National Guard-Gate Revisited

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Bush Administration, Obama Administration

A Texas Monthly article by Joe Hagan revisits the controversy over the gaps in George W. Bush’s National Guard service and the damage done to Dan Rather by the 60 Minutes story about it.

(Note: It’s a long story, and if you want to read it you’d better print it out now, because I understand that it will go behind a firewall in a couple of days. )

It’s still mostly a story about missing documentation. It does establish that the head of the Texas Air National Guard, Brigadier General James Rose, did make spaces in the Guard for both G.W. Bush and the son of Democratic Senator Lloyd Bentsen. It also establishes that Bush was allowed to drop out of flying in 1972. Ten other pilots were allowed to drop out that same year, but the rest of them were much older and had had more than two decades of experience. Bush had been flying for two years.

As the story says, this wasn’t exactly illegal. It just shows that the Texas National Guard was a “loosely regulated fiefdom,” and Gen. Rose could dispense favors as he wished.

There is still no evidence that Bush reported for duty in Alabama when he said he did. The existing records say he blew off two drills for certain. The article also says that for part of the time he was being paid for his duty in Alabama he actually was in Houston. More than that is kind of a blank. By all appearances he was allowed to skip out of the rest of his Guard duty. He says otherwise, but any documentation that might have cleared that up is mysteriously missing from his military record. Which is pretty much what we all knew back in 2004 when the 60 Minutes segment ran.

Of particular interest to me was this:

But the man officially credited with inspiring a fusillade of blog attacks was Harry MacDougald, known on message boards as Buckhead, a GOP lawyer in Atlanta who missed the segment but downloaded the Killian documents from the CBS website later that night. He specifically claimed that the memos used proportional spacing and superscripts that didn’t exist on typewriters of the early seventies. …

… In any case, MacDougald’s arguments about the documents turned out to be inaccurate. He acknowledged as much in an interview with me in 2008. And in a speech given that same year, Mike Missal, a lawyer for the firm that CBS hired to investigate its own report, said, “It’s ironic that the blogs were actually wrong. . . . We actually did find typewriters that did have the superscript, did have proportional spacing. And on the fonts, given that these are copies, it’s really hard to say, but there were some typewriters that looked like they could have some similar fonts there. So the initial concerns didn’t seem as though they would hold up.”

… which is what I said at the time, and was mercilessly skewered for it. But, dammit, I had typed and typed and typed on those typewriters in the early 1970s, and there was nothing on those memos that couldn’t have come out of one of the better 1970s-era electric typewriters — proportional type, precise centering, superscripts, etc.

If course, since the memos Dan Rather and his staff had were photocopies, there is no way to prove they were authentic, which was why it was stupid on Rather’s part to use them as proof of anything. There was plenty of “story” without them, but with them the bogus type font issue ate up all the oxygen and became the story.

The Right basically was allowed to establish that the memos were phony mostly by screaming and stamping their feet real, real loud, and without the originals they couldn’t be proved wrong.

Hagan also says that at the time of the 60 Minutes broadcast the Associated Press had been pressing the Pentagon for some other documents that they believed would reveal the truth about the “lost year.” The AP actually asked CBS to wait on their story so as not to spook their sources. But CBS didn’t wait, and once the story became radioactive the AP dropped its investigation also.

By now any original documents that might show us something have been destroyed or rotted in a landfill somewhere, so unless Dubya himself confesses we’ll never know the whole story. Damn shame.

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Rick Massimo  •  Apr 16, 2012 @1:44 pm

    But that was all OK, because there wasn’t any air of “mystery” about George W. Bush. There weren’t any “unresolved questions” about him, no “lingering doubts,” no one was claiming that “we don’t really know anything about him” or wondering why he didn’t “just release the documents and end the speculation,” because they were worried about the direction such an “unknown” quantity would take the nation.

    It’s like there’s something different about this president as opposed to the previous one. I can’t imagine what it could possibly be.

  2. uncledad  •  Apr 16, 2012 @2:32 pm

    “It’s like there’s something different about this president as opposed to the previous one. I can’t imagine what it could possibly be”

    Yeah it’s like he’s portrayed as shiftless and lazy, like he just doesn’t belong, I can’t figure it out either!

  3. maha  •  Apr 16, 2012 @2:49 pm

    Some seem to think President Obama gets uppity, which is not something I ever heard about President Bush, I don’t think.

  4. Swami  •  Apr 16, 2012 @3:05 pm

    Bush’s page in history has been written..and it’s not a very good one…I see Cheney out and about trying to shed his torture legacy. I’ll pray for him the 23rd and a half psalm..”.May misery and regret follow him all the days of his life”.

  5. James F. Epperson  •  Apr 16, 2012 @3:31 pm

    The bit I found interesting was the Harriett Miers connection.

  6. c u n d gulag  •  Apr 16, 2012 @3:42 pm

    I won’t rest until the page that “Baby Doc” Bush and Cheney are on, is the f’in Obituary Page.

  7. moonbat  •  Apr 16, 2012 @8:34 pm

    Righties always skewer Dan Rather, and unfortunately I don’t know enough of the story to rebut them. This helps a bit.

