Monday, September 13, 2004

A state of evasion

CBS continues to stand behind the documents it aired on 60 Minutes last week showing almost definitively that George W. Bush evaded fulfilling his commitment to the Texas Air National Guard, partly by ignoring a direct order from his commanding officer.

Their report on CBS Evening News went even further:
CBS News asked the White House today to give direct answers to a number of questions:

Did a friend of the Bush family use his influence with the then-Texas House Speaker to get George W. Bush into the National Guard?

Did Lt. Bush refuse an order to take a required physical?

Was he suspended for "failing to perform up to standards"?

And did he complete his commitment to the Guard?

In reply, a White House spokesman told CBS News today, "As you know, we have repeatedly addressed these issues." These direct questions have not been fully, completely answered. The White House and the Bush/Cheney campaign always point out that President Bush received an honorable discharge.

What's in the 60 Minutes report, CBS News believes to be true, and believes the documents are authentic.

It's important, again, to stress that the White House has been consistently evasive about Bush's Guard service records -- insisting that all "relevant records" had been released in 2000, then releasing a fresh batch that answered none of the questions about the periods under scrutiny, then trickling other documents out here and there as needed.

And this latest White House response is nothing if not the picture of evasiveness. That includes this morning's press gaggle:
Q Tomorrow will the President, when he talks to the National Guard, bring up the accusations leveled at him by Democrats on his service?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think, first and foremost, this is an opportunity to go to the -- speak to the National Guard Association and thank all those men and women who serve in our National Guard. They are serving and sacrificing in the war on terrorism, and we're grateful for their sacrifice and we're grateful for what their families are doing.

In terms of a further preview on the speech, I'm not ready to get into that at this point. Maybe we can discuss it later in the day, though.

Q Does the President think that the attacks on him are attacks on the Guard?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look, I think he's talked about that we should not denigrate those who serve in the National Guard, we should not denigrate their service. He's made that clear. In terms of this whole National Guard issue, we're not doing our own investigation to determine whether or not those documents were fabricated or authentic. I think experts and journalists have continued to look into the issue and have raised a number of questions. And these are serious questions that are being investigated by many news organizations and we look forward to seeing what those results are.

But in terms of going back to this issue, the timing of these old, recycled attacks is not in question. I mean, Democrats and the Kerry campaign are orchestrating these recycled attacks because he is falling behind in the polls. And that's clear. And that's been documented, too.

Q But, Scott, the Democrats found not responding quickly in August to the swift boat ads hurt them. Are you afraid the same thing, if you don't respond quickly to the National Guard ads --

MR. McCLELLAN: They're talking about continuing to flail away and engage in baseless attacks. The President is focused on the future and what his agenda is for leading this country forward for the next four years, and he's talking about the highest priorities of winning the war on terrorism and how you lead in the war on terrorism. And they're resorting to old, recycled attacks because they can't talk about their out-of-the-mainstream views.

Q -- so what you're saying, when these attacks are leveled, are those attacks on the people -- the National Guard? Are you making that tie?

MR. McCLELLAN: No. I think, Ron, you have to -- it depends on what specific attacks you're talking about. But certainly we should not denigrate the service of those in our National Guard. They are serving and sacrificing for an important cause in the war on terrorism.

Q But in questioning the President's service, is that criticism of people who serve in the Guard?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's orchestrated attacks -- recycled attacks by the Democrats, that's what that is.

Of course, there is not a scintilla of evidence that Democrats are behind these press reports, including the Boston Globe's latest as well as a crushing piece in U.S. News and World Report.

When the gas from "forgerygate" smokescreen dissipates, one would think Bush and his minions are going to have to stop evading and start answering these substantive questions, which arise not just from the documents but an entire panoply of evidence already published and substantiated.

But don't hold your breath. Evasion, secrecy and obfuscation are first nature to this bunch. Like the scorpion on the fox, they'll continue to evade, evade, and evade some more, even in the face of public pressure, because they cannot help it. It's in their nature.

So much for Mr. Straight Shooter.

[Be sure to check out Glenn Smith's excellent piece at BOP News outlining the contextual substantiation for the CBS memos.]

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