Blood in the water….
Hey. Who woke the press up?
Q Scott, you expressed some outrage this morning that Democrats are questioning whether President Bush shirked his military duty with the Texas Air National Guard. Is the White House trying to come up with any records or any eye-witnesses to demonstrate that he did show up for his last two years in Alabama?
MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, I would just say that it was a shame that this issue was brought up four years ago during the campaign, and it is a shame that it is being brought up again. The President fulfilled his duties. The President was honorably discharged.
Q Scott, can I follow that up?
MR. McCLELLAN: Do you have a follow-up?
Q Well, the question actually was whether or not you’re trying to find any eye-witnesses or any records to prove —
MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, this was addressed four years ago, and like I said, it was a shame that it came up then and it’s a shame that some are bringing it up again.
Dana, did you have one?
Q The Democrats have been attacking the President for months on a lot of issues. Why this issue — why is it that you’re choosing to respond to this particular issue, where in the past you’ve —
MR. McCLELLAN: The reasons I said. It is really shameful that this was brought up four years ago, and it’s shameful that some are trying to bring it up again. I think it is sad to see some stoop to this level, especially so early in an election year. The President, like many Americans, was proud to serve in the National Guard. The National Guard plays an important role in the security of America. And the President was proud of his service.
Q Scott, can I ask you about, again, the National Guard thing? As you know, the President was committed to a six-year term, and what’s at issue is the last two years. And the commander of the Alabama unit in which Bush was assigned in 1972 said that Lt. Bush never showed. That is absent without leave, otherwise known as AWOL, which is the charge that the Democrats are making. Can you be specific then about those last two years which are in question —
MR. McCLELLAN: Norah, we already have been specific. We were specific four years ago when this shameful accusation was made. I think you need to go back and look at the facts. The President was honorably discharged. He fulfilled his duties. It is really sad that people are now stooping to this level once again. And people should condemn this.
Q So where was he, then, in that period when his commander says he did not appear?
MR. McCLELLAN: This has already been previously addressed four years ago. Yet some people continue to stoop to the level that they are now stooping to —
Q You’re not addressing the substance of the charge —
MR. McCLELLAN: No, we already have —
Q So the White House position is that the honorable discharge answers the question, that as far as the President’s commanding officers were concerned, he preformed his duties honorably, and that’s it?
MR. McCLELLAN: People that are discharged honorably are people that have fulfilled their duties. And we appreciate the service of all those people who are currently in the Guard and all those that were previously in the National Guard. We welcome all that they do to help make this country safer and better.
When cornered, talk about the great job the National Guard is doing. Unless, of course, you’re given the opportunity to tell everyone that the President is “focused”:
Q Some Republicans are expressing concern with the slippage of the President in the polls, and they’re feeling that the White House and the President, himself, are not responding very effectively to the criticisms that the Democrats are making. Is there any plan for you guys to change —
MR. McCLELLAN: This kind of sounds like a chance to try to draw me into the election. I remind you that this President remains focused on our nation’s highest priorities. This President is focused on winning the war on terrorism, protecting the homeland and creating an environment for even stronger job growth. And that’s where the President’s focus is. There will be plenty of time for the American people to look at the choice that they face next November. And we welcome the opportunity to discuss that. But the President remains focused on our nation’s highest priorities.
He’s also focused on appreciating what a great job the National Guard is focused on doing and the important role they play in America. Especially the ones who aren’t going AWOL.