Sunday, September 19, 2004

Rather v. Bush

I have to confess I was looking forward to the CBS 60 Minutes show that discussed George W. Bush's Air National Guard service. Not that I believe what he or Kerry did during the Vietnam war is a reason to vote for or against them. I am just so fed up with all the spurious attacks on Kerry for his military service, that it seems like payback time for Bush.

But the show turned out to be a disaster, as virtually everyone knows now. Apparently Dan Rather and his staff did not do adequate research in authenticating the four memos that formed a basis for their allegation that Bush's commanding officer Killian was unhappy with his slacking off during the last two years of his service. When it first came up I thought perhaps the memos had been typed on an IBM Executive model typerwriter, originally developed in the 1950s, because I once had one of those typewriters and it did have proportional spacing. But from what I have read since then it seems more likely that the documents were forged, and the person who most often is hinted at being the source of these documents is an ex National Guard officer living near Abeliene, Texas.

I got into an argument with someone over at a conservative blog site over the whole matter. He felt I could not be reasoned with because I found Killian's secretary to be credible when she said that, while she believes the documents are fake, she did type similar memos for him and they reflect what he felt at the time. Furthermore, I was accused of being dishonest because I did not share the opinion that Dan Rather and CBS network were engaged in a "bald-faced" attempt to influence the outcome of the election through "throwing mud" at Bush with this report.

The idea that I must agree with a certain position on this controversy or otherwise I am dishonest and unreasonable seems pretty intolerant to me. The authoritarian mentality at work, especially so in demanding that I share his assessment of Dan Rather's or CBS's motives on this matter. It has always been my view that one should be careful in assesing the motives of others.

Certainly it was sloppy journalism, but what about the substance of the charges against Bush? There are three basic accusations here:

1. That Bush got into the Air National Guard through intervention on his behalf because of his privileged standing. There seems very little dispute on this point..

2. That over the last two years of his service, he slacked off noticeably in his fulfillment of duty, to the point where some have accused him of going AWOL. This doesn't seem to be that disputed either.

3. That Bush's commanding officer(s) were unhappy about this development. The memos aside, there is some testimony to support this view, but in any case it isn't as important as points 1 and 2.

The conservative news magazine U.S. News and World Report also investigated this issue and concluded that Bush did indeed slack off noticeably in his last two years:

"Bush's records show that he did his duty for much of the first four years of his commitment. But as the Vietnam War wound down, his performance slumped, and his attendance at required drills fell off markedly. He did no drills for one five-month period in 1972. He also missed his flight physical. By May 2, 1973, his superiors said they could not evaluate his performance because he 'has not been observed.'"

It also said: "Some experts say they remain mystified as to how Bush obtained an honorable discharge. Lawrence Korb, a former top Defense Department official in the Reagan administration, says the military records clearly show that Bush 'had not fulfilled his obligation' and 'should have been called to active duty.'"

For the entire article, see:


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