Does The End Justify The Means?

For some reason, there is a pretty big apparent fraud going on in the media world right now that John isn’t inclined to address, so I guess I will.

Here is my take on this whole “CBS-National Guard document” fiasco. CBS, has had knowledge of this story, in one way or another, for years now. They, along with many others, fully believe that Bush got preferential treatment to get into the Guard, and was protected while serving, and then was quietly exited out with an official blessing. Hearing that someone out there has personal documents that “prove” what many already believe to be true, they have slowly developed a trust with the source, likely through a third party, and eventually were able to review, and then “independently authenicate” and finally, use, the damming documents. The level of belief that CBSNews had in the sincerity of the people involved and the basic authentic wording and “look” of the papers was likely in direct negative correlation to the rigorousness of the effort used to verify them. Did they pass the “sniff test” and could CBS get some kind of document authority to pass positive judgement on them? (Even without, apparently, being able to view all the documents first-hand!) In the end, they felt so.

Remember, the powers behind this investigation were likely all working under the same assumed reality that Bush is guilty of receiving and taking improper advantage of special treatment in connection with his Guard service. Now they felt they had the smoking gun to prove their belief. All the dots seemed connected, in terms of who had the documents in their possession, the time period that was involved, why they weren’t available as a part of any legal public disclosure, and in the affirmation by other people associated with the source who agreed that he could have plausibly created and maintained such documents. This belief was now strong enough to discard conflicting evidence, such as skeptical family members and some relevant expert authorities.

Now, faced with overwhelming criticism over not only their claims, but also in the way they went about their investigative process, CBS is in full panic mode. They insist on the authenticity of the papers and scurry to find new “proof” and corroborating authorities and associates of the source (although saner minds at the network managed to get a small retreat position built into their official statement, regarding the “redoubling” of their efforts to insure accuracy).

The underlying rationale that Rather and the Gang seem to be holding onto is this: Regardless of the ultimate fate of the documents themselves, the “truth” is still unchanged. That is, that Bush’s Guard service is full of fradulent actions and improper favoritism. That “truth” should therefore overarc the legitimacy of the process used to present it.

In my opinion, that mindset will ultimately result in the discrediting of the main message that the powers behind this news story wanted to bring in front of the voters in this election. I believe that once the documents are given up as illegitimate, the point that the documents were meant to prove will become jointly discredited in the minds of a great many of the voting public who may have otherwise been swayed by the information that suggested Bush’s dishonesty about his service. And, if a “DNC operative” connection can also be proven or made plausible, then the Kerry campaign takes an even bigger hit.

To what point does the future integrity of a Network News icon get put at risk in order to support a strongly-held belief that is being pushed by some power players within the organization? And what will the fallout have on the already sagging influence of Network media, as well as the Presidential campaign?

And at what point will the focus be put on issues that directly matter for this country’s future, rather than decades-old Guard service or Swift Boat activity and the validity of Purple Heart medals?

7 Responses to “Does The End Justify The Means?”

  1. Steve Wilder Says:

    Good to see you posting Craig. The laziness of the mainstream media is disgusting. They all latch on to some story (Gore is a serial exaggerator, Bush relied upon family connections to bail him out of messes, there are definitely WMD in Iraq) whether or not the story is actually true (and whether or not the story is meaningful).

    I’m about as sure that Bush got improper favoritism as I am that OJ killed his ex. I’m also sure that I don’t care about Bush’s cushy life or about OJ at all.

    I’d encourage you to post again about what you think the most important issue in this election is.

    I’m torn between the war on terrorism, the war in Iraq, the budget, the importance of expert advice and results on policy-making, and international relations.

  2. Craig Says:

    Let me clarify that by “icon” I’m referring to “60 Minutes” and “CBS News” and not Dan Rather, who is an active participant in his own undoing.

  3. Adam Says:

    This whole thing does have an unfortunate “Witness for the Prosecution” effect to it. If the docs are fake, then many people will say to themselves, well, Bush’s service must be honorable. Although I also think this story, either side, hasn’t penetrated into the public consciousness in the way that the Swift Boat thing did. So maybe the damage on both sides will be limited.

    Anti-Bush people should have learned a long time ago that the Guard angle was a loser. No one cares. The problem is, apparently there’s no valid criticism of Bush that seems to make a difference. People who have chose him will follow him off a cliff (correction: have followed him), and to cut him loose now would be too damaging to their worldview. If he’s wrong, everything they thought was wrong too. And people will do anything not to feel that way.

  4. John Callender Says:

    Yeah, it’s good to see you posting to the site, Craig. And it’s not so much that I’m feeling disinclined to post about this particular story, as much as I’ve just had stuff keeping me way busy for the past week or so.

