New Developments Raise Further Questions About CBS Memos
CBS continues to stand by its story that memos by the President's National Guard superior officer, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, show that Bush disobeyed a direct order and fell short of Guard requirements. However, developments over the weekend raise new doubts about the documents, first shown on CBS' "60 Minutes II" last Wednesday. CBS anchor Dan Rather staunchly defended his story on Friday, saying, "If any definitive news to the contrary of our story is found, we will report it. So far there is none." Last night, the CBS Evening News addressed the new questions about the memos' authenticity.
Said CBS, "This week a '60 Minutes' report raised new questions about president Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard some 30 years ago. . . . Today one document expert, Phillip Broussard, who had expressed suspicions about the documents, told the 'Boston Globe' and CBS News that he now believes the documents could have been prepared on an IBM Selectric Composer Typewriter available at the time. Also today, there are reports that retired National Guard Major General Bobby W. Hodges, who corroborated the CBS News account, now says he believes the documents were not real, in part because of recent statements of relatives of Jerry Killian, the squadron commander credited with writing the memos." In a phone interview, Hodges told the NBC Nightly News, "I do not believe these four memos are authentic." Hodges "said Killian wrote notes in long hand, never typed, and told NBC News the [language used in the] memos is more Navy or Army speak than Air Force. Hodges says he suspects this isn't a news story. 'It's been done for political purposes. That's my own opinion.'"
CBS News responded top Hodges' assertions in a statement: "We believed General Hodges the first time we spoke with him. . . . We stand by our story and will continue to report on it." As the Washington Post noted, CBS originally touted Hodges as its "trump card" when suspicions about the documents arose on Friday.
There was yet another challenge to the memos. The Dallas Morning News said the man named in one of the memos "as exerting pressure to 'sugar coat' President Bush's military record left the Texas Air National Guard a year and a half before the memo was supposedly written, his own service record shows. An order obtained by The Dallas Morning News shows that Col. Walter 'Buck' Staudt was honorably discharged on March 1, 1972. CBS News reported this week that a memo in which Col. Staudt was described as interfering with officers' negative evaluations of Mr. Bush's service was dated Aug. 18, 1973. . . . Col. Staudt, who lives in New Braunfels, did not return calls seeking comment." CBS continued to stand by the story, suggesting that Staudt "could have continued to exert influence over Guard officials."
The Wall Street Journal says this morning CBS, "along with its veteran anchor Dan Rather, has a lot riding on the authenticity of the four memos. 'If the documents are proven to be fake, it will be a terrible, devastating blow,' says Larry Grossman, former president of NBC News. 'People will be fired, the program loses its credibility and Dan Rather ends a distinguished career with his reputation besmirched.'" The Journal adds, "Aside from Mr. Rather, people involved in the report include Mary Mapes, a '60 Minutes' producer known for breaking politically sensitive stories. In April she played a key role in the '60 Minutes' scoop about abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Neither Ms. Mapes nor Mr. Rather could be reached for comment." USA Today says the controversy "renews questions about whether the media are more vulnerable to being manipulated by partisans seeking to influence the presidential campaign."
Analysis Finds Bush Fell Short Of National Guard Requirements.
In this week's edition, U.S. News and World Report says that a review "of the regulations governing Bush's Guard service during the Vietnam War shows that the White House used an inappropriate and less stringent Air Force standard in determining that he had fulfilled his duty. Because Bush signed a six-year 'military service obligation,' he was required to attend at least 44 inactive-duty training drills each fiscal year beginning July 1. But Bush's own records show that he fell short of that requirement, attending only 36 drills in the 1972-73 period, and only 12 in the 1973-74 period. The White House has said that Bush's service should be calculated using 12-month periods beginning on his induction date in May 1968. Using this time frame, however, Bush still fails the Air Force obligation standard." US News adds that "White House officials say, Bush should be judged on whether he attended enough drills to count toward retirement. They say he accumulated sufficient points under this grading system. Yet, even using their method, which some military experts say is incorrect, U.S. News 's analysis shows that Bush once again fell short. His military records reveal that he failed to attend enough active-duty training and weekend drills to gain the 50 points necessary to count his final year toward retirement. The U.S. News analysis also showed that during the final two years of his obligation, Bush did not comply with Air Force regulations that impose a time limit on making up missed drills."