CNN's Blitzer continued to rely on irrelevant honorable discharge to suggest Bush didn't skip out on Guard duty

››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

CNN host Wolf Blitzer joined his colleague Judy Woodruff in once again falling for the irrelevant Bush-Cheney '04 campaign spin that George W. Bush's honorable discharge means he fulfilled his duties. During an interview with Democratic strategist Howard Wolfson, Blitzer repeatedly interrupted Wolfson to diminish Bush's documented failure to perform his duty and to advance the long-discredited canard that his honorable discharge proves something.

In fact, as MMFA has noted, many people have received honorable discharges despite dishonorable service, including Washington, DC-area sniper John Allen Muhammad, who was charged with striking an officer, stealing a tape measure, and going AWOL, then sentenced to seven days in the brig -- and still received an honorable discharge from the Louisiana National Guard.

From the September 10 edition of Wolf Blitzer Reports:

WOLFSON: When he was in the Oval Office this past year being interviewed by Tim Russert, he said, 'I did my duty.' We know that he didn't show up for months at a time, we know that he didn't take his physical, and we know that he was grounded --

BLITZER [interrupting]: We also know he got an honorable discharge.

WOLFSON: Is that doing his duty, Wolf? Is --

BLITZER [interrupting]: He got an honorable discharge.

WOLFSON: Is being grounded doing his duty?

BLITZER: If he wouldn't have done his duty, would he have gotten an honorable discharge?

As Blitzer should know by now: Yes, Bush could have gotten an honorable discharge despite not doing his duty. In fact, he did. Yet Blitzer wasn't done; later, he again asserted that Bush's failure to show up for duty wasn't significant:

BLITZER: Let's get back to this issue right now: there's no doubt that the president of the United States, who spent two years learning how to be a fighter pilot, served almost all of those six years in some capacity, although there is some questions that a few months he may not have necessarily done everything he technically was supposed to do. But it certainly was not enough to give him a dishonorable discharge. [emphasis Blitzer's]

Blitzer pushed the same point on a September 8 CNN program (as Media Matters for America has documented), as did Woodruff on the September 8 edition of her CNN show, Inside Politics.

Again: Bush's honorable discharge doesn't mean that he fulfilled his duty. And while Blitzer dismissed Bush's failure to fulfill his commitments to the National Guard as Bush having "technically" not done everything he was supposed to do, the facts are much clearer: Bush didn't fulfill his commitments. Rather than being a point in his favor, Bush's honorable discharge in fact suggests that he may have benefited from favorable treatment.

As The Boston Globe reported on September 8:

Bush fell well short of meeting his military obligation, a Globe reexamination of the records shows: Twice during his Guard service -- first when he joined in May 1968, and again before he transferred out of his unit in mid-1973 to attend Harvard Business School -- Bush signed documents pledging to meet training commitments or face a punitive call-up to active duty.

He didn't meet the commitments, or face the punishment, the records show. The 1973 document has been overlooked in news media accounts. The 1968 document has received scant notice.

On July 30, 1973, shortly before he moved from Houston to Cambridge, Bush signed a document that declared, ''It is my responsibility to locate and be assigned to another Reserve forces unit or mobilization augmentation position. If I fail to do so, I am subject to involuntary order to active duty for up to 24 months ... " Under Guard regulations, Bush had 60 days to locate a new unit.

But Bush never signed up with a Boston-area unit. In 1999, Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett told the Washington Post that Bush finished his six-year commitment at a Boston area Air Force Reserve unit after he left Houston. Not so, Bartlett now concedes. ''I must have misspoke," Bartlett, who is now the White House communications director, said in a recent interview.

And early in his Guard service, on May 27, 1968, Bush signed a ''statement of understanding" pledging to achieve ''satisfactory participation" that included attendance at 24 days of annual weekend duty -- usually involving two weekend days each month -- and 15 days of annual active duty. ''I understand that I may be ordered to active duty for a period not to exceed 24 months for unsatisfactory participation," the statement reads.

Yet Bush, a fighter-interceptor pilot, performed no service for one six-month period in 1972 and for another period of almost three months in 1973, the records show.

The reexamination of Bush's records by the Globe, along with interviews with military specialists who have reviewed regulations from that era, show that Bush's attendance at required training drills was so irregular that his superiors could have disciplined him or ordered him to active duty in 1972, 1973, or 1974. But they did neither. In fact, Bush's unit certified in late 1973 that his service had been ''satisfactory" -- just four months after Bush's commanding officer wrote that Bush had not been seen at his unit for the previous 12 months.

Stories/Interests
Bush Military Service, 2004 Elections
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