Squelched Swifties, But Now Pounce on "New Questions" About Bush --9/9/2004
2. Swift Ad Ignored, Yet ABC Showcases "Was Bush AWOL in Alabama?"
If there were any lingering doubts about whether the mainstream media are in the tank for John Kerry, Wednesday's news judgments put them to rest as a media which ignored the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth for months and then fretted about their connections to the Bush campaign, demanded the group's free speech "loophole" be plugged and that President Bush condemn their anti-Kerry TV ads, pounced in seeming unison on supposed "new questions" about Bush's Air National Guard service forwarded by the AP, Boston Globe and CBS News, a record already dissected for more than a week last February.
The anti-Kerry swifties didn't have the benefit of those three major media outlets pushing their agenda nor pursuing the acquisition of old military documents as they are with Bush while seemingly making no effort to obtain Kerry's old records, or even demand that he allow their release.
Thursday morning network morning shows and newspaper front pages trumpeted the "new questions" about Bush.
At the top of Thursday's Good Morning America, Charles Gibson demanded to know: "This morning, under fire: New questions about President Bush's military record. Did family friends pull strings? Did he get special treatment? And did he disobey orders?" GMA went to Terry Moran at the White House and then Gibson talked with George Stephanopoulos who saw "serious charges" in the documents.
On NBC's Today, Matt Lauer previewed a face-off between James Carville of CNN and the Kerry campaign and Tucker Eskew of the Bush campaign: "New questions are being raised about the President's National Guard service record." Before that debate, reporter Carl Quintanilla summarized the documents first reported on CBS's 60 Minutes and showed a brief clip of the ad from Texans for Truth.
As outlined in the August 6 CyberAlert, the networks that morning "treated Senator John McCain's condemnation of the anti-Kerry ad from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as more newsworthy than the substance of the charges the network morning shows have ignored until now." See: www.mediaresearch.org
"Records Say Bush Balked at Order," announced the headline over a Thursday, September 9 front page Washington Post story about CBS's reporting. The subhead: "National Guard Commander Suspended Him From Flying, Papers Show." See: www.washingtonpost.com
That isn't how the Times treated the swifties when the Times finally, on August 20, put them on the front page. "Friendly Fire: The Birth of an Attack on Kerry," spent more space discrediting the group through a rundown of supposed links between it and those tied to Bush than to the substance of the charges. For a detailed article about the Times' agenda, on the MRC's TimesWatch.org site, check: www.timeswatch.org
On Wednesday evening, Tom Brokaw teased at the top of the NBC Nightly News: "Guard duty: A host of new questions about President Bush's National Guard service, including the man who says he pulled strings to get him in."
(Before August 19 when John Kerry attacked Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, NBC Nightly News ran just one story on the group, on August 6, and then NBC was far more concerned with suppressing the out of control free speech than in exploring the specifics of the charges. Anchor Tom Brokaw rued then that "a harsh political ad attacking Senator John Kerry's Vietnam war record is putting the spotlight back on the independent organizations which are called 527's. They're raising money and running ads separate from the campaigns and the parties themselves. And as NBC's Andrea Mitchell tells us tonight, the campaign finance law supposed to fix the system left this very big loophole." Mitchell's story failed to air any of the audio from the ad, but she ominously reminded viewers that "some of the same players organized anonymous attack ads against John McCain four years ago, when he was running against George Bush." Mitchell lamented how "at a campaign picnic today, the President refused to disavow it" and she fretted that the anti-Kerry vets "may get away with" running their ad. See: www.mediaresearch.org )
In Wednesday's story, NBC skipped the new anti-Bush ad, attacking his supposed lack of National Guard service, put out by another 527 group, Texans for Truth.
CNN's NewsNight didn't mention Swift Boat Veterans for Truth until Tuesday, August 17 -- more than three months after their May 4 press conference. But on Wednesday night, Aaron Brown devoted 13 minutes of his newscast to reports on and discussions about the anti-Bush charges as he led by framing the historical record in Kerry's favor: "One guy went to Vietnam and the other guy didn't. The guy who went most likely could have avoided going but didn't. The guy who didn't go made it clear he had no interest in fighting a war he says he supported."
