Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 12, 2004
POLITICS: FOURTEEN QUESTIONS FOR KEVIN DRUM

I usually respect Kevin Drum, but he's really gone off the rails on the Bush National Guard story (See here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here - and that's just the last three days!). Now, I don't usually like making demands that other bloggers write about things, but Kevin has been monomaniacal on this story, he's using his big soapbox to drive the story, and he obviously has plenty of time on his hands to delve into this stuff (he's even conducting interviews and begging readers to dive into microfilm in Alabama!). So I have a few questions -- honest questions -- I really would like to hear him answer, because as far as I can tell, he has yet to deal with any of these points:

1. As I noted previously here, Sparkey at Sgt. Stryker contends (see the comments section) that "[b]ecause [Bush] had so many days of active duty, he had exceeded the requirements set forth in his enlistment contract" by 1972 and thus was not obligated to do anything, and could not be punished, for example, for missing a physical (Baldilocks has more here). I have no idea if Sparkey is right, but he obviously knows a heck of a lot more about the military than I do, and various sources seem to confirm that Bush had, in fact, well exceeded his required days of service. (See here and here) To me, if he's right about this, this controversy is over: game, set, match. Do you disagree with Sparkey's reading of the relevant requirements, and if not, is there any basis for arguing that Bush failed to meet his obligations to the Texas Air National Guard?

2. The original "Was Bush AWOL?" story rested heavily on Colonel (later Brigadier General) William Turnipseed of the Alabama National Guard's statement to the effect that he would have remembered seeing Bush on the base if he'd been there. It now turns out that Turnipseed says he was misquoted and admits that he himself can't recall if he was on the base that much (See also here). Others in the same unit have the same reaction: they have no reason to believe that they would remember a guy who was just showing up to do a few drills (More on that here, and compare this statement by someone who does remember). Do you still contend that Turnipseed or anyone else with the National Guard at the time provides any eyewtness evidence that Bush failed to attend to his obligations with the Guard?

3. Another key and frequently cited piece of evidence cited by Bush's critics is an evaluation stating that Bush was "not observed." Again, people with a lot more military experience than I have seem to believe that this isn't really all that uncommon, and that "not observed" is basically a military term of art for "I'm not in position to evaluate" rather than "he wasn't here." (See here) Do you have any basis for disputing this characterization?

4. A number of individuals with military experience have described your characterization of the ARF unit as "disciplinary" as being laughably misinformed(see here and here and here). Do you still stand by the notion that there is evidence that Bush was at any times placed in a "disciplinary" unit or on any other "disciplinary" status?

5. Do you dispute that paperwork errors and incomplete records were fairly common in the Guard in the early 1970s? (See here and here and here and here).

6. Come to think of it - do you have any experience whatsoever serving in the military or reviewing military records? That's not a criticism -- I don't either -- but given that most of the military bloggers and commenters who have weighed in on this seem to think that this is an idiotic controversy, while nearly none of the prominent Bush critics (other than people like John Kerry and Wesley Clark who have studiously avoided knowing any of the relevant facts) appears to have any clue how to make sense of military records, military jargon and military service obligations, it's a fair question.

7. Similarly, commentators with military experience have indicated that you have misread the one document you have been citing, stating that "There is ONLY one way to get TWO POINTS PER DAY. That is DRILL ATTENDANCE." (See also here ). Now that this point has been raised, do you have any basis to dispute this?

8. It is not that rare for people in the military to miss a physical (see here and here) or to have records of their physical lost. (See here re: the notion that Bush had received any sort of disciplinary "warning", and here as well). Do you contend that Bush having missed a physical is a serious infraction that justifies characterizing him as "AWOL"?

9. It appears that by 1972, Bush's airplane, the F-102, was being phased out, and for other reasons (including the winding down of the American presence in Vietnam) the Guard was facing a surplus of manpower in general and pilots in particular (See the comment here and here (scroll down)). In other words, the tasks for which Bush had trained and served from 1968 through 1971 were no longer of much use to his country, and keeping his flight physical current in particular was largely superfluous (see here). Do you contend that Bush failed to perform any service to the National Guard in 1972-73 that would have served any useful purpose?

10. It has also been suggested that it was fairly common practice at the time for the Guard to excuse members from certain obligations due to other employment, such as Bush working on a Senate campaign in Alabama. (See also here), as well as to allow a good deal of flexibility in making up missed time. Do you have any reason to question the propriety of this, in the context of how the Guard operated at the time?

