not something I thought about. I respected President Bush as a congressman, President Bush I as a congressman. I don't think I-- or my memory does not -- does not even allow me to remember that-- what his military record was at that time.

DAN RATHER:
And you may not even have known what his military--

BEN BARNES:
And I-- no, not-- not a well-- well not have read his biographical on that issue.

DAN RATHER:
Yeah. Is there anything that you wanted to say coming in here that you haven't said about this?

BEN BARNES:
No. I think we've said-- everything that I've wanted to get said today.

DAN RATHER:
What question haven't I asked you that I should have asked?

BEN BARNES:
Well, you could have asked me about how much younger I was than you. But I don't think you were gonna ask me that.

DAN RATHER:
Well, let me ask you this. It may not be a question you think that I should have asked you, but are you concerned about possible retribution? You're in business now. You make your living in business. Is there fearful of retribution in any way, shape or form?

BEN BARNES:
Oh, I've got a lot of faith in this country. I didn't come here for political reasons. And I hope that I don't-- I hope I'll not be punished politically or economically for my presence here today. That's not what motivated me. And I hope that's not what motivates people that disagree with me about the presidential race.

DAN RATHER:
Well, I want to keep you just a minute longer to come back to something you said earlier, which was about you're disappointed in the atmosphere in which the presidential campaign is being raced. You've been around politics a long time. You've seen the best of it.

You've seen the worst of it. You've seen the hard to tell part of it. But you've been through a lot of rough stuff, on both sides, Democrat and Republican. In your experience, has there ever been a time when it was as rough and nasty to run for public office as it is today?

BEN BARNES:
I've never seen anything quite like it. It was not like this in 2000. It's a different atmosphere in 2004. 1968, when I helped the president-- Vice President Humphrey run for reelection, he was running-- with the Vietnam around his neck.

We'd had a convention in Chicago where people had taken to the streets, and tried to keep a convention from being held. And Mayor Daley had to use tear gas to dispel people, where people could even get back in the hotels, and get into the convention center. And I thought that was a moment that I had lived, that I would never see again. But while people are not necessarily in the streets, the personal animosities that exist, and how personal this campaign is, is something that I think is very unhealthy for America.

DAN RATHER:
Ben Barnes, I thank you.

BEN BARNES:
Thank you, Dan.

Return to Part I of the transcript.



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