Just wondering

Helen Thomas keeps asking Scot McClellan whether Lt. Bush ever had to perform court-ordered community service while in the National Guard, and McClellan keeps refusing to answer:

MR. McCLELLAN: I’ll come to you in a minute.

Go ahead, Helen.

Q I want to revisit a question I asked you last week and you didn’t have the answer — you may have it now. Did the President ever do community service while he was in the National Guard?

MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, you had said that this was relating to a rumor that you heard, and I think there’s a difference between rumor-mongering and journalism. And so I’m just not going to dignify those kind of rumors from this podium. I think the records have been released and you have — all the information is available to you publicly.

Q So you don’t really know?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I said this was relating to some trashy rumors that are circulating out there, and I’m just not going to dignify them from this podium.

Q It’s a very simple question.

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, John.

She’s right, you know. It really is a very simple question, to which the obvious answer is “No.” Can you think of a disadvantage of giving that obvious answer?

If it were accurate, I mean.

Update Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post reports that most members of the White House press corps are skeptical that there’s anything to the rumors that Helen Thomas is asking about (and politely suggests that Thomas is not to be taken very seriously).

Perhaps Froomkin’s colleagues have already looked into this, or perhaps they’re merely incredulous that Bush could have pleaded to or been convicted of something without anyone having come forward to talk about it. I agree that, on its face, the rumor seems far-fetched. But still: why no denial? Froomkin doesn’t offer a theory.

(On another topic, Froomkin doesn’t think that the White House has actually gotten past the National Guard issue, and in particular the question of the missed flight physical.)

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com