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NOT CURIOUS ABOUT GEORGE! Michael Moore called Bush a bad name. And the AP misstated the facts:


NONE DARE CALL IT JOURNALISM: What were Wesley Clark’s real-time views on Iraq? Last week, the “press corps” pretended to examine the question. Try to believe that this was said on Thursday’s Lou Dobbs Tonight:

DOBBS (1/15/04): General Wesley Clark today said Congress should determine whether President Bush was criminal by advocating a war against Saddam Hussein. He said the president misled the American public on the issue of Iraq. General Clark, likes to say he has been a consistent opponent of the war in Iraq but the reality appears to be much less clear.

In testimony to Congress in September 2002, as reported by the Drudge Report, General Clark said if peaceful efforts to resolve the Iraq issue fail the United States should form a coalition to bring force to bear. General Clark also wrote an op-ed article in the Times of London in April shortly after the coalition overthrew Saddam Hussein’s regime. In that article, General Clark said, “President Bush and Tony Blair should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt.”

“As reported by the Drudge Report?” Clark’s Senate testimony is hardly a secret, something Drudge was forced to dredge up. Indeed, Clark’s testimony has been publicly available ever since the day he gave it. Allegedly, Dobbs runs a CNN news program; he and his staff could have examined Clark’s testimony any time they chose to. Instead, they waited till Drudge tossed out some selective quotes, then “reported” the story as if it were news. For the record, Drudge’s selective quotes were simultaneously released by—who else?—the RNC.

For the record, other alleged “journalists” ran on the air with the selective quotes from Drudge (and the RNC), but few were this eager to tell the world that they’re really just Drudge’s script-readers. We suggested, some time ago, that Clark’s real-time views on Iraq should be limned. But that would have taken an act of journalism. Instead, Dobbs waited for Drudge to hand him his script, then he ran on the air and he read it. By the way: Do you see why it takes a fool to keep reciting that hoary old tale, “liberal bias?”

PRAVDA ON THE POTOMAC: Does the press corps tear up all White House hopefuls? Pundits love reciting this tale, but it just plain isn’t true. Last week, we noted the way the press ignored the story of Bush’s National Guard service when he ran for president in 2000 (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/15/04). And presto! Over the weekend, the corps continued to mislead the public about this endlessly down-pedaled tale. Last Saturday, Michael Moore dubbed Bush a “deserter” in an appearance with Wesley Clark. This remark led a few news outlets to describe what Moore could have meant.

And how these pundits did describe it! In Sunday’s Post, the dean of all pundits—David Broder—gave this cleaned-up account of the problem:

BRODER (1/18/04): The Boston Globe reported in 2000 that “there is strong evidence that Bush performed no military service as required when he moved from Houston to Alabama to work on a U.S. Senate campaign from May to November 1972.”

Maj. Thomas A. Deall, an Air Force personnel officer, was quoted as saying that “after looking at Bush’s records, he met minimal drill requirements before his discharge.”

The Dallas Morning News reported that “after a thorough search of military records, George W. Bush’s campaign has failed to find any document proving he reported for duty during an eight-month stint in Alabama with the Texas Air National Guard.” Bush was quoted as saying he remembers being at drills in Alabama.

What might readers have thought after reading that passage? They might have thought that a seven- or eight-month period was at issue, and that Deall had claimed that Bush met requirements before that period ended. But Broder’s account understates the real problem—a problem the press has never tried to resolve. Meanwhile, the Associated Press released a baldly inaccurate story, one which downplayed the problem even more.

What did the Boston Globe report? Broder quotes from Walter Robinson’s 10/31/00 Globe story—a follow-up on a more detailed 5/23/00 report. But according to Robinson, the apparent problem with Bush’s service extended well past November 1972. What follows is a fuller passage from Robinson’s story. Plainly, the Globe asserted a much larger problem than the one Broder described:

ROBINSON (10/31/00): What’s more, a Bush campaign spokesman acknowledged last week that he knows of no witnesses who can attest to Bush’s attendance at drills after he returned to Houston in late 1972 and before his early release from the Guard in September 1973.

There is strong evidence that Bush performed no military service, as was required, when he moved from Houston to Alabama to work on a US Senate campaign from May to November 1972. There are no records of any service and the commanding officer of the unit Bush was assigned to said he never saw him.