11. It has been reported that, at the time Bush enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard, the unit he joined (the 147th Fighter-Interceptor Group at Ellington Air Force Base, Houston) was actually flying combat missions in Vietnam (See here, and also more generally here and here and here). Do you dispute this?

12. Bush put his life at substantial risk by training on and flying the F-102; it was all too common for pilots in the Guard to be killed while flying this aircraft, as well as others. (See here and here on the risks). In fact, pilots in the National Guard get hazard pay for their duty. Do you deny this?

13. In fact, at one point, Bush volunteered for a program that was sending pilots to Vietnam (see here and here and here). Do you dispute this?

14. Isn't it true that the principal source of this story is a nutjob conspiracy theorist from Democrats.com?

Look: Some of the sources I'm citing here may not be authoritative. And yes, Bush didn't volunteer to go to Vietnam as John Kerry did. But the way I see it, the record currently shows that Bush (1) signed up for hazardous duty that was well more than the bare minimum of service to get out of Vietnam, (2) fulfilled every requirement - and then some - that his country asked of him to merit an honorable discharge. The burden of proof here is on those who claim otherwise. I'd love to hear Kevin or Oliver Willis or Mark Kleiman or some of the other critics try to act like responsible adults here and go point-by-point through these questions and show me the evidence why they disagree with these two conclusions.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 08:00 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (25) | TrackBack (10)
Comments

Should the President sign off on releasing all of his military records?

If he should, why won't he?

If he shouldn't, why not?

Bottom line, I think the press is now looking for something bigger than just a few missed days.

Posted by: C Giddy at February 12, 2004 09:49 AM

Great job!

Now I have one place to go to answer the turkeys who still are fixated on Bush's service.

As a former Naval Reserve airman who did go to Vietnam, I am really sick of this nonsense. It only goes to show how desperate the anti-Bush people are.

And its amazing how they ignore the sordid record of their candidate.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at February 12, 2004 12:19 PM

My daughter is currently serving in the Ohio National Guard. Last year, she delivered her daughter in late February. She was nursing, and the commander allowed her to miss attendance at summer camp, provided she worked at the home station during the days, for a three week period. She did, and was considered present, and paid for her duty.

Her husband (also served in the Guard until a recent discharge) went looking for his records, as he is planning to re-activate in the Army. They couldn't find his medical records. As my daughter works in the office on drill weekends, she went looking last weekend. The records had been misfiled. Fortunately, he had copies of the most important information.

My son and I were talking about the Bush military records controversy. He stated that he had his records. The originals, not copies. I got nervous, and offered to scan them and store them in the safe deposit box. Now, if those records were looked for, would he be able to find them in 20 or so years? Probably not.

My question, since records mix-ups are so common, why are news commentators so surprised?

Posted by: Linda at February 12, 2004 12:21 PM

C Giddy said:
Should the President sign off on releasing all of his military records?

If he should, why won't he?

If he shouldn't, why not?

Exactly which military records should he release? Every single scrap of paper ever generated while he was in the National Guard? He has already released a set of documents which specifically address the charge that he was AWOL. Maybe he should he release his home mortgage records, or maybe his credit card receipts? How about his electric bills? Sounds like Dems want to go on a fishing expedition.

The question was: did the President go AWOL? The answer was provided by the display of mroe than sufficient documentation to show that he was not.

Twist and turn all you like, but the burden-of-proof ball is now decidedly in the Dems court.

Posted by: Bombadil at February 12, 2004 01:12 PM

Well, Kevin Drum has responded (indirectly, but it's probably as good as you'll get) by essentially saying "It's not the crime, it's the coverup", and intimating that there must be something else in there if the Administration is being so overprotective. I'll let someone else decide if that's an accurate description of his coverage.

My question is that he claims all other Presidential candidates routinely open up their entire service record, and that Bush hasn't done this. Does anyone know if this is accurate? (I'm not asking whether the media should be looking at medical records and payroll stubs, just whether Bush's release of military history is different than other candidates.) If anyone knows, I'd be interested to hear about it.

Posted by: Devin McCullen at February 12, 2004 03:13 PM

"Sounds like Dems want to go on a fishing expedition."

You bet, they're still sore about the fishing trip the GOP took with Ken Starr.

