View Full Version : CBS falls for Kerry campaign's fake memo (Mark Steyn)

09-11-2004, 08:58 AM
CBS falls for Kerry campaign's fake memo (http://www.suntimes.com/output/steyn/cst-edt-steyn12.html)

September 12, 2004


A few weeks ago, Thomas Oliphant of the Boston Globe was on PBS' ''Newshour'' explaining why the hundreds of swift boat veterans' allegations against John Kerry's conduct in Vietnam was unworthy of his attention. "The standard of clear and convincing evidence," he said, talking to Swiftvet John O'Neill as if he were a backward fourth-grader, ''is what keeps this story in the tabloids -- because it does not meet basic standards.''

Last week, we got a good idea of what Thomas Oliphant's ''basic standards'' are. Dan Rather and the elderly gentlemen at ''60 Minutes'' were all atwitter because they'd come into possession of some hitherto undiscovered memos relating to whether George W. Bush failed to show up for his physical in the War of 1812. The media had been flogging this dead horse all spring, but these newly ''discovered'' memos had jump-started the old nag just enough to get him on his knees long enough for the media to flog him all over again.

Unfortunately for CBS, Dan Rather's hairdresser sucks up so much of the budget that there was nothing left for any fact-checking, so the ''60 Minutes'' crew rushed on air with a damning National Guard memo conveniently called ''CYA'' that Bush's commanding officer had written to himself 32 years ago. ''This was too hot not to push,'' one producer told the American Spectator. Hundreds of living Swiftvets who've signed affidavits and are prepared to testify on camera -- that's way too cold to push; we'd want to fact-check that one thoroughly, till, say, midway through John Kerry's second term. But a handful of memos by one dead guy slipped to us by a Kerry campaign operative -- that meets ''basic standards'' and we gotta get it out there right away.

The only problem was the memo. Amazingly, this guy at the Air National Guard base, Lt. Col. Killian, had the only typewriter in Texas in 1973 using a prototype version of the default letter writing program of Microsoft Word, complete with the tiny little superscript thingy that automatically changes July 4th to July 4th. To do that on most 1973 typewriters, you had to unscrew the keys, grab a hammer and give them a couple of thwacks to make the ''t'' and ''h'' squish up all tiny, and even think it looked a bit wonky. You'd think having such a unique typewriter Killian would have used a less easily traceable model for his devastating ''CYA'' memo. Also, he might have chosen a font other than Times New Roman, designed for the Times of London in the 1930s and not licensed to Microsoft by Rupert Murdoch (the Times' owner) until the 1980s.

Killian is no longer around to confirm his extraordinary Magic Typewriter, but his son denied the stuff was written by his dad, and his widow said her late husband never typed. So, on the one hand, we have hundreds of living veterans with chapter and verse on Kerry's fantasy Christmas in Cambodia, and, on the other hand, we have a guy who's been dead 20 years but is still capable of operating Windows XP. It took the savvy chappies at the Powerline Web site and Charles Johnson of ''Little Green Footballs'' about 20 minutes to spot the eerily 2004 look of the 1972 memo, and various Internet wallahs spent the rest of the day tracking down the country's leading typewriter identification experts.

Bombarded with accusations that CBS had fallen for an obvious hoax, Dan turned to his trusty Smith-Corona and bashed out a few e-mails: ''For the umpteenth time,'' he said angrily, ''this is the kind of sleaze I had to put up with when they scoffed at 'What's the frequency, Kenneth?' "

Are Dan Rather and ''60 Minutes'' a bunch of patsies suckered by the Kerry campaign? Not exactly. According to the American Spectator, ''The CBS producer said that some alarm bells went off last week when the signatures and initials of Killian on the documents in hand did not match up with other documents available on the public record, but producers chose to move ahead with the story.''

Hey, why not? Who's gonna spot it? If CBS says it's so, that's good enough for Thomas Oliphant's Boston Globe, the New York Times and the Washington Post, all of whom rushed the story onto their front pages because it met their ''basic standards.'' On Friday morning, Paul Krugman, the New York Times' excitable economist, filed a column called, ''The Dishonesty Thing,'' and for one moment I thought he was about to upbraid CBS for rushing on air with their laughably fake memos. But no, he was droning on about how the National Guard story demonstrated George W. Bush's ''pattern of lies: his assertions that he fulfilled his obligations when he obviously didn't ..."

The tragedy for Rather, Oliphant, Krugman and Co. is that even if the memos were authentic nobody would care. Their boy Kerry had a crummy August not because he didn't hammer Bush for being AWOL in the Spanish-American War but because the senator's AWOL in the present war. Big Media are trashing their own reputations in service to a man who can never win.

After the 2002 election, I wrote, ''Remind me never to complain about 'liberal media bias' again. Right now, liberal media bias is conspiring to assist the Democrats to sleepwalk over the cliff.''

