Against symmetry: Republicans-love-being-lied-to edition

Lots of us liberals felt sorry for Dan Rather for having used what turned out to be fabricated documents in reporting on George W. Bush’s derelictions of duty while using the Air National Guard to dodge service in Vietnam. Some of us even suspected that he’d been mousetrapped by Karl Rove: that the phony documents had been planted on Rather, or on his source, for the purpose of discrediting a true story.

But once the fabrication had been brought to light, no liberal blogger – let alone any liberal politician – called Rather a “hero” for running with his story.

Contrast Mike Huckabee, who – if he’s right that America’s sinfulness has drawn down on it the Wrath of God – might actually be President some day. He’s “shocked” that the “hero journalist” Lara Logan has been suspended from her job at CBS.

It’s simply not the case that the Red Team and the Blue Team are symmetric. Yes, they both act factionally, and both camps include some lunatics. But we don’t let ours run the asylum.

Comments

  1. Ed Whitney says

    Dan Rather moved to a relatively small cable TV outlet where he became a producer after leaving CBS. Not having cable TV, I am not aware of the political leanings, if any, of his new home after CBS.

    We will have to observe what happens in the next few months to Lara Logan. If she becomes an anchor on Fox News, the case for asymmetry will be further strengthened. Dan Rather was not welcomed onto MSNBC, which I understand is more liberal than Fox News.

    An opportunity for an empirical observation presents itself.

  2. Remfin says

    I’d just like to point out that (AFAIK) nothing ever proved that the Dan Rather documents were fabricated. There was a lot of nonsense about kerning and such that was just that…nonsense. It ended with a “we could not confirm the authenticity”, which in this case meant no one was alive who could say they wrote it, not that they knew it was fabricated.

    As you pointed out though, the letter was ultimately besides the point, because the documents that were already public proved he didn’t complete his service. But it sure was a convenient distraction.

    • Mark Kleiman says

      Sorry, the documents were fakes, clearly produced on equipment not in existence on the dates given.

      • Remfin says

        Well, not like it matters now, but since my memory was a little fuzzy I looked it up again…

        If you’re relying on the CBS report (or any immediate contemporary reports), you’re relying on the wrong thing. That was a moment-in-time review about the actual original airing, not including any follow-on information, and it specifically declaims any claim of determining authenticity. There were more documents released afterwards that at least looked like the Killian Memos that are clearly not included in CBS’ report (for instance, they talk about the standard signature block and how it was always 2 lines, and yet the released memos after the fact have 3 lines). AFAIK none of the “experts” has ever done a comparison against those documents, the story was already dead/poisoned by that point.

        If you happen to remember (and I know that’s a long shot, since it was years ago and essentially pointless at this point), what gave you the impression it was “clearly produced” by modern equipment? I’m seriously curious, I never saw any reports like that that stood up.

          • Remfin says

            I remember typewriters, I had one :) Fonts or spacing? Because spacing was the kerning thing and was debunked fairly quickly (it was about complaints on specific letters, when none of the rest of the document showed it – probably photocopier/fax artifacts), and proportional fonts were, contrary to popular belief, available and found in other documents (the September 24th document release, AFTER the story, had a memo with both proportional fonts AND the superscript th that looked like the font in these memos).

            Obviously if you think what the source did proves they’re fake…well, I can’t argue with that, that’s your opinion and I get that.

          • politicalfootball says

            People can talk all they want about interpretations of kerning, but when the source admits that the documents weren’t legit, there’s no more room for discussion. Rather, like Logan, was clearly conned. The more interesting question is: What led Rather and Logan to believe these stories?

          • navarro says

            “. . .What led Rather and Logan to believe these stories?” i can’t speak for logan but what led rather to believe the STORY was that is was true. it was the documents they backed the story with that were faked. the boston globe did a lengthy article about bush’s failures to complete his required service around the same time. if rather had run the story without those documents it would have been bush’s disgrace to the uniform we’d have been talking about instead. at the time i suspected rove was behind the documents timely appearance so as to change the story from bush to rather.

          • Brett Bellmore says

            The IBM Selectric was a specialized, very expensive typewriter used, essentially, for typesetting documents intended to be reproduced. AND, even with it, reproducing the document would have required considerable manual effort. Which every secretary does for memos, right?

