Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 05, 2004
POLITICS: The AWOL Smear Keeps Crumbling

Tom Maguire notes a significant fact about the whole "Bush AWOL" nonsense. If you recall, there are three principal pieces of evidence relied on to push this story:

1. Bush's National Guard commander in Alabama, William Turnipseed, says he would have remembered seeing Bush if he'd been there, but doesn't.

2. Bush missed a physical.

3. Bush hasn't produced Guard records showing he wasn't AWOL.

The third, of course, isn't evidence so much as an absence of evidence, and it's unsurprising that the Guard's paperwork from that period isn't in great order. Now Maguire notes that the first point has been badly undermined by the Washington Post:

Reached in Montgomery yesterday, Turnipseed stood by his contention that Bush never reported to him. But Turnipseed added that he could not recall if he, himself, was on the base much at that time.

In other words, if Bush was doing what he said he did - just showing up for meetings to play out the last two years of his commitment after exceeding his contractual commitment of hours of service in his first four years of service - it's not surprising in the least that he never interacted with Turnipseed, who isn't so sure he was around much himself. Bogus.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:34 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

I’m not sure that the evidence is open and shut either way, but Bush didn’t dodge the draft or flee the country. It wasn’t PT-109, but he did his time, served his country and was honorably discharged. The conspiracy-minded will always imagine the worst, but the rest of us should have more important things to talk about.

If campaigns should be decided by who has the better military record, why didn’t Terry McAuliffe and John Kerry support George H. W. Bush over Bill Clinton in 1992 or Bob Dole over Clinton in 1996? Why didn’t John McCain, who I supported, defeat Bush in 2000?

I do think a President’s personal history is relevant to a certain degree, but the real issue is national security here and now. And Bush has an established record on which, or against which, to run. He has been the Commander-in-Chief of the world’s largest military for four years, during one of the greatest crises in American history and has led two wars. I think Bush's performance during that time, love it or hate it, is the relevant matter. If John Kerry intends to answer questions - about why he opposed removing Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in the first Gulf War, why he slashed intelligence budgets throughout his Senate career and why he opposed the reconstruction of Iraq - by taking a “how-dare-you-ask-me-questions-like-that-when-I-served-in-Vietnam” tone, I don’t think it will get him far.

In other words, I think Kerry’s war record is a legitimate plus for him, which few would question, but he should not overplay that hand and think that Bush’s National Guard record is a legitimate minus or a significant issue. Kerry needs to focus on offering a compelling vision for defeating al Qaeda, for securing America and for improving America’s standing in the world. If he can do that, though he’ll never get my vote, he can win. If he chooses to run on the issues of 1972, he will deserve to lose.

Posted by: The Mad Hibernian at February 5, 2004 09:08 AM

Bogus? Perhaps. Perhaps not....

Its an issue for Bush if he shirked his duties for a year. Not to the extent of Deano skiing in the Alps, but it certainly takes away from his "everyman" appeal.

Its not a crime, but candidates have seen critical support erode for less.

Posted by: C Giddy at February 5, 2004 09:38 AM

In and of itself, this is trivial, and the Democrats are stupid if they try to play it up as more than it is. Bush seems to have done the minimum required under the law to avoid going to Vietnam, which is not a point in his favor, but isn't really a bad thing, either.

Kerry would obviously like to paint a picture of Bush as someone who is indifferent to veterans and cavalier about putting American troops in harm's way, and if he can build that case based on other things, Bush's dubious military record can be something that supports that. But he has a big burden of proof to build that case first.

Posted by: Jerry at February 5, 2004 11:46 AM

Yeah, Phil Carter does make some useful points. I still think that Stryker's point (which I linked to in my earlier post) is the most decisive one: that Bush exceeded the number of active service days he was required to complete in his service contract with the US government, and thus there really wasn't any obligation on him to do much of anything the last two years. Now, unlike Stryker, I'm not a veteran and I'm no expert on the ins and outs of National Guard regs and service contracts. But until the critics deal head-on with this argument, I do not intend to take them seriously in the least.

Posted by: The Crank at February 5, 2004 11:47 AM

You won't take them seriously because your going to vote for the guy regardless.

The question is will the undecideds take them seriously?

Posted by: C Giddy at February 6, 2004 10:15 AM
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