Misc Commentary For September 20, 2004

— Robert Novak claims anonymous sources are saying that the Bush administration plans to cut and run from Iraq next year…

“Well-placed sources in the administration are confident Bush’s decision will be to get out (of Iraq). They believe that is the recommendation of his national security team and would be the recommendation of second-term officials. An informed guess might have Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, Paul Wolfowitz as defense secretary and Stephen Hadley as national security adviser. According to my sources, all would opt for a withdrawal.

Getting out now would not end expensive U.S. reconstruction of Iraq, and certainly would not stop the fighting. Without U.S. troops, the civil war cited as the worst-case outcome by the recently leaked National Intelligence Estimate would be a reality. It would then take a resolute president to stand aside while Iraqis battle it out.”

This is just complete bullocks. There is absolutely no way that the Bush administration, after going through everything we’ve gone through in Iraq, is going to shrug their shoulders, walk away, and let the country descend into civil war, especially given that the Iraqis will be able to handle their own security next year. Not only would conservatives turn on the Bush administration if they did something like that, it would undercut the entire purpose of staying in Iraq after the war to begin with. It’s just not going to happen.

Now if you’re asking yourself, “Who do I believe, Hawkins or Novak’s anonymous sources,” let me remind you of another “big scoop” Novak had back in May. Back then Novak said,

“Last week, I talked to Republican members of Congress, GOP fund-raisers and contributors, defense consultants and even one senior official of a coalition partner. The clear consensus was that Rumsfeld had to go. ”There must be a neck cut,” said the foreign official, ”and there is only one neck of choice.”

…To well-informed outsiders, Rumsfeld’s fate seems assured. Stratfor, the private intelligence service, reported last week: ”The amazing thing is not that the White House is preparing Rumsfeld for hanging but that it has taken so long.” The report added that Rumsfeld ”consistently managed to get the strategic and organizational questions wrong.”

My response?

“That just isn’t going to happen. Not only is the idea of holding the Secretary of Defense responsible because a few yahoos at Abu Ghraib went way over the line and abused some prisoners in their care (is not only) completely ludicrous on its face, it would be a horrific political mistake for a number of reasons.

….In short, don’t buy into this. Even if Bush truly isn’t happy with Rummy, he won’t get rid of him until AFTER the election, if at all….”

Who was right and who was wrong back then? It’s the same person who’ll be right on this too….

— Teresa Heinz Kerry has a reputation of contributing to radical causes, but hasn’t released her taxes. John Kerry has had prostate cancer surgery, but hasn’t released his medical records. Despite numerous challenges to his record in Vietnam, John Kerry has refused to release his military records and has even been caught lying about it. So where is the press howling for Kerry to come clean? You know the answer — liberal bias.

— In my latest column, I said the following about CBS…

“Well, to be quite frank, merely saying that CBS was “duped” is being charitable.

CBS interviewed the wife & son of the supposed source of the document and both told them that they believed the documents were fake, but they were ignored. Dean Roome, who is now openly saying the documents are forged, was also interviewed by CBS, but was discounted reportedly because he was “pretty pro-Bush”. “Bobby Hodges, a former Texas Air National Guard general whom 60 Minutes claimed had authenticated the memos” was only read the memos and was never told that they weren’t handwritten. Once he found out that crucial fact, he too questioned the legitimacy of the memos.

On top of all of that, Linda James & Emily Will, document examiners hired by CBS to authenticate the memos, both declined to do so. Will even went so far as to say that,

“I told (CBS) that all the questions I was asking them on Tuesday night, they were going to be asked by hundreds of other document examiners on Thursday if they ran that story.”

Given all of that, at best CBS must have known that there was a good chance that the documents weren’t real and at worst, they believed the memos were fake and hoped that they would be shielded from scrutiny because the documents were from an anonymous source.”

Well since that column went live, things have gotten much worse for CBS. We’ve now definitively found out what many people suspected, that Dan Rather’s “unimpeachable source” for these documents was Bill Burkett, a partisan, anti-Bush Democrat, who has had mental breakdowns and has been claiming for years — with no proof — that Bush’s National Guard documents were discarded.