            Or it was just produced using the default settings on MS Word.

          • byomtov says

            The IBM Selectric was a specialized, very expensive typewriter used, essentially, for typesetting documents intended to be reproduced.

            Without delving further into this argument, let me just say that, IIRC, the Selectric was in widespread use in offices.

          • Stella B. says

            In 1973-1974 we had IBM Selectric typewriters in my public high school typing class. The typing teacher explained proportional spacing to us at the beginning of the year. Because they were expensive, there was only one row of that type of typewriter and the teacher requested that those machines be reserved for the girls who were planning a career as a secretary. Nobody used them.

          • Megan McArdle says

            The IBM Selectric Composer was capable of four things that the document had: 1) kerning (the tail of the y being tucked under the prior letter) 2) proportional spacing and 3) Superscripts and 4) the Times New Roman font (or a version of it). But the match between the fonts was not exact, the machine required quite a bit of training to use, and it cost about as much as a good used car. Moreover, Lt. Killian, his wife and secretary said, could not type. Meanwhile, the fonts, spacing, and tabs were pretty much identical to what you’d get in MS Word if you used the defaults. Rather and his defenders were essentially reduced to arguing that you can’t prove that Lt. Killian didn’t get access to an expensive specialty machine used for typesetting newsletters and fiddle around with it until he produced documents that happened to look like exactly what you’d get if you just banged them out on a 2004 computer.

            The regular Selectric may have had proportional spacing, but it didn’t do kerning, and I believe you had to special order the Times Roman ball if it was available at all for that model. And it’s unlikely that a Texas ANG office would have had a quite new Selectric in the early 1970s, as even the non-Composer models were very expensive machines. In fact, all the authenticated documents from that era seem to show them using a regular old typewriter with a regular old monospaced font.

  3. politicalfootball says

    To their partisans, Rather and Logan did the same thing: Used dubious sources to tell a true story. Rather’s story was about the already well-documented failure of GW Bush to serve; Logan’s was about the well-known phenomenon of Benghazi!. Rather, unfortunately, departed from the facts. Logan never departed from the Benghazi! narrative, which wasn’t about facts. So Logan’s punishment is predictably less.

    • navarro says

      rather never departed from the facts. he used faked documents as supporting evidence but his story was otherwise true. logan’s entire story was an attempt to revive and maintain a myth. if that truly deserves less punishment i’ve been grading papers wrong for a long time.

  4. Rick B says

    I suspect that the difference between the way conservatives and liberals think is cultural. Conservatives are trained to think in terms of the end result first, then go back and evaluate the process of getting to that (desired) end result. That’s teleological – and religious – thinking. Culturally is is wrong to among conservatives to accept facts that don’t lead to desired results. Instead you cover up prior facts that might lead to some other outcome. A clear example of this is the manner in which conservatives cherry-pick facts which would lead to the conclusion that god exists while ignoring facts that would lead to doubt about the existence of god. The process of cherry-picking desired facts is culturally enforced among conservatives.

    Liberals are trained to collect the facts, apply logic to the prior facts and from that determine what the result should be. It is wrong among liberals refuse to account for unfortunate prior facts, even if they contradict the desired end result. Liberals grow up in a culture with mass public education. I suspect that this is a major reason why conservatives dislike government-supplied mass public education.

    • Andrew Laurence says

      There are zero facts which would lead to the conclusion that any supreme being exists, so cherry picking from them must be difficult.

  5. rachelrachel says

    I”m not sure where you get the idea that Mike Huckabee is running the GOP “asylum”. A radio broadcaster, former governor, and presidential also-ran, he’s a peripheral character at best.

    Mostly, the GOP have been pretty quiet on this matter once the controversy came out. If there are any others higher up on the totem pole, who are echoing Huckabee, I’m not aware of them.

    • Downpuppy says

      I was skimming and first read that part as “Mike Huckabee, America’s shithouse rat” – can I keep it?

      Fox ran the same stories as CBS & never bothered to retract them.

