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CBS Steps Up

From me seat in a bar I saw a CBS report that made it look like they were standing by the documents' authenticity, producing some credible experts, and explaining all the controversial elements. Unfortunately, I couldn't hear the report and there was no closed captioning on, so it's hard to say whether or not this is what was actually happening or whether or not the things they were saying were believable. Someone out there in blogland, though, must surely have seen it. Thoughts? And keep this polite people -- at the end of the day we all know that whether or not Bush deserves reelection doesn't hinge on the authenticity of Killian's CYA memo.


Reading what other folks have to say in comments this still looks inconclusive to me. CBS didn't come up with a slam dunk defense, but seeing as how the White House hasn't bothered to allege that these are forgeries (George W. Bush being someone in a position to know, for example, whether or not Killian ever ordered him to take a physical George H.W. Bush [at a minimum] being someone in a position to know whether or not pressure was brought on Killian regarding the write-ups) I don't see a reason why CBS should need to produce a slam-dunk case. To have a real "he said, she said" she has to say something.

Killian aside, there are plenty of other reasons (just lately, statements from Barnes and Hodges) to believe that Bush's behavior during the Vietnam War was dishonorable, so if whether or not Bush served honorably is of crucial importance to you in making up your mind about who to vote for, you shouldn't vote for Bush. If you're me, this isn't a huge deal, but Bush's dishonorable service is a useful characterological sketch and a shorthand for his cavalier attitude toward questions of war and peace. His "what's the difference?" remark regarding WMD and his claim that Iraq refused to let inspectors in, however, are more clear-cut both factually and morally.

September 10, 2004 | Permalink


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» Authentic from Pandagon
This thread over at Matt's is pretty convincing. It's worth clarifying that I don't want to give up on the Killian memos, I just want us to be smart enough to not attach the entire case against Bush's service to... [Read More]

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The author of this article neatly reverses the question of can a 1970's typewriter produce a document that neatly matches the identical memo type in default MS Word settings to the irrelevent question, can Word duplicate a 1970's document. We dont ca... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 12, 2004 7:22:37 PM

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As recently as four days ago, this, from Kevin Drum, was the motto of the Left in dealing with the dueling stories about (1) whether George Bush was given preferential treatment in joining the Texas Air National Guard and whether... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 13, 2004 6:26:45 AM

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As recently as five days ago, this, from Kevin Drum, was the motto of the Left in dealing with the dueling stories about (1) whether George Bush was given preferential treatment in joining the Texas Air National Guard and whether... [Read More]

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(Links to video clips, including no doubt what Mr. Y. saw in the bar. Following is the relevant part of what that link has text-wise.)CBS News Anchor Dan Rather says many of those raising questions about the documents have focused on something called superscript, a key that automatically types a raised "th."

Critics claim typewriters didn't have that ability in the 1970s. But some models did. In fact, other Bush military records already released by the White House itself show the same superscript – including one from 1968.

Some analysts outside CBS say they believe the typeface on these memos is New Times Roman, which they claim was not available in the 1970s.

But the owner of the company that distributes this typing style says it has been available since 1931.

Document and handwriting examiner Marcel Matley analyzed the documents for CBS News. He says he believes they are real. But he is concerned about exactly what is being examined by some of the people questioning the documents, because deterioration occurs each time a document is reproduced. And the documents being analyzed outside of CBS have been photocopied, faxed, scanned and downloaded, and are far removed from the documents CBS started with.

Matley did this interview with us prior to Wednesday's "60 Minutes" broadcast. He looked at the documents and the signatures of Col. Killian, comparing known documents with the colonel's signature on the newly discovered ones.

"We look basically at what's called significant or insignificant features to determine whether it's the same person or not," Matley said. "I have no problem identifying them. I would say based on our available handwriting evidence, yes, this is the same person."

Matley finds the signatures to be some of the most compelling evidence.

Reached Friday by satellite, Matley said, "Since it is represented that some of them are definitely his, then we can conclude they are his signatures."

Matley said he's not surprised that questions about the documents have come up.

"I knew going in that this was dynamite one way or the other. And I knew that potentially it could do far more potential damage to me professionally than benefit me," he said. "But we seek the truth. That's what we do. You're supposed to put yourself out, to seek the truth and take what comes from it."

Robert Strong was an administrative officer for the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam years. He knew Jerry Killian, the man credited with writing the documents. And paper work, like these documents, was Strong's specialty. He is standing by his judgment that the documents are real.

