Sunday, February 01, 2004

AWOL again

bolo boffin has cobbled together an incisive analysis of the questionable documents offered by the Bush campaign to explain away the large gap in his National Guard Service in Alabama.

Of course, as previously noted, it's open question whether these documents are even legitimate or not. As Bob Somerby observes, this "absurdly strange document" consists of "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."

But even if the documents are legit, as boffin demonstrates, they actually do very little to actually exculpate Bush:
But from 26 May 72 until 28 Nov 72, Bush blew off his Guard duty to work in Winston Blount's failed Senatorial campaign. He applied for one transfer to an Kansas unit and moved before the transfer was approved (it wasn't). In September, Bush applied again for an Alabama unit and was ordered to report for duty in October. He didn't.

He also blew off his piloting license. He missed his physical, because of his own admission that he no longer "intended" to fly, this despite the years of training at government expense. Do Guardsmen get to decide unilaterally what they will and will not do in the Guard? Bush was allowed this sovereignty.

But not forever. By my reading of his record, Bush got some form of talking-to in November. He showed up for some makeup days somewhere. But all was not well in Lt. Bush's life. That Christmas, he took an underage Marvin out drinking and challenged his dad to settle their differences "mano a mano." When he sobered up from that one, he got back into a routine of attendance, getting the points he needed for the quarter.

Regardless of the documents' legitimacy, the matter of Bush's absence from early May 1972 through late November 1972 -- a period of over seven months -- has gone undisputed. Oddly enough, the people who deny that Bush went AWOL completely ignore this gap in his service -- as do the reporters who continue to profess (and demonstrate) real ignorance about the facts of the case.

The most recent case of this came with David Halbfinger's recent New York Times report on the John Kerry campaign. It featured former Sen. Max Cleland's remarks:
It was former Senator Max Cleland of Georgia, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, who delivered the most scathing attack on President Bush on behalf of Mr. Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran.

"We need a real deal, like John Kerry, not a raw deal, like what's in the White House now," Mr. Cleland said, as his voice fell nearly to a whisper. "We need somebody who felt the sting of battle -- not someone who didn't even complete his tour stateside in the Guard."

Mr. Bush was in the Air National Guard in Texas from 1972 to 1973, but did not appear for duty from May to November 1972 when he was working as the campaign manager for Winton M. Blount, a Republican Senate candidate in Alabama. A National Guard official and Mr. Bush's spokesmen have said he made up the dates, as Guard regulations allow.

Actually, the Times itself reported in 2000 that Guard regulations were rather stricter -- and in fact require servicemen to make up lost dates within the three-month period in which they occur:
Colonel Turnipseed, who retired as a general, said in an interview that regulations allowed Guard members to miss duty as long as it was made up within the same quarter.

For some reason, the NYT -- along with bloggers like Bill Hobbs -- considered Turnipseed's remark exculpatory, and it was, insofar as his Alabama service went (if you find that torn document credible).

But it is quite damning concerning the May-November gap. Bush clearly did not make up the time lost beginning May 1972 -- and for the next seven months -- within that quarter.

Of course, all this could be cleared up at a moment's notice if Bush -- like every other major presidential candidate of the past half-century -- were to release his military records. Funny thing about that.

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