A few follow-on points about this Guard business.
First, I note over at Andrew Sullivan's site that Andrew asks
whether anyone is coming forward or can come forward with a refutation of Ben Barnes' story. This makes it probably as good a time as any to note again that not only has the Bush camp not disputed Barnes account, they have positively affirmed it. (I go into some of the details in this post
from a week or so back.)
Another point: Dan Bartlett, as you can see in the transcript published below
, is sticking to the claim that there was no reason for President Bush to show up for the flight physical in question because it was no longer relevant to the duties he was performing (or not performing). But the records published
by CBS -- and summarized here
in the Post
-- show Bush received a direct order to submit to that physical by a given date and refused or failed to do so.
Bartlett seems to be saying that it doesn't matter that Bush didn't follow the order because the order didn't make any sense.
Now, I'm no military man. But aside from orders that contravene the laws of war, the Geneva Conventions or the US constitution, I don't think an officer or an enlisted man is allowed to disobey an order just because he comes up with some logic by which he decides the order doesn't really make sense. An order is an order, right?
Wartime situations can also provide extenuating circumstances for disobeying an order, as in cases where the exigencies of combat render an order moot or create a situation where the recipient of the order can say that circumstances had changed so radically that the issuer of the order wouldn't have issued it had they known, etc. etc. But I assume we can stipulate that this wasn't a live combat situation.
And here we get down to a specific and perhaps touchy point. Why wouldn't Bush show up for that physical? An Air Force pilot's physical is a bigger deal than the one civilians get on a routine basis. But still, it's not that big a deal. Even if he didn't think it was necessary, why disobey a direct order to get around it?
And on this point let me make a more general suggestion. The White House's story has changed many, many times on the Guard matter. And they've been careful -- and wisely so -- to avoid make definitive statements that would limit their room for maneuver after future revelations.
There are now two news organizations actively at work (and at least one of them is pretty far along) on a story about just why Bush was having those problems in the Guard in 1973. With that in mind, now my might be a good time to press a few more specific questions. At least one major news organization -- and I suspect others -- is working on a story that touches directly on why Bush might not have been willing to take that physical.