The entire snafu over apparently falsified documents CBS News touted as evidence Bush was AWOL obscures the facts that for most of 1972, the deserter-in-chief didn't report for duty for six months. Since the revelations have come to light, Bush has been given a free pass by the media and not once has accounted for the missing time, except to say he's proud of his service.

Time magazine addresses the stunning discrepancies between Red Truth, Blue Truth.

Which world did you watch last week?

Do you live in the world where President Bush, whose bold wartime leadership has made America safer, survived an ambush from that liberal lion Dan Rather, who tried to swing the race with a bunch of phony documents trashing Bush's National Guard service, only to have the charges blow up in his face?

Or do you live in the world where Rather, the Tiffany network's honored heir to Walter Cronkite, spoke truth to power, made a true if perhaps flawed case that Bush shirked his duty more than 30 years ago, and is by implication unfit to serve as Commander in Chief today?

Red Truth holds that Rather has at last taken his place alongside other disgraced liberal icons, who have recklessly disregarded the standards of journalism to try to bring this President down. Blue Truth sees Rathergate as a sideshow; the problem with the mainstream media is not that they are biased but that they are lazy and have given Bush a free pass from the start. Red Truth looks at Bush and sees a savior; Blue Truth sees a zealot who must be stopped. In both worlds there are no accidents, only conspiracies, and facts have value only to the extent that they support the Truth.

Of course, the truth is that the media HAS given Bush a free pass, from WMD to their hagiographic treatment of him after the Sept. 11 attacks, from his first primary campaign's scurrilous attacks on Sen. John McCain to unbiased cost estimates for the administration's Medicare plan, which it STILL won't release.

The media has largely betrayed its Constitutional role as governmental watchdog for the comfort of presidential lapdog, with a few notable exceptions out of the spotlight.

Witness the in-depth examination of the facts of Bush's guard duty by The New York Times:

He abandoned his once-prized status as a National Guard pilot by failing to appear for a required physical. He sought temporary reassignment from the Texas Air National Guard to an Alabama unit but for six months did not show up for training. He signed on as an official in the losing campaign of a Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, and even there he left few impressions other than as an amiable bachelor with a good tennis game and a famous father.

"To say he brought in a bunch of initiatives and bright ideas," said a fellow campaign worker, Devere McLennan, "no he didn't."

Little has changed, as Bush continues to "stay the course" on a failed Iraq policy that continues to cost American lives — 1,000 and counting — and those of Iraqis; a failed economic policy based on the "voodoo economics" his own father derided; and the looting of tax coffers for the benefit of Halliburton, Bechtel, et al, while distracting people with the inconsequentialities of gay marriage.

Still, a wider examination of his life in 1972, based on dozens of interviews and other documents released by the White House over the years, yields a portrait of a young man like many other young men of privilege in that turbulent time — entitled, unanchored and safe from combat, bouncing from a National Guard slot made possible by his family's prominence to a political job arranged through his father.

The expected administration reply: Dan Rather was mistaken.


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