2004/09/09

A look at Bush's Texas Air National Guard service

In Talking Points Memo, Joshua Marshall reprints a long exchange between White Housee spokesperson Dan Bartlett and a CBS News reporter concerning recently-discovered documments that shed a great deal of light on where President Bush was during 1972 when he was supposed to be serving in the Texas Air National Guard. The memos say (All transcriptions mine from PDF files of paper documents):

Memorandum, May 4, 1972
Contains the line: "1. You are ordered to report to commander, 111 F.I.S. Ellington AFB not later than (NLT) 14 May 1972 to conduct annual physical examination (flight)IAW AFM 35-13."

Memo to File, May 19, 1972
Contain the line: "Bush wasn't here during rating period and I don't have any feedback from 187th in Alabama."
It has suggestions from Bush's commander that there are people talking above the commander's head.

Memorandum For Record, Aug. 1, 1972
Contains the lines: "1. On this date I ordered that 1st Lt. Bush be suspended from flight status due to failure to perform to USAF/TexANG standards and failure to meet annual physical examination (flight)as ordered."
"3....Officer has made no attempt to meet his training certification or flight physical."

Dan waxes indignant over the fact that these memos are released when "President Bush is up in the polls" and "55 days before the election" and that people are making "recycled charges". He also suggests that the documents constitute "rumor and innuendo". CBS News has quite a bit of back and forth as to exactly why these documents constitute rumor and innuendo. Dan dances around the question but never answers it. He makes the suggestion that:

But these documents state exactly what we said, and that is President Bush didn't take the flight exam because he was going to a unit that didn't fly his plane. And in that very document you're showing it says that he was working out with the staff to find a unit that he could train with, but it was going to be in a non-flying capacity.

Er, sorry, but it says no such thing. There's no documented attempt by 1st Lt Bush to do anything to meet his requirements.
Dan goes on again:

No, the records have been clear for years that President Bush did not take a physical because he did not need to take a physical because, obviously, the choice was that he was going to be performing in a different capacity. That might be official language, but the bottom line is President Bush did not take that physical, so that does not suggest, nor is there any evidence that President Bush did. And the reason why is as I stated, that it was clear, as it says in your own documents, that President Bush talked to the commanders about the fact that he'd be transferring to a unit that no longer, or did not fly the plane that he was trained -- he was trained and a fighter pilot on F-102, which he flew for four years. And in this case, he was going to a unit in Alabama that didn't fly that plane.

Old boy Dan is spinning like a top here. There is zero documentation present or offered or referred to that suggests anything was worked out with 1st Lt Bush's superiors. Dan is referring to conversations that we have no record of and no reason to believe ever occured.
This statement from Dan especially jumped out at me:

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.

Uh, there's a reason that military people write in very spare, clipped, unambiguous prose that's very heavy in specific details. It's precisely to reduce the leeway people have for interpretation. It's to prevent junior people from saying things like: "Oh, wow, is THAT what you meant sir?" "Oh, gee, if I'd known you meant THAT, I would never have..." etc., etc. Military prose is not meant to be flowery or poetic or imprecise. It's commonly written in such a way as to be absolutely unambiguous.

Pretty sad. For a man whose orders have led to over 1000 combat deaths in Iraq alone and a little short of 6500 wounded. American forces in Iraq sustained roughly 50 attacks per day in April, a figure that rose to 87 per day in August. And we've got a Commander in Chief who couldn't be bothered to fulfill his duties 30+ years ago.

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