What Has Been Written With a Pen Cannot Be Erased With an Axe

Item: CBS posts the full text of memos showing then Lt. Bush ignored a direct order, and that there was pressure to shield him from higher-ups.

Item: When Bush skylarked off to Alabama, what he missed was not the pointless desultory flying of geriatric airplanes, as his campaign had been suggesting, but rather a sudden increase in alertness, a '24-hour active alert mission to safeguard against surprise attack' in the southern United States beginning on Oct. 6, 1972 (although it beats me against what they might have been defending—the Viet Cong? Castro?).

Of course, if you want excruciating detail on all this, the place to go remains The AWOL Project

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13 Responses to What Has Been Written With a Pen Cannot Be Erased With an Axe

  1. There are credible reports that the documents may be forgeries:
    ’60 Minutes’ Documents on Bush Might Be Fake.

    I do find it highly suspicious that the documents do appear readily and easily replicable by Microsoft Word using common defaults, as shown on Little Green Footballs Bush Guard Documents: Forged.

    Proportional spaced font typewriters were available at the time, but were uncommon and it would be unusual that one would be found in a National Guard typewriter pool. However, given the unique characteristic of the type found, including superscript “th” and a smart apostrophe, it should be relatively easy for experts to identify the particular manufacturer of the typewriter used, if these documents are authentic.

    Also, since the documents were written over a period of at least 1.5 years, it shouldn’t be too difficult to locate and identify other contemporary documents written by the same typewriter.

  2. Michael says:

    But these documents came from military files? From microfilm? Who would have access to fake them?

  3. It is not clear where,exactly, the documents came from. CBS News apparently is the source for copies of the documents. The White House later released copies, but those may be copies that CBS sent to the White House.

    According to CBS:
    But 60 Minutes has obtained a number of documents we are told were taken from Col. Killian’s personal file. Among them, a never-before-seen memorandum from May 1972, where Killian writes that Lt. Bush called him to talk about “how he can get out of coming to drill from now through November.”

    The origins of the documents is not very clear from those statements.

  4. Michael says:

    Kevin Drum says:

    For what it’s worth, I spoke to someone a few minutes ago who’s familiar with how the documents were vetted, and the bottom line is that CBS is very, very confident that the memos are genuine. They believe that (a) their sources are rock solid, (b) the provenance of the documents is well established, and (c) the appearance of the documents matches the appearance of other documents created at the same place and time. In addition, people who knew Killian well have confirmed that the memos are genuine.

    This won’t stop the arguments, of course, since CBS’s sources are anonymous and are apparently going to stay that way. But while caveat emptor is always good advice, I thought it was worth passing on the fact that CBS is pretty sure of itself on this.

  5. Well, considering the various critiques that have been made of the documents, it is not clear to me that CBS statement should resolve the matter. For example, why doesn’t CBS name the expert who verified the authenticity of the documents?

    I’ve looked at many of the other documents, but not all, available regarding Bush’s stint in the national guard but am unaware of any in the same typeface from the same period. Perhaps CBS could enlighten us as to these other documents that match these documents’ appearance. Surely there are many contemporaneous documents made by the same typewriter.

    Does CBS has better copies of the documents than what has been made available on the internet? If so, why not release them? If not, what did they send to the expert? It seems that it would be very difficult to be certain if the documents were authentic given the poor copying, if what is available on the internet is all that there is.

    I’m certainly no fan of Bush, but there are serious questions regarding the authenticity of these documents. I’m afraid that CBS’ reassurance doesn’t cut it for me.

  6. Michael says:

    Yes, having now read more about this, the use of superscript IS odd and troubling. I agree CBS should say say more about the documents’ provenance or at least why they believe them to be genuine.

  7. Dem says:

    They may be forgeries … let’s face it, “experts” have been fooled before.

    However, the arguments at LGF and other sites have all the hallmarks of the arguments for “Intelligent Design” and of those who dispute that the average temperature of the Earth has increased. That is, those rabid right wing sites clearly have started with their desired result and then sought facts to support it. Many of their “facts”, especially early today, indicated woeful ignorance of the attributes and typical use of typewriters in the early 1970s (the people posting obviously never worked as typists or clerks in the days before backspace-erase). In response to critics the right-wingers initial arguments have evolved to compensate, but the results (that the docs are forgeries) have remained constant. In other words, their arguments all all worthless.

