Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The real story: Bush did not dispute the content of the memos

Atrios has a post that recalls what I posted the other day on Dailykos.

Q Scott, on the National Guard documents on "60 Minutes," the First Lady says she believes these are forgeries. The RNC has accused the Democratic Party of being the source of these documents. Knowing then what you know now, would you still have released those documents when you did?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's a hypothetical question, John. We received those documents from a major news organization. We had every reason to believe that they were authentic at that time.


If the basic thrust of the memos was false - if, say, Bush came forward and said "Hey, wait a minute! Those can't be real! I never disobeyed a direct order..." then why would our dear Scotty say such a thing?


My previous post:

There are two major options in the "Memo Debate:'  1) They're forged; or 2) They're not forged.


Frankly, I don't claim to know the answer.  Interesting questions have been raised, but the arguments I have heard to disprove the possibility that they might be real have proven hasty and inadequate.  Either way, however, I think the memos have served to distract from the larger issues.  Also, either way, the following exchange between Dan Rather and Dan Bartlett raises interesting questions that should be the focus of discussion.


Q: Is your suggestion that these documents, at least a couple of them, could have been fabricated?


DAN BARTLETT: I'm not saying that at all. I'm just saying that the fact that documents like this are being raised when, in fact, all they do is reaffirm what we've said all along, is questionable.


The President's spokesman did not dispute the validity or content of the memos.  In fact, he said they "reaffirm what we've said all along."


The White House has not issued a statement about any of the memos, one of which was addressed to George W. Bush, ordering him to get a physical.  Even faced with the question of whether Bush disobeyed a direct order, Bartlett, nor the White House since, has denied the veracity of that memo.  Nor did they claim Bush never received that memo.  They took it totally in stride as if, "Of course that memo was written.  It is consistent with our version of events.  We have no reason to dispute it."   The only thing he ever questions is the timing of their release.


DAN BARTLETT: The two official documents that notified that he did not take the flight exam, which is exactly -- it is explained in your document that he did not take the flight exam because he was going to Alabama in a non-flying capacity because, in Alabama, they weren't flying the same plane that President Bush was trained on.


Q: But what about these two documents is rumor and innuendo?


DAN BARTLETT: ... But these documents state exactly what we said, and that is President Bush didn't take the flight exam because he was going to a unit that didn't fly his plane. And in that very document you're showing it says that he was working out with the staff to find a unit that he could train with, but it was going to be in a non-flying capacity.


Far from disavowing the memo, Bartlett embraces it and confirms that Bush did exactly what it said.


Q: But these are two official memorandums. Any idea of why these would not be in the record?


DAN BARTLETT: I can't explain why that wouldn't be in his record, but they were found in Jerry Killian's personal records themselves, is what I've been told. But it reaffirms exactly what President Bush said. Everybody knows President Bush didn't take his flight exam. After flying for 400 -- more than 500 hours in the cockpit, President Bush, after his fourth year in service, asked for permission to go in a non-flying capacity to Alabama. There was not reason for President Bush to take a flight exam if he wasn't going to be flying.


Again, "there's nothing new here.  We don't dispute it.  It doesn't surprise us."  Rather continues:


Q: Okay. So you seem to paint that as an option, that he could have taken the flight exam if he wanted to continue to fly, but didn't really have to take it. But this first document, dated 4th of May 1972, specifically says, "You are ordered to report for a physical examination." So he either ignored, or didn't fulfill a direct order, not an option.


DAN BARTLETT: Well, in fact, the memorandum shows -- the other memorandum in your possession shows that he spoke to the commander who made that order to talk about his personal situation in the fact that he was going to Alabama. So at every step of the way, President Bush was meeting his requirements, granted permission to meet his requirements. And that's why President Bush received an honorable discharge.


Bartlett again embraces and confirms the content of the memos, including the "note to file" describing the phone conversation.  Bush has not corrected this position.


Two reasons come to mind for this response: 1)  The Bush folks know the official documents are valid; or 2)  They are forged and they know they are forged, i.e. the "Karl Rove bugged his office again" theory


They may know they are valid because, as has been previously alleged, Dan Bartlett "scrubbed" them from the file in 1998.  Or they may suspect all of them are valid, because Bush knows he ignored the memo ordering him to get a physical.


If the memos are ultimately discredited and Bush calls "foul!", the media will need to be reminded that they were never denied, in fact, they were confirmed and eagerly embraced as true, but meaningless.  Which tends to point a suspicious finger in the direction of one Karl Rove.  We need to keep the media focused on these key facts.

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