February 02, 2004

The W Document

Dan Froomkin ventures into the swamp that is the Bush National Guard/AWOL/"desertion" story. Bear in mind that this is only a swamp because of the non-release of George W. Bush's military records: the Bush team has concluded that what inferences we draw from the swamp are more favorable to George W. Bush than what we would conclude if we saw the full records. That is an important point to bear in mind.

Dan cites three newspaper articles: "Clark: Bush Guard Duty Not an Issue," David S. Broder, The Washington Post, Jan. 18, 2004; "One-Year Gap in Bush's National Guard Duty," Walter V. Robinson, Boston Globe, May 23, 2000 and "Bush's Guard Attendance Is Questioned and Defended," Jo Thomas, New York Times, Nov. 3, 2000. It is important to recognize that most of Jo Thomas's article rests on the bizarre W document, which she doesn't seem to understand well and doesn't question.

What does this bizarre W document mean? Here are the two best analyses I've seen--by the same person--the first assuming that the document is genuine, and the second fearing that it contradicts too much else we know to possibly be genuine:

Piecing Together Bush's Final Two Years of Guard Duty : ...from 26 May 72 until 28 Nov 72, Bush blew off his Guard duty to work in Winston Blount's failed Senatorial campaign. He applied for one transfer to an Kansas unit and moved before the transfer was approved (it wasn't). In September, Bush applied again for an Alabama unit and was ordered to report for duty in October. He didn't.

He also blew off his piloting license. He missed his physical, because of his own admission that he no longer "intended" to fly, this despite the years of training at government expense. Do Guardsmen get to decide unilaterally what they will and will not do in the Guard? Bush was allowed this sovereignty.

But not forever. By my reading of his record, Bush got some form of talking-to in November. He showed up for some makeup days somewhere.... [H]e got back into a routine of attendance, getting the points he needed for the quarter.

But when Bush wandered away from regular attendance again, somebody lit a fire under his posterior. On 73 April 23, Bush was ordered to attend ACDUTRA beginning 73 May 22. He also crunched six more days of active duty into the month of 73 May, with four more inactive duty points for good measure. Further, from his 73-74 SPE, you can see George putting PAID to his Guard service. Late May, June and July are a flurry of active duty points. Finally, the last point was on record, and the last hour was served. Bush had in two months accumulated enough points to apply for an early release to attend Harvard Business School. He got it.

Short Disclaimer: There are good reasons for discounting the torn SPE from an accounting of Bush's service record. Many people do rely on it to exonerate Bush, however, and I hope I've shown that the document isn't the excuse Bush apologists are looking for.

In fact, the disconnect between this document and other documentation of Bush's service in 72-73 is highlighted. It shows Bush in Houston (as Martin Heldt pointed out, this SPE wouldn't have service from Bama), while other documents show Bush wasn'tin Houston from May to April. Is it a forgery? If so, when was it forged - then or now? If it's authentic, then where was the time served? How did Bush put in the kind of hours the 72-73 SPE reveals without being noticed by his superior officers at Houston?

Were people protecting Bush? Or were they protecting their own culpability in falsifying Bush's record and giving him a easy path out of Vietnam? I don't know. You don't know. Only Bush knows, and he's not talking.

Posted by DeLong at February 2, 2004 12:43 PM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post

Today's Dailyhowler tries to make sense of all the conflicting reports from the Times, Post, and Globe that have been seen.

Posted by: Rob on February 2, 2004 01:05 PM


Ohh, and am I the only one who thinks when Peter Jennings tried to corner Clark on Moore that Jennings thought Moore was talking about getting into the Guard and had no idea about any of the missing service time?

Posted by: Rob on February 2, 2004 01:07 PM


The Kerry campaign makes it an issue. From the Boston Globe:

"Speaking to about 250 veterans and South Carolina voters at a town-hall-style forum, four days before the state's primary, former US senator Max Cleland of Georgia introduced Kerry as a combat leader with the caring touch of Shakespeare's Henry V, while accusing Bush of shirking his military duty during the Vietnam era."

" 'We need somebody who has felt the sting of battle, not someone who didn't even complete his tour stateside in the Guard,' said Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, in a reference to allegations that Bush, who stopped flying with the Texas Air National Guard in 1972, did not fulfill the last two years of his military obligation."


Posted by: Kosh on February 2, 2004 01:09 PM


Andrew Sullivan has already refuted the Bush AWOL story.


