The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, September 20, 2004

Rathergate and the Trojan Horse

I'm heartily glad to have bugged out of the saga without ever really bugging in. The Wikipedia Rathergate page I note for future reference has a 6,000 word summary with loads links [1]. does what it says on the tin.

Perhaps the most puzzling thing about the story is what convinced CBS that they were onto a winner with the Killian memos (WaPo yesterday):
White House communications director Dan Bartlett had agreed to talk to "60 Minutes," but only on condition that the CBS program provide copies of what were being billed as newly unearthed memos indicating that President Bush had received preferential treatment in the National Guard. The papers were hand-delivered at 7:45 a.m. CBS correspondent John Roberts, filling in for Rather, sat down with Bartlett at 11:15.

Half an hour later, Roberts called "60 Minutes" producer Mary Mapes with word that Bartlett was not challenging the authenticity of the documents. Mapes told her bosses, who were so relieved that they cut from Rather's story an interview with a handwriting expert who had examined the memos.

At that point, said "60 Minutes" executive Josh Howard, "we completely abandoned the process of authenticating the documents. Obviously, looking back on it, that was a mistake. We stopped questioning ourselves. I suppose you could say we let our guard down."

They're about to unleash on Bush; and the guy who they get to verify the documents concerned is one of Bush's boys; and they rely not on a positive statement, but the absence of a negative one.

I don't believe it. The wishful thinking, the partisan animus to the Administration, Rather looking for a last hurrah before they put him out to pasture - all that I get. But calling off the examiners (such as they were) in favour of Bartlett's failure to go ballistic - a grade school newspaper editor [2] wouldn't do something as dumb.

As for all the rest - the olla podrida is bubbling up nicely, and it looks as if they'll be plenty of nourishment to be had by everyone by and by.

  1. Apparently, pseudo-kerning is also known as hinting. I'd wager a copper coin of the realm that not a lot of people know that. Not sad sack Dan Rather, at least.

  2. Do grade schools have newspapers? Don't take my word for it...


From USA Today yesterday: 60 Minutes producer Josh Howard said
One thing I know is that 60 Minutes didn't create the documents. This wasn't a fraud we perpetrated.

Comes perilously close to a straw-man, I reckon.


Trojan Horse? The strong version has Bartlett as a cog in some Rovian skullduggery, phoning Rather's boys with a view deliberately give them unmerited comfort on the wretched memos.

I don't believe, but who knows?

The weak version is that Bartlett, not paid as an adviser to CBS, never intended to pass on the authenticity of the memos. He thought - silly boy! - that so prestigious an outfit on so sensitive a story would have actually done their job. A certain ring of truth (but let's no get carried away!) in his quote to the Post:
How am I supposed to verify something that came from a dead man in three hours?

But he was the enemy - as the Greeks were to the Trojans.

Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. At least the Trojans got kindling...

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