I was able to see only the second half of the Russert interview <$Ad$>this morning, though I’ll read the transcript this afternoon.
One comment for now on the Air National Guard question …
Superficially, I think Bush came off okay, largely because Russert failed to press the president sufficiently on some deceptive responses.
The key issue was the release of his military records.
Several times during the exchange the president said that he had released his military records back in 2000.
That’s not true. He’s never released those records. And no one disputes that.
But Russert returned to the point and the final exchange went thus …
MR. RUSSERT: Would you authorize the release of everything to settle this?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, absolutely.
We did so in 2000, by the way.
Now, what to make of this?
The president gives a flat-out, unambiguous answer: he’ll release all his military service records.
Then he tosses in that next line: “We did so in 2000, by the way.”
As I noted above, this is false: he didn’t release those records in 2000.
What I think the president was trying to do here was to give those watching the interview the impression that he’s willing to completely open up his records. Yet at the same time he’s tossing in this false statement so that when reporters follow up and ask where those records are, his aides will say that what he meant was that they’d release those records they released in 2000 — which is to say, none of them.
As I say, on the surface, this seems like a clever dodge that may buy some time. But if my prediction above turns out to be accurate, it will amount to their wanting a pass on the president’s flat commitment because he happened to follow it up with a patent falsehood. And when you think about that a few times you’ll see it just doesn’t quite add up.
The bottom line is that the president told Russert that he’d release all his service records. That’s the press corps’ hook. And in the relatively near future, as much as they may wriggle, his aides will either have to come forward with those records or go back on the commitment the president made in front of the whole country.