records attempt to save Bush
House Press Secretary Scott McClellan held another awkward,
standoffish press briefing last Tuesday to try to bring
an end to the controversy surrounding President Bushs
military record. Armed with copies of military documents
more than 30 years old pertaining to Bushs Texas
Air National Guard service, McClellan came just short
of suggesting what Democrats and other critics of Bush
can do with the documents when they were done reading
At issue is a one-year span, beginning in May 1972,
when Bush was granted permission to transfer to an Alabama
unit to work on a senatorial campaign. Until Tuesday,
there was no evidence in his file that he ever reported
to the Alabama unit to perform monthly drills.
The documents released last Tuesday, prepared by the
Defense Financing Accounting Service, show that Bush
was paid for dates in October and November 1972 and
in January and April 1973. Those dates span the time
from May 1972 to May 1973 that had been
the focus of Democratic critics.
The officer to whom Bush was told to report in Alabama
has said in interviews that he has no recollection that
Granted this was more than three decades ago, not recalling
a congressmans kid reporting for duty isnt
likely the fault of a bad memory more likely,
its because the event never happened.
The Democrats need to be careful entering into the military-records
fray. The military paper trail is a twisting and confusing
dimension in which time and space have no meaning. Neither
civilian nor soldier understands how the system works.
Only the clerks do, and in the end, they have more power
than any officer in their company because of that knowledge.
An adept Republican working with a military clerk may
be able to find some very strange, yet official documents
proving Kerry is in fact a 9-year-old female Laotian
Republicans can dig up many 30-year-old documents to
defend Bush, but it wont do any good. The recent,
more telling documentation is Bushs attempts to
cut combat pay last August, a move Washington journalists
call a Friday night special because it was
done after the regular news cycle just before the weekend
to avoid making any headlines. His new budget also cuts
$1.8 billion from the veterans-benefit budget.
During the annual Harkin Steak Fry outside Indianola
last fall, a soldier I know, who had recently returned
from Iraq, confronted as many candidates as he could
find about how each of them planned to bring his fellow
soldiers home from Iraq. After giving my friend an answer
in full view of the press and public, Kerry pulled him
aside, put his arm around him, and leaned in close so
the microphones wouldnt pick up their conversation.
What Kerry said was combat veteran to combat veteran,
not for public ears and not staged for publicity. What
they said will stay between them. Repeating the conversation
would add little to this column. Most people wouldnt
have the frame of reference to understand the brief
exchange anyway especially our commander in chief,
honorable discharge or not.
Molseed is a columnist for The Daily Iowan at the University
This column was distributed by U-Wire.