The point of this, of course, is that if the documents are fake, then Dubya's supporters don't have to deal with their contents, which are damning. But most of what's in them is on the public record, which is damning anyway. There is absolutely no controversy that he missed a flight physical. The order grounding him says so in plain English, and he hasn't denied it. Instead, his spokesman says:
- the bottom line is President Bush did not take that physical.... And the reason why is as I stated, that it was clear, as it says in your own documents, that President Bush talked to the commanders about the fact that he'd be transferring to a unit that no longer, or did not fly the plane that he was trained -- he was trained and a fighter pilot on F-102, which he flew for four years. And in this case, he was going to a unit in Alabama that didn't fly that plane.
So, after the Air Force spent hundreds of thousands of 1972 dollars training Dubya to be a fighter pilot -- a billet for which there were many, many applicants more qualified than Bush, who would have been thrilled to serve the whole term -- he just chose to stop flying, move to Alabama, and drop all the associated obligations. The National Guard may at the time have been a softer branch of the service than, say, the Marines -- but puh-leeze.
Oh, by the way, the only formal transfer request Dubya had made at the time he missed the physical, to of all things an Alabama postal unit, had been flatly denied. And then there's the matter of his drill attendance record, even after he was mysteriously allowed to let his flight status lapse, which was poor enough that by any applicable standard, he should have been drummed out of the Guard and drafted; this U.S. News report is as good a summary of that matter as any.
For more on Dubya's attitude toward his service commitments, here's the man himself:
- I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes.
He's talking here about ways (including self-mutilation!) to avoid combat in a war which he openly advocated at the time.
So, we already know that Dubya blew off a required flight physical. We already knew that his attitude toward the obligations of the service was... well, casual at best. And we already knew that he sought to avoid the sacrifices of a war which he was happy to urge on the rest of the country. So, ummm... what was it that this memo was supposedly forged to prove again?
What really matters here is whether Dubya did his best to fulfil his duty as a member of the service, or whether he tried to blow it off -- and the public record already speaks well enough on that point that this purportedly forged document adds little or nothing. Unfortunately, the guides of our national discourse in the responsible press don't seem to want to talk about what really matters here. It's more fun to talk about typewriters. So we get stories like this, from Kit Seelye and Jim Rutenberg, which breathlessly report every rumor and bit of noise that the reporters can get, like so:
- Farrell C. Shiver, a forensic document examiner based in
Georgia who said he was a Republican, said the superscript "th's"
throughout the memos were "something you would expect to find being
done with a computer" and were "not consistent with something that you
would expect to find from someone typing a document; they used
typewriters in that particular time." ...
CBS News executives also produced a document released earlier by the White House about Mr. Bush's service that was clearly from a typewriter and had a superscript "th" in it.
At which point, the only possible response is, "Say what?" The released documents establish beyond any doubt that typewriters of the time could do a superscript "th", and the soi-disant expert "forensic document examiner" who claims otherwise doesn't know what he's talking about. So why the frink is he being quoted as an expert in the New York Times?
In fact, the whole purported flood of forgery evidence boils down to political partisans blowing smoke. [Not anymore: the typography complaints are still nonsense, but someone in Dallas finally did some decent reporting, and at least raised legitimate doubts about the style of the memos -- though not about the contents. See update below.] Shoveling through the whole sordid mess is a crap job which I don't have to do, because the crowd at the Daily Kos has already done it. But here are the two things you need to know. [Well, about the typography, at any rate.] IBM had at least three different models (Executive C, Executive D, Selectric Composer) which could duplicate all the typographic features of these memos. Also the letters in the memos are on an uneven baseline -- different 'e's on the same line are at slightly different vertical positions, which is normal in typewritten documents, but very hard to duplicate in, say, Microsoft Word. (And as to the apparently credentialed commenters who are quibbling over precise letterforms -- ummm, these are sixth-generation photocopies, folks. Those details are smudged).
Unfortunately, the smoke gets in peoples' eyes. A few days ago, Josh Marshall posted that:
- Over the last twenty-four hours I've received literally hundreds of emails that point out that each specific criticism, on its own terms, doesn't quite hold up. Thus, for instance, there definitely were proportional type machines widely available at the time. There were ones that did superscripts. There were ones with Times Roman font, or something very near to it.
My reaction would be that that argues in favor of the documents -- there were at least dozens, if not hundreds, of right-wing bloggers scouring the documents for typographical anachronisms; if there were any, you'd think they'd have found one. And apparently, I'm not the only person who thinks like that. But Josh Marshall -- investigative reporter, and professionally trained historian -- doesn't: "taken all together, the criticisms raise big doubts in my mind about [the memos'] authenticity." So, a lot of nonsense is more persuausive than a little. Again, say what?
More: Matthew Yglesias links to a new Washington Post article and says, "now it looks like they're forgeries". But looking at the article itself, I see mostly stylistic nitpicking even sillier than Seelye and Rutenberg, particularly in light of the failed "stylistic analysis" I quoted up top, which would have flunked a clearly genuine memo as well. The Post does raise two supposed factual issues. One of the memos uses a home address for Bush which would have been out of date at the time -- surely a sign of sloppy record-keeping, but as likely in 1972 as at any other time. Another supposed problem is a reference to political pressure from someone named Staudt who was retired from the Guard at the time. I'll buy that when someone shows me the Air Force procedures manual for favoritism and graft in corrupt guard units which dictates that political pressure may only be applied by superior officers in the formally constituted chain of command. Once again, where there's smoke, there's right-wing shills blowing smoke.
Update: Well, there's now (much to my surprise) a complaint that stands up to scrutiny. The Dallas Morning News found and interviewed the secretary of the purported author of the memos, who is absolutely not a right-wing shill; she tells the paper that Bush is "unfit for office". She also says that the memos are not her typing, nor her typewriter, which I certainly believe, but it's not inconceivable that her boss might have had someone else type up a memo or two. More seriously, though, she has stylistic quibbles which (unlike the nitpicks in the Post) actually make a little sense -- the use of Army terminology such as "billet", for example. However, she goes on to say that the memos are similar enough to documents that did exist that the conclusions that CBS drew are entirely justified, regardless.
As long as I'm on the subject, there's yet another document of mysterious provenance surfacing, in which he promises to keep flying for five years after his training. If that holds up, well then, the idea that he might have simply chosen to go off flight status looks bad. But hey, it looks bad regardless.