"Two Democratic senators today called on Gov. George W. Bush to release his full military record to resolve doubts raised by a newspaper about whether he reported for required drills when he was in the Air National Guard in 1972 and 1973. But a review of records by The New York Times indicated that some of those concerns may be unfounded. Documents reviewed by The Times showed that Mr. Bush served in at least 9 of the 17 months in question... On Sept. 5, 1972, Mr. Bush asked his Texas Air National Guard superiors for assignment to the 187th Tactical Recon Group in Montgomery "for the months of September, October and November." Capt. Kenneth K. Lott, chief of the personnel branch of the 187th Tactical Recon Group, told the Texas commanders that training in September had already occurred but that more training was scheduled for Oct. 7 and 8 and Nov. 4 and 5. But Mr. Bartlett said Mr. Bush did not serve on those dates because he was involved in the Senate campaign, but he made up those dates later. Colonel
Turnipseed, who retired as a general, said in an interview that regulations allowed Guard members to miss duty as long as it was made up within the same quarter. Mr. Bartlett pointed to a document in Mr. Bush's military records that showed credit for four days of duty ending Nov. 29 and for eight days ending Dec. 14, 1972, and, after he moved back to Houston, on dates in January, April and May. The May dates correlated with orders sent to Mr. Bush at his Houston apartment on April 23, 1973, in which Sgt. Billy B. Lamar told Mr. Bush to report for active duty on May 1-3 and May 8-10. Another document showed that Mr. Bush served at various times from May 29, 1973, through July 30, 1973, a period of time questioned by The Globe."

Posted by: Dan the Man on February 2, 2004 01:11 PM


Dan The Man:

"... a review of records by The New York Times indicated that some of those concerns may be unfounded. Documents reviewed by The Times showed that Mr. Bush served in at least 9 of the 17 months in question..."

So what you're saying, Dan, is that Bush was only AWOL for 9 months instead of 17?

Posted by: Kosh on February 2, 2004 01:20 PM


Opps, I guess that would be 8 months that Bush was AWOL. My bad!

Posted by: Kosh on February 2, 2004 01:21 PM


Andrew Sullivan, huh? The bright light of accuracy and precision in the journalism world, no?

As Brad suggested, why doesn't Bush release his damn military records like every other Presidential candidate for the past century?

Posted by: Moniker on February 2, 2004 01:34 PM


Dan the Man: You quoted Turnipseed as follows -

Turnipseed, who retired as a general, said in an interview that regulations allowed Guard members to miss duty as long as it was made up within the same quarter.

There is no record of Bush attending drills or making up the missed time in the first two quarters of his 72-73 year. Bush didn't make up the time within the first two quarters. Why was he allowed to skate?

Posted by: boloboffin on February 2, 2004 01:45 PM


I am not the only one who thinks that records related to an individual's service in the military (like his tax returns) should be released in total for public consumption when said individual is a candidate for president. The fact that Bush hasn't released them is enough for me to write him off. No one who isn't hiding something would let this kind of speculation build. That's my conclusion until someone releases those records and proves the contrary. I don't care what the NYT and Andy Sullivan think. Let Bush come to his own defense.

Posted by: Barbara on February 2, 2004 01:46 PM


To the tune of "He's a Drugstore Truck Drivin' Man":

He's an AWOL draft dodgin' man,
The big lie is part of his plan,
When November comes rolling around,
He'll be lucky to get out of town.

Posted by: Kosh on February 2, 2004 01:50 PM


Looking at the cited Washington Post article by Dan Froomkin, it seems to me that this "Should President Bush have been listed AWOL in 1972-3 or not?" issue has become legitimate fodder for the mainstream press again since Terry McAuliffe repeated the AWOL accusation on ABC's This Week. Mr. McAuliffe's quote (according to another WaPo article that Froomkin cites in his own WaPo article):

If the current front-runner continues his roll toward the nomination, McAuliffe said on ABC's "This Week" that he is looking "forward to that debate when John Kerry, a war hero with a chest full of medals, is standing next to George Bush, a man who was AWOL in the Alabama National Guard.

"George Bush never served in our military in our country. He didn't show up when he should have showed up. And there's John Kerry on the stage with a chest full of medals that he earned by saving the lives of American soldiers. So, as John Kerry says, 'Bring it on!' "

While I thank the generally loathsome Mr. McAuliffe for making this topic "legitimate" for the mainstream press to discuss again, I feel compelled to ask:

Am I the only person who's wondering why someone like Terry McAuliffe, someone whose paid big bucks to be a zealous advocate (read: shameless loudmouth) for the Democratic Party 24/7, can't figure out the highly effective angle that Prof. DeLong (and many of his readers, too, I'm sure) figured out with less than 3 seconds of neural activity?!

