on the premise that you can fool some of the people
all of the time, a Bush supporter who asserted
that he saw Bush serve his National Guard duty
in Alabama in 1972 returned this week to retell
his already discredited story and was embraced
by several news organizations that are not Fox
News -- ABC News, CNN and the Associated Press.
controversy raging over revelations that President
Bush failed to fulfill his obligations to the
Texas Air National Guard, particularly after he
refused to undergo a physical and moved to Alabama,
retired Lt. Col. John "Bill" Calhoun told ABC
News Wednesday that he saw Bush "five or six times"
with the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group in
Montgomery, where he said the two men occasionally
ate lunch together. For the White House, Calhoun's
story is invaluable because in the more than three
decades since Bush supposedly served in Alabama,
Calhoun is the only member of Bush's unit to come
forward to say he remembers performing drills
with the future president of the United States.
is a self-confessed die-hard Republican who has
been in regular contact with campaign officials
about his Guard story. Large rewards have been
offered -- by cartoonist Garry Trudeau, among
others -- to any former Guardsman who can prove
that Bush showed up in Alabama to serve, yet nobody
has yet claimed the cash prize. And Calhoun won't
win the money, either.
Calhoun first emerged in February, he announced
he'd seen Bush "eight or 10 times" on the base
performing drills between May and October of 1972.
But within 24 hours of his statement, the White
House released Bush's military pay records --
which aides touted as definitive proof of Bush's
service -- definitively proving that Bush was
not credited for any training in Alabama for the
months of May, June, July, August and September
1972, and that Bush showed up only in late October.
So how could Calhoun have seen Bush several times
in one summer if Bush's own records indicate he
was never there?
story is even less believable in light of the
fact that Bush in 1972 originally tried to transfer
from his Texas Air National Guard unit in Houston
to a National Guard unit at Maxwell Air Force
Base in Alabama. That request was eventually denied,
so Bush ended up at the Montgomery unit where
Calhoun served. But again, according to Bush's
records, he didn't even apply for the transfer
to Montgomery until September and didn't show
up until late October. How did Calhoun see Bush
performing drills throughout the summer of 1972
when Bush didn't even request an assignment there
until the fall?
The brief answer is that Calhoun's story is likely
untrue, and has been known to be doubtful for
six months. Still, it's not surprising that Bush
backers trotted him out again to create doubt
and static about the factual reports on Bush's
failure to complete his Guard duty.
options are limited. White House communications
director Dan Bartlett, unable to refute these
reports, has tried to dismiss them as "partisan
politics." Perhaps the most imaginative response
came from Republican pundit and operative Peter
Roff, who suggested on MSNBC Thursday that perhaps
aides of Bill Clinton ransacked Bush's military
records in the 1990s, which would account for
the gaps in Bush's personnel file. (In fact, during
the 1992 campaign, Bush administration officials
hunted through Clinton's records and even prompted
the Conservative government of Prime Minister
John Major in Britain to search its security files
to find any damaging information about Clinton
from the time when he was a Rhodes scholar at
even though Calhoun had been exposed as telling
a yarn in February, and despite the recent Boston
Globe and CBS reports, he was once again treated
as a credible source by several major news outlets
that either didn't know the basic facts surrounding
the National Guard story or are incapable of doing
a simple Google search. Or perhaps didn't care
that Calhoun's story was bogus.
Wednesday, Calhoun was featured on ABC News, attempting
to refute a new TV commercial made by Texans for
Truth, a group of National Guard veterans, which
asserts that Bush never showed up for duty in
Alabama. "I have no doubt in my mind that it was
George W. Bush, that he made his drills," Calhoun
told ABC White House correspondent Terry Moran,
who made no reference to the fact that the dates
Calhoun claims to have seen Bush don't match up
with Bush's own service records. Moran could not
be reached for comment.
Wednesday, while interviewing Bob Mintz, a veteran
who appears in the Texans for Truth ad, CNN's
Wolf Blitzer mentioned Calhoun, asking how it
was that Mintz never saw Bush if another man in
the same Alabama unit did? A CNN spokesman says
Blitzer referred to Calhoun because during a Feb.
13 CNN interview Calhoun said he'd seen Bush.
Yet that shouldn't have prevented Blitzer from
noting that Calhoun's story was subsequently discredited.
in the week, the Associated Press, in an otherwise
strong piece about Bush's service, noted, "One
member of the unit, retired Lt. Col. John Calhoun,
has said he remembers Bush showing up for training
with the 187th." Again, the story did not mention
that Calhoun recalled seeing the phantom Bush
on dates that not even the president's aides have
suggested he served.
Fox News was the most aggressive and egregious
in presenting Calhoun's tale. He was booked on
Fox's "Hannity & Colmes" show Monday night, his
first major media appearance since the obvious
discrepancy in his story was first exposed last
February. Fox caused Calhoun no discomfort, however,
because neither Fox host bothered to ask Calhoun
how he could have been in Montgomery with Bush
in the summer of 1972 when Bush wasn't even assigned
to the unit until September 1972. Fox News' lapse
of basic journalistic due diligence was hardly
out of character. In this case, however, ABC News,
CNN and the A.P. fell down into the same league.
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