Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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A follow up on the history of presidents and the National Guard.

A reader writes in to note that Harry Truman's service in the Guard was very much like that from the 19th Century (see this post from this morning for an explanation.) And in fact Truman reentered the Guard as a way to get into World War I. He even, rather quixotically, tried to get back in for World War II.

As Truman's bio at the Truman presidential library says ...

From 1905 to 1911, Truman served in the Missouri National Guard. At the outbreak of World War I, he helped organize the 2nd Regiment of Missouri Field Artillery, which was quickly called into Federal service as the 129th Field Artillery and sent to France. Truman was promoted to Captain and given command of the regiment's Battery D. He and his unit saw action in the Vosges, Saint Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne campaigns. Truman joined the reserves after the war, rising eventually to the rank of colonel. He sought to return to active duty at the outbreak of World War II, but Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall declined his offer to serve.

If the <$Ad$>question is, how many presidents served in the National Guard? The real answer is, I believe, three -- including President Bush. If the question is how many served in the modern, post-19th century Guard, the question is basically one -- President Bush.

If the question is how many presidents entered the Guard in wartime to avoid combat, the answer is clearly one -- President Bush.

Here, though, there is one president in a roughly similar position. That was Grover Cleveland -- the 22nd and 24th president of the United States -- who paid for a substitute to take his place (yes, that was legal) after he was drafted during the Civil War.

The word is out and about now that the CBS Bush National Guard memos are not forgeries but rather recreations of actual documents authored by Lt. Col. Killian.

That theory gains credence from the fact that Killian's secretary has now said that though she believes these memos are not real that their contents reflect real documents that once existed in Killian's personal file -- ones she herself typed.

There's a word, though, for these sorts of recreations, if that's what they are: forgeries.

There's no sense or possibility of getting around that.

The late news that two of CBS's own experts had questions about the authenticity of these documents is really all you need to know to see that this piece never should have run as it did. At a minimum, when the original story ran, CBS should have shared with viewers the questions their own experts were apparently raising about the documents' authenticity.

In his speech yesterday to the National Guard Association of the United States President Bush said that he was proud to be one of 19 presidents to have served in the Guard. This struck one of my readers as a tad fishy. And when he dropped me a line about it, my reaction was the same.

There have, after all, been 43 presidents of the United States. So almost half, according to the president are Guard veterans. Who knew?

Actually, it's even more striking because President Bush is one of only two presidents who served in the Guard during the 20th century. (Harry Truman served in the Missouri National Guard from 1905-1911 and then again in World War I.)

So what's the deal? Why were the 19th and 18th centuries so rich in Guard-serving presidents?

Basically the president was using what amounts to a historical trick.

He's including the individual state militias, which before the 20th century fought most of America's wars, as the National Guard.

So, for instance, Thomas Jefferson, who briefly commanded a regiment in the Virginia militia. He was in the National Guard.

Almost all the presidents from the latter part of the 19th century who fought in the Civil War? National Guard vets.

By this definition pretty much everyone -- with the exception of some career officers -- who served under arms for the US from the Revolution through the end of the 19th century would count as a Guard veteran.

The president didn't come up with the number 19 out of whole cloth. The National Guard Association of the United States for instance speaks of the 19 presidents "who served in the Guard or its forerunner, the organized militia." President left off that little detail.

Ironically, the manning of the Iraq War represents a move back toward this older model -- with extensive use of state Guard units to bulk up the core of the national, full-time military.

Soros lodges formal complaint against <$NoAd$>Hastert before the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

Below is the text of the letter ...

Dear Members of the Committee:

I am writing to encourage the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to create an investigative subcommittee to examine the conduct of Representative Dennis Hastert under House Rule 43, clause 1: "A Member, officer, or employee of the House of Representatives shall conduct himself at all times in a manner which shall reflect creditably on the House of Representatives."

In an August 23rd radio interview and an August 29th nationally broadcast television interview, Representative Hastert deliberately and repeatedly issued an innuendo – which he cannot substantiate because it is false – that I may have received illegal drug money. The use of such dishonest smear tactics reflects discredit upon the House of Representatives and warrants the investigation of your Committee. The texts of Representative Hastert’s remarks are attached.