[Namely, I refer to the angle that all this could be settled by President Bush releasing his military records. The fact that he hasn't after all this time implies he's definitely of the opinion that our wild inferences based on a lack of definitive evidence will hurt him less than the obvious inferences possible with definite evidence. This isn't to say that there's not an outside chance that President Bush does have a valid alibi. But again Mr. McAuliffe is paid to be a zealous advocate (once again, read: shameless loudmouth), so he shouldn't feel bad about making he accusation without reminding us all of the tiny, hypothetical possibility of a vaild alibi.]

[And of course there's the possibility that Mr. McAuliffe made such points on This Week and the Washington Post merely didn't quote them. I can't verify this since ABC doesn't seem to post transcripts from This Week on its website, and instead forces you to purchase them. (What member of the general public actually *buys* transcripts for This Week?!) But, like I said, I find Mr. McAuliffe a loathesome loudmouth so I'm inclined to think he advanced what could have been a home-run argument by hitting a single.

[Sidenote: To paraphrase Sideshow Bob on The Simpsons, I am aware of the irony of promulgating an incomplete argument to decry someone for promulgating an incomplete argument, so don't bother pointing that out. :) ]

Posted by: Bill on February 2, 2004 02:36 PM


Dan the Man: there is no evidence that Bush made up the lost time in the same quarter, so your argument is a non-starter.
I have another question: Is Bush still subject to penalties if he was in fact AWOL?
It seems to be this could be an impeachable offense.

Posted by: marky on February 2, 2004 03:15 PM


There is another aspect of this case you could touch on---the connection with the Texas lottery.
It appears that one man got a contract to run the Texas lottery as a bribe to keep quiet about W's guard duty. I've read about this a few times, but I can't recall or find a link now, sorry.

Posted by: marky on February 2, 2004 03:22 PM


boloboffin, marky, to quote what I wrote

"But Mr. Bartlett said Mr. Bush did not serve on those dates because he was involved in the Senate campaign, but he made up those dates later."

Posted by: Dan the Man on February 2, 2004 03:33 PM


Dan, the NYtimes article uses the torn piece of paper---the "W document"---as evidence.
No one has verified that this is an official document. It doesn't have W.'s name or his number on it---as a matter of fact, only a "W" indicates the person. This is very weak evidence.
Clearly, Bush could remove all doubt by releasing his military records, as all other presidential candidates with military backgrounds, since at least WWII.

Posted by: marky on February 2, 2004 03:37 PM


marky, Here is the link you were looking for. It's from gregpalast.com:

George Wins the Lottery

The letter ties Barnes’s knowledge of Governor Bush’s draft-dodging to GTech’s exclusive deal with the state: “Governor Bush . . . made a deal with Ben Barnes not to rebid [the GTech lottery contract] because Barnes could confirm that Bush had lied during the ’94 campaign. During that campaign, Bush was asked if his father, then a member of Congress, had helped him get in the National Guard. Bush said 'no'...George Bush was placed ahead of thousands of young men, some of whom died in Viet Nam...Barnes agreed never to confirm the story and the governor talked to the chair of the lottery two days later, and she then agreed to support letting GTech keep the contract without a bid.”

Here's another excellent article by him:


“I was in the General’s office, General Daniel James …. He gets a telephone call from Joe Albaugh, who was the Governor’s chief of staff, and Dan Bartlett … on the voice box … and they wanted General James to assemble all of the Governor’s files, that [Karen Hughes, Bush’s aide] was going to write a book…. But Joe told General James, ‘Make sure there’s not anything in there that’ll embarrass the Governor.’”

And there wouldn’t be. Burkett asked if the general’s staff really intended to purge the files; and sure enough, as evidence of the affirmative reply, he was shown the piles of pay and pension records in the garbage pails destined for the shredders. Colonel Burkett did not run off with those files so we can only conclude this: the only evidence that Bush showed up for duty during the war is now missing. Military pay records are public records – and now they are conveniently unavailable.

