Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 13, 2004
POLITICS: Drum Punts, Kleiman Dodges, Willis Whiffs

So, yesterday I had 14 questions for Kevin Drum to answer if he expects us to continue taking him seriously on the "Bush was AWOL!!!!!!" charge. I also mentioned Mark Kleiman as one of the prominent bloggers flogging this story (and emailed him the link), and threw in Oliver Willis as well. Let's track the responses:

*Kleiman, to his credit, emailed back his response quickly and then posted it on his blog. However, his response basically dodges all of my questions and instead focuses on things we don't know. You can go there and judge for yourself. My response: Yes, I'm aware of Phil Carter, but he hasn't dealt with a lot of these points either. An obvious answer on the "why nobody remembers" thing is that Bush was just marking time, and most likely wasn't doing much to attract attention. If I'd become the most famous man in America by now, it's still unlikely that the people in my bar review class 8 years ago would remember me, notwithstanding the fact that there were only about 6 of us.

As for the flight physical, I take Sparkey's point (and others') seriously about the flight physical not being much of a requirement if Bush had no reason to remain qualified to fly. If he was away from his regular doctor - or even just the AF doctor Bush had been to before - it's not surprising that he wasn't really interested in going to a new doctor for a pointless physical. As for Bush's book . . . well, OK, that's not accurate. But it was 30 years ago, and he'd logged a lot of hours in the air. It's not unusual at all if that seemed like a longer time than it was, and I assume that when he proofed the book, he was doing so from memory, rather than cross-referencing it with fragmentary pay stubs. Kleiman also begs the question; elsewhere, he points to a Texas statute that reads as follows:

432.131. Absence Without Leave

A person subject to this chapter shall be punished as a court-martial directs if the person without authority:

(1) fails to go to his appointed place of duty at the time prescribed;

(2) goes from that place; or

(3) absents himself or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty at which he is required to be at the time prescribed.

The problem is, Kleiman never gives any explanation of why he believes Bush was "required to be" in any particular place at any particular "time prescribed." It's also pretty lame that Kleiman attacks my criticisms on his blog without providing a link; that's just bad form. Blogs are supposed to be open to a give-and-take that presumes you have enough confidence in your position to let your readers hear the other side and respond. (Kleiman also insisted that his site's failure to accept trackbacks from my site and some other conservative sites is due to a technical problem he hasn't been able to fix . . . I take him at his word, but a better trackback feature might hold him a bit more accountable for his writings).

*Maybe Drum will address the questions later, but his initial response was to issue a non-denial denial, basically admitting that there's nothing to this story but arguing that Bush should nonetheless be compelled to keep answering questions about it. Um, remind me not to listen to Kevin complain about anything that was done to Clinton . . . on my Question #2, about eyewitness testimony, Drum provides a mixed answer: on the one hand, he's still pushing the statement by Col. Turnipseed even after he's come right out and said that he was misquoted and not in a position to comment. That's just sleazy. On the other hand, Drum points to a new report about some guys who do appear to have a basis for saying they expected to work with Bush in Alabama and never saw him. This is the first thing I've seen that looks like halfway decent evidence, although I'll have to digest this a bit before I pass judgment on their credibility. But bear in mind that these guys are talking about events more than 30 years ago, and they didn't come forward 4 years ago when this story broke. Like I said, we shall see.

*Willis just ignores me. Par for the course.

UPDATE: Oliver Willis, in comments, says I've overstated his interest in this story and that he didn't even notice my trackback.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:33 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (2)

We're getting precariously close to having Drum become the National Enquirer of the blogosphere.

Posted by: Ricky at February 13, 2004 02:33 PM

The Memphis Flyer story (it is reportedly a free weekly, not a regular newspaper) quotes active pilots out on the flight line at a base with 800 people on it. Both men are Dems, one who is still angry at Bush41 for letting Eastern Airlines go belly-up. But the key is that Lt. Bush was not on flight status at the time, he was off in the office, as Calhoun says, reading magazines.

That is one more case of seeking and finding someone to say the desired thing- "I never saw him, so he probably wasn't there."

Baseball Crank has it right- Drum is looking for a graceful way out, Kleiman will pretend the story disappeared and never mention it again, and all of the mainstream media will continue to quote the offhand and out-of-context statements from the first 2000 Turnipseed interview and ignore what he clarifies now.

Someone find these lazy politicos masquerading as reporters and bloggers something to do. Real work seems to be too hard for them, especially if it doesn't fit their established convictions.

Posted by: Duane at February 13, 2004 04:57 PM

The classic quote about the Flyer is that "they never get the facts get in the way of a good story." (Direct quote from ex-Commercial Appeal reporter Susan Adler Thorp. Not that Thorp was a saint of journalism either, mind you; she golden parachuted into the Governor's office in Tennessee recently.)

Take that for what you will.

Posted by: Chris Lawrence at February 13, 2004 05:21 PM

Minor correction: she GP'd into the Memphis mayor's office as his press secretary. After covering him for a decade, mind you.

Posted by: Chris Lawrence at February 13, 2004 05:23 PM

For what it's worth I didn't even realize you had trackbacked me. My specific beef has been that Bush claimed he would release all his records. He didn't. I may have today, I dunno for sure. Whether that proves/disproves his absence - I'm not sure.

Posted by: Oliver at February 14, 2004 02:01 AM
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