Fat Steve's Blatherings

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Meaning of Rathergate, Part Two: What Was the Hurry?

      The week of Sept. 6th, started very badly for President George W. Bush.  On Tuesday the 7th, the Pentagon released new documents concerning Bush's Texas Air National Guard (TANG) service (supposedly, all records had been released in February).  That same day, it was announced that a group called Texans For Truth would release a TV ad that day, saying that then 1st Lt. Bush hadn't shown up for duty in Alabama, as required.  On Wednesday the 8th and Thurday the 9th, there were four independent stories hit the press, all saying that Bush had not fulfilled his duty when he served in the Texas Air National Guard from 1968-1973.  The print stories in The Boston Globe and U.S.News and World Report respectively, concentrated on military records the President had released in February, as did the web story the next day in Salon

    But the big scoop was a fourth story, on 60 Minutes Wednesday, which told us:
Mr. Bush had signed a six-year commitment to fly for the Air Guard, and early on, the young pilot got glowing evaluations from his squadron commander, Col. Jerry Killian.

Killian called Lt. Bush "an exceptionally fine young officer and pilot" who "performed in an outstanding manner." That is part of the public record.

But 60 Minutes has obtained a number of documents we are told were taken from Col. Killian's personal file. Among them, a never-before-seen memorandum from May 1972, where Killian writes that Lt. Bush called him to talk about "how he can get out of coming to drill from now through November."

Lt. Bush tells his commander "he is working on a campaign in Alabama…. and may not have time to take his physical." Killian adds that he thinks Lt. Bush has gone over his head, and is "talking to someone upstairs."

Col. Killian died in 1984. 60 Minutes consulted a handwriting analyst and document expert who believes the material is authentic.

Robert Strong was a friend and colleague of Col. Killian who ran the Texas Air National Guard administrative office in the Vietnam era. Strong, now a college professor, believes these documents are genuine.

      And on the 9th, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe announced that the Democratic party would keep attention focused on this issue.  In fact, they had ads ready to go against Bush the next week.

      Now we see why CBS rushed so.  It's obvious that this was a co-ordinated offensive against Bush, and 60 Minutes Wednesday didn't want to be an also ran.

      Now, combine this with the fact that CBS's source, Bill Burkett, had been in touch with the Kerry campaign through Max Cleland, and that CBS only obtained the memos at the last minute, and something awfully suspicious begins to show up: a conspiracy to have lots of embarrassing stuff hit Bush from all directions at the same time.  A conspiracy co-ordinated by the DNC.

      And CBS also begins to look like a half conspirator, half patsy.  Have the documents show up at the last minute, documents CBS had been hearing about for years, and they had to go with them without adequate time to authenticate them properly, or miss out on the big scoop.  In other words, the Dems hustled CBS.

      Too paranoid?  Or not Paranoid enough? 

Update, 10:22 CDT:
      There's a lot of talk around the web this morning, noticing the Burkett contacts with Cleland and Lockhart (see e.g. Instapundit, Powerline, Hugh Hewitt, and The Kerry Spot).  They're all speculating on collusion between the Kerry campaign and Burkett.  Folks, I think you're wrong.  I think that Terry McAuliffe and the DNC were the ones colluding with Burkett.  The contacts with Cleland and Lockhart were just red herrings.

      After all, it would be incredibly stupid for the Kerry campaign to make too much of George Bush's service in the TANG.  It just invites questions about Kerry's Viet Nam experience.  Why do that?  And note how the use of the DNC on this issue protects Kerry: the party operatives can reply to any questions with boilerplate ('It's all slander by Republicans; Sen. Kerry was a hero; All questions have been answered'), and there's nothing that the press can do, even assuming it wants to.  Kerry's the only one who can give original answers to questions about his days in the Navy.

      No, the place to look for signs of collusion is the timing of the stories.  Over the course of three days, one commercial, two print stories, a web story, and a television show all did supposedly independent pieces on the same subject.  I find that very hard to believe.  The DNC was ready to go with "Operation Fortunate Son" a week later, on Tuesday the 14th.  We need to investigate that timing.  I think we'll find DNC fingerprints there.  And maybe even the mysterious Lucy Ramirez and her anonymous messenger.



  • "After all, it would be incredibly stupid for the Kerry campaign to make too much of George Bush's service in the TANG. It just invites questions about Kerry's Viet Nam experience."

    Uh, Steven, sorry. *BZZT* Wrong!

    Democrats have been obsessing about Bush's National Guard service since he ran for Texas Governor against Ann Richards. By now it's one of those part-of-the-furniture memes, requiring absolutely no ratiocination to continue following it. I doubt seriously that anybody in the Kerry campaign ever thought about it causing reciprocal questions, just like it never occurs to them that it insults everybody who is now serving or has ever served in the Guard or Reserve (one is supposed to attract potential voters, not drive them away.)

    Rather has some other bee in his bonnet. I don't know what it is; if the two were closer in age I'd assume that one of Dan's girl friends had run off with the sexy young jet pilot. But whatever the deal, Rather is like a coke machine: put it some quarters, push the button marked "Bush," and out comes bile and vitriol. It simply happens that the club Rather thought he had was the National Guard bit, and the DNC went along by reflex -- or the DNC came up with the National Guard attack, and Rather was happy to pick up whatever club was to hand.

    Ric Locke

    By Blogger Ric Locke, at 4:28 PM  

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