    Now, this does not mean that the docs ar not forgeries, just that their arguments aren’t worth reading. The question of forgery should be easily resolved. If these docs are real then the file of the officer who used that typewriter should have many documents that match the typewriting style of these docs. If not, forgery is highly probable.

    Until that is determined, however, it is worth noting that the power of these documents is such that the only possible response from Bush’s supporters is to deny their validity. If valid, the docs prove that Bush has been lying all these years, including some statements Bush made this year. And given that he campaigned in 2000 on the slogan “I will return integrity and honor to the White House”, well, that makes it a very valid campaign issue.

  8. “Dem,” the same arguments could be made about many of the arguments from the other side. Many of the rabid left wing sites have clearly started with their desired result (the documents are authentic) and then sought facts to support it. Many of their “facts,” especially early today, indicated woeful ignorance of the attributes and typical use of typewriters in teh the early 1970s … etc., etc., etc.

    I completely agree that there are many different types of evidence that can be used to increase the credibility of the documents. In my first comment on this issue I noted that there should be evidence in the form of contemporaneous documents from that unit in that font.

    I agree. If the documents are authentic then the Republicans will have some very difficult questions to answer. However, rest assured that they will come up with other arguments to challenge the documents. Indeed, the White House is arguing that the documents show Bush trying to comply with regulations.

    Michael,
    Warblogger makes many interesting points. However, I must disagree that this is a mere distraction. If the documents are authentic, these are important facts to know, for history’s sake, if nothing else. If the documents are forgeries, then questions of who made them and why CBS accepted them are important.

  9. Dem says:

    Ernest: Thanks for the post. Yes, I agree that many left-wing sites also are cherry-picking evidence in their favor.

    But the sites I frequent appear to have approached the question appropriately, and to date have not asserted that the documents are true, but instead have performed research to refute points brought up by LGF et al. I refer you to talkingpointsmemo.com and dailykos.com (just put up a good posting on this topic) as examples. Note that talkingpointsmemo has extensive quotes from a WaPo article questioning the authenticity. Interesting to note that some of the assertions the “experts” in that article make have been contradicted by experts elsewhere … those familiar with expert testimony won’t be surprised to see this happen.

  10. There are many who have approached the question appropriately from both sides. Just as there are many who have not. For every right-wing post making outrageous claims that no typewriters had proportional spacing at the time, I can find a left-wing post claiming that the fact that some typewriters had proportional spaced fonts in the early 70s proves the documents are authentic. Both positions are clearly wrong.

    I don’t generally read too many political blogs of either persuasion, but what has been most interesting to me in following this story is the sheer irrationality of most of the commentaries and postings. What an incredible signal-to-noise ratio.

    Of course the experts have some disagreements. There is simply not enough evidence to be certain of anything right now. However, I believe enough doubt has been raised about the authenticity of the documents to place the burden of proving their provenance on CBS News.

  11. Dem says:

    Ernest: I tend to agree with you, and definitely agree with your last paragraph.

    However, the reason my original post referred to right wing blogs was that those (two in particular) are being widely cited as “proof” of forgery.

  12. esmense says:

    If anything points up how male (and young?) the blogosphere skews — and how rarely the opinion and experience of women, especially middle aged women, is consulted — it may be this dust up. I don’t know a woman my age (most of whom had to know their way around a typewriter if they hoped to earn a paycheck in the 60s and 70s) who hasn’t found the arguments made for forgery — by those who never got near a keyboard before someone figured out how to attach something you could use to play games to it — laughable. Sub script, super script, proportional type, Times Roman, etc. — of course these features and more were available on commonly used electric typewriters of the era. (By the way, it’s not like it isn’t easy to get your hands on a typewriter of that era. Wouldn’t a serious forger do so?)

    As someone else said, the documents may be forged even though arguments being put forward for forgery are bogus. But the fact that these arguments are being made does give you an idea of how very narrow an audience of Americans the Right Wing is talking to, thinks is relevant, or, perhaps, even has the ability to imagine.

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