Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 20, 2004
POLITICS: Josh Marshall's Timeline

Allah and Jeff Goldstein have been wondering about the timeline set out in the Washington Post for how CBS put together the "Sixty Minutes II" story, and what it means in the hunt to identify who was responsible for creating and disseminating forgeries. You'll want to read their whole analyses. Now, it appears that CBS will point the finger at Bill Burkett, see here and here, a guy about whom Kevin Drum - who interviewed Burkett in February - said

I talked with Burkett at length back in February, and speaking as someone who believes his story about Bush's files being purged, I still wouldn't trust him for a second if he suddenly produced a bunch of never-before-seen memos out of nowhere. If he really is CBS's "unimpeachable source," they've got some very serious problems with their news judgment.

Here's the basic timeline derived from quotes from the WaPo article, which I've excerpted and bullet-pointed:

*In mid-August, Mapes told her bosses that she had finally tracked down a source who claimed to have access to memos written in 1972 and 1973 by the late Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, Bush's squadron commander in the Texas Air National Guard.

*During the Republican National Convention in New York [August 30-September 2], Rather got a call from Ben Barnes, a onetime Texas lieutenant governor and veteran Democrat who has known the anchor, a former Houston TV reporter, for 30 years. Barnes said he was ready to say before the cameras that he had pulled strings to get Bush a coveted slot in the Texas Guard in 1968. Mapes had long been urging Barnes to tell his story.

*On Friday, Sept. 3, the day after the convention ended, Mapes hit pay dirt. She told Howard her source had given her the documents.

*The next stop was Texas. Rather was in Florida, so CBS chartered a plane to get him to Austin. On Sunday, Sept. 5, he and Mapes interviewed Robert Strong, an administrative assistant in the Texas Guard during Bush's service there.

*Document analyst Marcel Matley flew from California to New York, and Rather interviewed him on Labor Day, Sept. 6

*On Tuesday, Sept. 7, as Rather sat down in a CBS studio with former Texas lieutenant governor Barnes, the top brass was turning its attention to the explosive story.

The story ran Wednesday, September 8.

So, that's it? Well, here's an item quoted by Goldstein that needs to be factored in:

In an Aug. 21 posting [on a Yahoo group for Texas Democrats], Burkett referred to a conversation with former senator Max Cleland (D-Ga.) about the need to counteract Republican tactics: “I asked if they wanted to counterattack or ride this to ground and outlast it, not spending any money. He said counterattack. So I gave them the information to do it with. But none of them have called me back.”

Cleland confirmed that he had a two- or three-minute conversation by cell phone with a Texan named Burkett in mid-August while he was on a car ride. He remembers Burkett saying that he had “valuable” information about Bush, and asking what he should [do] with it. “I told him to contact the [Kerry] campaign,” Cleland said. “You get this information tens of times a day, and you don’t know if it is legit or not."

Cleland, as we know, was in Texas August 25 to deliver a letter to the president's ranch in Crawford; on August 21, Cleland was in Wisconsin.

Anyway, that's all background here. Someone with more time to spend on this can connect these dots, but I'd like to add a few links to the fire:

*On August 22, with no apparent prompting from anything in the news, Josh Marshall, out of the blue, calls for Ben Barnes to come forward:

Now, as fate would have it, Ben Barnes is a Democrat. Was then, is now. And he supports John Kerry.

But he's never really spoken openly about how he helped Bush hop in front of everyone else or other aspects of the president's abbreviated military service, about which he is said to know a great deal.

Maybe now would be the time?

By August 27, still well before Barnes was reportedly in touch with Dan Rather, Marshall touts a Kerry campaign video featuring Barnes:

You'll want to link through to this one -- it's a video clip of Ben Barnes, the former Speaker of the House in Texas, the guy who got President Bush into the Texas Air National Guard.

I'm told the tape is from a recent Kerry rally . . .

[snip; includes Barnes saying, "I got a young man named George W. Bush in the National Guard when I was Lt. Gov. of Texas and I’m not necessarily proud of that. But I did it."]

