Just Above Sunset
September 12, 2004 - Bush's Bad Day at Black Rock (CBS)













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At mid-week, Wednesday, things were making the folks a little grumpy at the White House.

David Froomkin in the Washington Post has a handy list with links of these minor irritations -

1.) We finally passed one thousand of our people dead in combat in Iraq, and although the White House is saying little, the media is doing heavy coverage of the milestone, if it is one.

2.) There are lots of big headlines about the record $422 billion budget deficit and the multi-trillion-dollar deficit projections for the future.

3.) Then there are many, many the stories about Vice President Cheney's statement yesterday that a Kerry victory would result in more terrorist attacks. So everyone should vote for George, or surely you will die. Yes, his own staff is now qualifying it. The Democrats, Edwards in particular, are all over it. Late in the afternoon, and not covered by Froomkin, the president was asked whether he agreed with the statement – and he just stared at the reporter, and did not say a word. This, I believe, was a steely-eyed Clint Eastwood moment.

4.) And of course Bush's National Guard record during the Vietnam War is turning into a real mess. CBS was all over it tonight on “Sixty Minutes II” and not kind.

5.) Florida Senator Bob Graham is all over the media – MSNBC “Hardball” a few hours ago - charging Bush with covering up evidence that might have linked Saudi Arabia to the September 11 hijackers.

6.) And there is Kitty Kelley's book in pre-release discussion everywhere on the net - not in the major media – on Bush using cocaine long after he said he stopped, and drinking heavily again now.

The “Sixty Minutes II” segment features Ben Barnes explaining how he pulled strings to get George Bush into the National Guard in 1968. But CNS has more stuff: new documents from the personal files of Colonel Jerry Killian, Bush's squadron commander.

And this is four new documents:

1.) A direct order to Bush to take a physical examination in 1972. Physical exams are an annual requirement for pilots.

2.) A 1972 memo that refers to a phone call from Bush in which he and Killian "discussed options of how Bush can get out of coming to drill from now through November" because "he may not have time." This was presumably in preparation for Bush's departure for Alabama that year, but is nonetheless damning since there's no reason that working on a Senate campaign should have prevented him from showing up for drills one weekend per month.

3.) A 1972 order grounding Bush. This order refers not just to Bush's failure to take a physical, but also to "failure to perform to (USAF/TexANG) standards."

4.) A 1973 memo titled "CYA" in which Killian talks about being pressured to give Bush a favorable yearly evaluation. He refuses, saying, "I'm having trouble running interference and doing my job."

Yipes!

A comment from Kevin Drum –

 

This story is a perfect demonstration of the difference between the Swift Boat controversy and the National Guard controversy. Both are tales from long ago and both are related to Vietnam, but the documentary evidence in the two cases is like night and day. In the Swift Boat case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence indicates that Kerry's accusers are lying. Conversely, in the National Guard case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence provides additional confirmation that the charges against Bush are true.

In fact, these four memos are pretty close to a smoking gun, since it's now clear that (a) Bush was directly ordered to take a physical in 1972 and refused, and (b) he plainly failed to perform up to National Guard standards, but that (c) he was nonetheless saved from a failing evaluation thanks to high-level pressure.

So why did Bush refuse to take a physical that year? And why did he blow off drills for at least the next five months and possibly for a lot longer than that?

And finally, why did he get an honorable discharge anyway?

 

Because he could, Kevin, because he could.

We see here some in the press who are patriotic Americans are making journalistic decisions for the good of America.  KWTV in Oklahoma City moved the CBS show from its mid-evening slot to 3:15 in the morning.  But they said it wasn’t political.  And late in the day, after they got they got so much grief, they reversed themselves and decided to show the CBS “Sixty Minutes II” at its normal time.  Odd.  The CBS affiliate in Indianapolis said they’d only air the show at 2:30 in the morning, not at its normal 8:00 time.  Why?  Who knows?  But the pressure from viewers got to them and they’ll show it at 9:00 – only one hour late.

Most curious.

But Wednesday started with the bombshell article of the day –

Bush fell short on duty at Guard
Records show pledges unmet
The Boston Globe, September 8, 2004
… reporters Stephen Kurkjian, Francie Latour, Sacha Pfeiffer, and Michael Rezendes, and editor Walter V. Robinson.