Representative Hastert has attempted to pass off his comments as either a misunderstanding or a disagreement about policy. Both arguments are demonstrably false. Representative Hastert made innuendoes about alleged facts, namely that I might be receiving “drug money” from “drug groups.” That he made and then repeated this smear demonstrates that there is no misunderstanding about the implication of his statements – or their purpose.

Representative Hastert now seeks to excuse his conduct by saying that this is a disagreement over groups to which I give money. The indisputable fact is that he alleged that I might be receiving “drug money” from “drug groups.” His comments were explicitly about the source of my income, not its use. This slander is invented out of whole cloth. Indeed, the only other examples of this bizarre assertion of which I am aware are the equally irresponsible accusations of the Lyndon LaRouche campaign and organizations, which bear a strong resemblance to Representative Hastert’s remarks. Excerpts of comments from the LaRouche campaign and organizations are attached.

Representative Hastert has the right to feel strongly about his opinions. He has no right to fling assertions of possible criminal conduct at those with whom he disagrees. This kind of insinuation – that a private United States citizen was in league with drug cartels and may be receiving funds derived from criminal activity – has no place in public discourse. The fact that this profoundly disturbing innuendo was made in the context of criticizing an American citizen’s efforts to participate in the political debate about the future of our country strongly suggests a deliberate effort to use smear tactics, intimidation and falsehoods to silence criticism.

Representative Hastert has had numerous opportunities to apologize for and retract his remarks. He was explicitly given the opportunity to clarify his remarks during the August 29th interview, and he chose instead to repeat the innuendo. Not only has he declined to apologize, he has made new, false accusations.

Such conduct brings discredit on the House. It is inconsistent with basic notions of fair play and open debate that are the basis of our Constitutional system, and it is all too reminiscent of the McCarthyite tactics that were used to such scurrilous effect to stifle dissent during one of the darkest periods of recent United States history.

Members of both political parties have recently decried “the politics of personal destruction.” It is time for the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to formally declare that smear tactics and innuendo are discrediting our political process and the House of Representatives as an institution by taking appropriate action to investigate and censure Representative Hastert for these outrageous remarks.


George Soros

From today's Nick Kristof column ..<$NoAd$>.

One fall day in 1973, when Mr. Bush was a new student at Harvard Business School, he was wearing a Guard jacket when he ran into one of his professors. The professor, Yoshi Tsurumi, says he asked Mr. Bush how he wangled a spot in the Guard.

"He said his daddy had good friends who got him in despite the long waiting list," recalls Professor Tsurumi, who is now at Baruch College, part of the City University of New York. Professor Tsurumi says he next asked Mr. Bush how he could have already finished his National Guard commitment. "He said he'd gotten an early honorable discharge," Professor Tsurumi recalls. "I said, 'How did you manage that?'"

"He said, oh, his daddy had a good friend," Mr. Tsurumi said. "Then we started talking about the Vietnam War. He was all for fighting it."

Jim Moore's description of Bush's 1994 Texas gubernatorial debate ...

During the 1994 Texas gubernatorial race between Ann Richards and George W. Bush, I was a panelist on the only televised debate between the two candidates. The question I chose to ask Bush first was about the National Guard. I had lost friends in Vietnam, and many of them had tried to get into the Guard. We were all told that there was a waiting list of up to five years. The Guard was the best method for getting out of combat in Vietnam. You needed connections. George W. Bush had them.

"Mr. Bush," I said. "How did you get into the Guard so easily? One hundred thousand guys our age were on the waiting list, and you say you walked in and signed up to become a pilot. Did your congressman father exercise any influence on your behalf?"

"Not that I know of, Jim," the future president told me. "I certainly didn't ask for any. And I'm sure my father didn't either. They just had an opening for a pilot and I was there at the right time."

A new new Bush Air National Guard document? This one's from Paul Lukasiak's AWOL Project. Take a look.

Hmmm. That's an interesting twist.

The former secretary for the Texas Air National Guard colonel who supposedly authored memos critical of President Bush’s Guard service said Tuesday that the documents are fake, but that they reflect real documents that once existed.

The lede of a story just out from The Dallas Morning News.