During Bush’s Alabama sojourn, he was suspended from flight duty for not taking his annual flight physical. The Bush campaign’s initial explanation for the lapse, it now admits, was wrong.

Dan Bartlett, a Bush campaign spokesman, pointed to incomplete records—one a torn page without Bush’s name or any discernible dates—as evidence that he did enough drills in Houston in the closing months of his service to satisfy military obligations.

Major Thomas A. Deall, a spokesman for the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver, said last week that officials there now believe that after looking at Bush’s records, he met minimum drill requirements before his discharge.

Still, as the Globe reported in May, two documents and the recollections of officers who said they believe that Bush did not return to his Houston base after leaving for Alabama raise questions about whether Bush performed any duty between April 1972 and September 1973, the month Bush entered Harvard Business School.

Broder’s account is accurate, but quite Bush-friendly. He doesn’t say that Bush was suspended for non-performance during the seven-month ’bama sojourn. But beyond that, the Globe asserted that documents and recollections of officers “raise questions about whether Bush performed any duty between April 1972 and September 1973” (our emphasis). As such, the Globe’s actual claims went well beyond the seven-month period Broder cites. (The Dallas article was written in the spring of 2000, and was based on less research than the Globe later provided.) Meanwhile, one final point: according to Deall, officials believe that Bush “met minimum drill requirements before his discharge” in September 1973. Broder’s readers might well think something much more Bush-friendly. They might think that Bush was believed to have met requirements during that earlier, seven-month period. Plainly, that’s not what Deall said.

Broder downplays the matters at issue. But Broder was a vicious muck-raker compared to the Associated Press’ Tom Raum. On Saturday, Raum wrote an AP story about Moore’s remarks. Incredibly, this was his full account of the controversy about Bush’s service:

RAUM (1/17/04): The exchange recalled a controversy that was an element of the 2000 presidential campaign.

Bush served as a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard from May 1968 to October 1973, mostly flying F-102 fighter interceptors. He did not go to Vietnam.

Bush spent most of his time in the Guard based near Houston, but in May 1972 he received a three-month assignment in Alabama with the 187th Tactical Recon Unit in Montgomery while he worked on a political campaign in the state.

Retired Gen. William Turnipseed, a commander at the Alabama base, said during the 2000 presidential campaign that he never saw Bush appear for duty for that unit’s drills. Bush maintains he was there, but records have never been produced to document that Bush was there.

Incredibly, Raum’s readers have now been told that there is only a three-month period at issue. Since he wrote the official AP account, Raum’s report almost surely ran in newspapers all over the country.

Does the corps tear up all the hopefuls? As we noted a few months ago, the corps fled from this topic during Campaign 2000, and totally dropped it after that (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/26/03). Now, Raum presents a baldly inaccurate account of the matter, and Broder’s account—while technically accurate—is as friendly to Bush as it can accurately be. After November 2000, the press corps never made the slightest attempt to sort out the issues involved in this story. No, Virginia, they don’t go after all the hopefuls. And do you see why it takes a fool to assert that they’re gripped by that vile liberal bias?

BURN, BABY, BEIRNE: If it’s cold in New York, is global warming all wet? In fact, many readers wrote to remind us that warming theory predicts increased extreme weather of all varieties. Almost no pundit is really prepared to discuss the science of climate change. But even our current slackers and harlequins know that a few days of snow in New York can’t cool off the fever about warming.

But clowning clowns of the pseudo-con press united when Gore gave his speech about warming (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/16/04). It was cold outside, so Gore had been burned. Indeed, to Kate O’Beirne of the Capital Gang, Gore’s speech was the “outrage of the week:”

MARK SHIELDS (1/17/04): Kate O’Beirne.

O’BEIRNE: With the exquisite judgment we have come to expect from Al Gore, this week he appeared in New York to blast President Bush for his inattention to the pressing issue of global warming. Gore’s attempt to turn up the heat on Bush was on the coldest day in New York in memory: Minus 1 degree. Solid scientific evidence and a unanimous Senate that rejected the Kyoto Treaty are against Gore on this phony issue. So too is Mother Nature. Poor lefty Al Gore. It’s cold way out there.

There’s little chance that Kate has a clue about the science of climate change. But she eagerly joined in the clowning clownistry which seemed to be the real ’rage last week.