  6. Eli says

    I suspect some of this is down to the fact that the right tends to think of itself as a victim, whereas the left tends to be all about *others* as victims. That is, to the left the structural arrangement is skewed against marginal groups, whereas the right sees structural arrangement skewed against itself – generally, the tragic Galt.

  7. Mitch Guthman says

    @ politicalfootball

    Admittedly, I didn’t follow the controversy at the time but I don’t recall the source of the CBS documents confessing to having fabricated them. Could you please elaborate on this point?

    • Mark Kleiman says

      He didn’t confess to haveing fabricated them. He refused to say where he got them, and announced that after he’d faxed copies to CBS he burned the originals.

      • Mitch Guthman says

        Mark,

        Again, I’m not well versed in this particular affair and didn’t pay much attention to it at the time but I not willing to let what might be simply an internet meme establish itself as factual simply by virtue of constant repetition like the “Gore claimed to have invented the internet” meme. Can anyone provides a cite to where these documents were conclusively established as forgeries?

        I ask this because of the two claims advanced here about the authenticity of these documents, neither turns out to accurate. There seems to be no substantiation of the claim made by Politicalfootball that the source of these document has confessed that they were forgeries.

        Similarly, it is incorrect that the documents were created using equipment that was not in existence at the time when they were supposed to have been written. I would add my voice to those who say that there were typewriters capable of producing proportional spacing because I owed just such an IBM Selectric typewriter. The Composer model was very popular because many people (including me) liked the distinctive look of the documents produced. That model was bought by many institutions, including the military.

        My father bought a composer model because he liked the distinctive look it gave to his correspondence. I used it for my school papers because I thought gave my work a more impressive look that might compensate for deficiencies in my writing and analysis. They weren’t the most popular model and I know we dumped ours because it was harder to use than the regular Selectric but a lot of people owned them at one time. I believe that there was also another brand that used a conventional carriage and type-bars to achieve a proportional effect.

        If it’s true that the originals were destroyed, that’s perhaps very suggestive but hardly conclusive.

        Again, have these documents ever been conclusively proven to be forgeries? Let’s have a source that we can all look at and evaluate for ourselves.

        • politicalfootball says

          There seems to be no substantiation of the claim made by Politicalfootball that the source of these document has confessed that they were forgeries.

          I was perhaps too elliptical here. If you read my comment again, you’ll see that I said that said Burkett acknowledged the the documents “weren’t legit.” What I could have said was that he acknowledged that his claims about their provenance and authenticity were false. Burkett’s original story was that he got the documents from somebody in the Guard; then he changed that to a “Lucy Ramirez,” whose existence can’t be confirmed. He says he burned the originals. It’s a silly story that I don’t think anyone can take seriously.

          He acknowledged that, contrary to what he had previously said, he didn’t know whether the documents were forgeries.

          From USA Today:

          “I didn’t forge anything,” Burkett said. “I didn’t fake any documents. The only thing I’ve done here is to transfer documents from people I thought were real to people I thought were real. And that has been the limitation of my role. I may have been a patsy.”

          Here’s Burkett’s lawyer, arguing that it makes no difference whether the items were forgeries, or, as he put it, “reconstructed”:

          Asked what role Mr. Burkett had in raising questions about Mr. Bush’s military service, Mr. Van Os posed a hypothetical chain of events in which someone — not Mr. Burkett, he said — reconstructed documents that the preparer believed existed in 1972 or 1973. Mr. Van Os then asked ”what difference would even that make” to the ”factual reality of where was George W. Bush at the times in question and what was he doing?”

          • Mitch Guthman says

            @ Politicalfootball,

            “Elliptical” is hardly the word. You are seriously over-claiming the only evidence you provide. Nowhere does this Burkett fellow acknowledge that the Bush documented are not “legit”. To the contrary, he express no doubts whatsoever as to their authenticity.

            So, we are left with an interpretation based on (I assume) Burkett’s claim to have destroyed the original documents. As I’ve already acknowledged, this is highly suggestive of the fact that he didn’t want the original documents to be examined. But it is hardly conclusive.

            As I said, I didn’t follow events closely and what little I remember of the affair is dimmed by the passage of time. It does seem to me, however, that there are a variety of alternative theories that are consistent with the documents themselves having been genuine.