Headline: Hurricane Forces GOP to Put Nader on <$NoAd$>Florida Ballot Despite Court Order ...

From Reuters ...

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's name can appear on Florida ballots for the election, despite a court order to the contrary, Florida's elections chief told officials on Monday in a move that could help President Bush in the key swing state.

The Florida Democratic Party reacted with outrage, calling the move "blatant partisan maneuvering" by Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's younger brother, and vowed to fight it.

In a memo to Florida's 67 county supervisors of elections, Division of Elections director Dawn Roberts said the uncertainty of Hurricane Ivan, which could hit parts of the state by week's end, forced her to act.

The action came in an ongoing legal battle over whether Nader should be allowed on the Florida ballot as the Reform Party candidate.

Nader, an independent nominated by the Reform Party, was a presidential candidate in 2000 when Bush won Florida, and the White House, by 537 votes over then-Vice President Al Gore. Analysts said most of the nearly 98,000 votes Nader got in Florida would have gone to Gore had Nader not been on the ballot.

Florida Circuit Court Judge Kevin Davey issued a temporary injunction last week preventing the state from putting Nader on the 2004 ballot, siding with a Democratic challenge that the Reform Party did not qualify as a national party under state law.

A hearing on a permanent injunction is scheduled for Wednesday. But Roberts said Hurricane Ivan, which is headed for Florida's Gulf coast, had raised "a substantial question as to when such a hearing" will be held.

Remember, it's the rule of law party.

And as long as I'm providing examples of my workaholism, one other thing ...

Kerry needs a catch phrase or catch question about the Iraq war, one that provides offense against President Bush's oft-stated, extremely lame, but also somewhat effective line that the world is safer with Saddam Hussein out of power.

In political rhetoric, coherence and clarity almost always trumps substance. So substance must be rendered very coherent and very clear.

There's a pretty obvious response to the Bush line: Yeah, Saddam sucked. It's great that we're rid of him. But at what cost? A thousand American lives, upwards of half a trillion dollars and blowing up the whole world order?'

Yet that just means going on to defense and drowning yourself in details.

Ronald Reagan got to the heart of the matter when he asked voters in 1980 if they thought they were better off than they had been four years before. That got cut to the essence of voters' discontent. And it spoke for itself.

As I wrote earlier today, I think voters know Iraq has become a disaster.

The subject of the phrase or question has to be: Don't you know President Bush has blown it in Iraq? It needs to be shorn of zingers and rage and allowed to make the point clearly.

Often I think these sorts of points are made best by asking voters to think in retrospect -- especially in this case since there are very few people out there -- certainly very few who aren't already deeply committed to President Bush -- who wouldn't love the chance to rewind this tape if they could.

The essence of it is, "Do you think Iraq has made us safer or less safe?" ... "If you had to do it over again, would you trust George W. Bush to get this right?"

Neither of those quite cut it. And I'm thinking aloud here. But I'd like to throw it open for suggestions. What should Kerry's version Reagan line from 1980?

Now back to the water for the sunset in the company of my girlfriend and my dog.

I see that on his site Andrew Sullivan says that "Kerry's recent attempt to make the fiscal case against the Iraq war almost comically awful."

I don't know specifically what Andrew is talking about. But I assume it's a recent soundbite I heard in which Kerry said something to the effect that all the money that's been poured down the Iraq rathole could be going to improved education, prescription drugs and the rest.

If that's what he was referring to then I have to say that I really agree. This is almost a parody of a Democratic response. And I think it entirely misses what is really at issue with the voters who are potentially in play in the election.

The key with the Iraq war isn't how many dollars have been spent but on what has or hasn't been achieved. And this way of framing the issue entirely misses that.

There is a clear message behind all of President Bush's responses to these sorts of critiques. And it runs like this: 'Sure, I probably wasted a lot of money over there. But there were guys over there who wanted to kill you. And you know what? I killed them first.'

Framed in that way, President Bush wins that argument. Hands down.

Very few voters want to shortchange security for higher cost of living adjustments or more teacher training.

The key is that President Bush has blown vast sums of money (actually way more than $200 billion) and managed to make us less secure than when he started. He's spent that much money to purchase us a prize our most determined enemies would have gladly paid that much for to put in our lap.