Posted by: C Giddy at February 12, 2004 03:56 PM

On relclearpolitics.com under the rcp commentary, he documents that Bob Fertik of democrats.com requested documents in Novermer 2000 under the FOIA. Fertik claims they forgot about received documents until January 2004. Therefore Kevin Drum can't assert cover-up.

Obviously Drum will never accept anything about Bush that positivelty demolishes the various national guard lies Bush critics spew.

Posted by: RC Power at February 12, 2004 04:26 PM

spew

LOL

Posted by: C Gifford at February 12, 2004 06:28 PM

Actually, I specifically remember that Bill Clinton would NOT release his (current)medical records during his presidency. I know about it because the WSJ editorial page raised the issue at the time. Other than them though, everybody else in the press thought it was juuuuuuuuuust dandy. But, of course, he was a Democrat.

Posted by: Bill at February 13, 2004 01:16 AM

There is a principle in American juisprudence called "innocent until proven guilty"> Apparently for Democrats, this only applies to Democrats. Republicans must prove their innocence by releasing each and every scrap of paper ever written.

Posted by: Ben at February 13, 2004 05:05 AM

I probably shouldn't wander into such a partisan debate, but here are three questions from someone with no prior agenda:

1. Echoing C. Giddy above, does anyone know if it is it true (as I've heard elsewhere ... damn, I wish I could remember where) that it's a standard practice for presidential candidates to authorize a blanket release of all of their personal military records?

2. Didn't the President say on Sunday that he would authorize release of all of his military records?

3. What does any of this have to do with baseball?

Posted by: On the fence at February 13, 2004 07:32 AM

You know, I've been watching Presidential elections for years, and I don't really remember whether military records were routinely released or not. On the other hand, since 1950, with the exception of Truman, who served in WWI, the service was in "the Good War" WWII and even LBJ who got what looks like a gift medal had pretty much nothing to hide. Reagan *thought* he served in WWII, it just turned out only to be a movie, but nobody cared. I don't remember Ford's service. Carter went to Annapolis and got an early out to take of the family business (better than David Robinson who had to serve his 5 years before joining the Spurs), Bush I was more of hero than Kerry, and Clinton was a draft dodger, although a legal one and no worse than most.

Thus, it appears to me that the real problem is that Democrats can't figure any other way to dent Bush II's armor. People like him, so you're going to have to damage him. It would be interesting to see Kerry's service record gone over with a fine-tooth comb. Most any service record can be misinterpreted, I imagine. I'll bet mine could.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at February 13, 2004 09:40 AM

The point of the AWOL story was never to prove that Bush was AWOL. It was to highlight that he avoided Vietnam while John Kerry did not. That comparison - Valiant Principled Kerry vs. Cowardly Hypocritical Bush was always the motivation behind the story.

The media always knew Bush was honorably discharged and the media always knew the Guard was a part-time duty. But when people think of military service during Vietnam, they think of active continuous service. The fact that Bush got any time off from service, despite the fact that every Guard member is part-time, is meant to show he had it easy vs. John Kerry and all those who did deploy to Vietnam.

The evidence is this week, that is where the stories have turned. Last night on Hardball with Chris Matthews, "Do you think President Bush avoided going to Vietnam by joining the National Guard?" Last night on CNN, "The Civil War defined Presidential elections for 100 years. Perhaps it is not surprising that even 35 years later, the question is 'What did you do in the war'?"

This accusation of cowardice has always been the point of the story, and this is what the President needs to directly address. I don't know how, but perhaps a little anger would help. Amazingly, it is the anti-war left that is getting a free pass. Chris Matthews even bragged about getting out of Vietnam, saying all the smart people did the same. So which is it, is Bush a coward and a genius, or a soldier and a dolt?

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight - nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety - is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions and blood of better men than himself."
- John Stuart Mill -

Posted by: Scott Harris at February 13, 2004 11:48 AM

You bet, they're still sore about the fishing trip the GOP took with Ken Starr.

Here is a picture of the person who appointed Ken Starr. He sure does look sorry he made that decision! Or maybe he's sad that some pathetic partisan accused him of being part of the GOP.

Posted by: Tongue Boy at February 13, 2004 01:42 PM

Bush is the one dragging this out by not releasing all his Guard records as he promised he'd do last Sunday. He's never going to win a contest with Kerry over who was the better soldier. So why drag it out unless he has something to hide? For the first time in over 3 years the WH press corp has gotten up on it's hindlegs and are doing everything but pelting Scott McCellan with rocks and bottles over his equivocations and non answers. The chickens are coming home to roost. If you're a Republican don't be in such a rush to see this issue go away because then we go back to Iraq, WMD, the Office of Strategic Plans, Halliburton, Cheney's Energy Task Force, Kean's 9/11 commission, the economy, and jobs.