            Again, is there anyone out there who has done a conclusive study showing the documents to be forgeries? Does anyone know what kind of typewriter the purported authors and typists had at that point in time?

            My own feeling is that unless somebody here can make out a persuasive case, one way or another, then based on what’s been presented here and my hazy memory of the affair, I do not think it is fair to say the the documents were forgeries without some qualification. Perhaps they were and somebody framed a guilty man. Clearly, however, I’ve seen nothing here to establish anything beyond the suggestion that they may have been forged.

        • Freeman says

          Trouble is, whether or not it’s true that they were destroyed, the originals are not available for inspection, nor have they been at any time since the controversy broke. I agree that there are reasonable rebuttals to the assertion that “the documents were fakes, clearly produced on equipment not in existence on the dates given”, and my personal opinion is that this justification for the assertion is mistaken, but even if we stipulate that it is mistaken, that still doesn’t prove one way or the other the truth of the assertion that the documents were fakes. It being impossible to prove a negative, I don’t see how it is possible to definitively prove that they weren’t authentic, and therefore were forgeries, absent information that hasn’t been made available. It might be possible to show strong objective evidence of forgery by evaluating the age and chemical composition of the paper and ink if we had access to the originals, for instance, but we don’t.

          I did follow the story closely at the time, read everything I could find on it, and double-checked the analysis of others against my own analysis of the digital copies publicly available vs. computer fonts and scanned typewritten documents of the era, and came to the conclusion that the documents weren’t necessarily forgeries. That turned out not to matter. CBS’s error wasn’t that they couldn’t prove the authenticity of the documents after the fact — that’s a symptom, not the cause. As CBS finally acknowledged, their error was that they failed to properly authenticate the documents that they held up in evidence of their story before publicly airing it. That right there is enough to condemn the premature publication of improperly verified assertions of such magnitude against a sitting President, bringing the integrity of the entire news organization into question. Had another copy perfectly matching these documents turned up in a military archive somewhere a few weeks later, it wouldn’t have erased that taint.

          That the gist of the story was likely true serves to underline the importance of due diligence in vetting evidence before publication. The standard propaganda technique of leaking unreliable evidence of a truth one wishes to conceal and then pointing to the unreliability of that evidence as proof that the truth it purports to support is false, couldn’t have been successful without the help of sloppy vetting. Due to the timing and importance of the story and the high profile of the news organization, this failure to properly apply basic fundamentals cannot be dismissed.

          • Tony P. says

            Did Dubya do his service, or didn’t he? If Rather’s “failure to properly apply basic fundamentals cannot be dismissed”, neither can the fact that the dog didn’t bark. You’d think that a valiant warrior who DID spend a year protecting the skies of Alabama from the VC Air Force would defend his honor by proving THAT, instead of quibbling over fonts.

            –TP

          • Freeman says

            Tony P: You’d think that a valiant warrior who DID spend a year protecting the skies of Alabama from the VC Air Force would defend his honor by proving THAT, instead of quibbling over fonts.

            Yes, well, when the facts are on your side, you pound on the facts, and when they’re not, you find or fabricate a peripheral issue to pound on. Bonus if there’s a less-than-friendly-to-your-cause news organization around that you can manipulate into discrediting the case against you while trashing their own reputation in the process. That’s American politics, and CBS has been in the business long enough to have known better.

  8. Mark L. says

    Prior to watching the clip I had given Huckabee the benefit of the doubt and assumed he considered Logan a hero journalist since she had been seriously assaulted while reporting in Egypt a few years back. But no, she’s a hero because she failed to fact check some liar.

  9. Anonymous says

    The reason the Rather documents were clearly fakes is not because there was no such thing as a proportional spaced typewriter, but because there was no typewriter around that produced the particular proportionally spaced type that the Bush documents featured, whereas it is easily generated by computers. Plus, all proportional spacing typewriters were esoteric back then and there was no way a national guard unit would use them.

    Unfortunately, some liberals are idiots and believe conspiracy theories, just like some conservatives.

    • Mitch Guthman says

      So you say. Anonymously. Without citation to even the tiniest shred of supporting evidence.