Posted by: Gryn on February 2, 2004 03:38 PM


Thanks Gryn. That's from "The best democracy money can buy", if i'm not mistaken. At any rate, that is an excellent book

Posted by: marky on February 2, 2004 03:42 PM


Dan wants it both ways. The rules say, "Make up missed time within the quarter." Bush didn't do that.

"Well, he made it up later." In other words, against the rules. Why didn't Bush have to follow the rules?

Posted by: boloboffin on February 2, 2004 03:48 PM


Dan, you've repeated that in Bartlett's opinion it was probably ok to blow off at least *7 months* if you "made up those dates later" (this being as generous as possible about the spurious torn document.) This period would encompass approx. 24 training dates according to what Bush signed up for.

I'll direct you to the scanned articles from the period at the bottom that indicate less fortunate men missing just *7* training days got put on active duty in vietnam.


Posted by: Gryn on February 2, 2004 03:49 PM


By the way, my opinion is that Jennings did the Dems a tremendous favor by bringing up the issue, however unfairly he posed the question.
It's possible he was just covering his ass while trying to give Clark a chance to bat a home run.
I realize most of you think Jennings is too dumb.. but it's a thought:)

Posted by: marky on February 2, 2004 03:51 PM


I'm still waiting for the answer to the question about whether Bush could suffer any punishment now.... come on you google dogs:)

Posted by: marky on February 2, 2004 03:53 PM


Yeah, I go back and forth on Jennings. I think the problem is that he said the charge "was not supported by the facts" which would of put Clark in an awkward position having to contradict a reporter on the "facts". If Peter had just said "some say this a gross exageration" or somesuch then it would of been easier to say "well 'Deserter' is debatable but certainly AWOL" (of course it should be underlings doing the heavy lifting here, not the actual candidates).

Posted by: Gryn on February 2, 2004 03:56 PM


It's more nails in the credibility coffin. Next up: let's go back to insider trading irregularities at Harkness, frowned upon by no less than the SEC. You may recall, the last time that topic heated up the front pages (Autumn 2002), the Administration started loud beating of the Iraqi wardrums, and the scandal disappeared from the pages, and the public mind, like THAT [snap your fingers]!.

Posted by: Lee A. on February 2, 2004 04:46 PM


re: Bush .. suffer any punishment now

the following is interesting:


GW simply walks away from a million bucks worth of training? and right when the Guard decided they would start testing for drugs during physicals.

Posted by: cj on February 2, 2004 05:47 PM


Applicants for even the most menial of jobs are often asked how many times they have been arrested. If they have been arrested one or more times, they are then asked to describe the circumstances.

Is it too much to ask of the U.S. press corps that they ask that same simple question of each applicant for the job of President?

Posted by: cl on February 2, 2004 06:25 PM


Was George W Bush a deserter?

Keep the question simple. Ignore the predictable disingenuous answer. Ask the question again.

Was George W Bush a deserter?

Keep the question simple. Ignore the predictable disingenuous answer. Ask the question again.

Was George W Bush a deserter?

Keep the question simple. Ignore the predictable disingenuous answer. Ask the question again.

Was George W Bush a deserter?

Posted by: Wren on February 2, 2004 06:44 PM


The company where the likely insider trading took place was Harken, if anyone wants to google that

Posted by: marky on February 2, 2004 08:01 PM


Harken, right. Harkness was a tower, I think...

Posted by: Lee A. on February 2, 2004 09:15 PM


Dan the Man (and others) miss the rather obvious point that Bush was suspended from flying on 8/1/72. His record shows no reinstatement. Therefore, it is impossible for him to have (lawfully) performed Active Duty drills. Any document that shows him performing AD drills is not legitimate.

Posted by: Charles on February 2, 2004 11:38 PM


"Was George W Bush a deserter?

"Keep the question simple."

Posing the question that way allows a hypertechnical denial. He may NOT have been technically a deserter, which requires an intent not to return to duty. The evidence, however, seems to show that he was Absent Without Leave.

Posted by: rea on February 3, 2004 04:09 AM


On the matter of "deserter," it has been pointed out at a number of sites that the term is used in two senses by the military. The first sense is administrative: anyone AWOL for more than 30 days is presumptively a "deserter." The second sense is criminal and would have to be determined by a court martial.

Posted by: Handy Fuse on February 3, 2004 06:44 AM


"Values" and "character" are such integral parts of Republican schtick that these allegations have got to hurt Bush. Particularly in the South, where honorable military service is so valued.

