GEORGE BUSH’S MILITARY RECORD….Like many people, I’m puzzled that the Bushies have decided to unleash the attack dogs on the issue of John Kerry’s Vietnam service. It’s possible, of course, that they know something I don’t and have some devious trick up their sleeves that I can’t figure out, but the most obvious consequence of doing this is that it gives the press an excuse to revive the issue of George Bush’s military service, which until now had been allowed to die a conveniently quiet death. For example, here is James Moore in Salon today:

The president and his staff are doing a very good job of convincing the public he has released all of his National Guard records and that they prove he was responsible during his time in Alabama and Texas. But the critical documents have still not been seen. The mandatory written report about Bush’s grounding is mysteriously not in the released file, nor is any other disciplinary evidence. A document showing a “roll-up,” or the accumulation of his total retirement points, is also absent, and so are his actual pay stubs.

If the president truly wanted to end the conjecture about his time in the Guard, he would allow an examination of his pay stubs and any IRS W-2 forms from his Guard years. These can be pieced together to determine when he was paid and whether he earned enough to have met his sworn obligations.

This is exactly right, and there are other documents that are missing from Bush’s file too. Why is Bush giving the media an excuse to start pressing him on this question again?

As Moore points out, Bush never actually released his complete records. All he did was release a pile of documents that he said were complete. The only way to know if anything was left out is for Bush to sign a release form that allows the relevant archives to release his files directly to reporters. And here’s a guess: if he agreed to do it, Kerry would probably follow suit.

Then there’s the testimony of Bill Burkett, who claims that Bush’s military files in Austin were “cleansed” after he became governor of Texas. If Bush signed a release form that allowed a direct release to reporters of the archived version of his files, it would clear up the question of whether the Austin files have been tampered with.

Nobody has ever pressed Bush on this. He dumped a big pile of paper on the White House press corps, who accepted that the pile was complete because he said it was. But if it really is, why not sign the release forms and allow reporters to get direct access to the archived files on microfiche?

More to the point, why is Bush providing an excuse to bring all this up again? Is his brain trust convinced that it’s worth it just to get lots of 1971 photos of a shaggy-haired John Kerry protesting the war in print? Beats me.

POSTSCRIPT: I may follow up with some further details about this, depending on how they pan out. In the meantime, this post from February summarizes everything I know about Bill Burkett’s file cleansing claim. I spoke with George Conn, one of Burkett’s witnesses, about this, and a transcript of the interview is included in the post. Conn doesn’t support Burkett’s charges, but as I wrote at the time, “Conn’s story doesn’t hold up.” I explain why in the post.

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