        • Brett Bellmore says

          That either a secretary went to enormous effort to manually compose a memo on a specialized typesetting typewriter, or a lazy forger just typed it into MS Word using the default settings.

          Doubtless you find the former more likely.

          • Mitch Guthman says

            The secretary or clerk/typist who purportedly typed the memos wouldn’t have needed to make any special effort to prepare them using proportional spacing if an IBM Selectric model such as the Executive or Composer was the typewriter customarily used by that person. We know that such models were very popular at the time and were frequently purchased by government and the military. Since we don’t seem to have any such documents, we just don’t know.

            Similarly, I don’t see the significance of the fact that there is a Word font that mimics the IBM Composer’s font, which, in turn, mimicked typeset print. Since you seem incapable of explaining its significance, I must assume you are tacitly acknowledging it has none. Realistically, it impossible to gage the authenticity of the documents without the originals and a fairly good idea of their provenance and other contemporaneously prepared document from the same office.

            Indeed, your willingness to reach a definitive conclusion in the absence of comparison documents of know provenance means that the only thing you are capable of proving is your willingness to leap great distances to your preferred conclusion.

            As to my larger point, I don’t see a way to reach a definitive judgment about the authenticity of the documents without know what typewriter was being used in that office at the time, a known good document or the typewriter itself and, ideally, the originals. Clearly, the purported destruction of the originals is suggestive and CBS should not have relied on them, particularly when there was so much other evidence to show that Bush did not fulfill his National Guard commitment.

            All that I’m saying that that there is no basis to assert that the documents were “obvious forgeries” or were typed on equipment that wasn’t in existence at the time. From what’s been presented here, both claims are demonstrably false and should not be accepted.

          • Mitch Guthman says

            Also, none of the IBM Selectric models that featured proportional spacing were specialized in the way you’re suggesting. To the contrary, they functioned (with minor differences) exactly like normal Selectrics and they were specifically designed for office use.

          • Anonymous says

            Occam’s razor applies here. The obvious explanation is that the documents were generated by a modern word processor.

            But as I said, some liberals, just like some conservatives, are complete idiots who like to believe conspiracy theories and go out of their way to find obscure typewriters that were unlikely to be standard equipment in offices (and which, anyway, don’t REALLY duplicate the documents, even though they come fairly close).

            If you want to be such a person, that’s your call. But in the real world, the Rather documents were obviously produced on a word processor and this whole scandal undermined legitimate criticisms of Bush. (Bear in mind, even if Bush did skip National Guard service, it’s really a phony scandal anyway; it attracts the type of liberal who likes to play gotcha politics or is too dumb to know what is really important– the torture of detainees is a much better Bush scandal.)

  10. Herschel says

    Just a couple of words on IBM typewriters: The IBM Selectric Composer was introduced in 1966. This was a desktop machine that could produce not only proportionally spaced but also right-justified copy, and was essentially the beginning of desktop publishing. I have no idea if a National Guard office would have had such a machine. They were fairly expensive compared to ordinary typewriters, but not all that expensive in absolute terms. I used one of these machines extensively, albeit in the early 1980s when they were obsolete but still perfectly functional.

    The “Executive” typewriter introduced in 1967 that did proportional spacing, mentioned above, was not a Selectric. It was a “Model D” typewriter, which was the last line of typebar (non-golf-ball) typewriters IBM produced. It certainly wouldn’t have been unusual for a secretary in an office to use one of these.

  11. Mitch Guthman says

    @ Anonymous of November 30 at 3:35 pm,

    It might be intuitively obvious to you but it isn’t to me. Moreover, since you failed demonstrate your argument, I doubt it is obvious to anyone not predisposed in that way. I think you are one of the people who give inductive reasoning a bad name. Again, speaking for myself only, I don’t remotely share your intuition or regard the true state of affairs as even slightly obvious (especially after wasting nearly a two hours clicking on Brett’s Little Green Footballs link and then reading the corresponding rebuttals mainly on Daily KOS).