It was written by Robinson.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, provides a summary and a comment -

 

The gist: Bush not only signed a pledge in 1968 saying he could be punished for not doing his drills, which he didn't and wasn't punished, but also that when he got permission to quit early to go to Harvard, it was on the condition he find a unit in Boston and finish out his service there, which he didn't and wasn't called on it. He could have been called up again because of it, but apparently "gamed the system," as one military guy puts it.

Yeah, I still think it's an issue with short legs, but maybe that's because the Kerry campaign is not making it clear to voters that when one is applying for this particular job, one's whole life of service and commitment, especially to one's country, is a legitimate subject of scrutiny.

If I went for a job interview, but told my prospective employers that since I found Jesus when I was forty, anything that happened before that was none of their business, wouldn't they have a right to drop me from consideration for the job? Hey, that finding-Jesus thing seems to have covered a multitude of sins, and as his possible employer, I think I have a right to know what those sins are!

 

Anyway, here are keys items from the article.

 

In February, when the White House made public hundreds of pages of President Bush's military records, White House officials repeatedly insisted that the records prove that Bush fulfilled his military commitment in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. But Bush fell well short of meeting his military obligation, a Globe reexamination of the records shows: Twice... Bush signed documents pledging to meet training commitments or face a punitive call-up to active duty. He didn't meet the commitments, or face the punishment, the records show....

On July 30, 1973, shortly before he moved from Houston to Cambridge, Bush signed a document that declared, ''It is my responsibility to locate and be assigned to another Reserve forces unit or mobilization augmentation position. If I fail to do so, I am subject to involuntary order to active duty for up to 24 months… " Under Guard regulations, Bush had 60 days to locate a new unit. But Bush never signed up with a Boston-area unit.... Dan Bartlett told the Washington Post that Bush finished his six-year commitment at a Boston area Air Force Reserve unit after he left Houston. Not so, Bartlett now concedes. ''I must have misspoke," Bartlett, who is now the White House communications director, said in a recent interview....

Bush, a fighter-interceptor pilot, performed no service for one six-month period in 1972 and for another period of almost three months in 1973, the records show.... Bush's attendance at required training drills was so irregular that his superiors could have disciplined him or ordered him to active duty in 1972, 1973, or 1974. But they did neither. In fact, Bush's unit certified in late 1973 that his service had been ''satisfactory" -- just four months after Bush's commanding officer wrote that Bush had not been seen at his unit for the previous 12 months....

Army Colonel Gerald A. Lechliter, one of a number of retired military officers who have studied Bush's records and old National Guard regulations.... ''He broke his contract with the United States government -- without any adverse consequences. And the Texas Air National Guard was complicit in allowing this to happen," Lechliter said in an interview yesterday. ''He was a pilot. It cost the government a million dollars to train him to fly. So he should have been held to an even higher standard."

Even retired Lieutenant Colonel Albert C. Lloyd Jr., a former Texas Air National Guard personnel chief who vouched for Bush at the White House's request in February, agreed that Bush walked away from his obligation to join a reserve unit in the Boston area when he moved to Cambridge in September 1973. By not joining a unit in Massachusetts, Lloyd said in an interview last month, Bush ''took a chance that he could be called up for active duty. But the war was winding down, and he probably knew that the Air Force was not enforcing the penalty."...

Lawrence J. Korb, an assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs in the Reagan administration, said after studying many of the documents that it is clear to him that Bush ''gamed the system." And he agreed with Lloyd that Bush was not alone in doing so. ''If I cheat on my income tax and don't get caught, I'm still cheating on my income tax," Korb said. After his own review, Korb said Bush could have been ordered to active duty for missing more than 10 percent of his required drills in any given year. Bush, according to the records, fell shy of that obligation in two successive fiscal years.

Korb said Bush also made a commitment to complete his six-year obligation when he moved to Cambridge, a transfer the Guard often allowed to accommodate Guardsmen who had to move elsewhere. ''He had a responsibility to find a unit in Boston and attend drills," said Korb, who is now affiliated with a liberal Washington think tank. ''I see no evidence or indication in the documents that he was given permission to forgo training before the end of his obligation. If he signed that document, he should have fulfilled his obligation."...

In June 1970, after five additional months of specialized training in F-102 fighter-interceptor, Bush began what should have been a four-year assignment with the 111th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. In May 1972, Bush... move to Alabama.... But Bush's service records do not show him logging any service in Alabama until October of that year. And even that service is in doubt... no one has come forward with any credible recollection of having witnessed Bush performing guard service in Alabama or after he returned to Houston in 1973.... On May 1, 1973, Bush's superior officers wrote that they could not complete his annual performance review because he had not been observed at the Houston base during the prior 12 months.