Now, I don't know what Ben Barnes looks like. And I do not independently know the provenance of the tape. But I've spoken to two sources who know Barnes. And they tell me that that is Barnes on the tape.

One of those two men is Jim Moore -- co-author of Bush's Brain. Moore told me this afternoon that the clip is from June 8th of this year, at a Kerry rally in Austin. Moore assures me that the tape is legitimate.

I placed a call to Barnes' office and left a message with one of his assistants; but the request for comment has not yet been returned.

Click through Marshall's site to see the video. Soon, Marshall was pushing the Barnes-is-talking story; by September 1, six days before Barnes supposedly met with Rather, Marshall reported:

A bit more on Ben Barnes, the guy from Texas who got President Bush into the Guard way-back-when.

Apparently, the attacks on Kerry's war record just proved too much for him. As we've noted previously, for almost a decade now Barnes has gone to great lengths to avoid causing trouble for the president on the Guard matter. And the Bush folks in Texas have made it clear to him during this election cycle that if he spills the beans about the president that they'll do everything in their power to put him out of business in the state (Barnes is now a lobbyist). And that heat has, I'm told, increased dramatically in recent days.

But apparently those threats haven't done the trick because he has already taped a lengthy interview slated to appear in the not-too-distant future on a major national news show in which he'll describe the strings he pulled to keep Bush out of Vietnam and apparently more.

(Between you and me, according to my three sources on this, Barnes told his story to Dan Rather -- remember, the Texas connection -- for 60 Minutes.)

(Allah noted a similar report in Salon that day). What does it all mean? Not clear yet. But Marshall's sources were clearly pushing Barnes to come forward and get him to talk to Rather, at precisely the time that Burkett was talking to Max Cleland and was, apparently, involved in getting the forged documents to CBS.

Developing . . .

Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:28 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

I put together a timeline here.

I don't address Barnes, but I think it's possible that he agreed to the interview after CBS got the documents from the Kerry campaign but before CBS got the documents (again) from Burkett.

Posted by: Brian O'Connell at September 20, 2004 09:53 PM

Interesting. Here's what Dan Rather asked Laura Bush in the skybox during the Republican Convention, ""Now that friends and supporters of the President have raised the issue of John Kerry's combat record in Vietnam, do you or do you not think it's fair now for the Kerry people to come back and dig anew into your husband's military service record?"

I wonder if that was before or after the call from Ben Barnes.

Also, Josh Marshall has his finger stuck in the other forgery story -- he's still pushing the line that the Niger uranium documents were produced by the Italians to support the case against Iraq; but the middle-man who told him that (Rocco Martino, the guy that gave/sold the documents to the Italian journalist, Elisabetta Burba), has apparently told the investigating magistrates in Rome that the forgeries came from the French. The only reason the French would have for doing that would be to damage the US-British case against the Hussein regime before the UNSC and the eyes of the world.

Posted by: Lynxx Pherrett at September 21, 2004 03:18 AM

Well done.

Posted by: Ricky at September 21, 2004 01:00 PM

Well, what a surprise, Ben Barnes turns out to be a liar.

Start here:

DAN RATHER:
All right. Now, you became lieutenant governor when?

BEN BARNES:
In 1969. I was elected in 1968.

Add your quote:
[snip; includes Barnes saying, "I got a young man named George W. Bush in the National Guard when I was Lt. Gov. of Texas and I’m not necessarily proud of that. But I did it."]

Finish with this:
[Bush] joined the Guard in May 1968.

I don't know when Texas had its primaries back then. Was Barnes even the nominee when Bush got into the Guard?