Posted by: Bob H on February 3, 2004 07:11 AM


I've got your Turnipseed right here, pal!

Latest from Washington Post:

"According to the records, Bush had been instructed to report to William Turnipseed, an officer in the Montgomery unit. "Had he reported in, I would have had some recall and I do not," Turnipseed, a retired brigadier general, told the Globe in 2000. 'I had been in Texas, done my flight training there. If we had a first lieutenant from Texas, I would have remembered.'"

"White House communications director Dan Bartlett said yesterday that although no official record has been found, "obviously, you don't get an honorable discharge unless you receive the required points for annual service." He said Bush "specifically remembers" performing some of his duties in Alabama. Bartlett also provided a news clipping from 2000 quoting friends of Bush's from the Alabama Senate campaign saying they recalled Bush leaving for Guard duty on occasion."

"Bush said in 2000 that he did 'show up for drills. I made most monthly meetings, and when I missed them I made them up.' "

"Reached in Montgomery yesterday, Turnipseed stood by his contention that Bush never reported to him. But Turnipseed added that he could not recall if he, himself, was on the base much at that time."


Posted by: Kosh on February 3, 2004 07:16 AM


"He missed his physical". Presumably any such physical would have involved a drug test, so one would have to entertain the possibility that drug use lay behind the refusal.

Posted by: Bob H on February 3, 2004 09:05 AM


And, in the "why can't we have a better press corps" department, check out Katherine Seelye's utter, vapid whitewash of the AWOL thing in yesterday's Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/02/politics/campaign/02CAMP.html), where the entire charge is reduced to a simple campaign tactic. It's really a piece of work; I've posted at length about it at Reading A1 (http://blogs.salon.com/0003364/), my NY Times front-page watcher blog.

Posted by: Michael on February 3, 2004 09:32 AM


Check out James Bath. Refused to take physical same day as GWB for same reason. Has become Bin Laden family financial advisor in thr U.S.

Posted by: G Ward on February 3, 2004 11:17 AM



I've got your Turnipseed and I'll raise you no attendance records from Alabama and no Alabama Guardsmen who will testify to Bush's attendance in Alabama drills, not even when thousands of dollars were being offered for their testimony.

Bush needs to release his military records.

Posted by: boloboffin on February 3, 2004 02:35 PM


I must issue a correction. In a comment above, I expressed my mild outrage that the DNC seems to spend the big bucks to get the services of Terry McAuliffe, yet he seems to be just a run-of-the-mill partisan windbag (unable, for example, to put forth an indictment of Bush over all these rather credible AWOL allegations that remotely has a chance of changing anyone's mind).

However, I see today on the DailyKos blog, specifically:


that I have been misinformed about the DNC. Many of its operations appear to be run on a shoestring, and most pertinently, Terry McAuliffe appears to work entirely pro bono.

Well, I suppose you can't be angry when you get more than you pay for (in this case, mediocre partisan rhetoric for free). Therefore, please accept my sincerest apologies, Mr. McAuliffe.

(Also, since you are doing this entirely pro bono, why not consider the following win-win suggestion. Instead of exerting your tired, monetarily uncompensated mind for 10 minutes thinking of run-of-the-mill arguments, why not surf some of the better liberal-leaning blogs for 10 minutes for some home-run arguments. That way you don't have to think, and we all get to hear some pretty good arguments being publicized.)

Posted by: Bill on February 3, 2004 03:45 PM


Despite seeing repeated reference in the lefty blogs to Bush's "refusal" to release his military records, I've seen no credible evidence of any such refusal. The point seems to be that the records do not exist, not that the President has refused to allow them released. Can you point to any statement etc... reported in the legitimate press reports to support the assertion that President Bush is refusing to release something? If it were the case, I'm sure that it would have been noted by now. If you can't, would you please refrain from making such a statement.

Posted by: Jim on February 5, 2004 04:09 PM


Perceptions do not limit reality.

Posted by: Leo Kristen on March 17, 2004 04:42 PM


Don't worry that other people don't know you; worry that you don't know other people.

Posted by: Allen Anthony on May 2, 2004 11:39 AM


Misfortune shows those who are not really friends.

Posted by: Hubbard Cristin on May 20, 2004 01:45 AM


An oppressive government is more to be feared than a tiger

Posted by: Tritter Michael on June 2, 2004 08:28 PM


John Bradford, Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins

Posted by: Allen Anthony on June 30, 2004 05:46 AM


Post a comment