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Whitehouse Notebook: Dana Milbank

Bush's Records Keep Trickling Out

By Dana Milbank
Tuesday, September 14, 2004; Page A25

"The records have now been fully released."

That was White House press secretary Scott McClellan talking about records of President Bush's Vietnam-era service in the Texas Air National Guard. Unfortunately for McClellan, he said that on Feb. 10 -- before two more waves of records were released. In July, the Pentagon, citing an "inadvertent oversight," released records that it had previously labeled destroyed. And in recent days, the Associated Press and the Boston Globe have obtained still more records.

The White House is no longer saying the "entire file" has been released. In fact, the search for Bush's Guard documents continues -- and is being directed by a three-star general, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. White House communications director Dan Bartlett, who has coordinated the administration's statements on the issue, says: "My understanding is there is a constant review spearheaded by the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] office at the Pentagon to ensure all documents are located."

Aide Dan Bartlett coordinates the recovery effort on Guard records.

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Now there is some grumbling among Bush loyalists about Bartlett's handling of the Guard records; they say he may have drawn extra attention to the matter by sitting on the most recent batch of documents before releasing them publicly. And the newly released documents have refuted two claims Bartlett made in 1999: that Bush was appropriately released from his Texas unit because it had phased out the F-102 jets that he flew, and that Bush transferred to a reserve unit in Boston. The F-102s were still being flown by Bush's unit when he departed, and Bush never signed up with a Boston area unit.

Asked yesterday if he knew of any more Bush Guard records, Bartlett replied: "Based on our experience, we have continued to ask the Department of Defense and the National Guard Bureau for any and all official documents. They are working hard to ensure that we have recovered them all."


Only those with big bladders need apply for the White House beat. For the past year, the 20 or so correspondents toiling in the basement of the press room in the West Wing have been fighting to keep their toilet. "We've been using that toilet since Jimmy Carter was president," said Associated Press Radio correspondent Mark Smith. But after some trouble with the commode last year, the General Services Administration announced it was flushing the troublesome fixture.

Correspondents took their case to White House press secretary Scott McClellan, threatening: "We could also hold it -- but I think you'll agree we're cranky enough as it is." The GSA said it would cost $500,000 to fix the toilet -- earning it a place alongside the $400 hammer and the $600 toilet seat. McClellan would not dirty his hands in this plumbing dispute. The GSA then announced it had poured concrete into the "sewer ejectors," making the WC permanently unusable. As of yesterday, the toilet and sink were gone, replaced with a chair and a mirror.


In last week's Washington Post-ABC News Poll, John F. Kerry was viewed favorably by 36 percent of registered voters, down 18 points over the past six months. But just how low Kerry's standing has fallen cannot be appreciated fully without comparing his standing with that of other household names in Gallup polls over the years. Kerry finds himself in a dead heat with Martha Stewart and Joseph McCarthy, and behind Herbert Hoover -- although he narrowly beats O.J. Simpson.

Michael Jordan: 83 (2000)

Tony Blair: 76 (2003)

Pope John Paul II: 73 (2003)

Democratic Party: 54 (2004)

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