|Man Without Qualities|
Saturday, September 18, 2004
One of the defenses Dan Rather has offered in support of his and CBS News actions regarding the forged Killian memos is to point out that CBS had been working on this "story" for five years.
Rather's claim, which was clearly intended to suggest that CBS had carefully and actively accumulated and vetted evidence for that five year period, was deliberately highly misleading, as reported by the Los Angeles Times:
Although CBS News notes that Mapes had been chasing the National Guard story for five years, it only came back on the active burner in mid- to late August. .... Over the next couple of weeks, he said, "she would call from time to time, telling me she was getting closer, not closer, something that she was looking up that was a blind alley ? those kinds of things that reporters do when tracking a story. There was nothing definitive" until he got the call from her on Sept. 3, Howard recalled.
And so it is that what Dan Rather presented as five years of careful preparation and news gathering is revealed as a frantic Keystone Cops exercise in intellectual and actual dishonesty.
By the way, I have omitted the material in the Times article pertaining to CBS News' argument that the White House somehow "authenticated" the documents because one of its people - who had not been personally involved in Mr. Bush's Guard service - didn't immediately scream Fake!
Perhaps someone will now cobble up a whole sheaf of real and forged documents purporting to be critical 35-year old letters fond in the personal files of Mr. Rather's and Ms. Mapes' deceased neighbors, friends, university professors, and the like and demand that Mr. Rather and Ms. Mapes authenticate them. One can just imagine the interview:
"Mr. Rather, here is what purports to be a private CYA-Memo-to-Personal-Files by the girl you took to your high school prom saying that you attempted date rape on her that night. Is it authentic? Failure to denounce it will be construed as implicit authentication. And any reference by you to the contents of the memo to support your claim that you did not commit date rape will be construed as explicit authentication."
There has been a good deal of comment on Dan Rather's refusal to disclose the identity of "The "Source" of the forged Killian memos - now widely believed to be Bill Burkett. Mr. Rather has cited his confidentiality agreement with The Source, but that shouldn't apply to forged documents.
Or would it? Is it possible that Rather/CBS specifically agreed to confidentiality terms that do not allow The Source to be revealed just because the documents are forgeries?
This article from the Washington Post suggests - but by no means proves - a possible role for the Kerry-Edwards campaign and/or the Democratic National Committee in the affair, although the Post's own interpretation of its evidence seems flawed. Specifically, the Post reports that the evidence it has found suggests that Mr. Burkett may be the actual author of the memos. But the most suggestive of the evidence seems to be summarized in this one paragraph:
The CBS documents include several phrases that crop up in Web logs signed by Burkett, including "run interference," and references to a pilot's "billet." Former Air National Guard officers have pointed out that "billet" is an Army expression, not an Air Force one. Burkett has also used the expression "cover your six," a military variant of the vulgar abbreviation "CYA," which appears in one of the CBS documents.
Others may disagree, but I find nothing suggestive about any person using the expression "run interference" - it's too common and generic, especially in sports loving Texas. "Billets" is a little more interesting, but this is an army term - and Burkett was an army man. His using this term on a web board means very little. "Cover your six?" Please. And, in any event, the forged Killian memos have "CYA" in them - not "CYS."
But the Post article does raise the possibility that Burkett may have communicated his ideas for creating the forged documents to the DNC:
In e-mail messages to a Yahoo discussion group for Texas Democrats, Burkett laid out a rationale for using what he termed "down and dirty" tactics against Bush. He said that he had passed his ideas to the Democratic National Committee but that the DNC seemed "afraid to do what I suggest."
