Forgery or no, Bush’s Guard service sucked

The main point of this post is that the Killian memos should not be the main point of this post. (And no, guys, I’m not backtracking. I’ve been saying like this all along.) But read to the end — the memos will be there.

Big picture: Dubya is the worst President since Franklin Pierce — also an alcoholic. (As it happens, Pierce is a relative of Dubya on his mother’s side. I imagine them together someday, upholding the family honor in Hell.)

Why do I say that? Well, his fiscal policies are the worst in American history. Republican deficit hawks are going nuts. His civil liberties and environmental records are among the worst, though he does have stiff competition. Iraq is a bloody mess, as a lot of recently-retired generals have pointing out. And there are many more terrorists now than there were before the Iraq War. Enough said.

Bush’s National Guard Service is important, if it has any importance at all, as a character issue in the election. The fact is, as the conservative U.S. News & World Report concludes here in a very careful story which does not use the Killian memos at all, that there are multiple reasons for concluding that Bush’s performance did not even meet the minimum standard: “A new examination of payroll records and other documents released by the White House earlier this year appear to confirm critics’ assertions that President George W. Bush failed to fulfill his duty to the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.” (Here’s a graphic presentation, showing four years of good service followed by two years of virtually no service.)

And the fact remains that not a single Guardsman has come forward to testify that they saw Bush in Alabama, despite a reward that’s been on the table for years. (There are people who remember Bush’s presence in the Barbour political campaign at that time, though their reports aren’t flattering).

Does anyone care? Well, apparently some of the families of Guardsmen do: “But we can’t help notice the irony that a person who managed to avoid going to combat by joining the National Guard is now sending the National Guard into combat in a war based on lies.” But it’s not a sure thing that this issue will hurt Bush very much, since born-again Christians are very forgiving of prodigal sons if they’re repentant, and since the uber-hawks who might otherwise object to Bush’s record hate Kerry even more.

So what about the memos that aren’t the main point of this post? They aren’t necessary for the case against Bush. Some say they’re forged — a good case is made here. Other experts deny it. I’m not making up my mind, but the real possibility of forgery does indeed seem to be there.

It has always made sense for non-experts to wait and see and let things come out in the wash. The first wave of criticisms of the memos turned out to be full of holes, and we’re now on about the third wave. Certainly we would have been foolish to accept the case against the memos right off, but we also would have been foolish to have given too much credence to them.

And contrary to what the wingers are saying, most Democrats did not rush to judgement one way or another. Mostly we just sat back and let the Republican operatives do their work, giving them helpful criticisms whenever was saw them make a mistake. They really should be thanking us.

That’s not the way it’s being spun of course. The wingers don’t have any evidence, but they’re sure that the Kerry campaign is guilty. They also claim that Democrats and liberals unanimously concluded immediately that the memos were valid, which is not true at all — my opinion is that many too liberals rejected the memos too quickly and too uncritically — we shouldn’t do the other side’s work for them.

The spin loudly being pushed is that Bush’s Guard service has been vindicated, that all liberals made fools of themselves by prematurely accepting the memos, and the the Kerry campaign is tarnished. None of these points are true. If the memos are bogus, Dan Rather and CBS are hurt — funny how wingers think liberal love Dan Rather. Rather’s source will be discredited, along with the forger himself if he’s someone different.

And that’s it. The Kerry campaign has not been shown to have been involved. Bush’s Guard service was still poor. And Bush is still the worst President since Franklin Pierce.

From here on out, it’s a media spin story. Will the wingers succeed in bullying the legit media into concluding that Bush’s Guard Service has been vindicated and the Kerry campaign has been tarnished? Will the media buy the winger spin that the questions about Bush’s service are just a smear — a claim that a quick read of the USN&WR story will show to be wrong?

The Republican media machine is a powerful one, and the media are gelatinous, fluffy, shallow, and often right-wing, so it’s unfortunately quite possible that the winger spin will win out. But this is a media story now. The Bush story is still that his Guard service sucked.

$50,000 reward for anyone who saw Bush in Alabama Guard

Boston Globe story (does not mention Killian memos)

Media feeding frenzy

Lukasiak’s research on Bush’s Guard service (very thorough)

Ivins on the Guard and Texas politics