The complete text of CBS's interview with Dan <$NoAd$>Bartlett ...
Q: So, Dan, you've had a chance to look over these documents, to have a good look at them, discuss them. What do you say?
DAN BARTLETT: Well, I think, generally, it's obvious that it's election season now. But every time President Bush gets near another election, all the innuendo and rumors about President Bush's service in the National Guard come to the forefront. And the fact that it's coming up now at a time when President Bush has taken a lead in the polls -- it's not surprising that people like Ben Barnes, long-time activist, Democrat activist, who is a vice chairman of John Kerry, would be making these recycled charges of President Bush.
The fact of the matter is that the files that have been provided by this President to the public demonstrate that he served his country, he logged hundreds and hundreds of hours as a fighter pilot in the Texas Air National Guard. After four years of flying, he requested and received permission to do training in Alabama. He got that request. He did it in a non-flying capacity because they weren't flying his aircraft. He did his drills. He came back. He met his drills then when he came back. And that's why he received an honorable discharge. So -- and many of the documents you have here tonight affirm just that, that President Bush asked for permission and received permission to do just that.
Q: It's interesting when you talk about Ben Barnes, because I wasn't even talking about that. I was talking about these documents. What about these two official documents signed by Jerry Killian is rumor and innuendo?
DAN BARTLETT: Well, it's impossible for anybody to read the mind of a dead man. Jerry Killian writes memos to himself in this file --
Q: I'm not talking about the memos to himself. I'm talking about the two official documents.
DAN BARTLETT: The two official documents that notified that he did not take the flight exam, which is exactly -- it is explained in your document that he did not take the flight exam because he was going to Alabama in a non-flying capacity because, in Alabama, they weren't flying the same plane that President Bush was trained on.
Q: But what about these two documents is rumor and innuendo?
DAN BARTLETT: Well, again, the surfacing of these charges by many people who have partisan purposes behind it, the ads that are coming that denounce President Bush -- Ben Barnes, who has spoken to your program about his alleged involvement in President Bush's entry into the National Guard -- all of these things are coming out now, as they do every year when President Bush goes through an election. But these documents state exactly what we said, and that is President Bush didn't take the flight exam because he was going to a unit that didn't fly his plane. And in that very document you're showing it says that he was working out with the staff to find a unit that he could train with, but it was going to be in a non-flying capacity.
Q: Dan, you said it's interesting the way that these things suddenly surfaced during an election campaign. Should these have not been part of the record that the White House released of the President's military service earlier this year?
DAN BARTLETT: Well, in fact, my understanding is that is a part of another person's personnel file, Jerry Killian's. That is not the President's personnel file. He only has control over his own files that he has ordered for the full release, and we have fully released every document that the Department of Defense has regarding President Bush's service.
Q: But these are two official memorandums. Any idea of why these would not be in the record?
DAN BARTLETT: I can't explain why that wouldn't be in his record, but they were found in Jerry Killian's personal records themselves, is what I've been told. But it reaffirms exactly what President Bush said. Everybody knows President Bush didn't take his flight exam. After flying for 400 -- more than 500 hours in the cockpit, President Bush, after his fourth year in service, asked for permission to go in a non-flying capacity to Alabama. There was not reason for President Bush to take a flight exam if he wasn't going to be flying.
Q: Okay. So you seem to paint that as an option, that he could have taken the flight exam if he wanted to continue to fly, but didn't really have to take it. But this first document, dated 4th of May 1972, specifically says, "You are ordered to report for a physical examination." So he either ignored, or didn't fulfill a direct order, not an option.
DAN BARTLETT: Well, in fact, the memorandum shows -- the other memorandum in your possession shows that he spoke to the commander who made that order to talk about his personal situation in the fact that he was going to Alabama. So at every step of the way, President Bush was meeting his requirements, granted permission to meet his requirements. And that's why President Bush received an honorable discharge.
Q: You've also said that the President was removed from flying status because he failed to meet the physical requirements, he didn't take the physical. Yet the second memo from Lt. Colonel Killian, dated the 1st of August 1972, says, "He was suspended from flight status due to failure to perform to Air Force Air National Guard standards and failure to meet an annual physical exam." So there's two reasons in there that he was removed from flying status, not the single reason that the White House has talked about, that he didn't meet the physical requirements. It says here he didn't meet performance requirements.
