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February 13, 2004
Globe: Bush AWOL Accusers Lied

The Boston Globe reports today that key witnesses contradict allegations made by a central source for the Bush AWOL-coverup story:

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Bill Burkett, who has been pressing his charges in the national news media this week, says he even heard one high-ranking officer issue a 1997 order to sanitize the Bush file, and later saw another officer poring over the records and discovered that some had been discarded.

But a key witness to some of the events described by Burkett has told the Globe that the central elements of his story are false. George O. Conn, a former chief warrant officer with the Guard and a friend of Burkett's, is the person whom Burkett says led him to the room where the Bush records were being vetted. But Conn says he never saw anyone combing through the Bush file or discarding records.

"I have no recall of that," Conn said. "I have no recall of that whatsoever. None. Zip. Nada."

Conn's recollection also undercuts another of Burkett's central allegations: that he overheard Bush's onetime chief of staff, Joe M. Allbaugh, telling a Texas Guard general to make sure there were no embarrassments in the Bush record. Burkett says he told Conn, over dinner that same night, what he had overheard. But Conn says that, although Burkett told him he worried that the Bush record would be sanitized, he never mentioned overhearing the conversation between Allbaugh and General Daniel James III.

The Globe, which has been at the forefront of the media pushing this story, now reveals that the entire series of accusations had no basis in reality and in fact should never have been legitimized by the press in the first place. The author of an upcoming book that purports to detail the AWOL charges and their cover-up now admits he never even attempted to interview the two people Burkett accuses of "sanitizing" Bush's files:

But the book's author, James Moore, a former Houston TV news correspondent, concedes he never interviewed some of the key players who could have verified Burkett's charges, including Conn and retired National Guard Colonel John Scribner -- the officer Burkett says he saw removing items from the Bush file.

Moore, told yesterday that Conn contradicts Burkett's story, said he believes Burkett's allegations are true. "I think we're into a classic he-said, she-said," Moore said.

Listening to Hugh Hewitt's show yesterday, Peter Beinhart of The New Republic vehemently accused Hugh of irresponsible journalism by mentioning the Drudge Report story about Kerry's alleged infidelity without having done any responsible verification of the sources, in effect making Kerry publicly prove his innocence without having any evidence of his guilt. However, TNR and every other media outlet has done the exact same thing to George Bush despite the normal presumption of innocence and the extraordinary presumption of satisfactory and complete service that an Honorary Discharge presents. Instead, for at least the file-shredding accusations, every media outlet in the country relied on a single source that its investigator never felt the need to verify with the people he accused of participating in the cover-up!

Not only that, but the Globe story finally shows prior motivation for Burkett's accusations:

Burkett has, in the past, raised his allegations about the Bush records as part of his personal struggle with the Guard over medical benefits. For instance, in a 1998 letter to Texas state Senator Gonzalo Barrientos, Burkett complained that he had not received adequate medical care when he became seriously ill after returning from a mission to Panama.

Now that the Globe has demonstrated the journalistic bankruptcy of this story, I await the apologies of the national media in disavowing this libelous and shameful story. I shan't hold my breath.

UPDATE: A big welcome to Prof. Reynolds' readers from Instapundit, as well as from other links. One link was back to this forum, in a thread that had a response with a subject heading that called either Captain's Quarters or Instapundit the "biggest Bush a@@-kissing blog". I couldn't get to it from behind the firewall here, but I hope it refers to me. I've always wanted to be #1 at something ...

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 13, 2004 6:09 AM

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