Posted by: Mark Garrity at February 13, 2004 02:22 PM

I think this story would go away if Bush's people stopped releasing their information piecemeal, and just released it all at once. No, they don't have to release every scrap of paper ever generated about Bush. But it's pretty obvious to anyone following the story that the White House has lots and lots of records relating to Bush's service that they're just not releasing (i.e. they say they released all the documents, then more come out the next day, and then the next day, etc.). And there's no good reason for them to not release everything they have, especially since the President basically said on Russert that he would release everything, unless there's something damaging in there.

The question then becomes, what are they covering up? And my take on CalPundit, who I do think is unabashedly liberal and partisan, is that he's trying to figure out what that is.

Posted by: Dave M at February 13, 2004 04:28 PM

Mr. Garrity demands to know, "So why drag it out unless he has something to hide?"

Wonder what Mr. Garrity would say if a cop wanted to search his car because the cop maybe thought he was doing something wrong? "What's the problem, got something to hide?" asks the cop.

Guess we know what Mr. Garrity would say to that. He'd self-righteously proclaim that the burden of proof is on the accuser. Then he'd blush and realize how stupid he sounds in his post.

Nah, probably not.

Posted by: John D'oh at February 13, 2004 06:04 PM

Well, Dubya got in the guard even though there was a long waiting list. I've only served active duty, just like everyone else in my family.
Being a spoiled little rich boy with a butterbar on your collar does not make you a leader of men.
Serving your time in a merely adequate fashion does not give you the right to call others (many of whom have served in some hairy situations) unpatriotic because they oppose the current administration's war.
There are so many more little freaks in this sideshow. Let's move on to some more, shall we?

Posted by: sluggo at February 17, 2004 12:40 AM

Sooo....now we've gone from "Bush was AWOL" to "Bush must have something to hide" to "Bush is a rich spoiled rich little rich boy (did I mention he was rich rich rich?) and therefore not a good leader." Y'all got those goalposts on a cart or what?

Posted by: Mike at February 17, 2004 08:16 AM

Yeah, unlike John Kerry, the son of a toothless sharecropper who grew up in a one-room dirt-floor shanty, right? Go check out Bill Hobbs, who's pointed out that there actually wasn't a waiting list for the unit Bush joined. Why? I'm not sure; I suspect perhaps that there's some other reason why the rich and well-connected were the the ones to join this unit, but it doesn't look as if it was a case of skipping to the front of a long line so much as getting on a line the average guy didn't know about or for whatever reason couldn't make it onto. . . . point is, this is a totally bogus issue because you wind up arguing about the inequities of the draft, which was remedied 30 years ago (it's the Dems, these days, who want to bring back the draft).

Posted by: The Crank at February 17, 2004 10:04 AM

I did Nam. Navy. 1968. Fire control liason officer with Marines on several different big, naked, red hills. Guard in those days were crazy. All kinds of weird requirements. Some units were easy to get into, some not. Any air guard would be tougher than your routine maintenance or paperwork support type units. Like so many other ignorant things in today's world we like to turn back the clock, but apply today's knowledge and/or standards, and play the role of detective so that we can feel as one with the past. It rarely works. It's always in the details. I bought a computer for $30,000.00 in 1975 that had 32K of RAM and took one 8 inch floppy disk. That was high tech. Record keeping was done with a device called a typewriter or ball point pen. We even used pencils with erasers on them. My records got lost when I got back from Nam and maybe half of them showed up 3 months later while I lounged around San Diego and, as an officer (verboten to sailers and gyrenes) screwed some of the local womens. Couldn't get away long enough to go south to TJ, as leaves were rarely 24 hours. Damned paperwork that finally did show up cost me a promotion and lower pay scale for the next two years. Had a couple of baubles they pinned on my chest, but even with accosted with the hard evidence (including citations) they never, and to this day, don't exist. 2 bronze stars. Guess I wasn't as brave as Kerry. S.O.B. I saw a lot of gyrenes die on those red hills and environs. Have no idea how many of them had their paperwork screwed up. Guess as long as a family had *some* body to bury it didn't make much difference. Hey, I saw the body bags come back with the crap pinned on the bag that was total bullshit. Take a guy that was blown up into smaller pieces or sort of ripped open at the wrong place and the folks on the ground didn't always take the time to look around for a dog tag. Saw a lieutenant (or major) doing ID on couple of dudes that got splattered quite a bit "for the record." The sucker was so high on morphine or something he couldn't have ID'd his mother. What the D'Crats are looking for they ain't gonna find. What they found is more than one sometimes finds. But heh, I got me a pension. Of course it's for the wrong amount and for an incorrect diagnosis of a small problem I have because of a hit I took. But heh, we were 7 years away from having a 'puter like that job I bought for my pro/bus ops in 1975. Too bad. Too bad. Surely they can find some dirt elsewhere. Have yet to meet my first angel.

