Thursday, September 09, 2004

Sugarcoating History

Are we surprised? No. For all the crap given to Kerry and his post-war activism (he was setting the stage for later political life; he played to the cameras), Bush's far less heroic efforts to appear an honorable serviceman are a lot less gray on the question of reputation preservation and enhancement.

New memos found by 60 Minutes II show that Bush failed to meet standards and refused direct orders to get his physical and continue his flying.

The White House counters back that this is a same-old/same-old attack on the President by Dems bent over Kerry's slip in the polls. Notice there's no direct argument against the records.

One memorandum notes that Bush "made no attempt to meet his training certification or flight physical." Bush also expressed his desire to transfer out of state and to non-flying assignments. The memo's author recommends filling the "critical billet" with a "seasoned pilot from the list of qualified Vietname pilots that have rotated."

So let's see - the strategy seems to be, I'm Bush, I don't want to fly, I want to go somewhere else, so I just won't make the requirements and they'll have to swap me out. Brave. Responsible. Chickenshit.

Note especially the 19 May 1972 memorandum:
  1. Phone call from Bush. Discussed options of how Bush can get out of coming to drill from now through November. I told him he could do ET for three months or transfer. Says he wants to transfer to Alabama to any unit he can get in to. Says that he is working on another campaign for his Dad.
  2. Physical. We talked about him getting his flight physical situation fixed before his date. Says he will do that in Alabama if he says in a flight position. He has this campaign to do and other things that will follow and may not have the time. I advised him of our investment in him and his commitment. He's been working with staff to come up with options and identified a unit that may accept him. I told him I had to have written acceptance before he would be transferred, but I think he's also talking to someone upstairs.

Now, I'm not a military expert. I haven't served - at leat not yet, I'm still young and the world is getting more violent every day, so who knows. But I'm thinking that maybe some of the language up there ("get out of it," "says he is working on another campaign for Dad") doesn't make Bush look too good. In fact, I'm kinda surprised servicemen have that much say in what they get to do - like to the point where they can express that they have "other priorities" (sorry, that's Cheney's line, isn't it). Maybe if Josh is reading this he can comment on military protocol for such input from someone in Bush's position.

Oh - and definitely note the subject line of the 18 August 1973 memo. It's the acronym "CYA." Heartwarming, no?

So let me get this straight - in the battle of military records that seems to be defining this election (when maybe the rising death toll in Iraq or increasing world disorder might be of more immediate concern), these Bush records are really countered with questions about how much blood Kerry really should've spilled to earn his Purple Hearts? Are you kidding me? People are buying this?

White House communications director Dan Bartlett told CBS: "For anybody to try to interpret or presume they know what somebody who is now dead was thinking in any of these memos, I think is very difficult to do." No, no, Dan, I think it's pretty clear. When someone titles his memo "CYA," and refers to "Austin [not being] happy today either," I'm thinking we know what the author was thinking. And just to make sure people knew what he was thinking - he wrote it down. "Memo to File." There's the record - and Lt. Colonel Jerry Killian, now deceased, wanted this preserved.

Update: As reader Joel B. commented below, there's much 'sphere buzz about the documents being forgeries - and easily debunked ones at that. I won't even pretend to be an expert on type-face and word processing history - but the documents do look like any average word document I've ever seen. This is a meaningless statement, of course. I have to wonder, too, why, if someone wanted to fake it, they wouldn't start with say, choosing Courier (the typewriter looking font) over Times New Roman, but whatever. The buzz comes from Power Line, clearly a Bush-friendly blog (I throw no stones for biased blogging, clearly). Useful for illustration are these two shots of Killian's signature (borrowed from Power Line, who borrowed it from The Command Post - I'm not overly familiar with either site, nor can I vouch for authenticity of the first example)

The Power Lines people argue that the second sig is clearly a shoddy attempt at forgery. I see enough similarities that the passage of time or the handwriter's mood that day could explain differences. But again, one of the blogosphere's most annoying traits is that we all act like we're damn experts. I'm not. But here's another side of the story, 'cause we're inclusive like that.

I still don't know who to believe. But this story has legs by now, so we'll be hearing more about it. Either way - once doubts are expressed, they're permanent. As with Kerry's hero-status, so with these documents. You always believe the rumors about the bad things and are hesitant to believe the good stuff.

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