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Saturday, February 14, 2004


GEORGE BUSH AND THE NATIONAL GUARD 

FRIDAY ANALYSIS
The Bush Administration spin machine sputtered all week long explaining the President's National Guard service.
As a matter of fact, the best defense in the last few weeks regarding President Bush's involvement came from Peter Jennings at a Democratic debate in New Hampshire. Jennings referred to Michael Moore's criticism of Bush as a "reckless charge not supported by the facts." His stark characterization of an attack on Bush from an extremely liberal critic knocked Wesley Clark off-balance and was the perfect model for Republicans to find a way to deal with budding attacks on the President. Instead, the White House has allowed itself to get punched over and over again when it could have delivered harsh blows at the very beginning and taken care of the matter very quickly.

--WHAT HAPPENED
When it was up to Bush Administration officials to deal with frivolous charges about the president's military service, they dropped the ball. The White House fell into a trap laid by Terry McAuliffe and John Kerry. The leading Democrats carefully planted enough red meat for the willing and accommodating media to start sniffing around by obliquely criticizing Bush's honesty about fulfilling his National Guard duties. Once the administration started giving off a scent by addressing Democratic charges, the hunt was on and the media was ready to go in for the kill.

It's amazing that the White House didn't understand it could not win a fight based on terms set by the Democrats. The Bush Administration was naive. Bush's spin doctors thought that the facts were good enough and no spin was needed. Au contraire. The media loves the appearance of scandal, especially one that is easy to understand and explain. (Watergate was easy. Whitewater was a bit more complicated). It's very easy to package into a soundbite that "George Bush was supposed to be somewhere for the military and he wasn't -while at the same time young men were dying for their country very far away in Vietnam." There, we just made a sound bite.

Every time the White House responded to a silly charge with a concrete piece of evidence, the media (goaded on by giddy Democrats) asked for more concrete evidence. The White House should understand Politics 101 - Once you have been attacked by scurrilous charges, no amount of reasoning and evidence of facts are going to make your opponents come to their senses and admit they were wrong.

All week long, Americans (voters) have been subject to a steady drip of disclosures by the White House regarding President Bush's military record (pay stubs, military points, even dental records, it's gotten so silly). At a superficial glance it looks as if the White House has had something to hide and is being forced to make revelations. Democrats must be high-fiving each other and rubbing their hands with glee wondering what easy trap they can lay down next.

--WHAT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED
This should have been so easy for the Bush White House. First of all, the White House should never have taken these charge seriously. Back in 1992, Hillary Clinton tried to inoculate Bill by spreading the rumor that President George H. W. Bush had committed adultery too. When President Bush (41) was asked about it, IN THE OVAL OFFICE, he answered the right way by saying he would not even dignify that question with an answer. The same response should have been given in 2004 for George W Bush.

Secondly, when in doubt rip a page from the Clintons' playbook. I like the simple play called "Old News" best. George W. Bush faced similar questions about the National Guard in the 2000 election. If his answers were satisfactory back then for Al Gore, the media and yes, even the Clintons, why should he have to give them again four years later? The refrain from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue should have been, "this is old news!" The best part is that it is old news.

Lastly, are Democratic politicians the only ones who served in the military? Why hasn't the White House enlisted respected Republican leaders with stellar military backgrounds who can defend the President? It's not the fault of John McCain, Bob Dole and others for not stepping up if they were not even asked. They would have served as perfect spokesmen for the President right from the beginning to nip this ridiculous story in the bud.

--THE BOTTOM LINE
Unfortunately for the Republicans, this was a bad week. Fortunately for the Republicans, they can shake out the cob webs -realize that the Democrats have been running hard for the White House for several weeks -and not make stupid mistakes, like the ones during this National Guard issue, happen again. If Peter Jennings is going to be the best defender that President Bush has then we might as well move to Canada.

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