The media and the Democrats sustain each other's make-believe land. Dan Rather tells his staff, ''Kerry's told me there's nothing to this Swiftvet thing.'' Kerry tells his, ''Rather's assured me this Swiftvet story's going nowhere.''

George W. Bush ought to wake up every morning and thank the Lord the media aren't on his side.

Remember the Hitler Diaries? They turned up in the '80s. Only problem is they weren't by Hitler. But by then various prestige publications had paid a fortune to serialize them. Among them was the Sunday Times of London, owned by Murdoch, who wasn't happy. He called the editor, Frank Giles, into his office, and said, ''Frank, I'm promoting you to editor emeritus.''

''I've always wondered,'' murmured Frank, ''what 'editor emeritus' means.''

''The 'e-' means you've been given the elbow and the '-meritus' means you bloody deserve it,'' said Murdoch.

I have a feeling after November CBS News will be promoting Dan Rather to editor emeritus.

Either that, or next week's ''60 Minutes'' -- ''Exclusive! Handwriting Expert Says Bush Wrote The Hitler Diaries!'' -- will have much better fact-checking.

Baby Lee
09-11-2004, 09:12 AM
So, on the one hand, we have hundreds of living veterans with chapter and verse on Kerry's fantasy Christmas in Cambodia, and, on the other hand, we have a guy who's been dead 20 years but is still capable of operating Windows XP.
ROFL ROFL - guess which one Taco's standing behind? Just like a d@mn donkey fan.

Michael Michigan
09-11-2004, 12:16 PM
ROFL ROFL - guess which one Taco's standing behind? Just like a d@mn donkey fan.

He'll show up soon and call Steyn a hack just as he did Malkin.

09-11-2004, 01:08 PM
...Dan Rather and the elderly gentlemen at ''60 Minutes'' were all atwitter because they'd come into possession of some hitherto undiscovered memos relating to whether George W. Bush failed to show up for his physical in the War of 1812....

ROFL Very entertaining column.

Michael Michigan
09-11-2004, 01:34 PM
ROFL Very entertaining column.

No question--Steyn is brilliant.

09-27-2004, 06:10 AM
More from Steyn:


If I’ve been following the campaign correctly, the typical John Kerry day involves an early-morning stop at Bud’s Truck Stop on Rte 103 at which the Senator orders a hot dog. Asked what he wants on it, he says an aubergine and lemongrass coulis. Afterwards, he heads to Idaho for a windsurfing photo-op to communicate his virility, after first flying out his stylist from Cristophe’s to mousse his hair into its windswept and tousled position. Following questions from the press on the cost of his hairdresser, he first denies that he has a hairdresser and then, when her curling tongs and rollers are pointed out in the back of his family’s SUV, snaps, “She’s not my hairdresser, she’s the family’s hairdresser.”

Later, after a two-man luge run with his Secret Service agent ends with him falling off after 50 yards, he snarls, “I don’t fall off. That sonofabitch agent arched his back too high.” Conceding that he was never in Cambodia on Christmas Eve 1968, the Senator says that those words were repeatedly placed in his mouth by over-zealous speechwriters. He wasn’t in Cambodia, his wife’s first husband’s corporation’s wholly owned subsidiary was in Cambodia. “But if George W Bush’s Republican smear machine wants to make our service in Vietnam an issue, I say to them: BRING. IT. ON!”

“But they have brought it on.”

“Well, if they want to continue bringing it on, I say to them: BRING. IT. ON!”

“But your campaign has put out an ad that President Bush call it off.”

“Well, if he wants to make an issue of my begging him to call it off, I say to him: BRING. IT. ON.”

The day ends with the Senator throwing the first pitch at the Red Sox game. It lands on his red sock and breaks his toe, resulting in him taking two weeks off for surgery, in the course of which his numbers go up four points.

If it weren’t for the small matter of the war for civilization, I’d find it hard to resist a Kerry Presidency. Groucho Marx once observed that an audience will laugh at an actress playing an old lady pretending to fall downstairs, but, for a professional comic to laugh, it has to be a real old lady. That’s how I feel about the Kerry campaign. For the professional political analyst, watching Mondale or Dukakis or Howard Dean stuck in the part of the guy who falls downstairs is never very satisfying: they’re average, unexceptional fellows whom circumstances have conspired to transform into walking disasters. But Senator Kerry was made for the role, a vain thin-skinned droning blueblood with an indestructible sense of his own status but none at all of his own ridiculousness. If Karl Rove had labored for a decade to produce a walking parody of the contemporary Democratic Party’s remoteness, condescension, sense of entitlement, public evasiveness and tortured relationship with military matters, he couldn’t have improved on John F Kerry.

