Saturday, February 21, 2004
NOW YOU SEE HIM, NOW YOU DON'T
12:53 p>m> EST
"MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. The President, a short time ago, concluded his meeting with some economic leaders. This was a good discussion about the steps that we have taken to strengthen our economy even more, so that we can create as robust an environment as possible for job creation.
A lot of the issues that were discussed centered on addressing rising health care costs, promoting trade, making the tax cuts permanent, and passing a comprehensive energy plan. Those are all important parts of the President's six-point plan to strengthen our economy even more.
And that's the quick readout from the meeting. With that, I'll be glad to go right into your questions.
Q. On the attendance records of the National Guard, it said he had 56 out of a required 50 points. Is that considered a good attendance record, do you know? Or do you know what the maximum number of points you can get--
MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, we were pleased to be able to provide you all with these additional records that just recently came to our attention. These documents clearly show that the President fulfilled his duties. And we had previously released some of the point summaries that you are referencing. There is more complete information relating to those point summaries that document the fact that the President of the United States fulfilled his duties when he was serving in the National Guard back in the early 70's.
Q. Scott, a couple of questions I have---the records that you handed out today, and other records that exist, indicate that the President did not perform any Guard duty during the months of December 1972, February and March of '73. I'm wondering if you can tell us where he was during that period. And also, how is it that he managed to not make the medical requirements to remain on active flight duty status?
MR. McCLELLAN: John, the records that you're pointing to, these records are the payroll records; they're the point summaries. These records verify that he met the requirements necessary to fulfill his duties. These records--
Q. That wasn't my question, Scott.
MR. McCLELLAN: These payroll records--
Q. Scott, that wasn't my question, and you know it wasn't my question. Where was he in December of '72, February and March of '73? And why did he not fulfill the medical requirements to remain on active flight duty status?
MR. McCLELLAN: These records--these records I'm holding here clearly document the President fulfilling his duties in the National Guard. The President was proud of his service. The President--
Q. I asked a simple question; how about a simple answer?
MR. McCLELLAN: John, if you'll let me address the question, I'm coming to your answer, and I'd like--
Q. Well, if you would address it--maybe you could.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, John. But this is an important issue that some chose to raise in the context of an election year, and the facts are important for people to know. And if you don't want to know the facts, that's fine. But I want to share the facts with you.
Q. I do want to know the facts, which is why I keep asking the question. And I'll ask it one more time. Where was he in December of '72, February and March of '73? Why didn't he fulfill the medical requirements to remain on active flight duty status in 1972?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President recalls serving both when he was in Texas and when he was in Alabama. And that is what I can tell you. And we have provided you these documents that show clearly that the President of the United States fulfilled his duties. And that is the reason that he was honorably discharged from the National Guard. The President was proud of his service.
Q. Scott, when Senator Kerry goes around campaigning, there's frequently what they call "a band of brothers," a bunch of soldiers who served with him, who come forward and give testimonials for him. I see, in looking at our files in the campaign of 2000, it said that you were looking for people who served with the President to verify his account of service in the National Guard. Has the White House been able to find, like Senator Kerry, "a band of brothers" or others who can testify about the President's service?
MR. McCLELLAN: All the information that we have we shared with you in 2000, that was relevant to this issue. And all the additional information that has come to our attention we have shared with you. The President was asked about this in his interview over the weekend, and the President made it clear, yes, I want all records to be made available that are relevant to this issue; that there are some out there that were making outrageous, baseless accusations. It was a shame that they brought it up four years ago. It was a shame that they brought it up again this year. And I think that the facts are very clear from these documents. These documents--the payroll records and the point summaries verify that he was paid for serving and that he met his requirements.
Q. Actually, I wasn't talking about documents, I was talking about people--you know, comrades-in-arms--
MR. McCLELLAN: Right. That's why I said everything that came to our attention that was available, we made available at that time, during the 2000 campaign.
Q. But you said you were looking for people--and I take it you didn't find any people?
MR. McCLELLAN: I mean, obviously, we would have made people available. And we--Mr. Lloyd, who has provided a statement to put some of this into context for everybody, made some public statements during that time period to verify the records that the President had fulfilled his duties. And he put out an additional statement now to put this into context. He's someone with some technical expertise and someone that understands these matters, because he was in the National Guard at the time.
Q. Scott, can I follow on this, because I do think this is important. You know, it might strike some as odd that there isn't anyone who can stand up and say, I served with George W. Bush in Alabama, or in Houston in the Guard unit. Particularly because there are people, his superiors who have stepped forward--in Alabama and in Houston--who have said in the past several years that they have no recollection of him being there and serving. So isn't that odd that nobody--you can't produce anyone to corroborate what these records purport to show?
