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Still AWOL After All These Years

NewsMax declares the dreaded New York Times the unassailable authority on Bush's military service. Plus: ConWeb hit pieces on the new Democratic front-runners, and why is NewsMax endorsing a Democrat?

By Terry Krepel
Posted 1/26/2004

When NewsMax publicly declares its faith in the New York Times, watch out (and not just for flying pigs).

Yes, after years of berating the Times for being the avatar of the "liberal media," NewsMax declares the Times the ultimate authority on whether President Bush fulfilled his National Guard duty in the early 1970s. Of course, that the Times wrote something that can be interpreted as taking Bush's side of the issue helped greatly.

"The New York Times pretty much demolished this Democratic Party urban legend, a myth that first surfaced in its sister paper, the Boston Globe," "Carl Limbacher and Staff" wrote Jan. 24 in an attempt to tie Democratic candidate Wesley Clark with Clark supporter Michael Moore, who recently claimed that Bush was a "deserter." It became an issue when ABC's Peter Jennings questioned Clark about Moore's remarks during a debate.

According to NewsMax, a July 2000 Times story "noted that Bush's chief accuser in the Globe report, retired Gen. William Turnipseed, had begun to back away from his story that Bush never appeared for service during the time in question," and the article cites documents that allegedly prove that Bush showed up for duty on day in November 1972 in Alabama (where Bush was attached to a Guard unit for several months) and from May through July 1973 in Texas, dates questioned in the Globe article.

Case closed, right? Not quite.

You might recall that the first time the Bush AWOL story came around in mid-2000, the reaction of NewsMax (and WorldNetDaily and was to try and ignore it. And to this day, no conservative news organization has done its own investigation of the charges -- which is why we have the spectacle of NewsMax teaming up with the dreaded Times.

As much as NewsMax wants to hide behind the skirts of the Times on this issue, there are questions that have never been answered. The Daily Howler's Bob Somerby points out that nobody else has seen the records the Times cites in its story, written by Jo Thomas. In fact, Somerby writes, "We’ve spoken with researchers who have studied this matter; they’ve told us that they don’t know what document Thomas meant, and that Thomas wouldn’t respond to their questions."

If these records do exists, one has to wonder why, as Somerby writes, shortly before the 2000 election a group of Vietnam veterans in Alabama offered a $1,000 reward (which grew to $3,500) for anyone who could verify Bush's claim that he did his Guard duty there. Somerby quotes another Boston Globe story in which "Bush campaign spokesman acknowledged ... that he knows of no witnesses who can attest to Bush’s attendance at drills after he returned to Houston in late 1972 and before his early release from the Guard in September 1973."

And almost nobody at all -- certainly no one within the ConWeb -- has delved into the fact that after all the thousands of dollars (some say hundreds of thousands) it takes to train a jet pilot, Bush served only 68 days of active duty that can be documented, not to mention being removed from flight status in 1972 for not taking an annual physical.

For all of the hue and cry the ConWeb let out regarding Bill Clinton's alleged draft-dodging -- which is inaccurate because Clinton was never drafted -- it's being curiously averse to making a similar investigation of Bush.

In fact, a search of "clinton draft dodger" at NewsMax turns up 102 hits. Among them: a piece by that piece of work Norman Liebmann -- he of the many, many Democrat-Nazi comparisions -- that says "some legal papers have been "doctored" to show Bill Clinton did not dodge the draft. Another provocative document along those lines is a birth certificate in which the name Svetlana was crossed out and the name Chelsea written in."

At WorldNetDaily, "clinton draft dodger" brings up 29 hits, such as a 1999 piece in which Tanya K. Metaksa ("the former executive director of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action") calls Clinton "the No. 1 draft dodger" and a 1998 lamentation from David Hackworth that "Nothing is more dangerous than a draft dodger president with his own Army and Navy."

You'd think folks like these who were so averse to alleged draft-dodging in a president would be at least as interested in a politician who joins the armed services then, as evidence appears to indicate, doesn't perform his duty as promised.

We don't know if Bush indeed failed to perform his Guard duties. The issue is not nearly as clear as NewsMax wants you to believe it is. The fact that NewsMax is citing its mortal enemy the New York Times as the gospel truth in this matter is a big, big sign of that.

* * *

Almost as if by magic, the ConWeb was Johnny-on-the-spot with hit pieces on the new front-runners of the Democratic presidential race following the results in Iowa. jumped in first with a piece by Marc Morano bashing John Edwards, posted Jan 20, the morning after the Iowa caucuses. The bias is pretty transparent --when the story's first quote is attributed to "a political critic with extensive knowledge of Edwards' legal career ... who did not want to be identified." Yup, it's a pretty bad sign when the first person Morano quotes is anonymous.

The same day, NewsMax posted a Chuck Noe piece on "What You Don't Know About John Kerry." Words like "Hanoi Jane" and "Communist stooge" appear in bold letters.

Then, NewsMax picked its own favorite Democratic candidate -- Joe Lieberman. He earned NewsMax's endorsement in an Jan. 26 editorial. The obvious question here (aside from "Why did NewsMax bother to post an explicit editorial when its obvious bias is so ingrained into nearly everything else posted on the site?") is, why is a slavishly conservative site like NewsMax trying to inject itself into the Democratic primaries? Especially considering that the editorial itself states: "NewsMax firmly believes that George Bush deserves re-election, but we are not so cynical as to suggest that Lieberman should be the Democratic nominee because he would be easy for Bush to beat."

The answer to that is yes, NewsMax is indeed that cynical (recall its longtime slanting of news coverage), though of course it claims not to be: "While we disagree with many of Joe Lieberman’s positions, we cannot overlook his courage and integrity."

Lieberman got another NewsMax boost from none other than Christopher Ruddy himself, who tells his readers in a piece that otherwise beats up on "ultra-liberal" John Kerry, Ted Kennedy and "the Democratic establishment led by DNC chief Terry McAuliffe" for trashing Howard Dean, ends with: "Democratic and independent voters in New Hampshire come Tuesday should vote for the most able and qualified person: Joe Lieberman."

An endorsement of a Democrat by an organization that has taken great pains to be perceived as anything but Democrat ought to be a big ol' warning sign to people.

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