"They are compatible with the way business was done at that time," Strong said. "They are compatible with the man I remember Jerry Killian being. I don't see anything in the documents that's discordant with what were the times, the situation or the people involved."

Killian died in 1984.

Strong says the highly charged political atmosphere of the National Guard at the time was perfectly represented in the new documents.

"It verged on outright corruption in terms of the favors that were done, the power that was traded. And it was unconscionable from a moral and ethical standpoint. It was unconscionable," Strong said.****************************************

Still waiting for CBS to find a typewriter expert! (But the up-and-down quality of the lines strongly suggests typing to me.)

Keep on truckin', Mr. Y.! Don't let the trolls get you down!

Posted by: Anderson | Sep 10, 2004 8:30:21 PM

What I've read from Kleiman, the Daily Kos, and Kevin Drum just now leads me to believe that every major concern regarding the memos' formatting has now been adequately answered, that there was indeed a cheap typewriter that could produce that exact document in 1972, and that within days, this should be the consensus of that part of the media which is not either wingnut or addicted to he said-she said (admittedly a large fraction). I didn't see CBS, but to my mind the barrage of charges have been answered.
Parenthetically, the White House held a press conference on the memos without challenging them. I'd imagine that anyone who did that without asking Bush if what they discussed was true or false would be looking for a new job.

Posted by: John Isbell | Sep 10, 2004 8:30:41 PM

The problem I have with Rather's defense is that he's trying to use a handwriting expert (who verified the signatures) to validate the typographical questions. Wouldn't it be more convincing to get an expert in that field to answer the more pointed questions?

Posted by: Al Roberts | Sep 10, 2004 8:46:01 PM

The question is this: were there typewriters in use in the 70s that produced memos exactly identical to those produced on Word? Seems unlikely. CBS did nothing to show that it did, and didn't even mention that the memos are identical to what can be made on Word.

They said superscript was used in military documents, but look it up, the superscript used in non-forged docs looks different than the ones in the CBS memos.

They had an expert on, but he only talked about the signatures, and didn't discuss the word processing type writer comparisons. No mention was made about all the experts disputing the use of the font, kerning, proportional spacing, etc. in the CBS memos.

They had some people on who said the substance seemed right, but they didn't seem especially close to Killian. It wasn't mentioned that Killians wife and son both dispute the memos.

"there was indeed a cheap typewriter that could produce that exact document in 1972"

There is 10k out there for somebody who can find it. The person who does will be the hero of the left side of the blogosphere. If its possible, I assume somebody will do so, but nobody has recreated it on a typewriter yet.

Posted by: Reg | Sep 10, 2004 8:56:55 PM

http://www.bushlies2.us/bltv/bltv_chan1.html has a (possibly illegal) streaming version of the CBS footage.

Posted by: JavaTenor | Sep 10, 2004 8:58:03 PM

AL Roberts:

If 1) a handwriting expert can reliably validate a questioned signature given a known signature to work with, and 2) this expert had such a known signature, then the questioned signature is the late Col.'s, and so the document could have been produced no later than 1984.

In 1984, George W. Bush was a failed candidate for Congress who was busy running one of several energy businesses into the ground. It seems most unlikely that anyone would forge documents to call his non-existent reputation into question.

Posted by: John Casey | Sep 10, 2004 9:01:45 PM

Other handwriting experts say its not the same. Its not really an exact science.

Posted by: Reg | Sep 10, 2004 9:06:29 PM

Big reveal for me was in the stories *after* the CBS story, in which CBS says that the documents they have are *themselves* photocopies, not the originals. I'm not sure how you ever get to a positive ID one way or the other if that's the case. They did produce some handwriting guy to say that its Killians signature, but otherwise nothing much new beyond what we've already heard about how it might have been feasible that Killian had access to a typewriter that could do all the things people have been talking about. Nothing on other, non-typewriter, weird aspects, like the August 1973 memo in which Staudt is reportedly pressuring Hodges, even thought Staudt retired in 1972.

Posted by: rd | Sep 10, 2004 9:12:37 PM

Reg, the match is not exact at all. Go to LGF and look at the suspect document, the Word simulacrum, and the superposition of the two. The superposition is very fuzzy, and there are several places where you see the same letter twice.

The unevenness of some letters at the end of lines and elsewhere should clinch it as a typed document.