CBS led with how, as Dan Rather hyped it: "There are new questions tonight about President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard in the late 1960s and early '70s and about his insistence that he met his military service obligations. CBS News has exclusive information, including documents, that now sheds new light on the President's service record. 60 Minutes has obtained government documents that indicate Mr. Bush may have received preferential treatment in the Guard after not fulfilling his commitments."
In that subsequent 60 Minutes interview with former Texas House Speaker Ben Barnes, Dan Rather made Bush part of a collective guilt for forcing someone to go to Vietnam in his place: "Why would these men do this? Didn't conscience come into play somewhere here?" Rather contended that "the questions about Vietnam still follow President Bush." But for CBS, they apparently don't follow John Kerry.
(Back on August 19, the day Kerry attacked the swifties, CBS treated him as the aggrieved party. Byron Pitts asserted: "Kerry, who's made his tour of duty in Vietnam the centerpiece of his campaign, realized today he could no longer let the ad go unanswered and took aim at President Bush for not condemning it." Pitts didn't hesitate to try to discredit a Kerry detractor by bringing up Nixon: "The men behind the Swift Boat Veterans ad refused to back off. Their leader, John O'Neill, was also Richard Nixon's point man in attacks on John Kerry's protest of the Vietnam War 30 years ago."
For a full rundown of the August 19 coverage of Kerry's charge that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were doing the Bush campaign's "dirty work," see: www.mediaresearch.org
-- CBS Evening News. Rather teased: "Tonight, a CBS News/60 Minutes exclusive: New information on President George W. Bush's record in the National Guard. Newly discovered documents spark new questions."
Rather opened his broadcast: "Good evening. There are new questions tonight about President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard in the late 1960s and early '70s and about his insistence that he met his military service obligations. CBS News has exclusive information, including documents, that now shed new light on the President's service record. 60 Minutes has obtained government documents that indicate Mr. Bush may have received preferential treatment in the Guard after not fulfilling his commitments.
With the matching text on screen as Rather quoted it, he elaborated: "The first memo is a direct order to take a physical, a requirement for all pilots. Mr. Bush never took that physical. Another memo refers to a phone call from the Lieutenant in which he and his commander 'discussed options of how Bush can get out of coming to drill from now through November.' And that due to political campaign commitments, 'he may not have time.' On August 1, 1972, Colonel Killian wrote that he grounded Lieutenant Bush for 'failure to perform to U.S. Air Force/Texas Air National Guard standards and for failure to take his annual physical as ordered.' "A year after Lieutenant Bush's suspension from flying, Killian is asked to write another favorable assessment. Killian's memo, titled 'CYA,' reads he is being pressured by higher-ups to give the young pilot a favorable yearly evaluation -- to, in effect, sugarcoat his review. He refuses, saying, 'I'm having trouble running interference and doing my job.'
Rather then introduced a story from John Roberts: "Now, all of this comes, of course, in the middle of a presidential race in which the military service records of both candidates have been under attack. CBS News Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts has more of the Bush administration reaction to the 60 Minutes report."
Roberts began: "It was just what the White House had hoped to avoid: New scrutiny of the President's military record just as he seeks to reinforce his credentials as a wartime leader. Officials were quick to suggest, 'well, who knew what Lieutenant Colonel Killian was really thinking?'"