For most of us this would be more than enough to see us through November: Why did John Kerry cross the road? “I crossed the road to volunteer for Vietnam. Some of us know something about what it means to cross the road.” Who was that lady I saw you with last night? “That was no lady, that was my meal ticket.” How many John Kerrys does it take to change a lightbulb? At least four. One to approve the removal of the old lightbulb. One to declare his courageous commitment to replacing the old bulb. One to vote against funding the new lightbulb. And one to denounce George W Bush and America’s Benedict Arnold CEOs for leaving everyone in the dark.

It seems almost a shame to over-egg the Kerry pudding with the dark unsettling shadow of his war fantasies, the strange double inflation of his own exploits and of everyone else’s “war crimes”. Even then, the Swift vets’ campaign on Kerry’s actions 35 years ago seems most effective in driving him to idiotic actions right now, such as his demand to his lawyers that they threaten action against bookstores carrying Unfit For Command. Fortunately, most bookstore owners are too busy defending the “freedom to read the books you choose” against John Ashcroft’s Patriot Act to take umbrage at Kerry’s cease-and-desist letters. But imagine if Bush were to threaten lawsuits over every book that was unpleasant about him: every bookstore would be two-thirds empty and you could hunt buffalo on the plains of their floor space.

I underestimated Kerry because I made the mistake of seeing too much of him in 2003 – in Woodsville, Plymouth, Littleton and other obscure stops on the New Hampshire primary trail. He was awful. And he was just as awful in the huge auditorium at Nashua High School in late January as he’d been at the Barge Inn in Woodsville the previous summer. The only difference was that he was now awful with a full supporting cast – the “band of brothers”, Max Cleland, Ted Kennedy, Patrick Kennedy, Jeanne Shaheen… When the chorus line momentarily parted and you got a glimpse of the candidate, he still seemed like a plodding single-digit fifth-place guy.

Primary season gives the party’s electorate a chance to rattle the leading candidate and make him a better campaigner. This time round the leading candidates – Dean, Clark – rattled the electorate and in their stampede to the fire exits they wound up sweeping the quintessential “None of the Above” man to victory. They made a very basic miscalculation: Howard Dean was a dull centrist governor pretending to be nuts, John Kerry is a nut passing himself off as a dull centrist.

Granted that many folks mistake self-importance for gravitas, it’s surprising the devious minds of the Democratic establishment, so fearful of Dean, failed to see the problems with Kerry. A serious party would have seen the war on terror as a major foreign policy challenge they needed to address credibly. But instead the Democrats looked on it in a shriveled, partisan Carvillesque way as a Bush wedge issue they needed to neutralize. And so they bought into JFK’s self-created myth of his four months in the Mekong as the most epic chapter in the history of the republic, and here they are mired in a Vietnam quagmire that feels like it’s been going on longer than the real one.

The Democratic spinmeisters outspun themselves. If there’s one lesson to be drawn from the 2002 elections it’s that biography is insufficient: The war-wounded Cleland, the widow Carnahan, the old lion Mondale all went down, because come election day losing three limbs or your husband or 49 states is not in itself a qualification for office, not in serious times. Two years ago, voters were very clear-sighted, and they rejected the TV-movie-of-the-week narratives, however appealing, in the absence of evidence that the candidates were credible on the issue that mattered.

But in the Senator’s case the party was so gripped by their cynically contracted Mekong syndrome they overlooked how unappealing 99% of the biography was. The Senatitis – all the I-voted-for-it-before-I-voted-against-it stuff – is an inevitable consequence of spending more than half a term in the joint. But what could the Dems do? Once Gray Davis got into trouble, they’d hardly any Governors left to run, apart from Jennifer Granholm in Michigan and Howard Dean in Vermont, and in the former case she’s Canadian and in the latter his state is (or might as well be). But, even if you’re stuck with running a Senator, this one’s a dud. Senator Kennedy, by comparison, has a formidable list of legislative accomplishments. Disastrous accomplishments, to be sure, but you can at least see the guy’s been doing something. Kerry, by contrast, has nothing to show for his 20 years in Washington other than a lot of votes against things – mainly against (if you’re looking for a theme) the projection of American power in America’s interest. More to the point, the sour oppositionism isn’t grounded in any strategic clarity so much as his inability to get past Vietnam. His now famous 1986 Senate speech, with its attractively “seared” Currier & Ives scenes of Christmas in Cambodia, is typical: he was supposed to be addressing America’s Latin American policy but the only part of his speech in which he sounds engaged is yet another self-aggrandising stroll down the Ho Chi Minh Memory Trail.

Ted Kennedy ran into trouble because he couldn’t give an answer to why he wanted to be President. Kerry’s problem starts long before that: after 20 years, there seems to be no obvious answer as to why he wanted to be a Senator. There’s something to be said for the cynically conservative attitude that a legislator who doesn’t produce any legislation is the least worst kind. But when a Senator makes the focus of his legislative inertia America’s national security, the Cold War and missile defence I’m not sure that theory isn’t being stretched beyond its natural limits. When Kerry talks, as he often does, about his “30 years in public service”, it’s hard to see what service the public’s got out of it.

