Friday, February 13, 2004

The White House's strategy with regard to Bush's Guard service is starting to make sense to me.

JMM, as usual, has Scottie Mac's desperate parrying of the latest round of press questions. And in the middle of it, we have the smoking gun:

McClellan -- Again, I mean, the issue that was raised was whether or not the President was serving while he was in Alabama. Documents reflect that he was -- hold on -- that he was serving in Alabama. That was the issue that was raised.

McClellan -- Look, Helen, I think the issue here was whether or not the President served in Alabama.

The one sure-fire consequence of the White House's strategy this week has been to keep the issue alive. And that seems stupid... unless it's a bait-and-switch. Keep the issue alive until you can navigate it into safe channels, then kill it.

Alabama service from October 1972 to January 1973 is clearly what the White House has designated as that safe channel. What they don't want to be examined is:

- the fact Bush left Texas for Alabama before making his initial transfer request in May 1972, and the fact that he stayed in Alabama after it was rejected

- how Bush got into the Guard so easily in the first place with DUIs on his record

- why he skipped his flight physical, and why he was allowed to skip his flight physical without making it up

etc. etc. There are other questions about that period of his life, but those seem to be the Guard-specific ones.

But so far the strategy isn't quite working. The New York Daily News, among others, has picked up the rejected transfer story. And questions about his preferential treatment are coming thick and fast.

The press corps doesn't feel like being massaged this time around, it seems.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Not that I'm exactly unbiased, but Bill Burkett looked good to me talking with Paula Zahn tonight. His story holds together, and he was very emphatic in saying that he wasn't making any charges against Bush or anybody else, just reporting what he saw and heard.

Unlike Paula herself.

Paula -- But what about all the blacked-out parts of the documents the White House has released so far?

Nat'l Guard Talking Head -- blah blah blah privacy issues blah blah if CNN asked for these documents, of course the president's privacy would be respected blah blah blah.


I mean, the follow-up question ("But on Sunday President Bush said he would release ALL his records. Why hasn't he signed a privacy waiver so the public can see all the evidence?") is beyond obvious, isn't it?
As of 10:30 EST Thursday morning the tally is: Bush WMD speech, 424 Google News hits; Powell losing it at a House hearing, 137 hits.

Democratic primary news, 2778 hits.

Not exactly reclaiming the airwaves, are ya Karl?

Incidentally, the most common version of the Powell testimony headline?

"Powell defends war, says he expected WMD"

Headlines that focus on the WMDs part only seem to slightly outnumber the ones focusing only on the war defense part.
I really feel for Colin Powell right now. Seriously. The man made some compromises to his principles to work for this administration, and now those compromises are coming back to haunt him.

I'm starting to think the final blow won't be l'affaire Plame, or the 9/11 commission, or WMDs or even AWOL... it'll be Colin Powell finally snapping, and reclaiming a bit of his dignity.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Now that the cameras aren't on him, David Kay is oh-so-quietly calling for the intelligence commission to examine how the White House used what they got, as well as where it came from.

"The charges are out there," Kay said during a talk at the U.S. Institute of Peace, "and if there was misuse or distortion, we need to know it."

Thus spaketh the veteran bureaucrat, and lo! His ass was covered.
Having no way to defend Bush's Guard service, Atrios points out that the Usual Gang of Idiots are now trying to undermine Kerry's credibility with regard to Vietnam.

Good luck fellas. You're not only fighting against Kerry there, you're fighting against everyone that's ever seen Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, Tour of Duty... I think the 'Vietnam is Hell on Earth' horse has long since run away, but you go ahead and try to close that barn door anyway.
So after yesterday's indication that the WH press corps isn't going to give up on the Bush National Guard story so easily, let's see what Google News has to say about it the morning after...

Political Smear -- San Diego Union Tribune

Media failed to find facts behind Bush's service record -- Chicago Sun Times

(See, just like it's the CIA's fault for trumping up their watered-down WMD claims, this brou-ha-ha is the media's fault because back in 2000 they didn't uncover the DD-214 form Bush can't/won't release... did Dan Bartlett write this piece for them or something?)

Aides say records prove Bush served -- Dallas Morning News


There are some rays of sunshine though:

Lt. Bush Not So Memorable -- Newsday

Bush releases military papers, but gaps remain -- Miami Herald

President met minimums for Guard service -- Houston Chronicle

If I were Niccolo Machiavelli... er, Karl Rove, that last one is the one I'd be worried about. If, even if Bush manages to duck this one somehow, the meme the media falls back on is, "Bush skated by doing the minimum while John Kerry was being shot at in Vietnam", that still isn't going to be a good thing for the 'war president'. If that's the best Bush can hope for out of this, he's in a lot of trouble.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Heresy infiltrates the Holy Mother Church! With even Cardinal O'Reilly now straying from the Gospel, surely the end times are near...
Of course, if even CNN mentions how useless the pay records released this morning are towards proving or disproving the questions surrounding Bush's service, you can bet nobody else will be satisfied either...
JMM has the skinny on the press peasants getting rowdy with regard to AWOL and Bush's service records. (And a bit here too.)