DAN BARTLETT: No, the records have been clear for years that President Bush did not take a physical because he did not need to take a physical because, obviously, the choice was that he was going to be performing in a different capacity. That might be official language, but the bottom line is President Bush did not take that physical, so that does not suggest, nor is there any evidence that President Bush did. And the reason why is as I stated, that it was clear, as it says in your own documents, that President Bush talked to the commanders about the fact that he'd be transferring to a unit that no longer, or did not fly the plane that he was trained -- he was trained and a fighter pilot on F-102, which he flew for four years. And in this case, he was going to a unit in Alabama that didn't fly that plane.
Q: The White House has also set the -- the White House has also talked about the idea that it wasn't necessarily that important that the future President continue his flight training because they were phasing out the F-102. Yet in this very same memo, Killian writes, "I suggested we fill this critical billet with a more seasoned pilot." It would suggest that your view of how important the F-102 was, and Killian's view of how important the F-102 was are somewhat at odds with each other.
DAN BARTLETT: I don't agree with that characterization. Again, we're trying to suggest the comments were the orders of somebody who is no longer alive. But the fact of the matter is, is that just because they weren't flying the F-102 anymore doesn't mean they were not flying a new, modern aircraft. The point was, is that it didn't make sense for the Texas Air National Guard to train President Bush in a new aircraft at the end, toward the end of his service, when he was being given permission to attend Harvard Business School. It's a critical billet. Any slot for a pilot is critical. But the critical nature of it is that there was an ongoing mission at that unit. It just, in the future, was not going to be in the F-102.
Q: All right. Now, this goes to Killian's personal file -- I want to point that out. A couple of points that he makes -- he says that the President has come to him to talk about how he can "get out of coming to drill," suggesting that he's trying to avoid something. He also says that he advised the future President of the Air National Guard's investment in him and his commitment to the Air National Guard, which Killian seemed to suggest he would be shirking if he were to transfer out.
DAN BARTLETT: For anybody to try to interpret or presume they know what somebody who is now dead was thinking in any of these memos, I think is very difficult to do. What we do know, and what we know from people who are alive today, is that President Bush performed his duties well as a pilot, that he sought and received permission -- in those very same documents, it says what he was doing. He was not getting out of drills, he wasn't going to be physically there to do the drills because he was going to be in another state to perform his civilian occupation, which was very common in the Guard then, and it is very common in the Guard today -- that it's a civilian occupation which allows them to also fulfill their military obligation. And President Bush was working with the commanders at that point, at that time, to find out how he could fulfill his duties, as well as meet the duties in civilian life. That's one of the beauties of the National Guard system, that you can do both.
The bottom line is, is that President Bush would not have received the honorable discharge that he was granted when he returned from Alabama if he had not met his requirements.
Q: Now, in terms of reading what the intent and the point of view of these memos was, Colonel Bobby Hodges, who was the commander of the 147, Killian's immediate superior, said just this week that these documents accurately describe how Killian felt. And Robert Strong, the administrative head of the Air National Guard, said, "These documents are consistent with what he saw on the job every day, and consistent with the man he knew Killian to be. So there is certainly some opinion out there among former members of the military that these documents do indeed describe how Killian felt, what Killian thought about the situation.
DAN BARTLETT: Well, again, these are people --
Q: So it's not really open to interpretation --
DAN BARTLETT: Well, it is. It is. And when you're talking about a memo to somebody's self, this is a memo to his own file, people are trying to read the mind of somebody who is no longer with us.
The fact of the matter is, is that the files and the President's documents, official record, speaks for itself. The fact is, is that he received an honorable discharge. He was given permission at every step of the way, when President Bush had a request, whether it was to fulfill his civilian occupation or to do his training, to make sure he met the requirements, he received the permission necessary to do it. And that, I say, is why he received his honorable discharge.
Q: Do you know if the President handled his transfer to the Alabama National Guard strictly through Killian? Or did it go through other people, as well?