  8. erinyes  •  Apr 17, 2012 @5:20 am

    Just yesterday, on the way to work, there was a news article about some sports figure being on the dock over steroid use- a continuing trial.

    Really? The press is falling all over itself over “performance enhancement” drugs while two of the biggest criminals in modern history are running around giving speeches and living fat in retirement?

    What happened to Dan Rather was a warning to all other journalists who dared to cross swords with Bushco, “We Will Destroy You!”
    Yes, another example of “Creative Destruction”.

    After 8 friggin’ years in the Bush / Cheney rabbit hole hell, still no prosecutions.
    I’m amazed that Bush was shielded from the Vietnam war by his “service” in the national guard, then when he gets in office, HE sends the guard into combat.

    I hope I live long enough to read the obits of Bush, Cheney, and Rove; I also hope they’re buried at sea Ala OBL.

  9. joanr16  •  Apr 17, 2012 @1:20 pm

    Our state’s current AG, a deep-dyed Tea Party jackass, is running for U.S. Senate. His TV ads talk about “President Obama’s unconstitutional power grabs,” but then fail to mention exactly what these alleged “power grabs” are.

    Assuming the presidency after a disputed election in which he lost the popular vote and probably stole the electoral vote? No, that was Bush.

    Violating federal law to collect Americans’ phone records? No… Bush.

    Making secret deals with oil and coal companies? No… guess who (and his VP, Voldemort Sr.).

    Handing out no-bid contracts to a firm whose financial windfall would directly benefit Voldemort Sr.? No… guess who again!

    Giving taxpayers’ money to religious organizations that are anti-gay, anti-woman, and sometimes financially corrupt? (OK, Obama didn’t entirely exorcise that demon of guess who’s.)

    But oh, our current AG just loooooved Bush, and supported these no-sh*t power grabs. IOKIYARAAWG (Repug and a white guy).

  10. Swami  •  Apr 17, 2012 @3:56 pm

    joanr16 …Don’t even be trying to figure that out. They communicate on an entirely different frequency…Like the bumper sticker..Legalize the Constitution.

  11. Dave ATX  •  Apr 19, 2012 @11:34 pm

    Maybe I’m missing something….I’ve read all 10,000 words of the Hagan article, but didn’t read a single thing that contradicted the findings of NUMEROUS professional document examiners (not hired by CBS) who ALL concluded the Killian memos were FAKE. Hagan says a CBS lawyer found a typewriter from the 70′s the at could type superscript and proportional fonts….OK, where is it? And can we see what a memo from this typewriter looks like? People have some short memories, it seems….I remember numerous people typing out the Killian memos on transparencies, overlaying them on the memos, and they matched EXACTLY. Rather was a liar, the memos were fake, and he got what he deserved. Good riddance.

  12. maha  •  Apr 20, 2012 @7:23 am

    Maybe I’m missing something….I’ve read all 10,000 words of the Hagan article, but didn’t read a single thing that contradicted the findings of NUMEROUS professional document examiners (not hired by CBS) who ALL concluded the Killian memos were FAKE.

    What “professional document examiners”? It was a bunch of amateurs who concluded that the memos were fake because (1) no typewriter in the 1972s could have produced those memos (not true) and (2) they must have been done on Microsoft Word, because one of the memos (although only one) replicated the CPI (characters per inch) of MS Times New Roman and the default line length and tabs on Word. (In fact, the font used in the memos was NOT Times New Roman, because the serifs were wrong, but the “experts” didn’t notice that. Any real “expert” would have seen that at a glance.) But Word was created to replicate standard typewriter defaults, and the CPI is not that unique either. I actually know quite a lot about typography, having worked for more than 30 years in publishing production, and a lot of the people who set themselves up as “experts” were obvious fakes. But they fooled many who didn’t know any better.

    Again, the main argument the memos were fake was that the memos could not have been typed on a 1970s era typewriter, because the memos had proportional type, superscripts, accurate centering, and some other qualities that they “experts” thought could only have been done with a computer. And this part of the Hagan article blew that up and repeated exactly what I said at the time:

    But the man officially credited with inspiring a fusillade of blog attacks was Harry MacDougald, known on message boards as Buckhead, a GOP lawyer in Atlanta who missed the segment but downloaded the Killian documents from the CBS website later that night. He specifically claimed that the memos used proportional spacing and superscripts that didn’t exist on typewriters of the early seventies. …

    … In any case, MacDougald’s arguments about the documents turned out to be inaccurate. He acknowledged as much in an interview with me in 2008. And in a speech given that same year, Mike Missal, a lawyer for the firm that CBS hired to investigate its own report, said, “It’s ironic that the blogs were actually wrong. . . . We actually did find typewriters that did have the superscript, did have proportional spacing. And on the fonts, given that these are copies, it’s really hard to say, but there were some typewriters that looked like they could have some similar fonts there. So the initial concerns didn’t seem as though they would hold up.”

    So all the circumstantial evidence that the memos were fake was bogus. However, because we don’t have originals, neither can we prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are not fake, which I also said in the post above.

