Dan Rather and Mary Mapes are apparently out to rehabilitate themselves through the assertion of several themes related to Rathergate. In his interview with Marvin Kalb, Rather reiterates several of the themes: the Bush National Guard story was accurate, there is something sinister about the exposure of the documents as fradulent, and the documents were not proved to be fraudulent in the Thornburgh-Boccardi report or elsewhere. In Mapes’s telling, “meshing” is the term of art that covers these themes.
Former New York Times general counsel James Goodale worked a subset of these themes using the Mapes “meshing” analysis in his New York Review of Books essay “The flawed report on Dan Rather.” Tigerhawk commented in “Rathergate: The liberal establishment strikes back.” As John has written here, the fraudulent documents were wrong not just in typography and format, but, most important, in content:
Rather, Mapes and Goodale simply ignore the large body evidence that demonstrates that this is so. Goodale’s discussion of the Thornburgh Report’s “meshing” analysis, the heart of his article, is deeply dishonest. In fact, that analysis, which goes on for some pages, is one of the most persuasive sections of the report. The Thornburgh report’s argument that, contrary to her claims, Mapes’ documents are not consistent with the otherwise known facts, is devastating. But Goodale never even mentions, let alone tries to refute, the evidence advanced by the Thornburgh group in support of that conclusion.
The ability of Rather and Mapes to work these themes depends on the ignorance of their interlocutors and their intended audience. Richard Nixon seems to me to have acquitted himself far more honorably in writing and speaking about Watergate following his resignation. Dan Rather is bound and determined to illustrate Marx’s dictum that history repeats itself as farce.
Marvin Kalb is the former CBS reporter who now hangs his shingle at Harvard’s Kennedy School as Senior Fellow at the school’s Shorenstein Center. As a general rule, he should know what he’s talking about, but Kalb demonstrated his complete ignorance of the fundamental facts related to Rathergate in his interview of Rather for The Kalb Report at the Washington Press Club on Monday night. Reader Charles Thomas wrote to Kalb to take issue with Kalb’s observation/complaint that he (Dan Rather) became the story; Thomas wrote Kalb that Rather became the story because the documents were fraudulent. Kalb responded:
Dear Mr. Thomas: I know you believe that the documents were forged. I have yet to see the evidence, which I presume you have and are willing to share. Not charges, please,…but evidence. Also, the point of Dan Rather’s story was that the President received favorable treatment and thus avoided serving in Vietnam. Have you evidence to the contrary? If not, there is no need to respond.
Best of luck,
Yesterday John responded to Kalb:
Mr. Kalb: I was stunned to receive a copy of your email response to Mr. Charles Thomas…With all due respect, your answer betrays an astonishing lack of awareness of many facts that have been publicly available for a long time.
How do we know the documents are fakes? Here are a few of the most basic reasons:
1) Read the summary of the report of Mr. Peter Tytell, document expert, which is Appendix 4 to the Thornburgh Report. You can find it here. Mr. Tytell “concluded that the Killian documents were generated on a computer. He does not believe that any manual or electric typewriter of the early 1970s could have produced the typeface used in the Killian documents.”
2) Read the analysis of Dr. Joseph Newcomer, one of the founders of modern electric typesetting, which you can find here. Dr. Newcomer’s conclusion: “These documents are modern forgeries.”
3) The “Killian documents” are in Times New Roman font. Times New Roman is common on modern word processors, but was never licensed for use on any typewriter.
4) The Thornburgh Report found that whoever forged the documents got no fewer than six military acronyms wrong.
5) One of the fake documents says that General “Buck” Staudt was pressuring Lt. Col. Bobby Hodges to sugarcoat Lt. Bush’s evaluation. The document is dated August 1973. General Staudt retired in April 1972.
6) The source of the documents was Bill Burkett, a notorious Bush-hating crank with a personal vendetta against the National Guard. He lied about where he got the documents. First he said they were given to him by someone named “Conn” who promptly left for Europe. (CBS never made any attempt to locate Mr. Conn, who turned out to be fictitious, to verify Burkett’s story or, more important, find out where Conn got them.) After the 60 Minutes story blew up, Burkett admitted that Conn didn’t exist. His revised story was that he got a call from someone named “Lucy Ramirez” who told him to go to the Texas Livestock Show. He went to the Texas Livestock Show. A man he’d never seen before walked up to him and handed him an envelope, which contained the documents. He took them home, photocopied them, and burned the originals. Do you find that story credible? Would it be credible even if it were the first story he told?
7) Jerry Killian’s widow and sons say that he did not write the memos, and that he did not agree with the sentiments they express.
8) President Bush’s evaluations from that time period are glowing. His superiors, including Jerry Killian, described him as a first-rate officer and pilot. You can access the evaluations on my web site,Power Line.
There is a great deal more, but that should be sufficient. I would add that the burden of proof is not on those who have pointed out multitudes of reasons why the documents are fakes. Anyone can type up “documents” and claim that they were mysteriously given to him by an anonymous stranger.The burden of proof is on those who claim that the documents are genuine.
As to the broader issue, there is no support for the claim that Bush received some kind of “special treatment.” General Staudt, who approved Bush’s application, has said repeatedly that he received no communications of any kind from anyone in connection with that application, and accepted it because he thought Bush would be a good pilot. There was no waiting list for pilots in the Texas Air National Guard at that time, so there is no reason to think that some kind of “special treatment” was necessary. Nor did Bush volunteer for the National Guard to escape service on Vietnam; on the contrary, he volunteered to go to Vietnam while in the Guard, but was turned down because he did not have the required number of pilot hours. Col. Ed Morrisey, who served in the TANG with Bush, says: “The Air Force, in their ultimate wisdom, assembled a group of 102′s and took them to Southeast Asia. Bush volunteered to go. But he needed to have 500 [flight] hours, but he only had just over 300 hours so he wasn’t eligible to go.” You can read about it here.
Interestingly, the Thornburgh Report says that Mary Mapes’ file on her investigation that led up to the 60 Minutes story shows that she learned, in the course of the investigation, that Bush had not in fact received any kind of preferential treatment, but went ahead with the story anyway.
With all due respect, Mr. Kalb, it is unfortunate that you have enabled Mr. Rather’s ongoing perpetration of a notorious fraud without taking the time to apprise yourself of the facts.
We’ll let you know if Kalb responds, but we’re not holding our breath.