Bush’s turn to ‘fess up

“There are a lot of questions and they need to be answered,” President Bush said last week, referring to the controversy over the documents CBS used in its controversial 60 Minutes II report on Bush’s tenure in the Texas Air National Guard.

To their credit, CBS News, 60 Minutes and Dan Rather answered the questions. They ‘fessed up. They were snookered, they admitted, and didn’t examine the documents closely enough to catch the fraud.

If only Bush himself would be so candid. There are two reasons why this story won’t go away. One is that, when the Republicans trotted out a pack of liars to attack John Kerry’s valor as commander of a swift boat in Vietnam, they made Vietnam service an issue. The other is that the president himself so far has refused to tell the truth about his five-month absence.

What, exactly, did he do or not do in the Guard? Why did he duck orders to take his physical exam? Did he pull strings to get into the Guard? Was pressure brought to bear to “sugar-coat” his absence?

These are the important questions, but perhaps the president could also tell us just what he was doing while serving as political director in Winton “Red” Blount’s Alabama Senate campaign? Was he, as reports suggest, in charge of distributing Blount’s smear campaign literature accusing conservative Democratic Sen. John Sparkman of favoring drastic military cuts, abandoning POWs in Vietnam and supporting “amnesty for draft-dodgers"—none of which was true?

In other words, while Bush was dodging his cushy Guard commitment and service in Vietnam, was he learning the pro-war, mud-slinging style of campaigning—the accusation that John Kerry is "soft on terrorism," for example—he’s practicing today? It’s about character, Mr. President. Tell us the truth.