And according to Salon, two of the experts consulted have fishy backgrounds, and the SBV's PR people are also handling this forgery brouhaha.

Posted by: Zizka | Sep 10, 2004 9:15:39 PM

Staudt was a connection for Hodges. Retired military need second careers. And Staudt had bigger people above him.

Posted by: Zizka | Sep 10, 2004 9:17:33 PM

I am sure these were forged ... and planted by the Republicans:

-- The speed at which the right-wing responded

-- Rove's history (with some people thinking he bugged his own office in a Texas governor's race to cast suspicion on the opposition)

-- The sloppiness of the forgery -- wouldn't anyone in their right mind use a 1960s-era typewriter?

-- A classic misdirection technique of "admitting" some small truth while crafting an offense, apparently by the opposition, that makes the larger picture seem more horrendous than the original transgression.

-- Didn't the WH release these without comment? That's almost like walking the press to the edge of the cliff, and letting them walk off it on their own power.

This whole package is too neat, clean and fast. They package something everyone knows and no one cares about too much, cover it in shit so it stinks, and put it in wrapping paper with everything but a DNC return address.

Posted by: David de la Fuente | Sep 10, 2004 9:26:33 PM

I think Rather's got more. I think he's playing chicken with Karl. I think he's playing the WH for chumps and willing to take the flack from the wingnuts and bloggers, hoping Karl will take the bait. I think Rather's got a source who won't go public unless X happens (and X if someone in the WH directly lying). If Karl bites (i.e., if the WH takes a stand on authenticity) I think rather will unload. If Karl doesn't bit, they're going to be stories every day until the Kitty Kelley book comes out. The CBS version of the stories will begin with questions about Bush's service in the TANG, not with questions about kerning.

Posted by: Pudentilla | Sep 10, 2004 9:33:51 PM

Those who claim they were forged always ignore the strongest evidence -- CBS has two witnesses who said that the content of the memos were consistent with Killian's statements at the time. Now, there is a guy who lives in Washington who could clear this up by denying that he was ordered by Killian to take a physical.

Posted by: pj | Sep 10, 2004 9:34:22 PM

OK, so concede for the sake of argument that Staudt had some sort of shadowy power even in retirement that gave him a hold on serving Guard commanders. but there's other weird, non-typewriter stuff. The August 1973 memo talks about pressure to "rate" but three months earlier in May we know Hodges and Killian had already said that Bush had "not been observed" when filling out his fitness report. What's the controversy in August about then? To retroactively change the May one? (but then what does Killian mean when he allegedly says that he will not "rate" but would "backrate"?) Then there's the documents themselves, which seem to be a mix of an official order to Bush, a quasi-offical record of flight suspension, and then almost diary-like notes for Killian's personal use. None of which are on any kind of letterhead. These were allegedly filed away in some place his family never heard of, photocopied at some point, and then the photocopies were given to CBS, while the originals were either lost or kept back. It all seems weird to me. Maybe its true, but it doesn't seem quite right.

Posted by: rd | Sep 10, 2004 9:35:07 PM

"The superposition is very fuzzy, and there are several places where you see the same letter twice"

Not that fuzzy, and remember, one has been copied numerous times. The spacing and alignment matches exactly.

Posted by: Reg | Sep 10, 2004 9:36:42 PM

Ok first of all more people here need to wake up and acknowledge that the "handwriting expert" doesn't mean DIDDLY SQUAT seeing as how we are talking about PHOTOCOPIES. So the hell what if it "really is" a copy of his signature. You guys never messed around with scissors and a Xerox machine?

Second of all believe it or not I tend to agree with David de la Fuente that a likely explanation here (I'm not saying I'm 100% convinced that this is the explanation, just that it's a very plausible one) is that this was an (R) plant. The forgery is just too obvious and stupid. So, I don't discount at all the idea that this was a poison pill meant to sully all OTHER Bush Guard-dodging stories. If so, I'd think that (from their POV) the Kerry partisans ought to distance themselves from these memos as fast as they can - drop them, give it 4 news cycles for the memory to fade, and then start talking about how Bush was all AWOL and stuff again, but ONLY with the *real* stuff you already have. Seriously: These forgeries are poison.

Not that you'll take advice from me....

