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Friday, July 09, 2004

Would Ya Look At That

What are the chances, really? It's amazing. It's a blatant misuse of power. It's obvious manipulation of federal records. It's also, we should remember, a very visible manifestation of desperation.

Military records that could help establish President Bush's whereabouts during his disputed service in the Texas Air National Guard more than 30 years ago have been inadvertently destroyed, according to the Pentagon.

It said the payroll records of "numerous service members," including former First Lt. Bush, had been ruined in 1996 and 1997 by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service during a project to salvage deteriorating microfilm. No back-up paper copies could be found, it added in notices dated June 25.

The destroyed records cover three months of a period in 1972 and 1973 when Mr. Bush's claims of service in Alabama are in question.

The disclosure appeared to catch some experts, both pro-Bush and con, by surprise. Even the retired lieutenant colonel who studied Mr. Bush's records for the White House, Albert C. Lloyd of Austin, said it came as news to him.

Back on June 22, you'll remember, the Associated Press filed suit against the Pentagon and Air Force to gain access to just these very records. America, at least for the time being, is a nation that provides, via the civil litigation process, for discovery, which means, in cases against even large and powerful interests, information can be legally obtained. Unless, of course, somehow, for whatever reason, the records to which access is being sought have been destroyed. As is the case with Bush's National Guard records. Suddenly. That this comes as a shocking surprise to even Bush's own defenders directly involved in the scandal proves it an even more amazing, and unlikely, coincidence. Remember, too, the words of the AP's General Counsel, commenting on the suit back in June:

"It seems a little curious because the president made a pretty forceful presentation that he had nothing to hide," said AP General Counsel Dave Tomlin, when asked for his reaction to what the AP considers government stonewalling. "But we are not surprised."

Well, when forced finally by law, it seems, to produce these documents, there is but one refuge left to the conniving. Destroy the evidence. Nixon never did, after all.

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