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White House Gives the Pentagon a Wring

By Dana Milbank
Sunday, September 19, 2004; Page A05

That drip, drip, drip on 16th Street has nothing to do with the remnants of Hurricane Ivan.

It is the sound of the White House releasing newly discovered documents from President Bush's service in the National Guard during the Vietnam War.


Another Republican truth squad has assigned itself to Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry. This one is on football, and it's going for a grand-slam basket. Or a hole in two. (Gerald Herbert -- AP)

The latest document dump came on -- when else? -- Friday night. The release of undesirable news late on a Friday had been a cliché even before the Bush administration, but now it's downright tired and hackneyed.

The latest documents -- the third of Bush Guard files since the White House said in February that all had been released -- shed little light on the question of Bush's service. But they may not be the last of the documents to surface.

Though it sounds to some like stonewalling, the routine appearance of supposedly nonexistent documents is more likely the result of a less-than-enthusiastic search by Defense Department officials under orders from White House officials who are less than eager to have new documents discovered.

In his briefing Wednesday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan expressed some irritation with the Pentagon, saying that "they didn't do as comprehensive a search as we had requested" for files related to Bush's Air National Guard service.

McClellan has stopped guaranteeing that the document flow has stopped. The Department of Defense "has told us they believe this is everything," he said yesterday.

Kerry Slams in a Full-Court Touchdown

It's third and long for John F. Kerry after two costly fumbles this summer. In Michigan, he insulted the state's football fans by declaring his support for "Buckeye football" -- as in rival Ohio State. And now he's suffering some unnecessary roughness for referring to the Green Bay Packers' fabled home, Lambeau Field, as "Lambert" Field -- which is the old name for the St. Louis airport. Kerry has already eclipsed primary rival Howard Dean, who last year invented the "Philadelphia Jets" football team while on the stump. No doubt when the Senate is in session, Kerry likes to head out to FedEx Field for some Washington Redheads football.

Now a spoof group calling itself "Football Fans for Truth" has formed with a game plan "to raise awareness about John Kerry's eminent failures in the area of sports knowledge." The group, patterned after the radioactive Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, asks for contributions to be sent to an address in Arlington that sounds very close to Bush campaign headquarters.

But if Kerry has been sacked for Lambert Field, it was Democrats' turn to chortle Thursday when Bush gave a speech at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud, Minn.

Watch Your Language

It must have been lost in the translation.

On the Bush campaign's Spanish-language Web site, prominent display is given to a translation of Bush's Jan. 7 speech proposing an immigration plan involving "guest workers." But the speech was mysteriously missing from the Bush campaign's English-language Web site, which includes almost every speech Bush gives.

An organization opposed to looser immigration policies, ProjectUSA, caught the discrepancy. It also noticed that on the Spanish-language site the Mexican flag was displayed prominently in the main photograph. ProjectUSA complained that Bush was "dividing the nation's voters into two groups and appealing to one under the flag of some other nation."

A Bush campaign official said last week that missing immigration speech was "a complete oversight" -- and quickly posted the Jan. 7 speech on the English Web site. The Mexican flag remains on the Spanish-language site. A Bush spokeswoman also pointed out that Kerry's Spanish-language Web site has numerous Spanish sections -- such as Contribuya al DNC and Sea Voluntario that link to English-only pages.

Zipping Between the Zigs and the Zags

What a long, strange trip it's been for Marshall Wittmann. The highly quotable pundit, who has boasted he is the only person to have worked for Cesar Chavez and Linda Chavez, has a new job -- with the Democratic Leadership Council.

Wittmann, late of the conservative Hudson Institute, will be leaving the Senate staff of John McCain (R-Ariz.), where he has been lately. Wittmann's move to the Democratic side may be awkward, but he's familiar with strange bedfellows; a practicing Jew, he once worked as a top official at the Christian Coalition. Wittmann becomes the second key McCain adviser, after John Weaver, to decamp to the Democratic side. The DLC's Bruce Reed welcomed Wittmann by saying, "the Democratic Party is the only place centrists and independents can call home."

The Heckler and the Noncandidate

This has been the year of the heckler for both presidential candidates, who have been routinely interrupted during their speeches by political opponents. Still, what happened in Hamilton, N.J., last week was unusual. A woman named Sue Niederer interrupted Laura Bush during a speech by demanding to know why her son, Army 2nd Lt. Seth Dvorin, was killed in Iraq in February. The Associated Press reported that Niederer, wearing a T-shirt that said "President Bush You Killed My Son" was escorted from the event by police.

Quotable

"I asked him a number of questions about Iraq, and I can't tell you what he said."

-- Radio host Don Imus, a supporter, after interviewing Kerry Sept. 15.


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