He also points to a Richard Cohen Washington Post column on how he got paid by the National Guard for doin' nothin'.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Man, Kaus gets more desperate every day it seems. I might have to make this an ongoing feature or something.

In his latest polemic, Mickey sez:

WaPo's Dewar and Balz do a good job of highlighting the contradictions in Kerry's rationalizations for his 1991 vote against authorizing war versus Iraq and his 2002 vote in favor of authorizing war. Sample:

Kerry argued in 1991 that there was no need to pass the resolution to send a message threatening force against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, although that was his justification for supporting the 2002 resolution.

Before and after last year's war on Iraq, Kerry criticized the president for failing to assemble the kind of coalition Bush's father put together in 1991. But in his 1991 floor statement, Kerry was dismissive of the elder Bush's coalition. [Emphasis added.]

First off, let's look at the whole passage from the article:

Nowhere has Kerry been challenged more for voting one way and talking another than on Iraq, both for his vote in support of the war in 2002 and his vote opposing the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

In 2002, he voted for the resolution authorizing Bush to go to war unilaterally, but then became one of Bush's harshest critics for having done so. Kerry, in his floor speech before the vote, warned Bush to build an international coalition through the United Nations, but the resolution did not require the president to gain U.N. approval before going to war. Kerry later said he was voting not for the use of force but for the threat of force.

In January 1991, Kerry opposed the resolution authorizing Bush's father to go to war to eject Iraq from Kuwait, arguing that the U.N. sanctions then in place should be given more time to work. When former Vermont governor Howard Dean recently challenged Kerry to square those two votes, aides said that the 1991 vote was not one in opposition to the use of force, just as Kerry has said his 2002 vote was not in support of the use of force.

In his 1991 floor speech, Kerry accused President George H.W. Bush of engaging in a "rush to war" -- language similar to that he used in criticizing the current president on the eve of the Iraq war a year ago. Kerry argued in 1991 that there was no need to pass the resolution to send a message threatening force against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, although that was his justification for supporting the 2002 resolution.

Before and after last year's war on Iraq, Kerry criticized the president for failing to assemble the kind of coalition Bush's father put together in 1991. But in his 1991 floor statement, Kerry was dismissive of the elder Bush's coalition. That effort, he said, lacked "a true United Nations collective security effort," and he was critical of the then-president for trading favors for China's support and cozying up to Syria, despite its human rights record.

"I regret that I do not see a new world order in the United States going to war with shadow battlefield allies who barely carry a burden," he said then. "It is too much like the many flags policy of the old order in Vietnam, where other countries were used to try to mask the unilateral reality. I see international cooperation; yes, I see acquiescence to our position; I see bizarre new bedfellows and alliances, but I question if it adds up to a new world order."

The language raises the question of what kind of international coalition meets Kerry's standards. Cutter said that, in 1991, Kerry was concerned that the United States would bear a disproportionate burden of the casualties, despite the coalition assembled, and preferred to give Hussein "a little more time" to withdraw before launching the war.

So here's Kerry's 'contradictions':

- in 1991 he was in favor of waiting for UN sanctions to take effect before attacking Saddam and opposed the war; in 2002, after more than a decade of such sanctions, he voted for a resolution he claims advocated just the threat of force, but allowed for unilateral action.

Setting aside the question of whether he's lying about what he thought he was voting on, how are those positions contradictory? In '91 he wanted to see what effect the sanctions would have before attacking. By '02 you'd have to think he had a pretty good idea.

- in 1991 he criticized the anti-Saddam alliance as a "mask for unilateral reality"; in 2002 he advocated an international coalition.

Certainly what Li'l Bushie slapped together fits the 'mask for unilateral relaity' definition better than what Papa Bush did, but if the 1991 coalition didn't meet his standards the 2002 one wasn't going to either. Again, where's the contradiction? Both times he wanted a true international effort, not a US effort with other countries along for the ride.

- in 1991 he criticized the "rush to war"; in 2002 he, umm, criticized the rush to war.

Yes, it was after his vote helped authorize it. The voting record can be questioned, but that's not what Kaus is after. Mickey keeps trying to paint Kerry as an opportunist who flip-flops on issues sometimes just to stay in practice, but every time I look at an actual position Kerry has taken, it seems to maintain its consistency just fine.