These kinds of platitudes ring particularly empty from Senator Kerry. Americans do not begrudge a man making great wealth or inheriting it. But there is something vaguely icky about living the high life off the money of your wife’s first husband, especially when you give off the air that the good things that flow therefrom – the private jets, the luxury vacations homes, the $8,000 bicycle – are essential to your sense of yourself. Bush is rich but no-one would have a home in Crawford, Texas unless it really was his home: you don’t go there for haute cuisine or the jet set. If you prefer a less partisan comparison, take Governor Dean, a Park Avenue blueblood who found love, happiness and fulfillment in a materially modest life in Vermont. But Kerry’s expensive tastes seem central to his identity. And his preferred formulation for detaching his policy positions from his lifestyle is especially feeble: “That’s not my SUV, that’s the family’s SUV” – as if Teresa’s his Halliburton and he just happens to be enjoying some windfall profits, which, come to think of it, seems pretty much the case.

Noemie Emery referred to him as a “consort”, and that’s a good word for him. Watching him attempt to engage in regular-guy-type activities – eating a cheese steak sandwich, talking sports, sipping a Coke - he reminds me of the Duchess of Gloucester making strained small talk with the lads in her capacity as Colonel-in-Chief of the Bermuda Regiment or the Royal New Zealand Army Educational Corps: even when she’s doing her best – and that’s more than John Kerry does on these occasions – you’re aware that this is not Her Royal Highness’ natural habitat. In that respect, Senator Kerry seems foreign to the rhythms of ordinary American life, and unlike the Duchess he’s got no good excuse.

Yet it’s the paradox at the heart of this most exquisitely refined and cultured of candidacies that none of these routine endurance tests of American vernacular politics – the New Hampshire primary pancake flip, etc – is as crass, vulgar or demeaning as the Presidential campaign the Senator designed for himself: the over-inflation of four months in the Mekong Delta into the sole rationale for the Kerry Presidency. Watching John Kerry “reporting for duty” at the Democratic Convention, I found myself pining for an unscheduled walk-on by Dr Gilkes, P G Wodehouse’s headmaster at Dulwich College in England. Gilkes, a Dumbledore-type figure of six foot six in long white beard, was dedicated to keeping his boys from “getting above themselves”. Wodehouse recalled his reaction to some triumph on the cricket field as follows:

“So you made a century against Tonbridge, did you, my boy? Well, always remember that you will soon be dead, and in any case, the bowling was probably rotten.”

If only the Democrats had had some latterday Gilkes figure to clip Kerry round the ear and tell him to stop being such a perishing puff after the first Vietnam retro roadshow stop of this hollow vanity candidacy. How much pain the party would have been spared. How easily it could have avoided running Kerry/Edwards as a Bob Hope/Jill St John ticket with all the sexual chemistry but none of the gags. In 1960, accepting the nomination in another perilous time, the prototype JFK, the one warming up the initials for the present colossus, never felt the need to mention PT-109, never mind base his entire candidacy on it, or reunite his crew to serve as warm-up act and campaign mascots. But 44 years on today’s Dems loved condescending to Kerry’s “band of brothers” at that Boston convention: Never in the field of human conflict was so much made of so few by so many.

For a couple of years now, I’ve heard bigtime Democrats say that “of course” they support our troops even though they oppose the war. I’ve never quite understood what that meant. But I think that’s what most Dems saw in Kerry: they supported a soldier who opposed a war because he was the embodiment of their straddle. Alas, if you detach the heroism of a war from the morality of it what’s left but braggadocio? Anyone can latch on to that “band of brothers” line from Henry V, but you’d think a chap from a Swiss finishing school would be aware of the rest of the speech:

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say “These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.”
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day…

And even some he didn’t do – gun-running to Cambodia, etc. As the English say, it’s not cricket. I don’t know whether, at any of his extensive range of elite educational establishments, John Kerry ever played cricket - for an American politician on the stump, he has a curious taste in sports: “I love baseball. I love football. I love sports. French skiers.” But this behavior is so unseemly I’m confident that not only is it not cricket, it’s not even French skiing.

There are two likely outcomes this November: he will lose narrowly, and we’ll be in for another four years of whining about how the world’s biggest moron managed to steal a second election; or he’ll lose decisively. The second option will be better for the long-term health of the Democratic Party. The third option – a regally insulated President, Chiraquiste and Chiraquesque – doesn’t bear thinking about.

from the special all-Kerry souvenir edition of National Review, September 13th 2004

09-27-2004, 07:53 AM
Thanks BOCF. :)