Posted by: Steve at February 17, 2004 02:19 PM

Just another case of fantasy vs. reality.

Fantasy:

Bush as reformer.
Bush as a uniter not a divider.
Bush as fiscal conservative.
Bush as war hero.

Reality:

Reformer of what exactly? Baseball doping?

Even if you like Bush we're more divided with him than we were before. Just ask a Dem who they want as their nominee. Answer: ANYBODY who can beat Bush.

Fiscal conservatism hasn't had an enemy like this since Nixon and his HUGE government.

AWOL or not, Bush didn't see combat and he wasn't the one doing the dirty work in Iraq. He should be ashamed for the grandstanding he did aboard the USS Lincoln. Heaven knows what that must have cost us. I refer you back to the fiscal conservative myth.

Seems to me all the fuss about his record is rooted in frustration over the consistency with which this administration attempts to portray the President as one person, while the facts continue to show that he is quite the opposite.

You cursed and stamped your feet at Clinton because of "character issues" such as this. Yet here we have some serious questions of honesty and integrity, and the silence from the right is defeaning. tsk! tsk!

Posted by: J at February 18, 2004 12:55 PM

You said: "Look: Some of the sources I'm citing here may not be authoritative. And yes, Bush didn't volunteer to go to Vietnam as John Kerry did."

Let me give you a piece of personal insight on "volunteering" to go to Vietnam. I was on active duty with the Army in 1969, as a 2LT. I was married and on an assignment to Ft McPherson Ga at the time I received order for Vietnam for Feb 69.

Since I am from ND and was recently married with wife working and expecting, I didn't want to leave her in GA, so I made a deal with my assignment branch to extend my initial term of service from 2 years to indefinitely if they would postpone my assignment to Vietnam. They subsequently agreed. There upon, I "Volunteered" to go to Vietnam with an in country date of July so that I could get our family into the "summer move cycle", she could finish her job contract (teacher) and move back home to ND. Branch agreed to "volunteer request" and I went in July 70, with my records reading "Volunteered for Vietnam".... =) "Vietnam Volunter" means different things to different people. There was no doubt that I was going to Vietnam...the question was on my schedule or Army's? What were the circumstances of Mr. Kerry's "volunteering"? I doubt that "heroics" was a factor.

Posted by: DeltaDave at February 19, 2004 11:00 PM

You said: "Look: Some of the sources I'm citing here may not be authoritative. And yes, Bush didn't volunteer to go to Vietnam as John Kerry did."

Let me give you a piece of personal insight on "volunteering" to go to Vietnam. I was on active duty with the Army in 1969, as a 2LT. I was married and on an assignment to Ft McPherson Ga at the time I received order for Vietnam for Feb 69.

Since I am from ND and was recently married with wife working and expecting, I didn't want to leave her in GA, so I made a deal with my assignment branch to extend my initial term of service from 2 years to indefinitely if they would postpone my assignment to Vietnam. They subsequently agreed. There upon, I "Volunteered" to go to Vietnam with an in country date of July so that I could get our family into the "summer move cycle", she could finish her job contract (teacher) and move back home to ND. Branch agreed to "volunteer request" and I went in July 70, with my records reading "Volunteered for Vietnam".... =) "Vietnam Volunter" means different things to different people. There was no doubt that I was going to Vietnam...the question was on my schedule or Army's? What were the circumstances of Mr. Kerry's "volunteering"? I doubt that "heroics" was a factor.

Posted by: DeltaDave at February 19, 2004 11:00 PM

Man, that's a lot of assumptions to make to account for, charitably, incompetently incomplete records (or a lack of showing up for your job, but what the hey).

Posted by: Joseph Finn at April 27, 2004 01:21 AM
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