Friday, September 10, 2004

The Writings Of Dead Men

By now, I'm sure that everyone's seen the memos, unearthed by 60 Minutes, in which Bush's Texas Air National Guard commander complains that he is receiving pressure from upstairs to "sugar coat" Bush's performance evaluation, mentions that Bush wants to know "how he can get out of coming to drill," and suspends him for "failing to perform to U.S. Air Force/Texas Air National Guard standards." (If you haven't, the PDF files are in the sidebar to the linked article.)

Setting aside for a moment the forgery claims - because those arguments don't seem particularly credible to me - I was struck by the main theme of the Bush Administration defense.
Q: What about these two official documents signed by Jerry Killian is rumor and innuendo?

DAN BARTLETT: Well, it's impossible for anybody to read the mind of a dead man. Jerry Killian writes memos to himself in this file -- [...]

Again, we're trying to suggest the comments were the orders of somebody who is no longer alive. [...]

DAN BARTLETT: For anybody to try to interpret or presume they know what somebody who is now dead was thinking in any of these memos, I think is very difficult to do. [...]

Q: So there is certainly some opinion out there among former members of the military that these documents do indeed describe how Killian felt, what Killian thought about the situation.

DAN BARTLETT: Well, again, these are people --

Q: So it's not really open to interpretation --

DAN BARTLETT: Well, it is. It is. And when you're talking about a memo to somebody's self, this is a memo to his own file, people are trying to read the mind of somebody who is no longer with us. [...]

Q: Killian writes and voices an opinion here that he believes that the President was talking to someone upstairs about his transfer.

DAN BARTLETT: Again, that is conjecture on a part of somebody who is no longer with us. [...]
Got that? It's impossible for anyone to say what Col. Jerry Killian meant by the words he wrote, at least without the use of a psychic channeler or a ouija board, because Killian is dead. He's been dead for ten years, which is certainly long enough for his cryptic writings to sink into the mists of the impenetrable past.

I suppose that's a reasonable philosophical position. I just think it's strange that the same Administration champions a strict constructionist view of the U.S. Constitution, in which the writings of men two hundred years dead are held to be an entirely complete and sufficient blueprint for the past, present, and future of American law.