The CBSNews.com posting of the Roberts story includes video of the Texans for Truth ad. I don't recall CBSNews.com posting the first ad from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and I could not find such a posting via a search of CBSNews.com, but given the disfunctionality of CBSNews.com (links don't work or go to wrong document, videos don't launch etc) it's hard to be sure. For the page featuring a link to play the Bush-bashing ad: www.cbsnews.com
Rather set up the prime time story: "The military records of the two men running for President have become part of the political arsenal in this campaign -- a tool for building up or blowing up each candidate's credibility as America's next Commander-in-Chief. While Senator Kerry has been targeted for what he did in combat in Vietnam, President Bush has been criticized for avoiding Vietnam by landing a much sought-after spot in the Texas Air National Guard and then apparently failing to meet some of his obligations in the Guard. Did Lieutenant Bush fulfill all of his military commitments? And just how did he land that coveted slot in the Guard in the first place?"
Vietnam may have become part of the "political arsenal" for both campaigns, but only the Kerry team has the broadcast network evening shows firing mortars for them.
Barnes insisted to Rather: "I'm not here to bring any harm to George Bush's reputation or his career. I was contacted by people from the very beginning of his political career, when he ran for Governor, and then when he ran for President, and now he's running for re-election." Barnes claimed: "This is not about George Bush's political career, it's about what the truth is."
Rather acknowledged: "Barnes is a Democrat who is now actively raising money for John Kerry. But he was a Democrat back in 1968 too and serving as Texas' Speaker of the House."
Rather recalled: "A few months before Mr. Bush would become eligible for the draft, Barnes says he had a meeting with the late oilman Sid Adger, a friend to both Barnes and then-Congressman George Bush."
Barnes remembered: "It's been a long time ago, but he said basically would I help young George Bush get in the Air National Guard?...I was a young ambitious politician doing what I thought was acceptable. It was important to make friends. And I recommended a lot of people for the National Guard during the Vietnam era -- as Speaker of the House and as Lieutenant Governor."
Rather cued him up: "George W. Bush was among those he recommended for the National Guard. Was this a case of preferential treatment?" Barnes affirmed: "I would describe it as preferential treatment. There were hundreds of names on the list of people wanting to get into the Air National Guard or the Army National Guard.".
Rather proceeded to offer a slightly more detailed rundown of the Killian documents than he did on the Evening News (see earlier in this item) and then honed in on how Bush and Barnes should feel guilty for abusing power.
Rather introduced another interviewee: "Robert Strong was a friend and colleague of Colonel Jerry Killian who ran the Texas Air National Guard administrative office in the Vietnam era." Strong said he believed the documents given to CBS are genuine.
Rather asserted: "The questions about Vietnam still follow President Bush and Ben Barnes -- and every American who remembers where they were, and what they did during Vietnam. Because the war we couldn't seem to get out of has become the war we can't seem to get over."
Rather to Barnes: "By 1968, casualties in Vietnam were running high. Did you or did you not think at that time, 'I'm a little uncomfortable with this,' or did you have long talks with your conscience? Did you say to yourself, 'I'm a little uncomfortable with doing this?'"
Rather: "Robert Strong says he saw many well-connected young men pull strings and avoid service in Vietnam."
Rather: "Thirty years after the fact, Barnes says he is one of many Americans still trying to make peace with what he did during the war."
For a semi-transcript, that is one which includes material which did not air, misses statements that did air and jumbles some of what aired, see: www.cbsnews.com
Brokaw led his newscast: "Good evening. President Bush and John Kerry are at war over the war in Iraq. And while the President ties it to terrorism, the issue that serves him best, Senator Kerry opened a new front today linking the war to the American economy and social issues. This, on a day when new questions have surfaced about the President's service in the National Guard."
Following Kelly O'Donnell on Kerry and David Gregory on Bush, Brokaw intoned: "After weeks of questions and charges and ads about John Kerry's Vietnam combat service record, the President's time in the National Guard re-emerged today. He enlisted in Texas, transferred to Alabama, and got out early to attend graduate school. But did he fulfill all his obligations?"
Andrea Mitchell began her piece: "It's not the first time the President's National Guard service has come under scrutiny. Today a Boston Globe investigation found more gaps in George Bush's service in Boston in 1973, when the young George Bush promised to meet his Guard commitment while attending Harvard Business School. The Globe found no proof he did."