Posted by: Greg D at September 21, 2004 05:02 PM

The Gore campaign was given the opportunity to use the Rathergate memos back in 2000 and declined. Since then the radical left liberals gained control of the Democtatic party and obviously have no compunction against using them. The Liberal DNC has had those memos prior to March of 2004 which is the time Burkett claims he inherited them from the mysterious Lucy. In April the Kerry campaign acknowledged they were aware of the content of these memos. However, had Burkett had these documents at that time he most likely would have spilled the beans through one of his ravings somewhere along the line. It is more likely that the DNC had control over these memos all along and Burkett was only recently brought in as a willing and trusted(?) scapegoat to take the hit for producing them. To get to the bottom, Burkett is the nut to be cracked to find out the source of the memos. Why not provoke his ego to retaliate by demanding he take a lie detector test to prove he is telling the truth? Perhaps the pressure might cause him to shoot off his malfunctioning cannon mouth and say something that will produce another clue as to the origin of the rathergate memos.

Posted by: Marbus at September 22, 2004 03:42 PM

I've noticed Jim Moore (author of "Bush's Brain")and many other Democrats have claimed Bush joined the Guard without going on its long waiting list, and thus avoided going to Vietnam. But I understand the waiting list didn't apply to jet pilots. If this is true it's something that needs to be pointed out until everyone who might be willing to listen, hears it. Obviosly, the Bush haters will hear what they want to hear.

Posted by: newman at September 25, 2004 08:55 PM

If you're interested, one of the things discussed over at LGF is the date one copy of the documents created. One of the copies as pdfs shows a date of 02.06.04. That would be just before the socalled trip by Burkett to the livestock show in Houston.
There is a possibility that the originals still exist somewhere probably on a harddrive. Most likely any paper documents were printed right off a computer, it's possible that the 'originals' could be in more than one place. Maybe the dotted line will be connected between the TANG, yellow cake and Abu Ghraib stories.
I think bloggers are sitting on a story that's bigger than Watergate, so be sure your seat belts are good and tight.

Posted by: applesweet at September 25, 2004 10:04 PM

Newman--

My understanding is there were some 100+ people on the waiting list for the Guard, but 10% or fewer were applying for pilot spots. Pilots, it should be noted, are the best of the best within the service. Bush was an excellent candidate, physically fit, with a good attitude, a Yale degree and a father who had flown fighters in the Second World War. What more could you ask for?

Posted by: Fresh Air at September 26, 2004 01:24 AM

Applesweet--

I was one of the first people to spot the Feb. 6 date on the Fox PDF (see comment threads at Beldar and Ace). Unfortunately, I now believe it is the result of a faulty time clock, perhaps from a computer dedicated to a scanner and thus not subject to network-based timekeeping. The trouble is that the fax also bears a date stamp of September 10. Unless you can come up with a plausible reason for a PDF that was not modified after Feb. 6 bearing a fax date stamp seven months in the future, the theory won't wash. I wish it was otherwise.

Posted by: Fresh Air at September 26, 2004 01:31 AM

Gen Staudt, who vetted applicant Bush and swore him into the TANG, has said 2 things:

1. No influence was exerted to get Bush into TANG; and

2. There was NO waiting list to get into the TANG; qualified applicants for pilot training were hard to find.

Thus, Bush was not preferred over anyone else in some imaginary queue to get into the TANG. There was no such queue.

It's all a fantasy, made believable by repetition.

Posted by: MD at September 26, 2004 11:54 AM

Question...

Could it be that, as Mr. O'Connell suggests, that CBS got the docs FROM TWO SOURCES? This would explain a lot.

1. If CBS got the Docs in mid Aug. from Kerry campaign and then receieved docs from Burkett, that would superficially satisfy CBS journalistic standard of two separate sources for docs. CBS would not have known(?) that the actual source of both would have been Burkett (thus raising Burkett's credibility in the eyes of CBS to "unimpeachable).

2. Two sets of docs would explain clues dropped by Marshall, the DNC, the Kerry campaign (who according to the "Spectator" had the docs around the time of the Dem convention) and Barnes, who may have been familiar with the docs via his good friend Van Os, Burketts atty.

...As the World turns...

Posted by: superhawk at September 27, 2004 07:44 AM

Bush Sucks [deleted].

Posted by: Bob Smith at October 2, 2004 11:49 PM
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