The editors of the Weekly Standard have issued a call to the blogosphere for help in tying up a few of Rathergate’s many dangling threads: “Fishing expedition.” Here they are:
(1) Who is Michael Smith? The report identifies him only as a “journalist” in Texas. The panel does not appear to have spoken with Smith and tells us nothing of his previous work. Does he or did he work for a mainstream newspaper? A local television station? Does he write for a website or run a blog? Has he been involved in politics? As the man who led Mary Mapes to Bill Burkett, Smith is someone we need to know more about. How do we reach him?
(2) Who is George Conn? When Burkett first spoke with CBS, he claimed that his friend Chief Warrant Officer George Conn was the source of the documents ostensibly damaging to President Bush, but that Conn would not confirm this if pressed. Only later did Burkett change his story. The panel attempted to contact Conn on two occasions–they left two phone messages for him–but otherwise failed to look into his identity and determine what role, if any, he played.
(3) Who is Lucy Ramirez? The last time he spoke publicly, Bill Burkett claimed that he had been contacted by a woman named Lucy Ramirez, who told him about the Texas Air National Guard memos from 1972 and arranged to get them to Burkett. Is “Lucy Ramirez,” like Burkett, an activist or blogger in the Texas area who has made something of a hobby of opposing George W. Bush? Does this woman even exist?
(4) How many copies of the forged documents did CBS have? The documents CBS showed on the original 60 Minutes Wednesday segment appeared to have been crumpled, while those reproduced in the Thornburgh-Boccardi report appear uncrumpled.
(5) Aside from the phone call between Mapes and Joe Lockhart, do we have reason to believe there were any contacts between CBS News employees and the Kerry campaign? The Thornburgh-Boccardi report does not even mention the “Fortunate Son” DNC advertising campaign which was launched the day after the CBS story aired.
(6) Who, or what, prompted Ben Barnes, the former lieutenant governor of Texas who says he recommended special treatment for Bush in the TexANG, to go on camera after all these years? It’s been reported that Mary Beth Cahill called Barnes to congratulate him after 60 Minutes Wednesday aired. Do we have reason to believe there were earlier contacts?
If you have any relevant information, email it to [email protected], with the subject header “CBS.”
HINDROCKET adds a few thoughts:
1) We’re pretty sure that Michael Smith and George Conn exist, but if anyone ever finds “Lucy Ramirez,” I’ll be extremely surprised.
2) We know from the Thornburgh report that Mapes’s famous phone call with Joe Lockhart was not her only contact with the Kerry campaign. The report says that Chad Clanton, another Kerry campaign staffer, told the panel that he had several conversations with Mapes, in which she told him about the story she was working on and asked whether the Kerry campaign could contribute anything to it. We also know that Mapes got Clanton’s phone number from her husband, a newspaper reporter in Texas, who interviewed Clanton for a story on…you guessed it…the Swift Boat Vets.
3) It was a Power Line reader who first identified the “Robert Strong” who was cited (ludicrously, it turned out) as having authenticated the 60 Minutes documents. We are hopeful that our readers may be able to help solve the remaining riddles. If you do send info to the Weekly Standard, please copy us at [email protected]