Mitchell continued: "That, say critics, proves Bush, as the son of a prominent politician, got special treatment."
A few stories into the program, John King related the basic facts of the latest allegations and then Brown interviewed Boston Globe reporter Walter Robinson, who oversaw the September 8 story, "Bush fell short on duty at Guard: Records show pledges unmet." Their opening exchange:
Brown: "The central charges here I think are fairly simple that the President back then all those years ago did not do what he agreed to do, what he signed contracts to do and that he was never punished for it, fair?"
For the September 8 Boston Globe story: www.boston.com
Rationalizing how a new anti-Bush TV ad represents "payback time" for Bush opponents upset with the ads from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, ABC's Terry Moran on Wednesday night, without bothering to note who funded it, ran a lengthy clip from the ad produced by a 527 group called Texans for Truth. ABC plastered on screen the ad's full screen text which asked: "Was George Bush AWOL in Alabama?"
World News Tonight's alacrity in highlighting the ad denigrating President Bush and lack of interest in who funded it contrasts markedly with the program's apathy toward Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and subsequent concern, after John Kerry complained, about who funded that group.
As recounted in the August 20 CyberAlert, World News Tonight, which ignored the May 4 press conference by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and hadn't since mentioned their charges or early August ad, led Thursday night, August 19, with how, as anchor Elizabeth Vargas framed the matter from the assumption that Kerry was the aggrieved party: "John Kerry fights back against charges he lied about his war record. He accuses a veterans' group of doing the President's 'dirty work.'" ABC featured a soundbite of Kerry blasting the funders: "They're funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Republican contributor out of Texas. They're a front for the Bush campaign. And the fact that the President won't denounce what they're up to tells you everything that you need to know. He wants them to do his dirty work." Jake Tapper soon pointed out how "this group has received major support from some wealthy Republicans." Vargas saw John McCain as the oracle of all that is good, asking Terry Moran: "But even Republican Senator John McCain has called on the President to condemn this ad. Why hasn't he done so, this swift boat ad?"
For more on ABC's coverage the night Kerry lashed out at the anti-Kerry veterans: www.mediaresearch.org
Moran offered nothing Wednesday night about the funding of Texans for Truth, or ties between it and Kerry's world -- a subject ABC and other networks explored in the days after August 19 when it came to Bush donors and volunteers and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
In the September 8 USA Today, Mark Memmott outlined:
For the USA Today article in full: www.usatoday.com
Moran, however, uniquely added that "today, an official with the Air Force said Mr. Bush did not have to join a unit in Massachusetts, because he was registered with a unit in Denver. 'If the Air Force wanted him for duty,' the official says, 'they knew where he was.'"
The September 8 World News Tonight story in full:
Peter Jennings teased up top: "The latest allegations that President Bush did not serve as he should have during Vietnam. We do some fact checking."
Jennings set up the subsequent piece: "Senator Kerry's faced a lot of questions for several weeks, as you know, about the medals he won in the Vietnam war. Today, it was President Bush's turn. The Democrats want his service in the National Guard back on the table for debate. Here is our White House correspondent, Terry Moran."
Moran began: "For opponents of President Bush, it's payback time with this new ad."
Following the 12 seconds of ad replay, Moran explained: "Democrats charge that Mr. Bush failed to fulfill his duty to the Air National Guard, in 1972, when he transferred from Texas to a unit in Alabama while he worked on a political campaign. Earlier this year, the White House claimed all of Mr. Bush's military records had been released. But now the Pentagon, responding to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Associated Press, has released more documents. According to the AP, they show no record of Mr. Bush performing his duty in Alabama, between April and October of 1972. And they show that he missed a crucial '24-hour active alert mission to safeguard against surprise attack' in the Southern United States. White House Communications Director, Dan Bartlett, insists the President fulfilled his duty."
For the September 8 AP dispatch, "Lawsuit Uncovers New Bush Guard Records," go to: news.yahoo.com
-- Brent Baker