It's Well Past Time For Bush To Account For His Lost Year
In Tuesday’s Post E. J. Dionne applies the same standard of credibility and transparency to George W. Bush that the GOP wants applied to Dan Rather and John Kerry, and finds Bush failing the test. A day after the New York Times pointed out that Bush has never accounted for his “missing year”, Dionne points out that the GOP was sure quick to demand that questions about Kerry’s past or Rather’s document sources be answered. But when the questions turn to Bush’s character and why he has never answered what happened in 1972, they want to turn the subject off.
No dice. If the White House wants to open this bottle and let the credibility genie out, either in attacking Kerry through the Swifties and their lies, or through a misdirection ploy against Rather about the typeface of documents without ever disputing what was in those documents, then Bush must answer questions about where the hell he was in 1972 and what affected his ability to complete his commitment and fly.
"There are a lot of questions and they need to be answered," Bush told the Union Leader in Manchester, N.H., last week. "I think what needs to happen is people need to take a look at the documents, how they were created, and let the truth come out." But what's good for Dan Rather, who is not running for president, ought to be good for George Bush, who is. "There are a lot of questions and they need to be answered." Surely that presidential sentiment applies as much to Bush's Guard service as to Rather's journalistic methods.
First, except for John McCain, Republicans were conspicuously happy to have a front group spread untruths about John Kerry's Vietnam service in August and watch as the misleading claims were amplified by the supposedly liberal media. The Vietnam era was relevant as long as it could be used to raise character questions about Kerry. But as soon as the questioning turned to Bush's character, we were supposed to call the whole thing off. Why? Because the media were supposed to question Kerry's character but not Bush's.
And, please, none of this nonsense about how Kerry "opened the door" to the assault on his Vietnam years by highlighting his service at the Democratic National Convention. Nothing any candidate does should ever be seen as "opening the door" to lies about his past. Besides, Vietnam veterans with Republican ties were going after Kerry's war record long before the Democratic convention.
But, most important, there is only one reason the story about Bush's choices during the Vietnam years persists. It's because the president won't give detailed answers to the direct questions posed by the Times story and other responsible media organizations, including the Boston Globe. Their questions never depended on the discredited CBS documents.
Bush could end this story now so we could get to the real issues of 2004. It would require only that the president take an hour or so with reporters to make clear what he did and did not do in the Guard. He may have had good reasons for ducking that physical exam. Surely he can explain the gaps in his service and tell us honestly whether any pull was used to get him into the Guard.
But a guy who is supposed to be so frank and direct turns remarkably Clintonian where the National Guard issue is concerned. "I met my requirements and was honorably discharged" is Bush's stock answer, which does old Bill proud. And am I the only person exasperated by a double standard that treated everything Bill Clinton ever did in his life ("I didn't inhale") as fair game but now insists that we shouldn't sully ourselves with any inconvenient questions about Bush's past?
Thanks E. J. for pointing out the double standard employed by the White House and their supporters. Bush and his supporters have never accounted for his lost year nor demonstrated why the same transparency and accountability they demand of everyone else should not apply to Bush himself.