Tuesday, February 10, 2004

George Bush: He Put the 'W' in AWOL.

From this morning's press briefing:

QUESTION: Scott, has the White House come up with any more documents or information to buttress the President's assertion that he fulfilled his obligations in the National Guard?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, we have provided some additional information from the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver, Colorado. The records will be released shortly, and the records that we will be releasing include the annual retirement point summaries, which we previously made available during the 2000 campaign, and these payroll records documenting the dates on which he was paid for serving. The point summaries, as I have discussed with you all, document that he fulfilled his duties. These records clearly document the President fulfilling his duties, and we will be releasing those very shortly.

QUESTION: Are the payroll -- we haven't seen the payroll records before, but we've seen the point --

MR. McCLELLAN: Nor had we, yes.

QUESTION: We have not?

MR. McCLELLAN: No.

QUESTION: But we have seen the point summaries before; is that what you're saying?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. Well, we had made them available during the 2000 campaign to those who asked.

QUESTION: So the payroll records include, like, where he was being paid and date and, like, the specifics --

MR. McCLELLAN: You will have them shortly and you'll be able to look at them; there are several pages of documents. I'm pulling them together. Yes, we will make them -- we will make them available.

QUESTION: But they weren't -- it wasn't released --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, we did not have this. We were not aware that this information existed during the campaign, on the payroll records.

QUESTION: Scott, those payroll records won't reflect whether he actually appeared for duty; is that right? I mean, they'll just show that he got paid, which there was an --

MR. McCLELLAN: You are paid for the days on which you serve in the National Guard --

QUESTION: But there was an --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- that's why I said these records clearly document that the President fulfilled his duties.

QUESTION: Well, there was an opinion piece in the Post this morning in which the author said he didn't show up at all and he continued to get paid for several months.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the records clearly document otherwise.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how you --

MR. McCLELLAN: And we also will include a statement from Mr. Lloyd, who's now retired from the Texas Air National Guard, who lays out some of the facts about the President's point summaries.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how you came upon these documents, if they haven't been seen since -- the President said since 1994 people have been looking for this.

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, actually, we -- that's why I said it was new information that came to our attention. The Personnel Center in Denver, Colorado, it is my understanding, on their own went back and looked for these records. Now, during the 2000 campaign we had reached out to the Texas Air National Guard and it was our impression from the Texas Air National Guard that -- you know, they stated they didn't have them and it was also our impression from them that those records did not exist.

QUESTION: -- on their own, or the Department of Defense requested them?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, no, no, the --

QUESTION: Because the Department of Defense that they requested the records --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not familiar with what the Department of Defense has requested, but it is my understanding from -- we've talked with the Personnel Center, and the President has authorized the release of these records. We now have them. They did send them to us. But it is our understanding in talking with the Personnel Center in Denver that this issue -- that this was -- you know, as I talked about some of the outrageous accusations that were being made again this year, that had previously been made, they apparently on their own went back and looked for these records, when the issue was being raised again.

QUESTION: The Department of Defense has said that they requested them.

MR. McCLELLAN: You'd have to talk to the Department of Defense about it.

QUESTION: Scott, how do you square the --

MR. McCLELLAN: But I think the Personnel Center may tell you that they went ahead and had gone back to look at these records.

QUESTION: How do you square the records from the Texas Air National Guard with the idea that he was supposed to be attached to a unit in Alabama at the time?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, he was still a member of the Texas Air National Guard. He was -- he received permission, or temporary permission to perform what is equivalent duty with the 187th Tactical Recon Group in Alabama, when he was there in the latter part of that year, the October-November time frame.

QUESTION: Right, so he was actually --

MR. McCLELLAN: So he was still serving as a member of the Texas Air National Guard.

QUESTION: So regardless of what state that he was performing his duty in, the records would still be issued by the Texas Air National Guard?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, these are records from the Personnel -- I mean, we're going to just make available exactly what they gave us from the Personnel Center in Denver, Colorado.

QUESTION: But are these an indication that he served in Texas at that time, or in Alabama?

MR. McCLELLAN: This documents that he was paid for the days on which he served. And you will have the dates --

QUESTION: But in which state --

MR. McCLELLAN: It will show the dates on which he was paid.

QUESTION: But in which state?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Which state was he serving at the time?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, we'll have the records here for you shortly, so you'll be able to look at those documents yourself.

QUESTION: Are you asserting that these documents put the issue to rest?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I previously said it was a shame that this was brought up in 1994, it was a shame that it was brought up in 2000, and it is a shame that it was brought up again. I think you'd have to go and ask those who made these outrageous accusations if they stand by them in the face of this documentation that demonstrates he served and fulfilled his duties. The President was proud of his service in the National Guard. He was honorably discharged because he fulfilled his duties.

QUESTION: Exactly how did the documents get to you that you said you were not aware existed? And how about the letter from Mr. Lloyd? Is that something that he voluntarily sent in, or did the White House ask for it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we had a discussion -- we had a discussion with him, and he's previously been on record stating that -- stating some of these very facts, that the President met his -- met the requirements needed to fulfill his duties. So he's previously been stating that. But we had discussions -- I'll check the exact specifics on that. I think we may have reached out to him so that he could again say what he had said previously.