If the DNC or Kerry-Edwards (Max Cleland suggested Burkett talk to them) ultimately overcame the fear that Burkett mentions in his post, the DNC or K-E may have had someone forge the documents based on Burkett's "ideas" and possibly including terms (such as "billets") that he probably uses when speaking. The documents could then have been given to Burkett for delivery to Rather. Indeed, one curious aspect of this matter is that Burkett spoke to media representatives not long ago and didn't mention any documents at that time - which suggests he obtained them (one way or another) only recently. Burkett may have presented the documents to Rather as coming from a well positioned inside source in a position to know, but specifically disclaimed any warranty or personal vouching for the authenticity of the documents - Burkett may not even have read the documents before faxing them to CBS. Burkett's agreement with Rather may specifically be structured on the assumption that Burkett is a mere conduit - and therefore specifically not be conditioned on authenticity. A mere conduit for documents is no more to be expected to vouch for their authenticity than the telephone company vouches for the authenticity of the calls it places.
If that were the structure of the confidentiality agreement, then unless Rather can prove that Burkett was not duped by his "inside source," Rather couldn't avoid the confidentiality agreement. But how, practically, could Rather prove such a thing? If Rather complains to Burkett that the documents are fake, Burkett can claim that he was duped, too - and he disclaimed warranty of their authenticity in the confidentiality agreement. Such an agreement structure might help explain Rather's weird statements that he will require clear proof that the documents are inauthentic before recanting. And such a structure would help explain why Rather doesn't - and can't - go public with the identity of The Source without breaking the confidentiality agreement with Burkett, who may not be the author of the forged documents even if he is The Source as far as Rather is concerned. That would be the kind of confidentiality agreement a fancy lawyer might dream up - the kind of fancy lawyer that the DNC hires to help them not be so "afraid."
Just a thought.
Taking Gallup Seriously For A Moment II
A perceptive reader e-mails to provide two more factors that suggest a big, early Bush-Cheney win would come with unusually large Republican coat tails. The first factor (see below) seems to have applicability only to a race such as this one in which there is a minor third candidate (Nader). The second seems to have more general applicability - although one might reasonably expect it to apply more strongly to a bigger and earlier win:
1) If it looks like Bush will win big, some Democrats and leftists will give up on Kerry but "vote their conscience" for Nader, while still voting Democrat for state and local races.
Friday, September 17, 2004
It's hard to explain the generally very good Note opening its NEWS SUMMARY with this dissonance:
The best example of how degrading it can be to be a political reporter: USA Today 's classy Susan Page forced to write up the Gallup poll/joke "showing" the president with a mythical 13-point lead for the front page of her paper — thus suggesting Gallup's 2000 track record of wild swings might be replicated this cycle.
The Note is a function of ABC News, which put its own poll out from September 9 showing Mr. Bush with a 9% lead (Bush 52%, Kerry 43%, Nader 2%). Obviously the margins of error for the ABC poll and the Gallup poll make them quite consistent with each other. Add to that the fact observed by several tracking polls, including Rasmusssen,showing Bush-Cheney widening their lead by several points. And just now the CBS/NYTimes Poll is picking up a 9% Bush-Cheney lead. Is the second best example of how degrading it can be to be a political reporter the New York Times' anything-but-classy Adam Nagourney's forced to write up the CBS/NYTimes poll/joke "showing" the president with a mythical 9-point lead for the front page of his paper? Hey, just asking!
So where's the justification for the pompous over-confidence that allows the Note to decide ex cathedra that Gallup is "mythical" - even though the Gallup results are quite in line with ABC's own poll, the new CBS/NYT Poll and recent developments detected by other tracking polls? The Note's brief analysis focuses on the Pew Poll showing a tie. But, frankly, as noted in my prior post, that particular Pew Poll stinks.
UPDATE: Kausfiles has more.
Polls are not elections and the current Gallup Poll showing President Bush leading John Kerry by 13% is just one poll taken before the candidates have even held one debate. I think it is fair to say that few professionals believe that Mr. Bush will lead by 13% in the November election.
But that 13% number does make considering some consequences of a really big Republican presidential win - a win, say, north of 8%. It is commonplace wisdom that turnout is driven by the top race on the ticket, and late-in-the-election-day voters therefore can be expected to stay home if the election is already decided early in election day. But this election has an additional dynamic which may profoundly interact with that commonplace wisdom: Several polls show that Mr. Kerry's support is disproportionately voting against Mr. Bush, not for John Kerry.
