Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 21, 2004
POLITICS: Web of Connections
Well, we keep digging deeper on the web of connections between the Democrats and the forged documents used in CBS' hit job on President Bush.
First of all, beyond his statement on CBS Evening News, Dan Rather sat for a longer interview with local reporter Marcia Kramer of WCBS-TV here in NY (Kramer is best known as, among other things, Hillary Clinton's favorite reporter during the 2000 Senate race, which should tell you something). I didn't see a transcript, but you can go here and view the video.
Rather seemed genuinely contrite and apologetic, and kept saying there was no excuse, "this is not a day for excuses." But his factual assertions belied that:
1. He focused entirely on the idea that CBS had to change its story when it determined that Bill Burkett lied to them about the provenance of the documents. Still no admission that there was anything wrong with the documents themselves or that anyone else but CBS' own diligence led to the discovery.
2. Rather seemed to admit that CBS, or at least Rather, never saw anything purporting to be originals: "I believed in the authenticity of the copies of the documents we had"
3. Rather refuses to accept responsibility for putting the documents on the air over the objections of two of CBS' experts, and continues to insist either that the experts are lying now or that he personally was misled by his staff at CBS about what the experts were telling them. I haven't exactly transcribed this - I'm paraphrasing - "I was told that we had four experts who by and large agreed that the documents were not forgeries, probably weren't fake - two of those came back later and either changed their story or changed what I was and we were told was what they were saying"
4. Additional information on Burkett's additional source: Burkett told CBS that the documents came from a person (who Rather still won't identify) who would have had access to the original files and who was out of the country and CBS could not locate them.
But wait, there's more!
In other words, Burkett wanted the Kerry people to know he was helping them so they would be grateful later.
*Via Allah - well, I can barely keep up at this point. Burkett also talked to Howard Dean within the last 45 days. And, the out-of-country source? There are two, actually. USAToday:
Burkett said Ramirez told him she had seen him the previous month in an appearance on the MSNBC program Hardball, discussing the controversy over whether Bush fulfilled all his obligations for service in the Texas Air Guard during the early 1970s. "There is something I have that I want to make sure gets out," he quoted her as saying.
He said Ramirez claimed to possess Killian's "correspondence file," which would prove Burkett's allegations that Bush had problems as a Guard fighter pilot.
Burkett said he arranged to get the documents during a trip to Houston for a livestock show in March. But instead of being met at the show by Ramirez, he was approached by a man who asked for Burkett, handed him an envelope and quickly left, Burkett recounted.
"I didn't even ask any questions," Burkett said. "Should I have? Yes. Maybe I was duped. I never really even considered that."
By Monday, USA TODAY had not been able to locate Ramirez or verify other details of Burkett's account. Three people who worked with Killian in the early 1970s said they don't recognize her name. Burkett promised to provide telephone records that would verify his calls to Ramirez, but he had not done so by Monday night.
An acquaintance of Burkett, who he said could corroborate his story, said he was at the livestock show on March 3. The woman, who asked that her name not be used, said Burkett asked if he could put papers inside a box she had at the livestock show. Often, she said, friends ask to store papers in her box that verify their purchases at the livestock auction. She said she did not know the nature of the papers Burkett gave her, and he did not say anything about them.
After keeping the copies for a couple of days, he said he drove to a location he would not specify, about 100 miles from his ranch, to put them "in cold storage." Burkett said he took the action because he believed the papers were politically explosive and made him nervous. "I treated them like absolute TNT," he said. "They looked to me like they were devastating."
Burkett said he passed the rest of the documents to Smith around Sept. 5, at a drive-in restaurant near Baird.
Pressed about the inconsistency between his initial account and the story of Ramirez, the mysterious Houston source, Burkett confessed that the Conn story had been a lie to throw reporters off the trail.
Let's be frank here: this is crazy talk, and shreds any remaining credibility any of Burkett's other tales might have had.
UPDATE: Who is George Conn? Wizbang notes that he has previously publicly repudiated Burkett's nutty stories.
SECOND UPDATE: Who is Lucy Ramirez? Well, maybe that's Spanish for "Mister Snuffalupagus." But if she's for real, Ace has one possible suspect with a Democratic connection. Oh, and if Burkett thought the records were real and he destroyed the originals, isn't that a felony as well?
*Spartac.us has more on the timeline. And keep your eyes on the Kerry Spot, where Jim Geraghty notes that the Democrats were able tro release their "Operation Fortunate Son" the very day the CBS story aired.