DAN BARTLETT: I'm sure not just -- I'm sure the group -- the commanders there are involved in the paperwork for all their pilots.
Q: But do you know if he talked to them, or had anybody else talked to them?
DAN BARTLETT: Again, I can only go by what the documents show. All of the documents, up and down the chain of command, approved his permission -- gave him permission that he sought and received, up and down the chain the command.
Q: Killian writes and voices an opinion here that he believes that the President was talking to someone upstairs about his transfer.
DAN BARTLETT: Again, that is conjecture on a part of somebody who is no longer with us.
Q: Well, that's why I asked you -- that's why I asked you if you knew.
DAN BARTLETT: No idea.
DAN BARTLETT: But the bottom line is, is that up and down the chain of command, he received the necessary permission to fulfill his obligations.
Q: Also, one other opinion, and again, an opinion, in a memo titled "CYA" that Killian wrote to himself that he believed that there was pressure coming from upstairs, General Staudt, of the Air National Guard, to "sugarcoat" the President's record, and that Killian wasn't about to do that.
DAN BARTLETT: Well, again, it was Colonel Killian at the time who approved, as did other members in the chain of command, President Bush's service, approved his drills, approved -- gave him permission to go to Alabama.
Again, we are trying to read the mind of somebody who has been dead for more than 10 years. The fact of the matter is, there are people alive today that show and demonstrate that President Bush performed his duties and received his honorable discharge because he did perform those duties as he was told to do so. At any given time, somebody -- a commander or anybody -- could have told him, you're not fulfilling your obligations, and he would have met them. But he did meet them. And that's why he was given an honorable discharge.
Q: Killian writes that he was backdating the Officer Efficiency Training report. Anything irregular about that?
DAN BARTLETT: Well, again, these are cryptic lines of saying, backdate, won't rate these things. Again, what we're asked to do is to try to read the mind of somebody who is no longer with us. I think we ought to look at, and what the public can look at, is a full file, hundreds and hundreds of pages that demonstrate that President Bush fulfilled his duties.
Again, this is -- this is part and parcel for what happens during a presidential campaign. People come forward for whatever motives to put forward innuendo or to raise rumors about President Bush's service. But the official files tell the facts. And the facts are President Bush served, he served honorably, and that's why he was honorably discharged.
Q: Are you questioning at all the veracity of these documents, or just the point of view?
DAN BARTLETT: I think it's the point of, after 32 years ago, and all of the politics that has taken place, it does seem -- raise questions that some documents would be given to the media at 55 days before the President's election, right when he takes over in the national polls -- the same time that a partisan Democrat, who supports John Kerry, comes forward with a recycled charge like Ben Barnes has done, to try to raise concerns or to attack President Bush on his Guard service.
President Bush has made it clear that Senator John Kerry served admirably. In fact, he said, he served more admirably because he went into harm's way. But President Bush is proud of his service. He's proud of the fact that he flew fighter jets and trained as a pilot for four years. He's proud of the fact that he got the permission to meet his requirements. And he's proud of the fact that he was honorably discharged.
And the fact that people are raising politics at this time is part of the game. But it doesn't ignore the facts. And the facts are there in his file. He met his requirements. He satisfied his commander's requirements. And that's why he was given an honorable discharge.
Q: Is your suggestion that these documents, at least a couple of them, could have been fabricated?
DAN BARTLETT: I'm not saying that at all. I'm just saying that the fact that documents like this are being raised when, in fact, all they do is reaffirm what we've said all along, is questionable. And what's questionable is at the same time that these documents are raised is the very same time that Democrats are leading a new ad campaign against President Bush and his service in the Guard, the same time that a partisan Democrat who is aligned with John Kerry makes his public attacks against President Bush and his Guard service. It's not a coincidence.
Q: Let's talk about Barnes for a second. Here's a guy who, in the year 2000, signed an affidavit to say that, as Speaker of the House, he got -- in Texas -- he managed to procure a position for the President -- a coveted position -- in the Texas Air National Guard at the request of a Bush family friend. True or untrue?