What happens to that kind of negative Kerry "support" if the media announces early on election day that Mr. Bush wins big, which is likely to be the case if the President is reelected by a big margin? One normally expects (again, a commonplace belief) the supporters of the loser to become disheartened and to stay home. In contrast, the supporters of an early big winner only have to overcome the sense that their vote will not further the success of their candidate - but they have their feeling of being "up" from his early win to accomplish that overcoming. So in any presidential election an early win generally tends to suppress turnout of the loser's supporters more than turnout of the winner's supporters.
But what about that curious additional factor noted above? Kerry-Edwards "supporters" have few positive feelings about the Democratic candidate in this presidential election. There seems to be little precedent for a race colored by that factor to the extent this one is - so predicting this factor's effect on the election is necessarilly even more speculative than usual. But it seems likely (and at least plausible) that Kerry-Edwards' supporters would be unusually and disproportionately disheartened by an early and big Bush-Cheney win because so many supporters of Kerry-Edwards don't like "their" candidate anyway. A post-win vote just evidences the voters affirmative support for the loser, and there's not much of that to evidence on the Democratic side. Once Mr. Bush wins, there's no point in voting against him. If that perspective is correct, Kerry-Edwards supporters should stay home much more than is usual (compared to other elections) and much more than Bush-Cheney supporters (in this election). It would be interesting to see focus group and private polling on this question. One might ask a likely California voter who has already chosen a candidate: "If on election day you were to hear on the news at a time before you voted that your candidate had already lost (or won) the election, would you still make the trip to the polling station?"
As noted above, elections are normally driven by the race at the top of the ticket. If Kerry-Cheney supporters stay away in droves, Democrats will likely be adversely and seriously affected all down the line. A big and early Bush-Cheney win would have particularly spectacular effects in the West. Of course, Western voters have more of a chance to evaluate Eastern voting patterns before deciding whether it's worth a trip to the polls - which should tend to exaggerate the turn-out consequences. But there's more. The polls to which I have access do not break out "internals" on a state-by-state or regional basis. But substantial anecdotal evidence has convinced me that John Kerry's aloof personality, a personality that is already hard for a lot of New Englanders to take, is even less sufferable in the West than it is in the rest of the country. Indeed, despite polling that indicates that Senator Kerry has a measurable and positive "likability" rating, I cannot find a single Southern California voter who actually likes him personally - not even among people who have given huge amounts of money to his cause and Democratic 527's. I therefore strongly suspect that Western Kerry-Edwards supporters are even more disproportionately voting against Mr. Bush, and not for John Kerry, than is true in the rest of the country. If my suspicion is correct, Western Democratic turnout should be even more reduced by a big early Bush-Cheney win.
My expectation is that a big and early win for Bush-Cheney of the type suggested by the Gallup Poll would translate into a particularly large Republican "coat tails" effect, especially in the West - even in California.
Of course, we don't yet know that there will be such a big and early win.
Thursday, September 16, 2004
Most polls show President Bush with a substantial lead. But not all of them. For example:
The Wall Street Journal report on this Harris Poll curiously does not mention the "registered voters" results - which means one cannot estimate the effect of the Harris organization's definition of "likely voter" on the poll results. The report does note that Harris detected none of the convention "bounce" most other polls found. In sum, an outlier.
But the Investor's Business Daily poll of likely voters conducted Sept. 7-12 shows the candidates tied with 47% in a two-man race and 46% in a three-way race. Among registered voters, Kerry holds a two-point edge over Bush, with or without Nader.
UPDATE: The Pew Poll also finds a tie. [ This Pew Poll has been cited and, in my opinion, abused, by the Note.]
FURTHER UPDATE: An astute reader e-mails this message, which seems quite correct:
There has to be something wrong with the Pew poll. There is no way the lead goes from 16 points (Sep 8-10) to 1 (Sep 11-14) overnight. This is totally screwy, especially in light of tonight's AP report of Gallup poll to be released Friday, which shows Bush has increased his lead from 52-45 to 54-40. Also, if you look at the question of "Who's more likey to win?", Bush has actually increased his lead over the same two periods (59-22 to 61-23).