    Moreover, I do not think you have properly invoked Occam’s razor. I think that your hypothesis (documents forged on computer) has at least as many assumptions as any competing hypothesis, if not more. Besides which, not only is your hypothesis not obviously “more economical” than any competing one, it is also more difficult to reconcile with observed reality. The models capable of proportionate spacing were hardly obscure. There are many people (myself included) who can attest to the popularity of IBM proportionate spacing typewriters and their fairly widespread use in “executive” offices by people who wanted their documents to have that particular look.

    In particular, the use of these typewriters was widespread use in all institutions such as universities, banks, government and the American military at the time. The proportionate spacing models were considered as “status symbols” so it does not seem improbable that senior officers of the Texas Air National Guard might have had their correspondence typed on just such typewriters.

    I would also point out that I have no dog in this fight. The factual assertion was made that the Killian documents were forgeries. I asked for a citation showing where they’d been conclusively and irrefutably established as forgeries. None has ever been forthcoming. A fact that makes me suspect that the memos have never been and cannot be conclusively proven to be forgeries.

    Obviously, there are aspects which call the authenticity of the Killian documents into question. But I’m still waiting for some kind of authoritative, independent analysis showing the documents to be forged. Thus, one cannot say simply declare as fact that the Killian documents were forged. One can say that their authenticity has been questioned (perhaps even seriously questioned)but that’s about it, as far as I can see. At this point, I would accept that because the truth isn’t obvious to me, one way or the other.

    If you (or anyone) has more than the crap on Little Green Footballs, bring it and we can critically examine it. Otherwise, let’s not start another one of these deplorable, dishonest Internet memes.

      • Herschel says

        If you can read the linked Wikipedia article and think it settles the argument, I’d like to join your church.

      • Mitch Guthman says

        I thought the Wikipedia page was definitive, especially the references to the comparison documents obtained by the Washington Post. But then I found others—many with equally impressive credentials—on the web that make fairly persuasive arguments against the experts citied in the Wikipedia page and attempted to rebut their arguments. I also found people who posed what I thought were legitimate questions on the provenance of the Washington Post’s documents (based mainly on indications that they weren’t obtained and authenticated independently but instead were provided by Republican sources who assured the WP reporters that they were genuine). None of this was discussed in the Wikipedia page—which looked to have been lifted almost entirely from the Little Green Footballs and Free Republic websites.

        At this point, I feel that I’ve wasted several hours on the question of whether somebody tried to frame a guilty man. There is a large body of evidence and some highly suggestive facts in support of both the authenticity of the documents and the claim that they are forgeries. At this point, I feel that we might as well leave questions of the authenticity of the memos as well as the question of whether George W. Bush was really a deserter or merely AWOL for most of the time when he was supposed to be serving in the National Guard to historians.

        I think it’s clearly inaccurate to say that the documents are unquestionably or very probably forgeries. It’s also clearly inaccurate, however, to say that they have been established as genuine. I do think it’s fair to say that the authenticity of these documents has been called into serious question and they were probably either forgeries or “recreations” of memos that may actually have been. We just don’t know.

        But to return to where we started, it isn’t remotely correct to state as fact that they were forged and it is wrong to do so.

  12. Craig says

    Good lord, people. The memos were so obviously typed on Microsoft Word in the early 21st Century, I just don’t know how to react to this nonsense anymore. For me, the most charming detail is how the forger didn’t know to press Control-Z to undo the automatic supercripting of the “th” characters in the various dates, which he or she didn’t like the look of. So sometimes you see a space before the “th” (which will keep word from superscripting it), sometimes the th was left automatically superscripted, and so forth. They were comically bad forgeries. Sadly, some people on the left want to be lied to as badly as anyone.

    • Mitch Guthman says

      It isn’t obvious to me. Can you please explain why it’s obvious that the memos were typed using Word and perhaps engage with the questions raised about the widespread usage of typewriters capable of producing that typeface and so forth? I appreciate that many people are speaking in a very authoritative tone about how these are obvious forgeries but I am reading people like this guy http://aheckofa.com/FoolMeOnce/TheForgeryLie.html and the almost infinite number of posts on Daily KOS offering explanations.

