February 13, 2004

According to AP (and Drudge, who seems to be abandoning the Kerry-Intern story), Bush is prepared to release his entire military records. I doubt anything is in there that will be as damaging as the appearance over the past few weeks that he had something to hide.

February 12, 2004

Paul Krugman:
"To understand why questions about George Bush's time in the National Guard are legitimate, all you have to do is look at the federal budget published last week. No, not the lies, damned lies and statistics--the pictures. By my count, this year's budget contains 27 glossy photos of Mr. Bush. We see the president in front of a giant American flag, in front of the Washington Monument, comforting an elderly woman in a wheelchair, helping a small child with his reading assignment, building a trail through the wilderness and, of course, eating turkey with the troops in Iraq. Somehow the art director neglected to include a photo of the president swimming across the Yangtze River.


There is, as far as I can tell, no positive evidence that Mr. Bush is a man of exceptional uprightness. When has he even accepted responsibility for something that went wrong? On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that he is willing to cut corners when it's to his personal advantage. His business career was full of questionable deals, and whatever the full truth about his National Guard service, it was certainly not glorious.
One of the more curious aspects of the idolatry that Bush seems to inspire from some quarters is this view that he is a man of honesty and integrity. I've come to verbal blows with people who were absolutely convinced that the President was a principled man of courage, a leader with a "vision", rather than just a politician with an ideologically relativistic view of the truth. That is why it is important to hold him (and any other politician, for that matter) to a higher standard when it comes to the words that come out of their mouths. It is as bad to recklessly misstate the facts as it is to intentionally do so.

On the National Guard issue, it is becoming clearer that the "modified limited hangout" position of releasing partial documents isn't going to work, and that the President will have to bite the bullet pretty soon and release everything; stuff like today's record of a visit to the dentist in Alabama is becoming like Chinese water torture for the Republicans, keeping the story alive longer than it needs to be. Bush seemed to catch a break later in the day when an Alabama guardsman told the Washington Post that he recalls seeing the future President eight to ten times between May and October, 1972, for about eight hours each time, performing clerical work and reading flight magazines. That statement conflicts with the payroll records the White House released earlier in the week, indicating that Bush was missing up until the last weekend of October, as well as the fact that Bush's transfer to Alabama duty wasn't approved until September of that year. Releasing the entire file will clear up such discrepancies, and the alternative is so much worse from a political standpoint, regardless of whatever drug tests he might have failed (or whatever it is he's hiding) that I think the end of this story will come sooner rather than later.

February 11, 2004

In perhaps the clearest sign that his presidency is in trouble, Bush is calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that would allow states to ban gay marriages. Such an amendment would be only the second provision in the constitution to expressly limit individual rights, putting gay marriages on a moral par with slavery. Incumbents who have to make such desperate appeals to the ideological fringe of their own party in an election year are usually considered to be in deep, deep s***. The only advantages I see for Bush is that it ensures the electoral votes of Mississippi, Texas and Utah, and it gives the press something else to talk about for a day other than why he won't release his complete National Guard file.

February 10, 2004

J-GARN ALERT: It may already be too late, what with Kerry sweeping the primaries in the two border states tonight, but it appears that the all-important Sydney Bristow endorsement is going to...(drumroll)...John Edwards. UPDATE: A cagey maneuver, though; Julia Thorne is backing John Kerry.
Looks like Saddam is keeping busy....
The AWOL story is starting to remind me of the bête noire of the Clinton Administration, "Whitewater". Both seem to involve matters of rather trivial embarassment to the President. Neither scandal played a large role during the first campaign, although major media outlets (NY Times for "Whitewater", Boston Globe for AWOL) broke stories on each. Both issues emerged, with a vengeance, in the third year of the first term. In both cases, the initial White House response was to stonewall, and to accuse the other side of playing politics. Once the media increased their attention on the subjects, the next move was to release limited parts of the record, as the White House has done today with the release of payroll records. While that move would have probably put this baby to bed six weeks ago, any sort of limited release now only generates further suspicion, as the press grilling of Scott McLellan this morning attests.

