Thursday, February 12, 2004

Exquisite News

From the AP's most recent article about Bush going AWOL:

Meanwhile, a retired Texas National Guard officer said Wednesday he overheard a conversation in 1997 between then-Gov. Bush's chief of staff, Joe Allbaugh, and then-Adjutant Gen. Daniel James of the Texas Air National Guard in which he contends those two men spoke about getting rid of any military records that would "embarrass the governor."

Former Lt. Col. Bill Burkett told the AP that he saw documents from Bush's file discarded in a trash can a few days later at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. Burkett described them as performance and pay documents. He said the documents bore the header: "Bush, George W. 1lt." - meaning first lieutenant.

James and Allbaugh denied the allegations, which Burkett said he had previously discussed on Web sites and in letters to Texas legislators in 1998.

"The alleged discussion never happened," said James, who appointed by the president in 2002 to lead the Air National Guard. "I have never been involved in, nor would I condone any discussion or any action to falsify any record in any circumstance for anyone."

Allbaugh, now a Washington lobbyist, told The Dallas Morning News that Burkett's assertions were "hogwash."

This story -- if true -- would certainly explain why certain common documents are missing from Bush's service records, such as the record of the Flight Inquiry Board that would have necessarily been convened when grounding Bush from flying. The White House continues to trickle out documents one at a time (a trip to the dentist?) to try to put the story to rest, but all they have done so far is to successfully prove that Bush was indeed in the state of Alabama during that time. Burkett's claims are not new, and he seems to have a certain strain of paranoia about him -- but as they say, just because you're paranoid don't mean they ain't after you. Regardless of whether you believe Burkett's explanation for why they're missing, there's no doubt that Bush's National Guard record is missing many important documents.

This is a very interesting article to help you get up to speed on the various Bush administration claims over time (including "his" book, A Charge To Keep), how they have changed when they have been disproven, and why the current arguments are completely false: he stopped flying because they discontinued his plane, failure to take a physical was just "red tape," and so on.

As Richard Cohen pointed out in a wonderful WaPo op-ed (reg. required), the question is not whether Dubya ducked service in 1972, it's whether he's lying about it now. Didn't the R's learn about this from Watergate? Isn't this a bit Nixonian? Or, as Cohen put it:

During the Vietnam War, I was what filmmaker Michael Moore would call a "deserter." Along with President Bush and countless other young men, I joined the National Guard, did my six months of active duty (basic training, etc.) and then returned to my home unit, where I eventually dropped from sight. In the end, just like President Bush, I got an honorable discharge. But unlike President Bush, I have just told the truth about my service. He hasn't.
It hardly matters what Bush did or did not do back in 1972. He is not the man now he was then -- that by his own admission. In the same way, it did not matter that Clinton ducked the draft, because, really, just about everyone I knew at the time was doing something similar. All that really matters is how one accounts for what one did. Do you tell the truth (which Clinton did not)? Or do you do what I think Bush has been doing, which is making his National Guard service into something it was not? In his case, it was a rich kid's way around the draft.

My own understanding of that time grew in three stages. When I was a young boy, I was very impressed that my father had been in the military. That meant he was strong and manly, at least as I understood the concept. I then came to realize that there was a very real difference between what my father had done and what other fathers had done. Mine had been in the U.S. Coast Guard, where he served in an administrative position helping the Gulf Coast rebuild after hurricanes. Other fathers had served in the "real" armed forces, in a very "real" war that my own father had "ducked." Then I became friends with a kid whose father had four Purple Hearts and a constellation of Silver Stars framed in his house, all earned with sweat and blood in Vietnam. Far from making me wish that my own father had been a "hero," it made me realize why my father had done what he did, and why it was a complicated time with a lot of hard questions and no good answers, and why it was sheer luxury to ask "what if" my father had been in harm's way. As the most direct beneficiary of my father's choices, I am proud of him and his answer to those hard questions. But at the same time, he isn't out there prancing around the deck of an aircraft carrier.

Another critical point explains a whole lot about Bush. When Tim Russert pressed Bush on his service, Bush readily volunteered that he would release his entire military record. But now the White House is reneging on the deal. I think that Bush is genuinely separated from reality in the same way that Reagan was. In Bush's mind, he is a just and righteous "War President" who has nothing to hide because Iraq was dangerous and who knows that the way to get America moving again is to give rich people money and accelerate the exporting of lower- and middle-class jobs. No one ever forces him to confront the facts. He does not read the news, he does not answer reporters' questions (witness the extraordinary instance of Bush's willingness to talk to lap-dog Russert), he does not ever confront protesters because they are shipped off to "free speech zones" a mile away. It reminds me of Lenny Bruce's routine about what went wrong with Hitler, in which Hitler becomes like a pampered movie star: "They like me, right?" "SURE, Adolf. They all LOVE you." (Note: Before I get any complaints, I am not saying Dubya is Hitler. Though Hitler was far more intelligent than Dubya, Hitler was also personally responsible for the systematic murder of over six million Jews, the deaths of untold soldiers, the destruction of Europe and the European economy, and the rise of a pervasive, bitter racism that still infects the world. Dubya is just an oblivious weasel; Hitler was pure evil that had been processed into a convenient smokeable form -- like crack.)

In other news of the oblivious weasel -- or is it really "other" news? It's all one story any more, about the Boy Prince Who Pretends To Be A Warrior -- cracks are starting to form in the administration's infamous veneer:

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, a retired four-star general known for his even temperament, paused yesterday during a congressional hearing to berate a Hill staffer for shaking his head as Powell offered a defense of his prewar statements on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction.

The public scolding came after Powell had already endured a number of attacks by Democrats on the administration's Iraq policy during an appearance before the House International Relations Committee. He had just snapped at a member of Congress who had casually declared President Bush "AWOL" from the Vietnam War.

Powell was recalling for the panel his review of the prewar intelligence. "I went and lived at the CIA for about four days to make sure that nothing was," he began, when he paused and glared at a staffer seated behind the members of Congress.

"Are you shaking your head for something, young man, back there?" Powell asked. "Are you part of these proceedings?"

Powell's unusual remarks threatened to derail the hearing. Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a 12-year veteran of the House, objected, "Mr. Chairman, I've never heard a witness reprimand a staff person in the middle of a question."

Powell shot back, "I seldom come to a meeting where I am talking to a congressman and I have people aligned behind you giving editorial comment by head shakes."

"Well, I think people have opinions," Brown responded.

Read the rest of the article. It's classic. And remember, this is from the man who during his preparations for his big UN show-and-tell reportedly threw the Administration's WMD allegations in the air and exclaimed, "I can't say this! It's bullsh*t!"

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

 10:04 AM

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