Posted by: Blixa | Sep 10, 2004 9:39:49 PM

I think there is a really huge issue in this whole "wingnuts propose kerning problem" debacle that honestly needs to be addressed:

The 'nuts are not bad people, I don't think. They aren't being contrarian on purpose... the problem is that the LGF crowd is, quite simply, willing to tolerate an infinite level of cognative dissonance in support of Dubya. The media, for whatever reason, is going to follow suit. Because of this, character issues about the President, no matter how glaring and how provable they may be, are simply not going to make their way into the mainstream.

This is bad news, certainly. It makes it harder to throw a President out of office when his handlers are allowed to construct any fairy-tale they wish about his past actions, present attitudes and future plans and have them spoonfed to the country without significant alteration. But that's the simple facts... i mean, look at the huge number of discrepencies between what Bush has done as President, and what his supporters THINK he has done - it's staggering. And after a few news cycles have blown by with the fairy tale being carried around like aerosolized dogshit in a hurricaine, the voters start to assume that what started off as a cynical lie lofted over the fence of the RNC bunker is the God's own truth. Why wouldn't they? It'sbeen repeated so many times that it might as well *be* the truth.

So in order to toss this jackass over the railings, the DNC has to figure out how to beat the mythical George W. Bush that his supporters have made up in their minds and forced out onto the public airwaves, not the real George W. Bush residing in the White House and catastrophically blowing every aspect of his job. This is a mind-bendingly tall order, and may, in fact, be impossible.

After Iowa, I can remember looking at John Kerry and thinking "dear God, what have we done?" But as we head down the home stretch I have to admit to being impressed. Kerry has is glaring weaknesses on the campaign trail, but he has proved himself to be quite canny in pre-empting the bulk of the RNC smear machine. If Kerry loses (and I assume he will) it will not, i think, be through any fault of his own: it will be because Bush's supporters are simply too willing to delude themselves into believing nonsense for any real-world facts to impose themselves on the campaign trail.

Posted by: Chad Robinson | Sep 10, 2004 9:50:43 PM

Here's a link to a statement by the General Hodges
mentioned in the memos, recanting an earlier quasi-confirmation of them and saying he was "misled" by CBS:


Posted by: rd | Sep 10, 2004 9:57:52 PM

The documents are real. And they have the right wing terrified.

CBS and Dan Rather would not stake their reputation on crappy forgeries, which the right wingers claim these are. You can excuse the first broadcast for sloppiness, but they would NEVER go on a second time if they were not 100% sure that these documents were real. If somebody forged these, how would they know in advance that Hodges and Strong would verify the documents as being the same as what Killian told them at the time? How could the forger predict that the White House would pass out the documents without challenging them? How could the forger be so sure of his fake handwriting? If they were fake, why would Killian's son say "some of the documents are real"?

These are question the wingnuts and right wing bloggers cannot answer. If the Bush administration thought these were fake, they would say so. But they won't because they are worried that whoever gave these documents to CBS would go public with more evidence to show that they are lying. They are terrified by this because they know that there is more there.

CBS is not going to be suckered by a Word document. The White House has serious questions to answer. Why did Bush disobey a direct order during wartime? Why can't he produce a single person who served with him in Alabama? Was his payroll record "backdated"? Why did he claim to have served in the Air Force when he first ran for office? Why is he letting North Korea build a nuclear arsenal? Why didn't he bomb Al-Zarqawi's camps in the Kurdish north of Iraq when he had the chance? How is he planning to balance the budget?

Bush has no answers to any of these questions. No wonder he is too chicken to debate.

Posted by: Sage, Hollywood | Sep 10, 2004 10:03:51 PM

I have to agree with Chad.

There is an overwhelming Alice Through the Looking Glass quality to this Presidential campaign. At least half the country has made a deliberate decision to support a man who has wreaked havoc on the economy, the military, and the general prosperity.

We can't keep blaming the media. Americans have access to better information sources; they know they have access to better information sources; they CHOOSE not to avail themselves of it. And, in any case, as lazy and dishonest as network journalists are, the facts about the economy and the war are KNOWN to Americans.

George Bush should already have had the country rising up to demand his resignation long before now. But 9/11 didn't do it; a badly planned war based on deceit didn't do it; Abu Ghraib didn't do it; looting the Federal Treasury and the Social Security trust fund didn't do it; eroding the middle class didn't do it.

Half the electorate has simply decided they prefer the walking disaster. This may baffle rational analysis, but it can't be ignored.