I have been skeptical (see May 9) of the allegations that the President was "AWOL" thirty-two years ago, and nothing that has come out in the last few days has swayed my opinion. However, it is also becoming increasingly clear that there was something that the President did while in the Air National Guard that he wasn't particularly proud of, and his unwillingness to release his complete military record, as his father did before him, indicates that. He may not have violated the law, but he probably did something that he would prefer remain hidden, and his superiors, for whatever reason, chose not to press the issue. As Beltway pundit Richard Cohen himself noted, at the time Bush served, it was not unusual for a weekend warrior to blow off his service and get paid for drills he never attended, without being at risk of serving in Vietnam or receiving a dishonorable discharge; in fact, it was what happened to Cohen.

Let us remember that Bill and Hillary Clinton didn't break the law with their investment in the Whitewater development, and most of the reporting on the subject was pretty atrocious. In the end, it was just a bad investment they made with a friend who turned out to be a petty crook, and they simply didn't want their dirty laundry aired. And yet each move, each limited release of information, only intensified the public's curiosity about what's not being revealed. Now it's Bush's turn to go through the ringer, and see each piece of exonerating evidence only lead to more questions. I can only imagine what a tough life people who get into politics must have, where any evidence of moral imperfection is fodder for the public trough.
Omigod !! John Kerry was once in the same vicinity as Jane Fonda !!!
Bill O'Reilly is doing something I wish the President was man enough to do: apologize for getting it wrong about WMD's in Iraq.

February 08, 2004

The Bush-AWOL story has developed legs recently, and the President was thrown a number of softballs from Tim Russert this morning on that very topic. My position has been that there was nothing there; Bush was honorably discharged, and whether it happened because he actually completed his requirements or because someone in the chain of command decided to turn a blind eye to the antics of a VIP's son, was in the end just a biographical anecdote, not important in determining who should lead our country thirty years after the fact.

Kevin Drum, however, has been looking closely at a document that Bush supporters have claimed showed he put in the points to complete his service, and has come to an even more interesting conclusion: the President was transfered out of the Texas Air National Guard for failing to complete his physical, and into something called the "Air Reserve Force", which was supposedly a paper unit where soldiers who were being disciplined were sent as a possible prelude to being sent overseas. Since American troops were being withdrawn from Southeast Asia at the time, and considering that his father was a powerful figure in Washington, Bush was allowed to "serve" out his time in the Reserves. In other words, it would remove the AWOL allegation only to replace it with a charge that he shirked his duties.

If true, this is a devastating charge. Since the discovery of the aforementioned document, the supporters of the President have devised a history of his participation in the TANG over his last two years of service that now becomes completely inoperative. In other words, Bush Lied Again.

Moreover, Mr. Drum is not the first person to have deduced this; a casual search of Google brought me to this site, where the same conclusion was reached three years ago, and the document in question has been available for perusal by members of the news media since 2000. Another liberal blogger, Jesse Taylor, believes that there may be a more benign interpretation of these documents, relating instead to his request to attend Harvard Business School in 1973. In any event, now that the President has agreed to release his entire military file for inspection, we should be closer to getting definitive answers.

