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SPINNING BUSH AT WAR (PART 4)! Sully’s eponymous dotcom backed Bush. Torn, we give more information:


TORN BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Sorry, no real HOWLER today; we have an event tonight that requires preparation (and a tux). But Sully’s remarks about that Bush “missing year” do call for a bit more reaction. Question: Did documents end up shooting down Walter Robinson’s “missing year” story? Yesterday, Sully was sure that they had (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/7/03). A bit more history is in order.

As we’ve noted, Robinson’s report appeared in the May 23 Boston Globe. One month later, the Bush campaign still had no real rebuttal. We excerpt a June 24 Chris Williams article for the Associated Press:

WILLIAMS (6/24/00): Gov. George W. Bush’s campaign workers have concluded that no documents exist showing he reported for duty as ordered in Alabama with the Texas Air National Guard in 1972. They are looking for people who served with him to verify his story that he did.

Dan Bartlett, a spokesman for Bush’s Republican presidential campaign, said he reviewed another 200-page packet of documents last week from the National Guard’s records repository in Denver.

“I have read it, and there is nothing earth-shattering,” he said. The campaign was looking for payroll records that would show Bush reported for duty with the Guard in Montgomery, Ala., while working on the unsuccessful Senate campaign of former Postmaster General Winton Blount.

The new records were mostly duplicates of documents obtained by the campaign from the Texas National Guard headquarters in Austin about 18 months ago. “The official records were either lost or misplaced or not filled out correctly or not deposited. We are not sure,” Bartlett said.

Again, that was the state of play one month in, with cowering news orgs like Inside Politics still refusing to mention the story. But by the time Election Day had drawn near, the Bush campaign had turned up that famous “torn document.” On November 3, George Lardner and Howard Kurtz limned it in the Washington Post:
LARDNER AND KURTZ (11/3/00): The Bush campaign points to a torn piece of paper in his Guard records, a statement of points Bush apparently earned in 1972-73, although most of the dates and Bush’s name except for the “W” have been torn off.

According to the torn Air Reserve Forces sheet, Bush continued to compile service credits after returning to Houston, winding up his fifth year with 56 points, six above the minimum needed for retention. However, Bush’s annual effectiveness report, signed by two superiors, says “Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of the report,” May 1, 1972, to April 30, 1973.

[Col. Bobby] Hodges also said he did not see Bush at the Texas base again after Bush left for Montgomery [in May 1972]. “If I had been there on the days he came out, I would have seen him,” Hodges said.

How weird! Only the “W” was showing! At any rate, despite having seen the famous “torn document,” the Post Two judged Bush down on points:
LARDNER AND KURTZ (11/3/00): Bush campaign officials say their evidence shows that he did his duty in 1972-73, when he worked for six months on the Senate race in Alabama and then returned to his home base outside Houston. But other documents in his Guard record contradict that claim, and critics who have examined that record contend that he also skimped on his obligations in 1973-74. It is safe to say that Bush did very light duty in his last two years in the Guard and that his superiors made it easy for him.
Quite possibly, the scribes were being more than fair. But on this same day, Jo Thomas penned the New York Times piece which Sullivan praised to the skies in his dotcom. Strangely, Thomas had seen a mysterious document which showed that Bush did lots of work:
THOMAS (11/3/00): [Bush spokesman Dan] Bartlett pointed to a document in Mr. Bush’s military records that showed credit for four days of duty ending Nov. 29 and for eight days ending Dec. 14, 1972, and, after he moved back to Houston, on dates in January, April and May.
Bartlett pointed to a document? But what exactly was this document? Weirdly, it seemed that Bartlett had pointed to this document when no one except Thomas was around! Starting in June, Bartlett tried to persuade the Associated Press, the Globe, and the Post that Bush had really shown up for duty. But for some strange reason, no one else seemed to have seen the mysterious document which showed Bush’s twelve days of work!! How could Bartlett have been so stupid? To all appearances, he simply forgot to show the mysterious document to the AP, the Globe and the Post.

But then, the New York Times was extremely Bush-friendly all through Election 2000. And Thomas judged in Bush’s favor—all thanks to that mysterious document which Bartlett, the doggy-pill maven, provided. But what exactly was that document? And why had no one but Thomas ever seen it? Hurrying through her short, sketchy report, Thomas forgot to explain. On Wednesday, that mysterious document saved Bush again, thundered in Sullivan’s dotcom.

At THE HOWLER, we don’t much care about this kind of story—this “what-did-he-do-at-age-23” story. But on the other hand, many people do care about this. Can you see why such people—that C-SPAN caller, for example—are complaining about a lack of clear facts? And can you see that your slippery press corps still owes them a clear explanation?

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Don’t “miss” a single episode in our incomparable series:

SPINNING BUSH AT WAR (PART 1)! Pundits recalled a leader’s war record. Their memory was weak—but it served.

SPINNING BUSH AT WAR (PART 2)! The general said Bush wasn’t there. And the press quickly buried the story.

SPINNING BUSH AT WAR (PART 3)! Robinson wrote about Bush, then Gore. But the press only ran with one story.

The Daily update

THUGS IN THE STREETS: Astonishing! There’s no other word for Richard Cohen’s column in this morning’s Post. According to Cohen, Jeane Kirkpatrick was right all along when she called the Democratic Party the “blame America first crowd.” And not only that: “That same tendency to blame America for the moral shortcomings of others unfortunately permeates the left and the Democratic Party.” But as Cohen spews his lazy blood libels, he manages to name exactly one name. And trust us—he names a person you’ve never heard of. More on this ugly nonsense tomorrow.

Meanwhile, we were stunned last night by the closing moments of the repellent pro wrestling show, Hardball. Incredible but true: We’ve now reached the point where “pundits” dream on national TV of beating United States senators “with a tire iron.” (Perhaps you can guess which senator was named. The pundit was halfwit Michael Graham.) Much more on this stunning exchange tomorrow. But right before our very eyes, our civic culture has entered a dizzying downward spiral. This morning, Cohen recalled good Tailgunner Joe. But last night, for the first time in our lives, we turned away from a TV set with an evil word in our brain: Kristallnacht. These ugly men really won’t be pleased until someone is beaten in our streets.

TOMORROW: William Bennett’s real vice; Graham’s thuggery; and cheers for Fritz, Marshall and Tomasky.