MR. McCLELLAN: David, we're talking about some 30 years ago. You are perfectly welcome to go back and talk to individuals from that time period. But these documents--
Q. Hey, we're trying. But I would have thought you guys would have had a real good handle on--
MR. McCLELLAN: --these documents make it very clear that the President of the United States fulfilled his duties--
Q. Well, that's subject to interpretation.
MR. McCLELLAN: No. When you serve, you are paid for that service. And these documents outline the days on which he was paid. That means he served. And these documents also show that he met his requirements. And it's just really a shame that people are continuing to bring this issue up. When--
Q. I understand--
MR. McCLELLAN: No, no, no, no. People asked for records to be released that would demonstrate he met his requirements. The records have now been fully released. The facts are clear--
Q. Do you know that a lot of these payroll records are--
MR. McCLELLAN: --the facts are clear--
Q. --you can't read them. Have you looked at these? You can't--how are we supposed to read these?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you can talk--one, we put it out on email. It's a lot easier to read, I think, on the email version because that was the--
Q. Oh, you did put it on our email?
MR. McCLELLAN: We are going to, if we haven't already. But it was sent to us in email form from the Personnel Center in Denver, Colorado.
Q. One other thing on this. To corroborate these records, will the President do two things--one, will he authorize the relevant defense agency in Colorado to release actual pay stubs for the President? And if those don't exist, will the President file a form, as he can do at the IRS, to at least look for a '72 or '73 tax return that would corroborate what you claim are payroll summaries that he actually got paid for his duty?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think this information is his payroll records. It is my understanding this is the information that is available from his payroll records. And it shows the days on which he was paid. So that's the information that I understand is available. In terms of tax returns, the President, like most Americans, does not have his tax returns from some 30 years ago.
Q. But it's possible that he could file a form requesting the IRS to search if they have a return for '72 or '73. Is he willing to do that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Obviously, if there's any additional information that came to our attention that was relevant, we would make that information available.
Q. Well, it could be relevant if he would file a form--
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that these documents clearly show that the President of the United States fulfilled his duties. I mean, these were the documents that people questioned and said should be made available. And we went back to double-check. We thought we had all the information that existed previously, but we went back to double-check after the comments that were made over the weekend, to see if there was any additional information available. And when we contacted the Personnel Center in Colorado, it was our understanding that the Personnel Center in St. Louis and Colorado were already working to put this information together, and that this is the information that they have that is relevant to this topic.
Q. So it's your position and it's the President's position that these documents put this issue to rest, period?
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, I think these documents show that he fulfilled his duties. These documents show that he met his requirements.
Q. Scott, two questions, one on the documents, one on the issue. There seems to be a discrepancy now in the President's record that I wondered if you could help me with. These documents that you're holding up show that the President showed up for duty in October and November of '72, January, April and May of '73. But the President's officer effectiveness report, filed by his commanders, Lieutenants Colonel Killean and Harris, both now deceased, for the period 01 May '72 to 30 April, '73, says he has not been observed at this unit, where he was supposed to show up and earning these points on these days. How do you square--
MR. McCLELLAN: You're talking about which unit?
Q. The Texas--at the Ellington Air Force Base.
MR. McCLELLAN: From '72 TO '73?
Q. Correct. And certainly by--the President said he returned to Texas in November of '72. So some of these dates of service, which are in these records, ought to have been noted by his commanding officers, who, nevertheless, said, twice, he has not been observed here. Can you explain that?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not sure about these specific documents. I'll be glad to take a look at them. But these documents show the days on which he was paid for his service. And the President--as I've said, and we previously said during the 2000 campaign--recalls serving both in Texas and in Alabama during the time period you're bringing up.
Q. So he served, but his commanding officers didn't know it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I don't know the specific documents you're referring to. If you want to bring those to me, I'll be glad to take a look at them and get you the answers to your questions.
Q. Okay. Then on the general issue, Senator Kerry has said that the National Guard was one way for people to avoid service in Vietnam. The President and the White House have taken umbrage at that, saying that's denigrating the National Guard. In 1994, the President told the Houston Chronicle, in relation to his joining the National Guard, "I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment, nor was I willing to go to Canada, so I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes." It sounds like the President, himself, acknowledged that he went into the National Guard because he didn't want to go to Vietnam.
MR. McCLELLAN: The President--again, Terry, this issue has been addressed fully. Now, we're trying to change into different issues here. The President was proud of his service in the National Guard. He fulfilled his duties; he was honorably. . . BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. . . ."
Well, I think we can see where this is going, now. Normally, you have to pay good money for theatre like this. But you can see more of this tangled web for no extra charge. Just turn your blog finder to Press Briefing by Scott McClellan.