I can't think of any rabbit coming out of any hat, or any deux ex machina, that can accomplish in the next 50-something days an awakening of outrage and resolve that the last 3 years has not produced.

Posted by: Ciel | Sep 10, 2004 10:11:36 PM

Stirling Newberry

Stirling has some analysis and speculation.

I am disappointed the left blogosphere was so impatient. Dan Rather has done nothing in forty years to deserve the skepticism as to his malice or incompetence that has been demonstrated the last few days. I trust Dan Rather.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Sep 10, 2004 10:18:35 PM

I really don't feel - and apparently there are a bunch of us - I have a horse in this race, but so far the forgery question is an interesting but mistaken diversion (much like Kerry's bobbly response to the SBVs) that keeps a bad story front and center by the people who should be trying to get it over and gone. It strikes me this all started because Dan Bartlett vaguely insinuated that the documents might not be real, and suddenly a small industry started up to prove them fake. When the simplest thing, of course, would be for the person with the direct experience - Mr. Bush - to come forth and speak to his experience with Killian, the Guard, and his service (both why he chose the Guard and how it ended).

That he doesn't just underlines to me his unease with dealing with these difficult things directly, and his handlers notions that the less of Bush that's out there, the better - a mistaken ploy that limits his ability to push past the natural 45% or so who support him more than a couple of extra points (admittedly you can win on that, but why shoud it be so hard?).

But, as I said, I really don't care to rehash Vietnam, be it Kerry's going, Bush's not, or anyone else. I do wish that if we have to rehash Vietnam, we would do so more honestly, in-depth and forthrightly than we (all of us) do, but I suspect there's no point in even trying. People have settled into their favorite meme (it was a mistake, we didn't do what we needed to in order to win, pick your color) and little can alter perceptions at this late date. Like everything in this topsy turvy year, it's at once amusing and horrifying to see the press and the politicians collectively going mad in front of us. If it weren't so absurd, it would almost be something serious. Typewriters. We really plan to spend another week arguing about typewriters. Sheesh.

Posted by: weboy | Sep 10, 2004 10:22:44 PM

General Hodges...recanting an earlier quasi-confirmation of them and saying he was misled" by CBS...

He says CBS claimed the memos were handrwitten.

It sounds like they duped him over the phone into a verbal "confirmation" that the Killian documents were valid. Which leads me to believe CBS feared they had some dodgy memoranda on their hands, and needed a quote or two to increase their credibility.

this expert had such a known signature, then the questioned signature is the late Col.'s, and so the document could have been produced no later than 1984...

I strongly suspect the forgers did indeed have a true Killian signature, but then scanned it or otherwise manipulated it using standard graphic design software. It wouldn't be difficult...

For the record I doubt anybody at CBS itself is responsible for the forgery. I just think they couldn't resist such a convenient find -- you know, documents that so neatly fit the narrative they were working on (which is another prime red flag for me; it's all a mite too convenient -- I especially loved the line about "sugar coating").

None of this passes the smell test, folks. Snap out of your collective fog and start formulating some talking points for spinning the ugly news that CBS tried to juice up an otherwise perfectly legitmate (if typically partisan) story with fake documents (documents they didn't create, but probably worried might be clever fakes). I figure this, too, will pass, but should be worth another 5-7 points in the opinion polls for the president, because of the sympathy factor, and the doubts it will raise about the Kerry campaign. I mean, some folks will inevitably suspect Bush's opponent, and certainly if one were looking for forgers, someone trying to defeat Bush would have to be a prime suspect.

No doubt a low level "rogue" staffer will be quickly fired if indeed it turns out the Kerry campaign or the party apparatus is fingered; but my money is that it was just some independent operative with an especially mischievous case of ABB.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida | Sep 10, 2004 10:24:05 PM

I have to agree that if these memos are forged, they are probably the work of the GOP. We should have consensus pretty soon.

Posted by: John Isbell | Sep 10, 2004 10:28:12 PM

...so if whether or not Bush served honorably is of crucial importance to you in making up your mind about who to vote for, you shouldn't vote for Bush. If you're me, this isn't a huge deal...

It's not a huge deal for me, either. But the beauty of this for the Right is that if it does turn out that CBS cited forged documents, or if the public believes this to be the case, the main story is no longer the president's quality of TANG service; the main story becomes how our poor president is being savaged by the dirty left-wing attack machine.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida | Sep 10, 2004 10:29:34 PM

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