Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Certainly it is one of the lesser threads in this controversy, but let's note for the record that RNC Chair Ed Gillespie told what was almost certainly a knowing falsehood today in an email sent out to the GOP faithful and printed in ABC's The Note.

Writes Gillespie ...

"And tonight on CBS, longtime Democratic operative Ben Barnes -- a friend of, major contributor to and Nantucket neighbor of Senator Kerry's and vice chair of the Kerry Campaign--will repudiate his statement under oath that he had no contact with the Bush family concerning the president's National Guard service. (Anyone surprised that Barnes would contradict a statement he made under oath probably doesn't know his long history of political scandal and financial misdealings.)"

The reference here is to <$Ad$>a sealed deposition Barnes gave in a civil case in 1999 in which he stated basically the essence of what he said tonight on CBS, but went to great lengths to note that he had no direct contact with the Bush family. The request, he said, came from a mutual friend of Barnes and the elder Bush, a guy named Sid Adger, now deceased.

(This point -- the lack of any direct contact -- has always been a point of great importance to the Bush camp.)

And yet, Barnes didn't contradict that earlier statement at all.

As the Times notes in Thursday paper, both with respect to 60 Minutes and an interview with the Times: "Mr. Barnes maintained, as he has since 1999, that he had contacted his friend who headed the Texas Air National Guard, Brig. Gen. James Rose, not at the behest of anyone in the Bush family, but rather a Houston businessman, Sidney A. Adger, a friend of the Bushes who has died."

Indeed, press reports have been saying for days that Barnes would not contradict that point. Thus Michael Dobbs wrote the following in the Post wrote only a few days ago: "Friends said Barnes will expand on the remarks in his interview with "60 Minutes" while taking care not to contradict sworn testimony from 1999, in which he said that no member of the Bush family had directly asked him for help."

One might certainly speculate that even if there had been direct contact with the Bush family, that Barnes might choose not to reveal it, since he's sworn to the contrary under oath. But that's all speculation.

The point is that he didn't. It's been reported for days that he wouldn't. And Barnes telegraphed that fact widely in Texas political circles. And yet Gillespie said he would. And it would seem that he did this not just on the basis of no evidence, but with manifest evidence to the contrary. All of which is to say that he made it up because making it up worked to his advantage.

Alas, I guess there's no getting around the fact that Gillespie lied through his teeth.

Here's my quick transcription of one of the memoranda CBS has just posted on <$NoAd$>their website. It's the last in the series of memos from Col. Jerry Killian, Bush's commanding officer ...

18 August 1973

Memo to File


1. Staudt has obviously pressured Hodges more about Bush. I’m having trouble running interference and doing my job. Harris gave me a message today from Grp regarding Bush’s OETR and Staudt is pushing to sugar coat it. Bush wasn’t here during rating period and I don’t have any feedback from 187th in Alabama. I will not rate. Austin is not happy today either.

2. Harris took the call from Grp today. I’ll backdate but won’t rate. Harris agrees.

Perhaps someone can unpack this for us? Who's Harris? Who's Hodges? Why isn't "Austin" happy? What document is getting backdated?

Some of these questions are no doubt answered in the encyclopedic Bush AWOL project website. (Hodges, if memory serves, was above Killian in the chain of command. Where precisely, whether he was his immediate superior, I'm not sure.) But clearly there's quite a story to tell packed in this short memo. Perhaps some intrepid journalist can explain it all for us.

Late Update: Part of the work has been done in this must-read piece by Eric Boehlert in Salon. Here's one passage that caught my eye ...