Worse yet, Bill Burkett told CBS that someone else provided the documents to him. Not only did CBS not even bother to get the original documents, they never even followed up with the person Burkett claimed was the “original source”. Now, Burkett is admitting that he lied about the source. Big surprise there, huh? Were I a betting man, I’d guess that Burkett punched up the documents himself and then claimed he got them from another source so that he’d have plausible deniability if this very situation ever came up.

Now that we know that CBS got these documents from Burkett, I see no need to pull any punches. What Dan Rather and CBS have done here is one step up from the way Jayson Blair behaved. They took “secondhand” documents from what they knew was a very unreliable person, made no real effort to check out the original source, and then ran with the memos even though the preponderance of evidence that their own experts had compiled suggested that they were fakes. Then when they got called on it, they tried to hunker down and weather out the storm, rather than admit the obvious, that they were peddling forgeries. As far as I’m concerned, everybody connected with this story, Rather, Mapes, everyone who was involved in putting these documents on the air, deserves to be unceremoniously fired for ethics violations. Then CBS should apologize to their viewers, the Killian family, and the Bush administration for what they’ve done. Nothing less will restore their credibility..

— Here’s another quote about this whole mess that just blows my mind,

“Burkett told USA TODAY that he had agreed to turn over the documents to CBS if the network would help arrange a conversation with the Kerry campaign.

The network’s effort to place Burkett in contact with a top Democratic official raises ethical questions about CBS’ handling of material potentially damaging to the Republican president in the midst of an election. This “poses a real danger to the potential credibility of a news organization,” said Aly Colón, a news ethicist at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.”

Wait a second…the Kerry campaign gave access to Bill Burkett in order to help CBS break an anti-Bush story? There is your direct tie to the Kerry campaign in black and white. They colluded with CBS in order to help bring these fake memos to light.

So what else did CBS and the Kerry campaign discuss? Ben Barnes, who was interviewed by CBS, is in a new Democratic commercial about Bush’s National Guard Service. Was CBS involved in that? Was that commercial timed to coincide with the anti-Bush story that CBS was putting out?

And I thought this story might be getting ready to peter out. Now, it looks like it’s just about to get really JUICY!

*** Update #1***: Here’s another bizarre twist to the Burkett/memogate story…

“Burkett now maintains that the source of the papers was Lucy Ramirez, who he says phoned him from Houston in March to offer the documents. USA TODAY has been unable to locate Ramirez.

Sitting in a rocking chair in his weathered ranch house south of Baird, Texas, Burkett recounted his continuing efforts — beginning before he was discharged from the Texas Army National Guard in 1998 — to clean up what he saw as Guard corruption and mismanagement. He said that activity led to a telephone call in March from Ramirez and her offer to provide documents damaging to President Bush.

Burkett said Ramirez told him she had seen him the previous month in an appearance on the MSNBC program Hardball, discussing the controversy over whether Bush fulfilled all his obligations for service in the Texas Air Guard during the early 1970s. “There is something I have that I want to make sure gets out,” he quoted her as saying.

He said Ramirez claimed to possess Killian’s “correspondence file,” which would prove Burkett’s allegations that Bush had problems as a Guard fighter pilot.

Burkett said he arranged to get the documents during a trip to Houston for a livestock show in March. But instead of being met at the show by Ramirez, he was approached by a man who asked for Burkett, handed him an envelope and quickly left, Burkett recounted.

“I didn’t even ask any questions,” Burkett said. “Should I have? Yes. Maybe I was duped. I never really even considered that.”

By Monday, USA TODAY had not been able to locate Ramirez or verify other details of Burkett’s account. Three people who worked with Killian in the early 1970s said they don’t recognize her name. Burkett promised to provide telephone records that would verify his calls to Ramirez, but he had not done so by Monday night.

An acquaintance of Burkett, who he said could corroborate his story, said he was at the livestock show on March 3. The woman, who asked that her name not be used, said Burkett asked if he could put papers inside a box she had at the livestock show. Often, she said, friends ask to store papers in her box that verify their purchases at the livestock auction. She said she did not know the nature of the papers Burkett gave her, and he did not say anything about them.”

Someone call Agent Mulder, there’s obviously a conspiracy afoot! Here’s another interesting detail about Dan Rather’s “unimpeachable source” that’s worth mentioning…

“Burkett’s emotions varied widely in the interviews. One session ended when Burkett suffered a violent seizure and collapsed in his chair.”

And Dan Rather thinks this guy is a rock solid source?????

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