Here's the Gallup story:
President Bush has surged to a 13-point lead over Sen. John Kerry among likely voters, a new Gallup Poll shows. The 55%-42% match-up is the first statistically significant edge either candidate has held this year. (Related item: Poll results) Among registered voters, Bush is ahead 52%-44%.
STILL MORE: Jim Thomason thinks that Pew Research is blatantly and obviously spinning it's poll ... And Jim has lots of analysis to back that up.
AND STILL MORE" This Pew Poll has been cited and, in my opinion, abused, by the Note.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
The New York Times reports on the former secretary who has induced the Gray Lady to accept the entire concept of "Fake but Accurate":
Marian Carr Knox, now 86, said in an interview at her home here. "But I doubt,'' she said, pausing, "it's not anything that I wrote because there are terms in there that are not used by Guards, the format wasn't the way we did it. It looks like someone may have read the originals and put that together."
It's bad enough that the forger used MicroSoft Word to create the fakes, instead of just picking up an old typewriter. But can one really imagine a forger so witless as to read the originals and then put together a fake that does not use either the same format or terminology as the originals?
UPDATE: Statement by the President of CBS News, Andrew Heyward (from DRUDGE):
"We established to our satisfaction that the memos were accurate or we would not have put them on television. There was a great deal of coroborating [sic] evidence from people in a position to know. Having said that, given all the questions about them, we believe we should redouble our efforts to answer those questions, so that's what we are doing."These were apparently that peculiar type of people in a position to know who were not capable of actually knowing that there are terms in there that are not used by Guards, the format wasn't the way we did it.
FURTHER UPDATE: To accept this "grand hypothesis" (noted by Kausfiles), one must accept the proposition that the source for these documents was a current or retired Texas Air National Guard officer, such as Bill Burkett, who has been cited in reports in Newsweek and The New York Times as a source for CBS' report. But that would mean that an officer in the TANG created documents that prompted Ms. Knox to note that there are terms in there that are not used by Guards, the format wasn't the way we did it. [Correction: Mr. Burkett was a member of the Army National Guard, not the Air National Guard. See the Further Update below.]
How likely is that? It doesn't seem that Ms. Knox's recollections can very easily be made practically consistent with the "grand hypothesis" or, for that matter, any hypothesis that posits that the documents were created or supplied by someone who knew Guard terminology and proper memo formatting.
Since Mr. Burkett seems likely to have been "The Source," perhaps it's time to start considering Ms. Knox as a somewhat ditzy 86-year-old lady and Democratic partisan who is pretending (knowingly or not) to remember more detail than most people do after 35 years. One can easily obtain better experts in "Guard terminology" than Ms. Knox. And any major media outlet could probably find other examples of memos created by or at the bidding of Mr. Killian. What does she add other than her misleading title as "former secretary" for Mr. Killian?
On the other hand, if other witnesses and investigation establish that the memos contain bad terminology and formatting, then perhaps Mr. Burkett isn't the true supplier or creator of the forgeries - even if they passed through his hands.
Has anybody actually asked Mr. Killian's family or other Guardsmen for some actual specimens of Mr. Killian's surviving memoranda that don't deal with Mr. Bush but that order other people to show up for physicals out of sequence or the like - just to compare formats and terminology and procedure, perhaps? Probably not. There's been no mention of that in the media coverage. Few who favor Mr. Bush in the election care about this old irrelevant Guard silliness one way or the other, and the mainstream media (especially CBS) reporters mostly seem to be too witless and partisan to have asked the right questions. Judging from the way CBS trashed its experts who warned that the documents looked phony, those reporters are and were much too afraid of the answers.
Mr. Rather says the CBS investigation went on for "years." Why is he bragging about that? - it's a very extended exercise in "don't ask, don't tell."
STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: An astute reader e-mails with this interesting observation:
What Ms. Knox said was that the terminology was ARMY terminology. Bill Burkett, the discredited Bush gadfly was in the ARMY NATIONAL GUARD. The documents came from the Abiline Kinkos where Burkett has an account. It really isn't a flight of fancy to see him as the actual source of the memos.
Mr. Burkett is a retired officer in the Army and the Army National Guard. But he has had experience which appears to have likely exposed him to lots of Air National Guard terminology. He was for a while the deputy commandant of the New Mexico Military Academy (or Institute) - which trains its cadets for entry to all of the armed forces, including the army and the air force. He worked under and clashed with Gen. Daniel James, an Air Force General then the head of the Texas National Guard since named head of the Air National Guard by President Bush (and son of the nation's first Black four-star general). Prior to his clash with General James, Mr. Burkett generally seems to have spent a fair amount of time in close contact with Air National Guard staff - close enough to have spent time listening at the General door. [As an aside, I find Mr. Burkett's own description of how he came to "overhear" General James to be inconsistent with any claim that Mr. Burkett is a generally trust worthy, straight forward or even honest man. What kind of person listens at partly opened doors - especially more than once, as Mr. Burkett admits to doing? "Trust worthy" is not a term I would generally apply.]
I agree with my e-mailer that it is not a flight of fancy to see Mr. Burkett as cobbling up memoranda with Army terminology. But given Mr. Burkett's apparent career experience, it still seems unlikely. On the other hand, he could have been a conduit for documents prepared by someone else.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
ABC News falls upon Dan Rather and CBS News ....and devours them:
Sept. 14, 2004— Two of the document experts hired by CBS News say the network ignored concerns they raised prior to the broadcast of a report citing documents that questioned George W. Bush's service in the National Guard during the Vietnam War. ....
ABC News is for the moment in full attack mode against CBS/Rather (although not yet directly against Kerry-Edwards), but the Los Angeles Times is still spinning this story to favor Mr. Rather to the extent that is possible.
Dan Rather and CBS News seem well on their way down the drain, drawn below by almost certainly fraudulent documents apparently provided by the Democratic National Committee and Kerry-Edwards. The DNC and Kerry-Edwards also had a heavy hand in setting up the preposterous Rather-CBS interview of Ben Barnes, a Democratic activist, Kerry fundraiser and former Texas House Speaker with recovered memories of having helped President Bush get into the Texas Air National Guard. Mr. Barnes own daughter, Amy Barnes, has publicly dismissed Barnes' claims as political and opportunistic. The Barnes interview and document mess have made CBS News and Mr. Rather laughing stocks, and concern is beginning to emerged from CBS News that Viacom, the CBS parent company, may see a silver lining in the collapse of Dan Rather in the form of an opportunity to scale back the entire unprofitable news division.
Despite its probably having been suckered and savaged by Kerry-Edwards and the DNC, so far CBS News has stood its ground and refused to turn on them, even citing a "confidentiality agreement" with the document source as the basis for refusing to make full disclosure.
Perhaps that "confidentiality agreement" is really a murder-suicide pact. The existence of such a pact would explain why the DNC is now running a bizarre attack ad incorporating part of the Rather-Barnes interview. Although the DNC ad does not use the discredited memos, it does have the effect of making Kerry-Edwards appear to endorse Mr. Rather's involvement, thereby depriving Kerry-Edwards of any safe distance from the ongoing Rather-CBS meltdown.
Perhaps the murder-suicide pact provided for something like this:
DNC/Kerry-Edwards murders CBS/Rather with phony documents and a phony interview, and then commits suicide by publicly embracing the polluted CBS/Rather materials. And, on top of all that, the DNC ad continues to drag the entire campaign back to the 1960's, even though that is exactly what Bill Clinton correctly told Senator Kerry was killing the Democrats' chances, and even though it is clear that voters don't care about Mr. Bush's service record because he's not running on it.
Why did CBS/Rather and DNC/Kerry-Edwards agree to go out this way?
Beats me. It's not even death with dignity.