[S]ome [records]... suggest that he did a flurry of drills in 1973 in Houston -- a weekend in April and then 38 days of training crammed into May, June, and July. But Lechliter, the retired colonel, concluded after reviewing National Guard regulations that Bush should not have received credit -- or pay -- for many of those days either. The regulations, Lechliter and others said, required that any scheduled drills that Bush missed be made up either within 15 days before or 30 days after the date of the drill.... Bush had little interest in fulfilling his obligation, and his superiors preferred to look the other way. Others agree. ''It appears that no one wanted to hold him accountable," said retired Major General Paul A. Weaver Jr., who retired in 2002 as the Pentagon's director of the Air National Guard.

 

Ah well.

Actually, I’m of the opinion all this may actually play well to Bush’s base.  He beat the system – he stuck to “the man.”  He knows how to play the game.  He’s a sly fox.  He’s our kind of guy – to all those guys who wish they could get away with such things.  It will increase their admiration of him.  And that is the sort of things you hear on AM talk radio about all this.

Now Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, was one of the guys who started CNN and his wife is an executive there now, and he adds this -

 

I saw Judy Woodruff's interview with Globe editor Walter Robinson on CNN's “Inside Politics” an hour ago, and he made it sound like the Bush controversy is basically nailed, that for anyone who cares, the guy is guilty as the day is long.

 

Maybe so.  But I watch CNN on and off too.

The White House and Wolf Blitzer (CNN two hours later) are saying they have proof Bush corresponded with a Denver Air National Guard unit while at Harvard and this technically fulfilled the requirement. There is no problem.

Bush didn’t fly, he didn’t attend any drills, he didn’t show up for anything, but he wrote some letters saying he would if he had to.  Case closed?

Maybe so.

But a minor note in ABC’s “The Note” mentions in passing that the White House has now assumed all jurisdiction over any Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests, so that will stop things dead.  No more of this.  The White House must now approve all requests for government documents – think Karl Rove.

Works for me - shut it all down.  This is making the president look bad.  Facts do that.

I suppose the thing to do here is add a spirited defense of our right as citizens to know the facts of what our government does, and see the records of events and what people did at certain times when they were working for us in the government or military.  Hell, we were paying their salaries.  Of course you must make exceptions for matters that would reveal military or state secrets, or get people killed and all that.  But still….

One could imagine a spirited defense of that idea.  Go ahead.  Imagine it, because I’m too dispirited to write it.

Finished yet?  Good.

This story will probably fade away.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, thinks it's an issue with short legs - because the Kerry campaign is not making it clear to voters that when one is applying for this particular job, one's whole life of service and commitment, especially to one's country, is a legitimate subject of scrutiny.

Like that matters?

  ___

 


Footnote:

THE CBS BUILDING
51 WEST 52ND STREET
Architect: Eero Saarinen and Associates
Developer: CBS
Erected: 1965

In midtown Manhattan, the "Black Rock," as this headquarters building of CBS is popularly known, has befuddled and confounded architecture critics since its inception.

Is it great architecture or bad urbanism?

Like most real-life either/or questions, it isn't that simple.

This 38-story, sheer, freestanding tower set in its own shallow sunken plaza is unquestionably great architecture because it is original, consistent, boldly expressed and daring. Initially, some observers did not like its dark coloration, and considered sunken plazas anathema and its aloofness rather condescending and disrespectful of the common man, that is, the pedestrian. These attributes, however, were not really negatives given its context of fronting on an avenue whose smile then displayed many broken and missing teeth because of the existing irregular pattern of nearby public plazas. Moreover, its context along the Avenue of the Americas was generally undistinguished design. …

The link will give you more details, and photographs.

 

  ___

 

Note on the authenticity of the Bush military records documents:

 

The Boston Globe and CBS maintain these are authentic here.

 

The Los Angeles Times covers both sides here.

 

Stephen Hayes in The Weekly Standard argues this is all a plot to “get” Bush with forged documents here.

 

A technical discussion of typefaces and kerning and all the rest is here.

 

And there is much more detail all the time on the political web logs you can browse at Sources for Political Commentary and News Before It Hits The Major Media.































 
 
 
 

Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
 
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