That seemed to be the gist of Dan Bartlett's defense in and interview with CBS's Dan Rather tonight: "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." He makes the same or similar statement at least four times, pretty much whenever Rather makes an unflattering interpretation.
This crowd is relentless in claiming an inability to draw logical conclusions based on strong evidence. Saddam-al Qaeda connections? "We just don't know!" When Killian writes Bush was trying to "get out of coming to drill" and that he reminded Bush of his commitment to TANG, was he saying Bush was trying to shirk his duty? "How can we be sure what he was thinking? The guy's dead!"
BTW--Bartlett did let something slip I hadn't heard before. When talking about why Bush had the choice of renewing his pilot medical, the WH continues to insist that Bush didn't need to--regardless of a direct order to do so--because he was no longer going to fly. This has always been their claim, based on two justifications (1) Bush was reassigned to a base in Alabama that didn't have F-102s, and (2) the F-102s were being phased out. (There is zero evidence that either of these justifications were even discussed in 1972. Based on the evidence, Bush chose on his own not to renew the medical and was not acting on any direction from superiors.)
But here's the new bit. Bartlett says "The point was, is that it didn't make sense for the Texas Air National Guard to train President Bush in a new aircraft at the end, toward the end of his service, when he was being given permission to attend Harvard Business School." Bartlett appears to be saying that it didn't make sense for Bush to renew his medical in August 1972, because he wasn't going to be around very long. However, his request for early discharge did not occur until September 1973!
So here's their story, picked out of all the obfuscation. Bush trains as a pilot in 1969 and 1970 (at the cost of a million bucks), performs duty during 1971 and early 1972. By mid-1972, he's still got over two years to go on his commitment. But, because he's planning to go to Alabama for a few months until Nov 1972, TANG decides its not worth retraining him on a new aircraft? Instead decides its a better use of his time to sit around in offices reading training manuals--for two years? Exactly how many other people had this experience? Were no pilots sent through new training in the final 2 years of their commitment?
The truth is they're making it up as they go. And sometimes they forget who is supposed to know what and when (a common error in fiction plotting). But guess what? We can extrapolate likely stories, too, that the fact is our stories are a hell of a lot more plausible than anything the Bush surrogates have managed to put forward so far. Their strategy seems to be that as long as they can come up with a possible answer for every question, it doesn't matter that much if the answers aren't pieces from the same jigsaw puzzle. Well, I'm sorry, but I'm not interested in a pile of mismatched puzzle pieces, I want the whole damn picture. And it better be a landscape, not a Picasso.