Much Ado About Nothing

The baseless, slanderous attack Kerry, McAuliffe and the biased media have mounted on President Bush’s service in the National Guard is completely irrelevant to the campaign for the presidency.

There was never anything to these scurrilous charges. The fact that this unfounded allegation was raised and dismissed in the 2000 presidential campaign should have been the end of the matter. Caught with a popular President and still unable to accept that the Democratic party is now an out of power minority party, the biased media, like a hungry predator, refuses to let go of the red meat thrown out by McAuliffe.

On ABC's "This Week" on February 1, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said:

George Bush never served in our military in our country.

He didn't show up when he should have showed up.

McAuliffe also said that Democrats would make reports that the president went "AWOL" from the Alabama National Guard in the early 1970s a central focus of the presidential campaign.

The kerfuffle over President Bush's military record began with this 2002 Boston Globe article which reported that retired General Turnipseed [Lieutenant Colonel], of the Alabama Air National Guard, had no memory of Bush ever reporting for duty in Alabama. In addition to Turnispeed's faulty memory the only other support for this irrelevant issue is an allegation by Retired Lieutenant Colonel Bill Burkett, who has claimed that Bush's National Guard files were "purged."

On Tuesday, Turnispeed told the Associated Press that he was not sure whether he was even on the base during the time Bush was assigned there. Moreover, he said: "In 1972, I didn't even know he was supposed to come. I didn't know that until 2000. I'm not saying that he wasn't there. If he said he was there, I believe it. I don't remember seeing him."

Kerry failed to try to put an end to this meaningless kerfuffle. On February 3rd, in an interview on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes show, Kerry was asked if McAuliffe's unfounded allegations were fair. Kerry responded:

Well, I don't know the facts on it [Bush's National Guard service].

What I've always said is -- and I defended Bill Clinton's position, and I would defend the president's choice with respect to going into the Guard.

I've never made any judgments about any choice somebody made about avoiding the draft, about going to Canada, going to jail, being a conscientious objector, going into the National Guard. Those are choices people make.

The Democrats and the biased mainstream media have done their best to keep McAuliffe's promise, keeping this issue in focus all month. The story is still in play despite absolutely no evidence to support it and a great deal of evidence refuting it.

The New York Post reports today that Turnipseed recanted his statement that he couldn't remember if Bush reported for duty. Turnipseed now says his memory is faulty because he's in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's disease.

The allegation that Bush's file was purged has also been discredited. Boston.com reports that George O. Conn, a key witness to some of the events described by Burkett, said that the central elements of Burkett's story are false.

President Bush's entire service record has been released, demonstrating that there is nothing to hide. Witnesses to President Bush's service in Alabama have attested to his service. The New York Post reports that retired Lt. Col. John "Bill" Calhoun went public to say he remembered Bush well, and that in fact it was Turnipseed, then a colonel, who introduced Bush to him. The same Post article also reports that Alabama Guardsman Joe LeFevers remembers seeing Bush on the Alabama base.

Regardless of all the media attention, this story about President Bush's service in the National Guard is not only irrelevant; it is unimportant and an indication of how dirty a campaign the Democrats intend to run in their effort to defeat President Bush. What a shame!

McAuliffe's charges are irresponsible and unsupported. McAuliffe's statement implying that serving in the National Guard does not constitute serving in the United States military is likewise irresponsible.

Kerry is obliged to repudiate these charges. During the 1992 campaign, Mr. Kerry defended then-candidate Bill Clinton, saying:

We do not need to divide America over who served and how. I have personally always believed that many served in many different ways ... We certainly do not need something as complex and emotional as Vietnam, reduced to simple campaign rhetoric.

That was a wise position in 1992, it is even more so a decade later.

During this time of war, the primary focus of the presidential campaign should be about which candidate can better conduct the war against terrorism. There can be no more important issue facing the country. There are many other issues that need to be discussed such as immigration reform, health care, and education. By focusing on a failed attempt to smear the president, the media and the Democrats are diverting attention from the real issues. Why?

Posted by Dan Spencer at February 15, 2004 5:25 PM