Thursday's must-reads

Published September 9, 2004 2:47PM (EDT)

The Boston Globe follows up this morning on the Barnes-Killian double-whammy last night on 60 Minutes, turning to former military officers for analysis of the documents unearthed by CBS.

"Former military officers said last night that the four documents obtained by CBS, two of which should have been in Bush's publicly released file, contain evidence that political influence may have come into play as he sidestepped his training requirements in his final two years of service, from May 1972 until May 1974."

'''These documents represent strong evidence that Lieutenant Bush didn't perform after April 1972, regardless of whether he received a paycheck,' said retired Brigadier General David L. McGinnis, who was a top aide to the assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs."

"Lawrence J. Korb, an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration and now a national security specialist at a liberal think tank, said after reviewing the CBS documents last night that if Killian and Lieutenant Colonel William D. Harris Jr. had written a truthful evaluation report on Bush, 'he would have been called to involuntary active duty.'"

"Added Korb: ''For the commanding officer to suggest that his [Bush's] evaluation be sugar-coated is a clear indication of the political influence Bush had.' Korb said the alleged suggestion by Staudt was also a ''violation of military ethics." An effort by the Globe last night to reach Staudt was unsuccessful. Harris, like Killian, has died."

The Washington Post has a front-page analysis on the death rate of U.S. troops in Iraq, finding that "more U.S. troops have died since the turnover of power to an interim Iraqi government at the end of June than were killed during the U.S.-led invasion of the country in the spring of 2003."

"A total of 148 U.S. military personnel have been killed since the partial transfer of sovereignty on June 28, compared with 138 who died in March and April of 2003, Pentagon figures show."

"That trend is a grim indication that, 18 months after the invasion, the fighting appears to be intensifying rather than waning. While attention has been focused largely on standoffs in Najaf and other well-publicized hotspots, an analysis of the figures shows the U.S. military has taken more casualties elsewhere, including the deaths of about 44 troops in the western province of Anbar and 10 others in the city of Samarra."

"The wide geographic dispersion of the violence reflects the strength of a resurgent opposition and also frames the challenge U.S. commanders face in the coming months as the United States seeks to hold an election to establish a new Iraqi government, said military officers and defense analysts."

"The 'peace' has been bloodier than the war," said Capt. Russell Burgos, an Army reservist who recently returned from a tour of duty with an aviation regiment in Balad, Iraq. In his view, the U.S. experience in Iraq is coming to resemble Israel's painful 18-year occupation of parts of southern Lebanon."

John Kerry has been getting flak even from supporters for not being clear enough about what he would do differently in Iraq. The Washington Post reports that Kerry may soon lay out a plan for how his administration would handle the war.

"Aides said Kerry is planning a speech soon in which he will offer a detailed plan to end, or greatly curtail, the U.S. military operation in Iraq by January 2009 and reduce the cost to U.S. taxpayers in the interim. The twin offensive is designed to help Kerry regain his political footing on Iraq as the number of U.S. personnel killed there topped 1,000. Recent national polls show a majority of voters trust Bush more than Kerry on Iraq."

You've likely heard about the upcoming Kitty Kelley book that will claim George W. Bush did coke at Camp David, among other accusations. The New York Times reports that "a representative of the White House recently called Neal Shapiro, president of NBC News, to discourage that network from broadcasting interviews with Ms. Kelley about the book on its "Today'' program and on its MSNBC cable program "Hardball With Chris Matthews,'' a network executive said."

But more interesting: Sharon Bush, supposedly a key source for the book, is denying she ever told Kelley Bush used coke at Camp David. "Although there have been tensions between me and various members of the Bush family, I cannot allow this falsehood to go unchallenged," she said.

Nonetheless, "Doubleday, the book's publisher and part of the Random House division of Bertelsmann, said it stood by Ms. Kelley's reporting. The publisher said in a statement that Ms. Kelly met with Ms. Bush for a four-hour lunch on April 1, 2003, where an unnamed third party heard the conversation, and that Ms. Kelley's editor, Peter Gethers, discussed the same material with Ms. Bush over the phone."

"Lou Colasuonno, a former publicist for Ms. Bush, confirmed that he was the third party at the lunch and contradicted her denial. "I have not seen the book, I have only seen news reports," Mr. Colasuonno said. "According to what I have seen, what has been reported, I would not dispute that.""

Two months before Election Day and already there is talk of a faithless elector. The AP reports that the mayor of South Charleston, W. Va., one of the state's five Republican electors, says "he might not cast his Electoral College vote for Bush to protest the president's economic and foreign policies."

"'I think President Bush needs to get the message from people across this country, including Republicans, that his strategy in national security and his economic policies need revisited,'' South Charleston Mayor Richie Robb said Wednesday ... "

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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