Other 'contradictions' from the article:

- 20 years ago, in his first term in the Senate, he advocated cuts to defense programs (about $50 billion) that today he does not advocate.

Hmm, let's see. In 1984, under Reagan, Kerry called for cuts to the defense budget. Now what happened soon after 1984 that might have proven him right to call for cuts... meanwhile, a lifetime later in 2002, he doesn't support the cuts. Now, what could have happened soon before 2002 to alter his opinion...

Calling that a flip-flop makes about as much sense as calling somebody a Commie sympathizer today because he advocates trade with Russia.

- Kerry also proposed cuts in funding for the CIA during the 1990s but now advocates a more robust intelligence operation.

- In the late 1980s, Kerry opposed the death penalty for terrorists who killed Americans abroad but now supports capital punishment for terrorist acts.

Again, see above. So getting tough on terrorists and wanting to boost the CIA post 9-11 is political opportunism now?

Well yeah, actually it could be. It could also be a genuine emotional response to the tragedy. It could also be part and parcel with a slight conservative shift in values, which is what happens to most people as they get older. We're talking a span of 15-20 years here on these 'flip-flops'. Ridiculous. Does Mickey Kaus still believe in everything he held dear two decades ago?

- He, like almost everyone in the Senate, supported the USA Patriot Act after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but now denounces Attorney General John D. Ashcroft for aggressively implementing it.

Given what just happened in Iowa, I'd say questioning the government's use of the Patriot Act is the only sane response, whether you initially supported it or not.

Keep trying, Mickey. I'm sure you'll find something that actually justifies your hatred of Kerry eventually.

OK, based on the ongoing debate in the comments section of Drum's post, here's what I think happened during Bush's National Guard stint (theory subject to revision at the drop of a hat):

1) Bush's name gets him an undeserved placement in the Texas Air National Guard, in the so-called "Champagne Unit."

2) After a few years, he gets bored playing fighter pilot (note his bizarre request for a tour in Vietnam, even though he wasn't qualified) and heads off to Alabama to join family friend William Blount's election campaign.

3) After he leaves a transfer to a non-flying unit is prepared for him; the Guard decides that's a stupid waste of his training though, and rejects the transfer. Bush stays in Alabama anyway.

4) He misses his physical, and is grounded. The whys and hows are a complete mystery.

5) He gets a three-month transfer to a different Alabama base, and as the (failed) Blount campaign winds down he gets bored again. He may or may not have actually reported to his new unit at this time, but does get credited with some points towards retirement.

6) His transfer expires. He may or not have reported back to his Houston unit, but he continues to be credited with points towards retirement anyway.

7) He applies for an early discharge, and the Guard is all too happy to get rid of him. Since he doesn't have the necessary 'good years' though, they tack on an extra six months to his stint. He may or not not do any drills, but he continues to be credited with the remaining necessary points.

Was Bush AWOL? There's a better case for that than there was for Clinton being a draft dodger.

Did Bush take his duties as a member of the National Guard seriously? Not at all.

Really, if you view the young Bushie through a Freudian lens (constant rebelling against his father etc., culminating in the Dec. '72 fight) this all seems very consistent. Daddy got him a cushy gig in the Guard, so he rebelled by first trying to go to Vietnam, then in blowing off his duties completely.

And if he skipped the physical because he didn't want to risk getting randomly tested, it makes even more sense. That's an unproven assertion of course, but there is certainly tenuous circumstantial evidence pointing to it, not least of which is Bush's own curious refusal to say whether he was clean before 1974.
Yet another example of how easy it is to do the kind of legwork Big Media journalists don't seem to bother with any more... spotted thanks to Atrios.
Here come the bombshells:

Kevin Drum uncovers an untorn copy of the fabled torn document, FOIAed to Bob Fertik in 2000, just after the election.

But wait, there's more. Mark Levine, host of the "Inside Scoop", also has a large collection of Bush military records. The key ones: this makes it clear he wasn't serving in Texas during the last two years of his reserve stint; instead he left for Alabama to work on a political campaign. He did so before his transfer request was even made, which was a bit of a boo-boo since it was apparently denied.

When July '72 rolled around, Bush missed his annual flight physical, resulting in him being suspended from flying duty. What happens next is where it gets fuzzy. Drum's new find shows that Bush started collecting 'ARF' points after he failed his physical. Bush requested transfer to Alabama again, which was granted, and then eventually requested early discharge to go to Harvard, also granted.

