The credibility of the Washington Post’s editorial page took another hit today with Charles Lane’s nasty hit piece attacking Dan Rather — suggesting he’s not in his right mind — for suing CBS in the aftermath of the “Rathergate” ratfucking. Especially the nut graf:
Finally, no one in his right mind would keep insisting that those phony documents are real and that the Bush National Guard story is true.
On both counts (as with nearly all those preceding), Lane is factually and profoundly wrong. There were plenty of reasons at the time to think that the so-called “proof” that the “Killian documents” were fraudulent was itself mostly fraudulent, or at best fatally flawed. And there are plenty of reasons to believe that they may well have been authentic — including the study by Utah State professor David Hailey [PDF of the study itself here], who concluded that he was “totally persuaded they were typed.”
Moreover, Rather’s attorneys point out in their complaint (which Lane appears not to have read) that the private investigator hired by CBS in the aftermath of the debacle concluded that “the Killian documents were most likely authentic, and the underlying story was certainly accurate.”
As Eric Boehlert — whose contemporary reporting for Salon on the story was authoritative and convincing — wrote in his book Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush:
Not one of the key facts, all established through Bush’s own military records, were altered by CBS’s botched National Guard report. But the MSM, having already displayed little initiative on the story, took the 2004 CBS controversy as confirmation that they had been right in 2000 to wave off the issue of Bush’s Guard duty; that there was nothing there. Spooked by the angry conservative mob assembled online and that had been taking aim at CBS and its anchor Dan Rather, the MSM in 2004 quickly sprinted away from questions about Bush’s service and focused its attention solely on CBS’s sins.
The CBS fiasco essentially buried the hard factual reality based simply on the very authentic public records — namely, that George W. Bush failed to live up to his military commitments in a time of war, and that he and his minions continue to lie about it to this day.
It’s important to remember that at the time of the CBS report, there were many reports that reached this same basic conclusion, including Boehlert’s, an accounting in the Boston Globe, and even a damning report in U.S. News and World Report. It’s likewise important to remember that, because of the manufactured and utterly phony “Rathergate” controversy, the White House never did answer the questions that CBS raised in the course of its reportage utterly separate from the documents:
– Did a friend of the Bush family use his influence with the then-Texas House Speaker to get George W. Bush into the National Guard?
– Did Lt. Bush refuse an order to take a required physical?
– Was he suspended for “failing to perform up to standards”?
– And did he complete his commitment to the Guard?
The established record — contrary to Charles Lane’s fantasy — shows clearly that the answers to these questions are “yes,” “yes,” “yes,” and NO. Yet this has never been made clear to the public — and it’s actively obfuscated by mendacious nonsense like Lane’s.
The CBS report, and the way it fell apart, had all the earmarks of a classic ratfucking. Most of all, it allowed the White House to lie with impunity about Bush’s military records afterward, and to continue doing so to this day.
This ratfucking was especially hard for me to take; I had been collecting information on the story since the summer of 2000, and began posting about it back in 2003. After Michael Moore inadvertently awakened the story in early 2004, I began posting on it with great regularity (a sample list can be found here).
The story continues to have real relevance, because it lays bare the character of the cynical manipulator Americans have had as their president for the past seven years. As I wrote at the time:
The problem isn’t George W. Bush’s behavior in 1972. It is his behavior, and that of his administration and his campaign officials, in the very recent past that is at issue here.
Because the AWOL matter, first of all, demonstrates clearly that Bush has been lying to the American public about his behavior then, in an attempt to cover it up; and secondarily, in an extension of the first behavior, his military records appear to have been tampered with. The latter, we hardly need remind the critics, is a violation of federal law.
At the same time, the gross character flaw that the AWOL matter reveals is also very much part of what we have gotten from this presidency. There is no sense of accountability to the public anywhere in this administration; if something goes wrong [Can you say, "Weapons of mass destruction?" I knew you could.] it places the blame elsewhere. It falsifies budget figures and misleads the public about the grotesque debt load its deficits are placing on future generations. And it distorts intelligence estimates so that it can convince the public to participate in a war it had planned even before winning election. It bullies its opponents, and traffics in the most transparent way in keeping the public in line by fanning its fears of terrorist attack.
This is a presidency sold to the public on the phony image of Bush as a man of superior character — a straight shooter, a veteran, a man who understands and respects duty and honor. (This was meant to contrast with Bill Clinton and, by extension, Al Gore.) … This personal character of Bush’s has been a cornerstone of his entire governing style. Should we go to war? Trust Bush — he’s a “good man.” Economy’s in the dumpster? “He’s working hard to make things better.” Wrecking the environment? “How can you impugn our motives?” Valerie Plame? “That’s just politics.”
This style gives way to the kind of arrogance that can dress Bush up in a flight suit and send him jetting out to the deck of an aircraft carrier, in way specifically designed to emphasize his own phonied-up service record, for the sake of a photo op prematurely announcing “Mission Accomplished.” It’s what lets Bush get away with posing for all the world as a veteran “war president” with a real respect for the suffering of average soldiers. And it’s what lets him and his minions get away with impugning the motives and patriotism of the people who question his leadership.
Bush’s re-election campaign was predicated on the notion that he is a straight shooter: “You know where I stand,” was his signature line at the 2004 GOP convention. What the Texas Air National Guard episode makes clear, beyond any serious doubt, is that the man in fact is a lying manipulator — one willing to falsify (perhaps criminally) the record about not only his own conduct in the military, but also his war-hero opponent’s — and there is no reason any of us should believe a word that comes out of his mouth. We know where he stands, all right: on the side of George W. Bush, and everyone and everything else is fair game.
Most importantly, it revealed that George W. Bush, the man who is demanding American boys and girls and their families continue making the ultimate sacrifice for their country in a failed and fruitless war built on a foundation of false pretenses — that man was himself unwilling to even live up to his own modest military commitments, none of which involved so much as even placing himself in combat with the enemy. He continues to lie about that fact — even as he and his Republican cohort assail the patriotism and integrity of anyone who dares stand up to them.
And guys like Charles Lane are evidently happy to serve as his willing enabler.