"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse." --John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873)

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Courage the Cowardly Dog

The New York Observer has published an interview with Dan Rather in which he discusses the Guard memo controversy. Says Dan:

"I think the public, even decent people who may be well-disposed toward President Bush, understand that powerful and extremely well-financed forces are concentrating on questions about the documents because they can't deny the fundamental truth of the story."
In other words, people, it's a vast, right-wing conspiracy! Would those "extremely well-financed forces" include the sort of blogger that Dan's former colleague Jonathan Klein described as a guy "sitting in his living room in his pajamas"?

"This is your basic fogging machine, which is set up to cloud the issue, to obscure the truth," he said.
Yeah, pointing out that the documents the story hinged upon are obvious fakes is "obscuring the truth". Dan is so Orwellian.

Mr. Rather said that he and his longtime CBS producer, Mary Mapes, had investigated the story for nearly five years, finally convincing a source to give them the National Guard documents. He did not reveal the name of the source, but Mr. Rather said he was a man who had been reluctant to come forth with them because he'd been harassed by political operatives. "Whether one believes it or not, this person believed that he and his family had been harassed and even threatened," he said. "We were not able to confirm that, but his fear was that what had already been threats, intimidation, if he gave up the documents, could get worse--maybe a lot worse."
OK, so it's a vast, dangerous, right-wing conspiracy.

It has now been reported in the Washington Post that the CBS Guard memos have been traced to a Kinko's in Abilene, Texas. "There is only one Kinko's in Abilene, and it is 21 miles from the Baird, Tex., home of retired Texas National Guard officer [and Bush basher] Bill Burkett." Oh, by the way, "Burkett, who served with the Texas National Guard in an administrative capacity before his 1998 retirement, has been involved in a bitter dispute with the Guard over medical benefits after suffering from a tropical disease following a military assignment to Panama. He has told reporters that he suffered a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for depression after he left the Guard." And he "has provided different accounts of exactly what Bush records he allegedly saw."

When a quality source like that faxes you some Microsoft Word documents, passing them off as 30-year-old typewritten memos, how can you not run with the story?

"There are people who believe that there are little green folks in the center of the earth," [Rather] said. "I don't believe that. It's possible, but I don't believe it."
But he does believe that a document typed in the 1970s could match a Word document down to the micron.
Mr. Rather said that it would require an exceptional amount of knowledge to craft a forgery--and not just the typographical kind. "You'd have to have an in-depth knowledge of Air Force manuals from 1971," he said. "You'd have to have Bush's service record, you'd have to have the Air Force regulations from 1971, you'd have to know nearly all of the people involved directly at that time, including the squadron commander, who was Bush's immediate superior, and his attitude at the time--you'd have to know all those things and weave all those things in."
So Dan thinks "exceptional" knowledge would be required? What if the forger were a former Guardsman, like, for instance, oh, I don't know...Bill Burkett?

Mr. Rather said he was well aware of reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post that had finely detailed examinations of inconsistencies in the memos. And he said he took those reports seriously and appreciated the "competitive response" of other news organizations. But despite a number of experts calling the memos forgeries, he said that "the truth of these documents lies in the signatures and in the content, not just the typeface and the font-style.Let me emphasize once again, these are not exact sciences. Not like DNA or fingerprints."
CBS had copies only. Signatures can be cut and pasted. The content has some inconsistencies. And the typeface is an exact science. It matches exactly.

And notice how he characterizes other media's response as "competitive". One gets the idea that he's referring to competition toward CBS, as if other news organizations were running with the story in an effort to make CBS look bad. Could it be that it's just an important story? He pooh-poohs it, but if the shoe were on the other foot, he would be all over this story like white on rice.

And what if it was discovered that the documents were indeed forged? "If," said Mr. Rather, reiterating "if," "if at any time we're able to come up with information that demonstrates that we're wrong, we'll report it. We won't wait. But I don't think it's going to happen. The story is true."
"The story is true." Words that will come back to haunt him. By the way, why is he so sure this story (based on suspect documents) is true, but the story of the Swift vets (260-strong) is not?

Mr. Rather said that he and Ms. Mapes had heard about the National Guard memos as long ago as 1999.
That's probably the year they were created!

"We eventually came in contact with somebody who said he knew about the documents, and it took a while to get in contact with the man who was supposed to have had the documents," he said. "It took a long time for us to create a reportorial relationship with him in which he trusted us, and at the same time we were checking him out to see if he was a trustworthy person."
You did a bang-up job, dincha?

"Look, we have accumulated a body of information based on some long reporting that lays out a different picture of then-Lieutenant Bush's service," he said, "and we now have documents which to our own satisfaction we believe to be authentic, we believe to be true ....These are unpleasant truths. But they are truths. There was and is no joy in reporting them. But part of what reporters are supposed to do is ask questions, dig for facts and, when truths are found, share them with the public and, when called upon to do so, speak truth to power. This we did."
"Truth to power"? Groan. You want the truth? You can't handle the truth! How about this for an unpleasant truth, Dan? As noted by Peter Kirsanow on NRO, John Kerry has confessed that he "committed atrocities in Vietnam, including burning villages and using 50-caliber machine guns on people," therefore, shouldn't he "withdraw from presidential consideration?" Don't the purported irregularities in Bush's Guard service pale in comparison to such war crimes?