UPDATE: Calpundit continues to kick everyone's ass on this story. Here, he points out that the first set of drills Bush got credit for were in the last weekend of October, 1972, ten days before the election on which he was supposedly working. There were no drills scheduled in Alabama that weekend, so it means that if he did anything, it must have been in Texas. Although Mr. Drum doubts that Bush would have taken a weekend off on the eve of an election for which he was the political advisor to do Guardsman drills, it is possible: the Senate candidate Bush was working for, Winton Blount, was getting trounced by the Democratic incumbent, John Sparkman (who ended up winning by 30 points), and then-President Nixon, who was the principal political benefactor of Bush's dad, had already taken steps to mend fences (see page 10) with Sparkman. Our Wartime President may have simply decided to abandon ship.
Well, on this issue, Roger Simon is dead to rights. Lost in Translation, which I finally saw this afternoon, is one great picture. I would second his assertion that Sofia Coppola "could give nepotism a good name", were it not for the fact that her directing is so subtle and low-key that it's hard to believe she's the daughter of Francis Ford. The opening scene, with Bill Murray being driven through Tokyo at night, had all the awe and marvel that her father sought (and failed to achieve) in One From the Heart, but at much less expense. It was a pleasure seeing a movie devoid of film school tricks and self-referential bullshit, one which allowed the actors great leeway to develop their characters. Pay the twenty bucks and see it in a movie theatre, then buy the DVD !!
Less than three weeks 'til the Minotour starts...though it would be nice if they actually gave you the time the festivities begin each night. Hope to be there all three shows, contingent only on whether Layne, Welch, et al. comp my hotel expenses in San Diego and O.C.
"Meet the Press", by Samuel Beckett:
Russert: And we are in the Oval Office this morning with the President of the United States. Mr. President, welcome back to Meet The Press.

President Bush: Thank you, sir.

Russert: On Friday, you announced a committee, commission to look into intelligence failures regarding the Iraq war and our entire intelligence community. You have been reluctant to do that for some time. (despairing) Why?

President Bush: Well, first let me kind of step back and talk about intelligence in general, if I might. Intelligence is a vital part of fighting and winning the war against the terrorists. It is because the war against terrorists is a war against individuals who hide in caves in remote parts of the world, individuals who have these kind of shadowy networks, individuals who deal with rogue nations. So, we need a good intelligence system. (whimsically) We need really good intelligence.

So, the commission I set up is to obviously analyze what went right or what went wrong with the Iraqi intelligence. It was kind of lessons learned. But it's really set up to make sure the intelligence services provide as good a product as possible for future presidents as well. This is just a part of analyzing where we are on the war against terror.

(pause) There is a lot of investigations going on about the intelligence service, particularly in the Congress, and that's good as well. The Congress has got the capacity to look at the intelligence gathering without giving away state secrets, and I look forward to all the investigations and looks. (despairing) Again, I repeat to you, the capacity to have good intelligence means that a president can make good calls about fighting this war on terror.

Russert: Prime Minister Blair has set up a similar commission in Great Britain.

President Bush: (pause) Yeah.

Russert: His is going to report back in July. Ours is not going to be until March of 2005, five months after the presidential election.

President Bush: (pause) Yeah.


Russert: There is another commission right now looking into September 11th.

President Bush: (pause) Yeah.

Russert: Will you testify before that commission?

President Bush: We have given extraordinary cooperation with Chairmen Kean and Hamilton. As you know, we made an agreement on what's called "Presidential Daily Briefs," and they could see the information the CIA provided me that is unique, by the way, to have provided what's called the PDB, because...

Russert: Presidential Daily Brief?

President Bush: (pause) Right.


Russert: Let me turn to Iraq. And this is the whole idea of what you based your decision to go to war on.

President Bush: (pause) Sure, sure.

Russert: The night you took the country to war, March 17th, you said this: "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."

President Bush: (pause) Right.

Russert: That apparently is not the case.

President Bush: (pause) Correct.


Russert: When allegations were made about John McCain or Wesley Clark on their military records, they opened up their entire files. Would you agree to do that?

President Bush: Yeah. (pause) Listen, these files, I mean, people have been looking for these files for a long period of time, trust me, and starting in the 1994 campaign for governor. And I can assure you in the year 2000, people were looking for those files as well. Probably you were. (pause) And, absolutely. I mean, I...

Russert: (despairing) But would you allow pay stubs, tax records, anything to show that you were serving during that period?

President Bush: Yeah. If we still have them, but I, you know, the records are kept in Colorado, as I understand, and they scoured the records. (exit)
Well, it's just a first draft....