    But it’s true that I do think those obsessing over this story are being pretty weird. LIke when it turned out that Joe Wilson had exaggerated some minor side issue in his completely understandable antipathy toward Bush, and as a result all the rightwing blogger crowd could talk about for days on end was how this PROVED that Bush was telling the truth about Iraq’s attempts to obtain uranium from Africa.

    People. Please.

    There was actually another good article on Bush’s Guard (non-)duty in the Nation the other day. I meant to link to it from proper, but I think I’ll just drop the link in here:

    By Russ Baker: Why Bush left Texas.

  5. Tom Buckner Says:

    Walter Cronkite must be watching all this and thinking “I gave the kid the car keys and he wrapped it around a tree.”

  6. Dean Says:

    From the Nation article: “Guard members and officials, military experts and Bush associates, points toward the conclusion that Bush’s personal behavior was causing alarm among his superior officers and would ultimately lead to his fleeing the state to avoid a physical exam he might have had difficulty passing. His failure to complete a physical exam became the official reason for his subsequent suspension from flying status.”

    I was a fighter pilot from 1974 through 1980. I was regular AF, not ANG or Reserve. I am familiar with the process around flight cert. physicals having had my share. I’m also familia with the random drug testing policy instated prior to my service period. I don’t claim to be an expert on AF records, but I do have a lot of experience of having my actions documented or not by the record keeping process in the AF during that general period of time.

    If I – as a regular AF pilot – were due a flight physical (usually these were due annually on or before the day of your birthday) and did not take it there could be several legitimate reasons: I asked for and received a waiver to change the due date; I was changing to a non-flying position either as a result of my assignment; or because the AF had reason to change the date of my physical. Note that not all of these actions would necessarily have a paper trail in *my* files. Some of these actions would show up elsewhere – in other records in the organization generating the action. My feeling at the time was crystal clear *IF* I wanted to keep flying, I took the physical – period. However, if I were to change to a non-flying status job and my physical was scheduled for some time after I initiated that action (either verbally or in writing) I would skip it. I would have assumed that the records systems processes would take care of de-scheduling the physical. If that did not happen, it would make sense that bureaucratically, a record keeping action to de-certify my flight status would occur – but it would be moot. So, it is quite plausible to me that given the overloaded record keeping process at that time that suspension of bush’s flight status could have come from a bureaucratic snafu. Those were not uncommon back then. That explains to me why there was no action taken to convene a review board iaw AF regs to investigate the flight de-cert.

    Also, the idea that he may have not wanted to take the physical to avoid the blood/urine test that would have detected illicit drugs doesn’t work for me. Drug testing was done on a random basis, not – to my knowledge – as part of the flight physical. Bush would have been subject to testing at any time, not just during a flight cert. physical. I suspect (I may be wrong here) that missing a flight physical for suspect reasons might have resulted in a not-so-random drug test. During my time, if you tried to skip a random drug test – they nailed you hard – you were in violation of the UCMJ.

    I can also verify that during the early and mid 1970s, as a result of the war winding down, the military was granting early-outs right and left. There were just too many people in the military, and they had to do something with them. When I first came in, one of the instructor pilots that trained me got out six months earlly. It was fairly common to see people leave apparently abruptly one to six months prior to the end service date. When I joined the AF ‘workforce’ was being rebalanced to meet the relatively new non-ongoing war mission of the AF. I am not surprised that bush was able to get out early – especially from the ANG – as even regular AF in that period were routinely getting out early.

    I can also personally vouch for the fact that record keeping was not quite perfect. When my time was up, in a review of my records (I wanted to go back to school and wanted to ensure that my records would support my request for GI Bill assistance – its easier to fix these things while you are still on active duty than once you are a civilian…) and they were woefully incomplete and contained three critical errors. I had those corrected prior to my discharge, but most people did not bother.

    I have been reading everything I can find on the subject for months now, and I don’t see anything in bush’s ANG history that may be at issue beyond the string pulling that may have helped him get in, and even that is not quite black and white. Wanting it to be true does not make it so…

    Personally, I wish the Kerry campaign would get off this subject and start defining Kerry: who he is, what he stands for, and what his plans are. Make Kerry the man he is in 2004 the centerpiece, not who Bush was in 1972.

  7. Jingo Smith Says:

    Of course Bush received preferential treatment. He was a child of wealth. The Vietnam War, like most wars, was fought by the children of the poor.

    The truth is anybody who could get out of going to Vietnam did. We can’t grant amnesty to those who ran to Canada in one breath while condemning Bush for using his connections to avoid being shot at in the jungle in the next.

    Just as it appeared this country was coming to grips with its experience in Southeast Asia, here comes John Kerry attempting to run a campaign based on his service there.

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