    Hagan says a CBS lawyer found a typewriter from the 70′s the at could type superscript and proportional fonts….OK, where is it?

    They were actually common. Most of the high-end electric typewriters of the era, the kinds used in many offices, could do proportional type and superscripts. Anyone who did a lot of typing during that era (like me) knew that. In fact, even during the Great Font Hoo-Haw somebody replicated the memos on an old typewriter, but the howling mob refused to accept that evidence because … well, I don’t remember why. They just didn’t.

    .I remember numerous people typing out the Killian memos on transparencies, overlaying them on the memos, and they matched EXACTLY.

    I tried it myself. Only one of the memos actually had the same line breaks as the same document typed in Word. And then, to make it match EXACTLY, the Word document saved as a graphic file had to be, um, massaged a bit. It was faked, in other words.

  13. Dave ATX  •  Apr 20, 2012 @11:33 am

    “The Word document saved as a graphic file had to be, um, massaged a bit. It was faked, in other words.”

    If you’re referring to the process by which the gif of the Killian memo from Rather and the gif from a document produced by MS Word were overlapped so that they could be posted on the internet for people to view, yes – that’s a process that involves manipulating the two files….but it doesn’t involve manipulation of the CONTENT of the two files. So no, you’re incorrect….the overlap animated gif that appears in the Wikipedia article (and elsewhere) was NOT faked. And, as I stated earlier, if you have a printer and some transparencies, you can try the experiment yourself as many did – the Killian memos match MS Word, circa 2004, almost perfectly. There were some TINY little differences pointed out by Rather apologists in attempt to defend him, but those differences were due to the fact that the memos CBS used were Xerox COPIES and consistent with the originals having been run through numerous copy generations in order to make them appear old.

    Secondly, the typewriters of that era that were capable of superscripts and proportional fonts were NOT common, were very expensive, and were certainly not likely to be found in the office of an Air Squadron commander of the Texas Air National Guard.

    Thirdly, your attempt to denigrate the court-recognized credentials of renowned experts, such as Peter Tytell, the typewriter expert hired by the CBS review panel (he concluded the memos were produced on a computer and NOT authentic) simply shows the desperation of someone incapable of defending the Killian memos with facts. It’s a done deal. There is NO question by anyone with actual EXPERTISE (not just knowledge) of typography and documents – the Killian memos were FAKES. FRAUDS. I’d call them forgeries, but that implies they ever existed in the first place, which,, according to Killian’s own family members, they did not.

    For those who still might have questions, the Wikipedia article on the Killian memos does a pretty good job of exposing them for the utter and complete fraud they are:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killian_documents_controversy

  14. maha  •  Apr 20, 2012 @12:11 pm

    Dude — I tried to replicate the overlap experiment myself and couldn’t do it. The only way it could have worked as cleanly as it did in the famous animated GIF is if the two GIF files were stretched and poked to match.

    The fact that one can produce the memos on a computer to look pretty much alike means nothing, since Word was originally created to reproduce typewritten documents. (In fact, someone with the right skills can reproduce any page ever set in type on a computer,although not necessarily with Word.) The one thing that does not match is that the actual font used in the Killian memos is NOT Times New Roman (again, the serifs are wrong) or any other font commonly found in Microsoft products. It does, however, match a font used on 1970s era electric typewriters.

    And Peter Tytell is full of crap if he said the documents could NOT have been produced on a 1970s electric typewriter.

    Secondly, the typewriters of that era that were capable of superscripts and proportional fonts were NOT common, were very expensive, and were certainly not likely to be found in the office of an Air Squadron commander of the Texas Air National Guard.

    Oh, please. Any IBM Selectric manufactured in the 1960s and after could do superscripts if you had the right type element ball, and that was a very common typewriter. I once typed a whole Ph.D. dissertation in analytical chemistry, reproducing all the mathematical and other symbols and superscripts and subscripts and yada yada yada, on an IBM Selectric II by changing type element balls as necessary. Some element balls had to be special ordered, but that was commonly done. That would have been about 1974 or 1975, but the technology was not new at the time. I’m sure a Selectric I from the 1960s could have done the same thing.

    IBM issued an expensive typewriter in the 1960s that did proportional type, but by the 1970s the technological had become more common so that it was not at all unusual for even fairly rinky-dink businesses to have typewriters capable of proportional type. I know this because I worked in some of those offices.

    As I said, without the originals it cannot be proved the documents are authentic, but the arguments for fakery were and remain bogus.

    As far as whether what the documents said was true or not — how the hell would Killian’s relatives know that? As I remember a woman who had been executive secretary in that office read them and said that what they said was what she remembered. Right now I don’t have time to look it up, but maybe someone else could pull her name out of the memory hole.

    However, I have no way to verify what the documents said was true. I am just saying I am certain they could have been typed with typewriter technology that was widely available in the early 1970s. And the Hagan article says the guy who started the whole type flap has admitted that I was right. Plain fact; indisputable, anybody who says otherwise is wrong. End of discussion.



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