On Oct. 1, 1973, Bush received an honorable discharge from the Texas Air National Guard in order to move to Boston and attend the Harvard Business School, where he was still obligated to find a unit in Massachusetts to fulfill his remaining nine months of duty, or face being placed on active duty. Once again, Bush made no such effort. But the Air Force in Denver, acting retroactively, in effect overturned Bush's honorable discharge and placed him on "Inactive Status" effective Sept. 15, 1973. When Bush left Texas, his personnel file was sent to Denver for review. The ARPC quickly realized Bush had failed to take a required physical exam, his Texas superior could not account for his whereabouts covering nearly a 12-month period, and due to absenteeism Bush had failed to "satisfactorily participate" as a member of the Texas Air National Guard. Bush's "Inactive Status" meant his relationship with the Air Force (and the Guard) was severed and he was therefore eligible for the draft.

Soon afterward, large gaps began appearing in Bush's paper trail. Lukasiak concludes that only last-minute intervention, likely from Bush's local Houston draft board, saved him from active duty, as well as finally securing his honorable discharge, removing his "Inactive Status." Ironically, that means strings were pulled to get Bush out of the Guard in 1973, just as they were pulled to get him enrolled in 1968.

As I said, that's one passage that caught my eye. But it's really worth reading the whole thing all the way through -- particularly with reference to President Bush's honorable discharge.

And, finally, let's not miss the obvious point here. This isn't about what President Bush did 30+ years ago. Or at least it's not primarily about that. The issue here is that for a decade President Bush has been denying all of these things. He did so last January. He did so again as recently as last month. He's continued to cover this stuff up right from the Oval Office.

On ABC this evening, Terry Moran has a piece that runs down the state of play on the Bush Guard issue. In addition to taking an extremely skeptical view of the questions about and criticisms of the lapses in the president's service, he repeats the claims of James "Bill" Calhoun, who says he saw young George W. Bush show up for his drills as many as six times during the period in question.

"I have no doubt in my mind that it was George W. Bush that he made his drills," Moran quotes Calhoun telling him. "He was very professional. He came in uniform. He signed in. He was very low-key."

What he doesn't mention is that six months ago numerous press reports noted that records showed that Bush hadn't even been assigned to the unit in question at the time Calhoun remembers seeing him there.

See Atlanta Journal Constitution, "Memories place Bush in Alabama if records don't," Feb. 13th, 2004, among other examples.

I think 'liar' is too strong a term for lapses in momentary recollections from 30+ years ago. But the significance of Calhoun's recollection seems pretty questionable on this count.

Perhaps Moran could have mentioned that.

A bunch of folks have written in to ask what I thought of Dan Rather's piece on the Bush Guard story. All I can think to say is, that's what's called getting rolled by the White House.

Supposedly CBS is going to put these memos themselves up on their website later this evening. Will they ask the White House for permission?

New ICR poll, conducted September 1st-5th ...

With Nader, among 'likely voters': Bush:46, Kerry: 46, Nader: 4.

Without Nader, among 'likely voters': Bush 48, Kerry 47.

Without Nader, among 'registered voters': Bush 46, Kerry 47.

CBS has now gone live with its online promo for the Ben Barnes interview that is running tomorrow evening. But, as I noted earlier, that's not what the headline will be after the segment runs.

The big news won't be how Bush got into the Guard but how he blew off his duties once he got there. Again, new documents -- stuff that is clear and straightforward and apparently puts beyond any debate or doubt that the now-President blew off the duties that he said, as recently as this year, that he fulfilled.

Where would we be without Alan Keyes?

According to this new report, Keyes now says that Barack Obama is a "socialist" and a "liar". He accuses Obama of using anti-black racist code words. And he claims that if Jesus were still walking the earth today in the flesh and eligible to vote in the Illinois Senate election, that he would definitely not vote for Barack Obama.

So much for secret ballots!

Slimy as they wanna be ...

Cheney: Kerry Victory Will Bring Devastating Terrorist Attack.

(The AP's got the story.)

Feel the buzz. Contrary to what I had originally understood, the Ben Barnes interview is running Wednesday evening. But, I'm told by several sources that the Barnes' interview is only a relatively small part of the package 60 Minutes is running. There's other stuff that CBS has -- newly discovered, or at least newly-revealed, documents that shed light on Bush's guard service or lack thereof.