The Republican National Committee shot back a one-line statement: "The video the Democrats released today is as creative and accurate as the memos they gave CBS."
It's not just that Tom Daschle is now trailing John Thune by 3%. That's not good for the incumbent, but it's within the poll's margin of error.
The really disturbing aspect of the Senator's position is that he seems to be decompensating just when he needs all his best personal resources. He's essentially refusing to debate. Who but a fool would do that in his position? He's been hugging Mr. Bush in his ads. Who could believe that his role as Senate Minority leader and Bush-Basher-In-Chief has not been noted by South Dakota voters? Is there "Daschle fatigue" in South Dakota? From the Washington Post's (! - again - !) telling, it's beginning to look more like "Daschle embarrassment."
And then, of course, there's John Kerry.
Monday, September 13, 2004
... and Kerry-Edwards and the Democrats.
Et tu, Washington Post?!
The excerpts below from the Post article linked are actually not nearly as good as material that has been generated and presented by bloggers and others (including John Fund) who have now become too numerous to mention - with Instapundit of course being a terrific clearinghouse. I reproduce these excerpts more as evidence that the Washington Post - at least at one time a pillar of the liberal media and still often pretty far off course - has turned on Dan Rather, and, by extension, perhaps on the Democratic National Committee and Kerry-Edwards, which are believed in many quarters to have provided at least some of the contested documents to the hapless Mr. Rather.
The Post's ferocity manifested in these excerpts is an interesting harbinger of what may well be in store for the Democrats and Kerry-Edwards if (as now seems all but certain) the documents turn out to be obvious fakes - especially if it also turns out (as now seems likely) that the DNC and Kerry-Edwards have suckered Mr. Rather and CBS News. Some commenters, including Rush Limbaugh, have already been making the argument that the media is irritated with Kerry-Edwards over relatively minor issues, such as the Democrats providing private but misleading assurance to reporters that Kerry-Edwards would vigorously contest many states that, at the time the assurances were given, the campaign had already all but written off. If the worst and now-apparently-most-likely story turns out to be the correct one (that is, the documents are fake, and the DNC and Kerry-Edwards the Rather-suckees), those Kerry-Edwards peccadilloes would be insignificant compared to feeding fraudulent documents to CBS and then inducing Mr. Rather to continue his defense of them. Indeed, in that case, it is possible that a broad section of the liberal media may turn on high Democrats with a cannibalistic ferocity not witnessed in our lifetimes. Perhaps another early example: these USA Today articles also show signs of a ferocity towards the Democratic cause uncharacteristic of that left leaning media organ. More, bigger, acts of cannibalism to come? - despite an ingrained disinclination on Big Media's part to gnaw at things Democratic or CBS noted by John Ellis.
It would be sweet to see.
[UPDATE: This White House story seems a lot less strained than the Rather confused version CBS is pushing.]
Here are the excerpts:
The lead expert retained by CBS News to examine disputed memos from President Bush's former squadron commander in the National Guard said yesterday that he examined only the late officer's signature and made no attempt to authenticate the documents themselves.
If the rest of the world takes the view of Michiko Kakutani then President Bush has absolutely nothing to fear from Kitty Kelley's new pathography.
Judging from Ms. Kakutani's review, it appears that the best that can be said of the new load of Kitty litter is that it may be loosely based ("inspired" would be a misleading term, to say the least) on somebody's true life story.
By the way, word has reached me that Ms. Kakutani's father, the incomparable and brilliant and kind Yale mathematician Shizuo Kakutani, has passed away. It is almost certainly the case that Messrs. Bush, Kerry and Cheney all passed within a few feet of Shizuo Kakutani. Who knows, perhaps one or more of them actually took a class from him. He was an excellent teacher of both basic and advanced mathematics.
One wonders if any of these three men now struggling for our attention like political fireflies has ever realized how physically close he stood as a youth to the kind of greatness that ultimately matters, that endures for centuries, that Shizuo Kakutani had in abundance. It's too late for the dullards at the Nobel Committee, but there's time yet for others to understand.