Today's Daily Howler is a must-read. Just don't be distracted by title, Ritter was right about WMD. Result? He's been dumped from the airwaves, which refers to the less interesting of the two items discussed.
The more interesting item—how hard it is to get facts about the GW Bush military record—actually comes first. There are two related issues. First, how and why the major papers in this country are badly bungling the task of informing us as to what the facts are, and when there are areas of uncertainty what the cause of that uncertainty might be.
The Howler compares the accounts in major newspapers and notes that they don't coincide at all. So not only are there divergences with what appears to be the record, but the reporters themselves appear to have very different views as to what the basic facts are.
Which leads to the even more interesting question of why that might be.
The Howler suggests that the key question is the extent to which a particular torn document proffered by the Bush people can be trusted. The purveyors of this document purport it to be part of the Bush service record. Yet the document is lacking key identifying marks such as his name. Is it or is it not an accurate and contemporaneous record of Bush's service? That seems like a pretty central question indeed…
If the “torn document” turns out to be fake, this story becomes much more serious. Indeed, if the “torn document” turns out to be bogus, this story becomes quite an A-bomb. This may be why papers are tiptoe-ing hard, as we’ll discuss later on.
How serious was Bush’s attendance problem? It all turns on that crucial “torn document.” And the Post and the Times have created confusion by careless handling of the torn document. We’re told that experts are going to publish further work about the torn doc. Until then, this story will be hard to judge. The Post, Times and Globe have divergent accounts. It’s quite hard to know which is accurate.
(For more on the “torn document” see the last paragraphs of this earlier Howler.)
Update: Via Calpundit, a link to a very, very useful blog entry by Phil Carter on Intel Dump explaining just exactly what records reporters should be asking for—and GWB providing—if the objective is to get to the truth of the matter.
…if I were a reporter sitting in the White House press room, asking questions of Scott McClellan, I'd start asking about his pay records, retirement records, and tax records from 1972. Maybe the attendance records are gone — but there are still plenty of ways to document the President's service.