      On this thread, we started out with people saying that the documents were unquestionably forgeries (typewriters capable of proportional spacing didn’t exist and the source had admitted the documents were fabricated) based on reasons that were not accurate. As I mentioned, the Wikipedia article seemed conclusive but didn’t mention the attacks on its sources, alternative explanations by equally credentialed sources and demonstrations that various typewriters in widespread use in the military could have produced the documents. That history, together with the unwillingness of the people, such as yourself, who say that the documents are obviously fabricated to engage with the arguments in favor of authenticity causes me to feel very uncomfortable accepting the argument that these documents are forged.

      It seems to me that if they were obviously forged, you able to come up with something of a less interpretive nature. Others, for example, have cited the fact that some of the dates were typed in superscript while others were not as typical of the people used typewriters. As someone who has used both typewriters and Microsoft Word, both explanations seem plausible. Neither seems intuitively obvious and I don’t see your supposition about what “must have happened” to be anything more than that—a supposition.

      If it’s really that obvious, you should be able to quickly and easily provide factual analysis that takes into account and refutes the opposing arguments. Why not stop sneering and just get on with it?

      As for this business about “some on the left want to be lied to as badly as anyone,” I don’t see how the authenticity of these documents make much difference to anyone on the left and I’m not aware of anybody even at Daily KOS who is particularly invested in it. Speaking for myself, there’s no doubt that Bush didn’t honor his National Guard obligations. The evidence for that is overwhelming and was published by the Boston Globe as linked to above. The authenticity of these documents, whether they were planted by Karl Rove or when the holder of the originals was persuaded to destroy them by “lead or silver” is, to my mind, a morass I’m no really interested in entering. The whole mess is an historical curiosity curiosity that should be left to future historians.

      What I am invested in, however, is making sure that we aren’t being played for suckers by the right. I’ve seen so many times—the “Al Gore invested the Internet” meme being the most recognizable—where the right has authoritatively and aggressively declared something to be so and the center and the left simply agree with them so that we can all move on. I don’t think that’s worked out well in the past and we should avoid making the same mistake again. We should not simply accept a claim of fact because it is easier than examining its merits.

      That is also why, in this particular case where the evidence seems very confused and people are making logical sounding arguments on both sides it seems important to me to insist on accuracy in describing the state of the evidence and the conclusions that can be supported. It seems to me that both sides are relying on aggressive interpretations and questionable assumptions in the absence of definitive, conclusive proof.

      Without such proof, I think the best that can be said that the documents are probably forgeries. If you feel that you can advance the case for the documents being forgeries beyond that using evidence and not supposition, I invite you to do so.

      • Anonymous says

        Mitch, what’s sadder than the fact that you insist on believing the documents are genuine is the fact that you even think it’s important and worth typing long explanations over. These sorts of “scandals” from decades ago are irrelevant to politics. You should examine what psychological defect causes you to think that crap that happened when Bush was in his 20′s deserves the same scrutiny as his policies. You are just like the right wingers who thought birth certificates and Rev. Wright were the way to bring down Obama.

        • Mitch Guthman says

          You ignored most of what I said and misrepresented the rest. I do not see how we can have a productive debate under these circumstances. I do, however, take your point that there are probably much better uses for my time.

        • navarro says

          @anonymous–
          the facts about bush’s guard service didn’t bring him down nor did the falsehoods about obama’s birthplace or the half-truths about rev. wright bring obama down. still, it is interesting to consider how things played out.

      • Craig says

        Mitch, it is of course impossible to prove the documents are forgeries to a standard that you seem to insist upon in this instance–and probably very seldom otherwise–because they could have been produced in 1789 using parchment and quill pens. In fact, we can’t really prove that they exist at all, or that the world isn’t a simulation run by malevolent computers waiting for the next Keanu Reeves anomaly to turn up. The memos are massively consistent with someone using Microsoft Word who doesn’t know the control-z keystroke, and very poorly consistent with actual military records from the period. The provenance is dodgy as hell, and the only versions we ever got to see were photocopied and faxed umpteen times in just the way a poor man’s forger would try to rough up pages fresh from the laser printer. If that counts for “probably” in your book, and “obviously” in mine, well, okay. There is a time and a place to debate David Hume–and that is in an undergraduate dorm full of pot smoke. Which is wonderful in its own way.