Saturday, September 18, 2004

This can't be true!!! (times TWO!!!)

This morning I woke up and turned on the TV. Hey--it's Saturday, what else am I going to do??? I was meaning to flick to the Weather Channel, but the TV happened to be on ABC News. In two seconds, I saw that I was not only NOT going to switch to TWC any time soon, but that I was going to have "post material" from my little stop at ABC.

The reporter at the national news desk said two things in about 15 seconds that left me dumbfounded. Item number 1: late last night, the Pentagon released more documents from Bush's military record. WHAT IS GOING ON THERE??? I thought Bush ordered all his stuff to be released to the public months ago? One of two explanations here, neither of which is a good one to me:

(a) The Pentagon literally is just now finding this stuff, which begs the question: why weren't they all in one file? Is record-keeping at that place so shoddy that they're having to search through EVERYTHING just to see if "Bush, George W" is on it? The Pentagon should have done this document search once, they should have made sure it was complete, and that should have been the end of the story. To keep having these things come out piecemeal looks suspicious--and incompetent. As I've argued many times before (though normally looking at the other side), suspicious and incompetent is NOT the way to convince the American people that you know how to ensure security for the masses; OR

(2) maybe the Pentagon has known they had these new documents, and for whatever reason held them back from release. Now I can't imagine that such is the case, mostly because I can't see any benefit whatsoever coming out of that strategy. Of course, I'm not paid to make these kinds of decisions. But IF this is part of some grand idea, either at the Pentagon's level or higher, it smacks of deceit and/or insubordination.

And, yes, at some point today I plan to take a look at the documents that were released. ABC didn't paint the contents of the docs as anything to "WOW" about--but I think we've all learned that it takes a little effort to get the whole picture nowadays. Sad, but true--and I will make that effort later.

Item #2: William Staudt lives??? YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!! I simply assumed he was dead, since he hasn't even been referenced by CBS in the wake of memogate. For those of you who aren't totally up to speed, last week CBS used "new information" in an effort to put Bush's National Guard service back on center-stage as an election issue. Included in that new info were a couple of memos, one of which painted a picture that Bush's reporting senior, the now-famous LtCol Killian, was under pressure from none other than BG Staudt to give Bush a glowing evaluation. This memo drew a lot of skepticism from the word go, not just for the format and typography inconsistencies, but also because Staudt hadn't been part of that unit for more than a few months on the date that was used in the memo. I figured that Staudt had passed on--it seemed to be the best reason why CBS wasn't hauling him forward to defend their story. Well, not the best, but at least the most credible. Yesterday, ABC News found him--alive and well, and apparently not too shy to talk about all this hubbub. He took issue with the memo that CBS used as "evidence" in their story, saying that he did NOT contact the unit in an effort to get Bush a stellar evaluation. Also, he stated that he--and he alone--decided that Bush was fit for the unit many years before WITHOUT ANY COLLUSION FROM AN OUTSIDE SOURCE. (That's paraphrasing what I heard--get the full story here)

Now I've felt for at least the entirety of this week that the CBS memos were forgeries. And I've been stupefied by how Rather and CBS have dealt with the inconsistencies on the memos. And I know I'm not a trained journalist, but to me, the following seems to be a pretty reasonable task: talk with people who are "in the know" about the stories you present. The fact that CBS didn't do that BEFORE they ran with the story makes them look sloppy and partisan; the fact that CBS hadn't done it AFTER they ran with the story (even after CBS said they were "redoubling their efforts") makes them look stupid and deceitful. Sloppy, stupid and deceitful--those aren't the benchmark traits of a quality news agency.


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