Comment on CBS Bush TANG Documents

Tuesday, September 14, 2004 You probably aren't aware of this if you don't lurk at right-wing Web sites, but the questioning of those National Guard documents doesn't just make conservatives think they've caught Dan Rather and CBS with egg on their faces -- it makes them think they are on the verge of destroying the entire established media universe.

It doesn't matter to these people that Jayson Blair didn't destroy The New York Times, or that Stephen Glass didn't destroy The New Republic. Hell, it doesn't even matter to them that the Clinton mulatto-baby story didn't seem to put a dent in Matt Drudge, as they of all people should know. Like their god George Bush on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln declaring "Mission Accomplished," these people are premature self-congratulators, and they have a laughably overcaffeinated sense of their own importance.

It's worth examining just how much of the case here has been disproven.

Moreover, White House officials say, Bush should be judged on whether he attended enough drills to count toward retirement. They say he accumulated sufficient points under this grading system. Yet, even using their method, which some military experts say is incorrect, U.S. News 's analysis shows that Bush once again fell short. His military records reveal that he failed to attend enough active-duty training and weekend drills to gain the 50 points necessary to count his final year toward retirement.

The U.S. News analysis also showed that during the final two years of his obligation, Bush did not comply with Air Force regulations that impose a time limit on making up missed drills. What's more, he apparently never made up five months of drills he missed in 1972, contrary to assertions by the administration. White House officials did not respond to the analysis last week but emphasized that Bush had "served honorably."

Some experts say they remain mystified as to how Bush obtained an honorable discharge. Lawrence Korb, a former top Defense Department official in the Reagan administration, says the military records clearly show that Bush "had not fulfilled his obligation" and "should have been called to active duty."
Bush's records show that he did his duty for much of the first four years of his commitment. But as the Vietnam War wound down, his performance slumped, and his attendance at required drills fell off markedly. He did no drills for one five-month period in 1972. He also missed his flight physical. By May 2, 1973, his superiors said they could not evaluate his performance because he "has not been observed."

A statement made by one of his former professors does not shed a favorable light on Bush, either.

Tsurumi said he remembers Bush because every teacher remembers their best and worst students, and Bush was in the latter group.

"Lazy. He didn't come to my class prepared," Tsurumi said. "He did very badly."

Tsurumi concedes that he disapproves of Bush's politics. He wrote a letter to the editor of his hometown newspaper, the Scarsdale Inquirer, that derided the president's claims to "compassionate conservatism."

"Somehow I found him totally devoid of compassion, social responsibility, and good study discipline," Tsurumi said. "What I remember most about him was all the kind of flippant statements that he made inside of classroom as well as outside."

The idea that Bush served honorably and fulfilled his requirements doesn't stand up under examination. Even if the disputed CBS documents are recreations or forgeries or whatever, the fact that the Bush Administration has not offered a competing narrative to the "Bush the slacker" story argues that the documents are essentially correct. As a former sailor, I can certify that every meaningful action taken over the course of Bush's career in the Texas Air National Guard should have been documented. If Bush had several conversation with his superiors about where and how to serve out his last two years, where are the documents? If Bush had a good reason for not taking his physical in 1972, where are the documents that detail that reason or those reasons? If Bush served during those missing months in 1972, where are the people he served with? No one credibly remembers seeing him (There are people who have told some wild tales on this), where are the documents that would tell us where he was?

Sorry, but the right-wing bloggers have an enormous amount of explaining to do before they can claim any sort of victory.

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