The New York Times' lead editorial today comes down hard on President Bush for not doing enough to answer lingering questions about his service in the Texas Air National Guard during 1972 and 1973. In particular, the editorial page was not impressed with the White House's mini document dump on Tuesday, when some of Bush's military payroll records and retirement documents were released. The paper insisted the information was "jarringly at odds" with previous accounts, and that the conflicting explanations "demand further elaboration."
But the real eye-popper is this passage: "The issue is not whether Mr. Bush, like many sons of the elite in his generation, sought refuge in the Guard to avoid combat in Vietnam. The public knew about that during the 2000 campaign. Whether Mr. Bush actually performed his Guard service to the full is a different matter." The paper added, "It bears on presidential character."
Well, then why didn't the Times cover the story during the 2000 campaign? In May 2000, the Boston Globe, in a detailed, page-one article, raised serious questions about whether Bush actually performed his Guard service to the full. But the paper-of-record couldn't be bothered to investigate. It was two months before the Times even mentioned the fact there were obvious holes in Bush's military records. And even then, the paper dedicated just 300 words within a larger 3,000-word story about Bush's National Guard service. The editorial page may now consider the issue paramount, but it never once addressed the issue in 2000.
It's nice that the Times is finally on board. But the paper might want to reflect on its dismal 2000 campaign coverage, to determine why it was also AWOL.