It seems to me that Dana Milbank of the Washington Post just called the President of the United States a liar. That’s a pretty serious accusation to make in wartime, so it’s a little surprising that Milbank put the accusation in the ninth paragraph of the story.
Milbank also leaves it to the reader to notice that Mr. Bush’s office is reneging on the promise he made to Tim Russert to release his military records by claiming (falsely) that they had already been released, and misses the point that even if the pay stubs have been lost or purged from the files, Mr. Bush’s tax returns from that period would show if he had done any actual service in any given year. (If Kevin Drum is right that Bush was moved to a paper unit in 1972, then he would have had no Guard-related income in 1973):
Bush, preparing for a reelection campaign in which he appears increasingly likely to face a decorated Vietnam veteran in Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), said “I put in my time” in the National Guard and suggested that his critics were disparaging the National Guard as a whole. Reacting for the first time since the old controversy was revived by Democratic charges that he was “AWOL” during Vietnam, Bush said he would “absolutely” release records such as pay stubs that would, if found, indicate more precisely how often he reported for duty.
Bush’s promise to release all of his military files, including pay stubs and tax records, has the potential to resolve the long debate over Bush’s service from May 1972 to May 1973. No records have been found showing he performed his duties during that period, but he received an honorable discharge, indicating that he had served properly.
Experts in such matters have said payroll records and Bush’s annual retirement “point summary” from the time — neither of which has been uncovered — should demonstrate definitively how often Bush participated in drills. Such records, unless they have been purged, should exist on microfiche in St. Louis or Denver.
Bush said it was unlikely those records still exist. Asked whether he would allow their release, he replied: “Yeah, if we still have them. But, you know, the records are kept in Colorado, as I understand, and they scoured the records.” Bush also said his campaign had authorized the release of such information in the 2000 campaign, but no such information has been released. A spokeswoman, Claire Buchan, said yesterday that all existing records, including pay stubs and retirement points, had already been made available.
Milbank misses another point, which Atrios makes: Whatever else my transpire about Bush’s service or lack thereof, he made one demonstrably false claim in his autobiography:
“I continued flying with my unit for the next several years.” In fact, he finished training in June of 1970 and never flew after May of 1972. So unless the definition of “several” has been expanded to include “less than two,” he told a fib. Another good question for his next press conference, if he ever gives one, or for Scott McClellan’s next press gaggle.