Power Line Power Line Blog: John Hinderaker, Scott Johnson, Paul Mirengoff

Last Nail in the Coffin

September 14, 2004 Posted by John at 6:53 PM

Now it truly is over. Hugh Hewitt points us to this article in the Dallas Morning News: Former Secretary Says She Didn't Type Memos. The paper tracked down Jerry Killian's secretary, Marian Carr Knox, who provides a definitive assessment of the CBS memos:

“These are not real,” she told The Dallas Morning News after examining copies of the disputed memos for the first time. “They’re not what I typed, and I would have typed them for him.”

She said the typeface on the documents did not match either of the two typewriters that she used during her time at the Guard. She identified those machines as a mechanical Olympia, which was replaced by an IBM Selectric in the early 1970s.

She said that the culture of the time was that men didn’t type office-related documents, and she expressed doubt that Lt. Col. Killian would have typed the memos. She said she would typically type his memos from his handwritten notes, which she would then destroy.

Mrs. Knox, now 86, is a Bush-hater, and she claims to remember "yak-yak" about the Lieutenant similar to what is in the memos. She speculates that the memos "may have been reconstructed from memory by someone who had seen Lt. Col. Killian's private file, but were not transcriptions because the language and terminology did not match what he would have used":

For instance, she said, the use of the words “billets” and a reference to the “administrative officer” of Mr. Bush’s squadron reflect Army terminology rather than the Air National Guard. Some news reports attribute the CBS reports to a former Army National Guard officer who has a longstanding dispute with the Guard and has previously maintained that the president’s record was sanitized.

Mrs. Knox also cited stylistic differences in the form of the notes, such as the signature on the right side of the document, rather than the left, where she would have put it.

It's hard to see how anyone can continue to maintain that the documents are anything but forgeries. As to CBS, that's the end of the story. But the Democrats will try to shift the focus to the idea that the documents, even if fakes, make valid points about the President's National Guard service.

A forged document, of course, isn't evidence of anything, even if Mrs. Knox purports to remember "yak-yak." And I don't think the National Guard story will sway enough voters to be worth a great deal of analysis. However, a few basic points are worth making.

It is generally taken as a given in the press that the Bush family's influence somehow got W. into the Guard. Well, maybe, but I've never seen a shred of evidence to that effect. The only person who has claimed to have such knowledge is Ben Barnes, who said that he used his influence as Lt. Governor of Texas to get W. into the Guard without the knowledge of the Bush family, but was proved to be a liar when it was pointed out that Bush joined the Guard in 1968, a year before Barnes became Lt. Governor. A broader point is that in 1968 the Bush family wasn't particularly influential. In 1968, the senior George Bush was a first-term Congressman. The idea that a first-term Congressman is such an important personage that his son would automatically receive favored treatment in the Texas Air National Guard is at best a stretch, and at worst a slander of the officers of that organization.

Second, the idea that Bush didn't do much in the Guard is untrue. He was a jet fighter pilot; his airplane, the F-102, was difficult and dangerous to fly. A number of F-102 pilots were killed in training accidents. Bush served a year of active duty--for what it's worth, three times as long as John Kerry was in Vietnam. And while it's true that Bush didn't serve in Vietnam, it's also true that he volunteered to go there. As a pilot, he received superb evaluations, including at least one by Jerry Killian; we quoted them here. Bush's superiors described him as "an exceptionally fine young officer and pilot," and, the following year, "an exceptional fighter interceptor pilot and officer [who] eagerly participates in scheduled unit activities." For more on Bush's service in the Air National Guard, see Jed Babbin in National Review.

Finally, there was nothing discreditable about the fact that Bush wound down his Guard service starting in 1972. He had served a year on active duty and was finished flying. The Vietnam war was winding down, and there were plenty of returning pilots to staff Air National Guard units. The following year, 1973, he was discharged and left Texas to attend Harvard Business School. He was honorably discharged, and, despite the fevered speculation of Democratic partisans, there is simply no evidence that he failed to satisfy his Guard obligations.

Which is why, in order to reflect discredit on the President's military service, it is necessary to forge documents.