Now the one big hole I see in Drum's "disciplined and assigned to Denver" theory is that Bush was still requesting to be transferred and discharged from his old Texas unit. There may be some sort of Guard rule I'm unfamiliar with that makes that logical, but it seems odd from here.

That leaves the big question: where was Bush earning the points on the untorn doc? His second transfer was for three months beginning September 1972. The first two entries on the untorn doc would have been during this period; the rest when he was presumably back in Texas, although there is no evidence that he showed up for duty in either Alabama or Texas.

And remember that whatever that duty was it would have been no more than paper-pushing, since he couldn't fly.

So here are the issues that need to be cleared up, or at least should be the Dems' focus:

- Bush split for Alabama the first time before even bothering to apply for a transfer, and didn't return to Texas when the transfer was rejected. Regardless of anything else, that validates the AWOL slam.

- the discrepancy between his ARF Retirement Credit Summary (which shows no points after May '72) and the two ARF Statements of Points Earned, which cover October '72 through '73. Are those points not retirement credits? If so, what are they?

- if they are retirement credits, what activities was he performing to earn them? He couldn't fly, and hadn't been trained to do anything else.

Many questioned to be answered, and nobody in Big Media seems willing or able to do it.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Lederman was wrong. Round Three was 10-8 Bush. Skull and Bones? What the hell was that?

Was it just me, or was Li'l Bushie's "I'm not going to lose" face a bit, how you say, freakin' terrifying? THAT'S the bit that will set off the konspiracy krowd.
At the end of Round Two, Lederman scores it Russert 10, Bush 9. Just like the script called for. He's pre-calling Round Three Bush 10, Russert 9 and heading home, since there's no reason to actually stick around to see it.

So Li'l Bushie called Rush and the Heritage Foundation wrong. Not that I expect it, but I wonder if there will be any fall-out from that.

And comparing his economic record to Clinton's was just mind-bogglingly stupid.

Oh look, and now American tax dollars are hard at work pimping the new Medicare. Nice.
Bush left a big opening in his defenses there, saying that spending is up because of the war, since that spending isn't accounted for in Bush's budget.

And Russert lets it go, instead nattering about tax cuts. He's sticking to the script.
Bush is starting to stumble a bit. When describing the direction of the economy, he made a downward motion when mentioning the recession, then brought it up to describe the recovery... then his hand dropped like a rock as he said "now it's heading in the right direction." Hee hee.
Bush just said he didn't volunteer to go to Vietnam. Yet his record shows he did volunteer for a tour, and was turned down. Wow.

Russert is making a better show of taking a dive, at least, in Round Two. Unless he's decided to toss the script... cutting Bush off when he started in with the spin about 'the National Guard is true service' was a good baby step.
Bush doesn't mention the torn document when defending his Alabama service... very interesting. As the Daily Howler guessed, the White House may have dumped the torn doc entirely from their defense strategy.

Which implies, of course, that it isn't real. Which further implies that they've been peddling a forgery as fact for four years. Not that that's anything new for them.
At the end of Round One, Howard Lederman's scorecard reads Bush 10, Russert 9. No knockdowns, but Bush controlled the pace.

Timmy started to get a little uppity there towards the end, and despite his repeated "If I might..." bull$#!+ Li'l Bushie showed no qualms (or difficulty) in slapping him down.

The fix is clearly in, but Bushie's smugness has got to be getting under Russert's skin. Doesn't it?

Oh, and the glee on Bush's face when he said "I'm a war president!" was just sickening. I'm going to need a shower after this.
"I know I'm getting repetitive but I'm just making sure you understand the context in which I was making decisions."

C'mon Timmy, he just called you stupid. DUBYA called you stupid. Time to ditch the vetted questions and get mad!
"There's intelligence that says we want to harm America."

WE, Mr. Bush? Paging Dr. Freud...
"There's a lot of focus on Iraq right now, and there shouldn't be."

I cannot believe Li'l Bushie just said that.
Coming up next! The Melee in DC! Kid Bush vs. Tim "the Hustler" Russert!

If only I'd thought to start a pool on how many more times Osama gets mentioned than Saddam...
Via Atrios, the NY Review of Books is both a day late and a dollar short.

This is just the tip of the iceberg though. There are literally mountains of hard, physical evidence -- from Powell's PowerPoint on down -- both of the CIA's cautious tone with regard to Iraq, and the White House's lies (and of course the supportive chorus of right wing sychophants which accompanied them.)

The only way this goes away is if the Dems and the press let it. Which is why I think Li'l Bushie's charade of a commission is a mistake, especially the fact that it won't report until after the election.

This will (fingers crossed) be an issue, and Scottie Mac won't be able to duck the questions by referring back to the commission.

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