Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 18, 2004
POLITICS: Latest on Rathergate

*ABC has decided to go for CBS' jugular, and comes up with the man who actually got Bush into the Texas Air National Guard:

Retired Col. Walter Staudt, who was brigadier general of Bush's unit in Texas, interviewed Bush for the Guard position and retired in March 1972. . . .

"I never pressured anybody about George Bush because I had no reason to," Staudt told ABC News in his first interview since the documents were made public.

[snip]

Staudt said he decided to come forward because he saw erroneous reports on television. . . .

Staudt insisted Bush did not use connections to avoid being sent to Vietnam.

"He didn't use political influence to get into the Air National Guard," Staudt said, adding, "I don't know how they would know that, because I was the one who did it and I was the one who was there and I didn't talk to any of them."

'Highly Qualified'

During his time in charge of the unit, Staudt decided whether to accept those who applied for pilot training. He recalled Bush as a standout candidate.

"He was highly qualified," he said. "He passed all the scrutiny and tests he was given."

Staudt said he never tried to influence Killian or other Guardsmen, and added that he never came under any pressure himself to accept Bush. "No one called me about taking George Bush into the Air National Guard," he said. "It was my decision. I swore him in. I never heard anything from anybody."

When he interviewed for the job, Bush was eager to join the pilot program, which Staudt said often was a hard sell. "I asked him, 'Why do you want to be a fighter pilot?' " Staudt recalled. "He said, 'Because my daddy was one.' He was a well-educated, bright-eyed young man, just the kind of guy we were looking for."

He added that Bush more than met the requirements for pilot training. "He presented himself well. I'd say he was in the upper 10 percent or 5 percent or whatever we ever talked to about going to pilot training. We were pretty particular because when he came back [from training], we had to fly with him."

[snip]

Records show Bush stopped flying F-102As in April 1972. He has said he moved to Alabama to work on the Senate campaign of a family friend. Staudt retired from the Guard in March of that year and said he was never contacted about Bush's performance.

"There was no contact between me and George Bush ... he certainly never asked for help," Staudt said. "He didn't need any help as far as I knew."

He added that after retiring he was not involved in Air National Guard affairs. "I didn't check in with anybody - I had no reason to," he said. "I was busy with my civilian endeavors, and they were busy with their military options. I had no reason to talk to them, and I didn't."

Staudt said he continues to support Bush now that he is president. "My politics now are that I'm an American, and that's about all I can tell you," he said. "And I'm going to vote for George Bush."

Link via Allah.

*WaPo moves the ball ever so slightly by looking at Bill Burkett's rants in a Yahoo club. Money quote:

In e-mail messages to a Yahoo discussion group for Texas Democrats over the past few months, Burkett laid out a rationale for using what he termed "down and dirty" tactics against Bush. He said he had passed his ideas to the Democratic National Committee but that the DNC seemed "afraid to do what I suggest."

*A plausible how-it-could-have-happened scenario (link via Dales blog).

UPDATE: Allah has some pointed comments about Burkett's phone call to Max Cleland; he's right on the money in his point about Josh Marshall. And Mickey thinks Staudt could sue CBS, although the bigger question is why they never talked to him in the first place.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:38 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

If Staudt's a Bush supporter, would you really expect him to say anything differently? I'm not calling him a liar, but given the circumstances I just can't take his statements as dispositive of anything. I am inclined to believe him about not being involved with the Guard after his retirement, because that's something that could be checked.

Posted by: Devin McCullen at September 18, 2004 12:18 PM

Well, the fact that he supports Bush does factor into his credibility. On the other hand, if he thought ill of Bush from those years, would he still support him? It cuts both ways.

Posted by: Crank at September 18, 2004 12:42 PM

"If Staudt's a Bush supporter, would you really expect him to say anything differently?"

Well couldn't the same be said for Ben Barnes and Killian's secretary- both partisan Democrats. This entire story is built on he said/she said and nothing else (other than fake memos, that is). So can we stop talking about it now?

Posted by: Richard at September 18, 2004 1:55 PM
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