The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

AWOL RETURNS

All of our friends on the right who've been pushing the idea that John Kerry made a mistake by running in significant part on his military service are operating on an incorrect assumption, and thus, are walking right into a trap.

The assumption is that the Democrats, the candidates, and the left in general already went nuclear on George W Bush's intermittent service in the Air National Guard.

Let's compare: The debate over Kerry's military record in August arose because of a highly coordinated, multimillion-dollar ad campaign by an independent group, formed earlier in the year, consisting of veterans who held a 33-year-old grudge against Kerry for his 1971 testimony on Vietnam. This was combined with a skillful game of good-cop bad-cop by Bush and his staff ("I condemn that ad, and all ads that..." -bush), while at the same time carefully sowing seeds of doubt in voters' minds ("I don't condemn the ads!" -laura). Oh, and don't forget the band aids.

And what was the nature of the coordinated effort by the left to bring the AWOL issue to the fore seven months ago? One word ("deserter") in the middle of a Michael Moore speech.

When the media investigated the story, it wasn't due to a highly coordinated ad campaign. It was because a number of newsrooms went through a phase of mass guilt for not having investigated it back in 2000. The candidates themselves, by and large, were not aggressive about the story, rather wanting to focus on the issues (they are, after all, Democrats). And when the administration made a large (but incomplete) document dump (after a week of trickling out pay stubs and a dental record, as if to intentionally arouse suspicion), the press suddenly gave them the benefit of the doubt, as if it was 2002 and 2003 all over again.

That flurry of attention was accidental and unexpected. Some supporters of the Swift Boat Liars have implied a bit of a revenge angle, vis a vis the AWOL issue. Yet while us bloggers got all excited, opponents of Bush, as well as others with an interest in the truth, never went fully nuclear on the gaps in his service.

Perhaps that is about to change.

From the Boston Globe:
In February, when the White House made public hundreds of pages of President Bush's military records, White House officials repeatedly insisted that the records prove that Bush fulfilled his military commitment in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.

But Bush fell well short of meeting his military obligation, a Globe reexamination of the records shows: Twice during his Guard service -- first when he joined in May 1968, and again before he transferred out of his unit in mid-1973 to attend Harvard Business School -- Bush signed documents pledging to meet training commitments or face a punitive call-up to active duty.

He didn't meet the commitments, or face the punishment, the records show. The 1973 document has been overlooked in news media accounts. The 1968 document has received scant notice.
The details follow. And the fact that he got a "Hey, your last name's Bush!" honorable discharge doesn't change them.

Kevin Drum rounds up the rest, also reminding us not to forget about the interview of Ben Barnes (the guy who got Bush his cushy spot in the "champagne wing" of the Texas Guard) tonight on 60 Minutes (8pm). Fire up them TiVo's, guys.

And for a more direct, aggressive counteroffensive, you had to expect this.

If Bush survives an in-depth look at his service record intact, then yes, Kerry's emphasizing of his own military service record will have been a mistake.

P.S. Oh, yeah, in case anybody questions whether Bush's service is a real issue or not,

--Bush lied about his service in his 1999 autobiography A Charge to Keep.
--"I'm a war president"
--At the time of the document dump, the administration claimed that it was everything.

And that's just for starters...

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