Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 5, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

MORE ON THE TORN DOCUMENT....It's probably worth saying a few more words about the torn document that I wrote about yesterday. Read this post for background first if you don't know what I'm referring to.

Warning: this gets pretty complicated. You might have to read it through more than once.

Here's my understanding: Bush's service file originally included attendance records for his entire time in the Texas Air National Guard except for 1972-73. In 1999, the Bush campaign hired Albert Lloyd to search the archives for the missing attendance record, and what he came up with was the torn document. This document has since been inserted into Bush's file and is provided to journalists who file Freedom of Information requests.

The document covers the period May 1972 through May 1973 for Texas only. Since Bush was in Alabama from May-November 1972, it therefore contains records of attendance only from late November 1972 through May 1973. (There are no records at all from Alabama, so most of the May-November 1972 period is a complete black hole.)

Here's the theory: the dates are in a YY-MON-DD format. The fourth entry is the only one that contains part of a month, and it ends in N. The only months that end in N are JUN and JAN, and since the record starts in May and there are at least three months between the first entry and the fourth, it must refer to JAN 10. This gives the following dates as the most likely reconstruction of the document:

72 NOV 29
72 DEC 14
73 JAN 06
73 JAN 10
[Four more dates]
73 MAY 24

Bush claims he was back in Texas by late November, so the NOV 29 entry fits. This document orders Bush to attend three drills, the first of which ends on MAY 24, which fits the last date on the torn document. It also orders Bush to attend two other drills, and those dates correspond with the first two dates on Bush's 1973-74 attendance record. So that fits.

Anyway, that's the theory. But the real question is: is the torn document genuine? I think it probably is, but here are the pros and cons:

Pros

Cons

Albert Lloyd, who found the document, says it's Bush's Social Security number beneath the redaction.

The Texas archives, which contains the non-redacted version of the document, inserted it into Bush's file. If the document isn't genuine, an awful lot of people are helping out with the coverup.

The dates on the document do match up in a plausible way with Bush's claims of drill attendance.

The position of the initial W at the top of the torn document matches exactly the position of the initial W on his 1973-74 record.

What are the odds of finding this document simply by "scouring" the enormous archives of the Texas guard? (Actually, I've done some of this kind of scouring myself, and it's not entirely unlikely. Still, it does require a degree of faith.)

The tear is mighty convenient. You'd have to try hard to produce a tear that good.

There are two versions of the document. Whose handwriting is on the second version? Was it someone adding up service points back in 1973, or is it just some contemporary notes?

If Bush really did show up for drills on nine separate occasions over seven months, why did his superiors say he hadn't been observed during that period and refuse to fill out his annual effectiveness report? They seemed to think he'd been in Alabama the entire time.

Since the SSN is redacted, the only real evidence that the document is genuine is the initial W at the top and the fact that the final date seems to match one of the dates that Bush got called up for drills. However, since his entire unit probably got called to the same drill, any attendance record from a fellow unit member would show that date too. In other words, the document could just be a torn copy of a record from someone else in the unit who also had a middle initial of W.

I might have forgotten something here, but I think those are the high points. You can draw your own conclusions from them, but here are the three basic possibilities:

  • Albert Lloyd simply forged the document. There's really no way of judging how likely this is, although he'd have to be a pretty good forger to get away with it. What's more, why not forge something more convincing if you're going to go to all that trouble in the first place?

  • It's really somebody else's record, disguised by the tear and the SSN redaction. However, since the original unredacted document is in the archives, this seems extremely unlikely. It would require a lot of people to be involved in a very risky coverup.

  • The document is genuine and it just got misfiled in the archives until Lloyd found it.

Take your pick.

NOTE: All of this refers strictly to Bush's attendance in Texas. There are no service records at all for May-November 1972 when he was in Alabama and no evidence that he ever showed up for drills during that period. So even if the torn document is genuine, there's still a pretty high likelihood that he blew off drills for a period of seven months in Alabama.

And needless to say, much of this could be resolved if Bush voluntarily released his entire service file. Why won't he?

Kevin Drum 11:26 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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