QUESTION: Scott, if I could read you --

MR. McCLELLAN: But in terms of the personnel records, like I said, that was something that it came to our attention that the Personnel Center in Denver --

QUESTION: You did not request it, it came to you?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, when we reached -- I'm trying to -- let me double-check, but we found out that they had some additional records and contacted them and the President is the only one that can authorize a release of his records. And we received those records and the President has authorized the release of those records. As he said, he wants to make everything available.

QUESTION: When did you receive the records? When?

MR. McCLELLAN: Late yesterday.

QUESTION: Scott, if I read you correctly, this is not going to answer the question of where he was serving at that time.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, during -- he received -- it was, like I said, in the October-November time period he was in Alabama. He was performing equivalent duty in Alabama.

QUESTION: But you seemed to indicate, though, that these records
will not indicate where he was.

MR. McCLELLAN: But he was still a member of the Texas Air National Guard.

QUESTION: Right, but you seemed to indicated --

MR. McCLELLAN: They'll indicate the dates on which he was paid for his service.

QUESTION: But they won't indicate where --

MR. McCLELLAN: I wouldn't read anything into it until we release the records, which will be very shortly. Then you'll have them, then we can talk about them.

QUESTION: But they will not stipulate where he was serving?

MR. McCLELLAN: We can be clear on it when we release the records, John. That's what I'm trying to tell you. We're going to release the records. You'll see that he was paid for the dates on which he served --

QUESTION: Somehow I don't think those records are going to tell us where he was serving.

MR. McCLELLAN: They will show that he was paid for his service. And you get paid for the days on which you serve.

QUESTION: Right, but they won't say where he was.

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, we're going to release the records shortly. Just hang on.

QUESTION: Who in the White House has been handling it? Is it the Counsel's Office, or who --

MR. McCLELLAN: Dan Bartlett has been involved in this.

QUESTION: He reviewed the documents last night?

MR. McCLELLAN: He previously, during the 2000 campaign, tried to gather as much information as was available.

QUESTION: And has he been the one who has been dealing with it now? In other words, if these came to the White House last night, Dan Bartlett was burning the midnight oil reading these last night?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that he was burning the midnight oil. He received the information.

QUESTION: Scott, when does "soon" mean? Does it mean --

MR. McCLELLAN: Very soon.

QUESTION: Like in an hour? Or are we talking about --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if I can get off this podium, then I can get all that information together for you and we can release it.

QUESTION: Can you tell us once again --

MR. McCLELLAN: Several documents to release.

QUESTION: Can you tell us once again Lloyd's name and what his objective is?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll have that for you. You'll have his statement, it'll have his exact name, you'll have everything here shortly.

QUESTION: Any explanation as to why he served the minimum hours required?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, you have to look at the different time periods. And it showed that he fulfilled his duties, John.

QUESTION: But, still, it's the minimum requirement. You can go to college, you can get a C, or you can go to college and get a 4.0.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know which time period you're referring to. I mean, the President fulfilled his duties. He was proud of his service, John. He fulfilled his duties. And there are some that have made outrageous accusations. And I think you need to ask those individuals if they want to continue to stand by those outrageous accusations in the face of documentation that clearly demonstrates the President fulfilled his duties.

QUESTION: Was he just busy doing other things, or --

MR. McCLELLAN: John, the President fulfilled his duties. And if you want to question other people who fulfilled their duties, that's your prerogative. I won't --

QUESTION: Do you know of any other documents that exist that are pertinent to this subject?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Are there any other known documents --

MR. McCLELLAN: This is what we know that is available. And that's why we're making it available to you.

QUESTION: Is there anything else that you know that exists?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I said, this is what we know that is available that exists.

QUESTION: I know you know it's available, but is --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't. No, I don't.

QUESTION: In other words, you don't know if there's anything available from --

QUESTION: Anything else?

QUESTION: -- that would have come from Alabama, that would be in the Personnel Center?

MR. McCLELLAN: No.

QUESTION: You don't know of anything else that's pertinent to the subject --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I said yesterday that if there's additional information that we would keep you posted. And that's exactly what I'm doing here today.

QUESTION: Scott, if there is additional information, will the President release it? Does he want it all out?

MR. McCLELLAN: He said -- he answered that question on Saturday, when it aired on Sunday.
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Wow. Scottie's stammering evasion speaks for itself, so I'll do like Woodward did back when he wasn't a GOP PR flak and Follow The Money. The more interesting question is why the media is so interested in this "old" story now. Dem momentum, w.'s abysmal performance on MTP yesterday, and the good old fashioned "if it bleeds, it leads" ethic. If I were in a more generous and forgiving mood, I might suggest that the 4th estate were interested in investigating as part of their mandate to serve the public interest, but please. I am still sober. The pack smells blood, bloodlust drives the story, and sensationalism sells the papers. And what's more sensational than a self-proclaimed "war president" who was a weaselly silver spooner with a cocaine habit who shirked his duty to his country? Ahhh, I'm in a better mood already. I can't wait 'til Scottie tries to answer that question tomorrow. Puts Clinton's "draft dodging" in a whole new light, dunnit? Turnabout is fair play. (Except, in this case, turnabout IS fair play.)