DAN BARTLETT: What Ben Barnes has said and what he testified under oath is that he knew of no knowledge or any information that President Bush or his father was involved at all in trying to get him into the Guard. The commander who was in charge --
Q: That's why I said, "at the request of a family friend."
DAN BARTLETT: But the important part is that the commander in charge, General Buck Staudt, the person who really had control over who came into his unit or not said, it's flat out not true. Now, the fact that Ben Barnes, who's a partisan Democrat, who left office under scandal in Texas in 1971, has his own issues. For him to come up after 32 years, during the 2000 presidential election, and now during the 2004 election when he supports John Kerry, I think completely discredits the veracity of his claims.
Q: So you could say just because a person has issues that they're not to be believed? I mean --
MR BARTLETT: Well, people -- his chief of staff, who worked for him at the time, another assistant who worked for him at the time, also have said publicly that they did nothing to help George W. Bush get into the Texas National Guard. I chalk it up to politics. They play dirty down in Texas. I've been there. I see how it works. But the bottom line is, is that there is no truth to this.
Q: This is dirty politics.
DAN BARTLETT: Oh, I think it is. I think the fact that 55 days before an election, that partisan Democrats are recycling the very same charges we hear every time President Bush runs for reelection, is dirty politics. It's the type of politics President Bush has tried to end by shutting down the 527s, which Senator John Kerry won't join him in doing. So we do believe it's part of the dirty politics. Recycling old accusations that aren't true, a partisan Democrat who's vice chairman of the fundraising efforts for John Kerry to come forward now and make these types of claims, I think smacks of dirty politics.
Q: Let me ask you one more question. Why didn't the President sign up with a National Guard Reserve Squadron when he moved to Massachusetts to attend school at Harvard?
DAN BARTLETT: Well, he was given permission to attend school at Harvard Business School, and he received his honorable discharge to do so. If there are any requirements he were not meeting, the National Guard at the federal level, the state level, and the local level, they all knew where he was. He was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, going to school. And if they felt that he needed to be called up, or if there was any reason for him to fulfill service or go on active duty, they knew where he was and they knew he could serve.
So I don't think there was any question, and that's much ado about nothing. The fact of the matter is, President Bush received a permission to go -- to go to school in the first place.
Q: But should he have sought out a reserve unit, and at least offered his services, if not outright join up?
DAN BARTLETT: I'm confident that President Bush followed the strict instructions in which the Guard gave him when they gave him his honorable discharge. So he went to school. The Guard knew, at federal, state, and local level, where he was, what he was doing, and if they wanted him in an active duty capacity, they knew exactly where to find him.
Q: Dan, thanks. I don't have anything else.
DAN BARTLETT: Appreciate it.
CAMERAMAN: Could I just get a little bit of a long question, please, sir?
Q: Yes, absolutely. You know, I'd love to talk to you about where the campaign's going and things like that.
DAN BARTLETT: Off air? (Laughter.)
Q: I guess I'll have to talk to you about that off air. But I guess -- you know, you've talked all about the policies and things. I don't know what else that I could try to mine from you on that particular front. The only thing --
DAN BARTLETT: I can't -- I can't say.
Q: Yes. The only question is, it has been raised, and it's almost impossible to verify the truth of what people are saying, that the President's record was scrubbed by -- I think you were a part of the allegations, I can't remember who else was at this point, it's in my notes somewhere, and that the reason why two of these documents were not in the record was because they were removed from the record, and it just so happens that Killian managed to keep his --
DAN BARTLETT: We -- at every -- for 10 years, I have been involved in this. And for 10 years, we have requested, directed. When he was Governor of Texas, I guess you don't have as much leverage, but when you're Commander-in-Chief and President of the United States and you ask for something, you ought to get it. And at every step of the way, we ordered, instructed the Department of Defense, the National Guard to turn over every single document. And we released every single document. We've made -- in an unprecedented fashion -- his medical records available. We've given everything we have. And as soon -- as we proved yesterday -- we get anything new, we will give it to the public. We've asked for it, we want it, and we want to release it.
Q: Have you asked the Pentagon to go back and try to find these two --
DAN BARTLETT: Of course. We will ask them for every single document they have.
Q: All right. Great. Thank you, Dan.
Questions, questions, questions ...