The makers of a new Dan Rather documentary apparently don’t:
Now, I say “probably,” because I can’t exclude the very remote possibility that in the early 1970s Bush’s commanding officer, for reasons lost to history, decided to type up these memos himself (even though his wife said he couldn’t type) rather than getting his secretary to do it.
I can’t prove that he never got his hands on a rather exotic typewriter instead of using the ones that were in his office, spent some time working on it with a soldering gun, and managed to coincidentally produce a document that looked exactly like what you would get if you opened up Microsoft Word 2003 and started typing.
I can’t rule out the possibility that he, for reasons known only to himself, wrote these documents using Army jargon in several places rather than the terms that would have been used in the Air National Guard.
I can’t rule out the possibility that these documents somehow escaped from his office, roamed around in the wild for several decades, and eventually ended up in the possession of a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard, who had an ax to grind against both the National Guard and one George W. Bush.
I also can’t rule out the possibility that somewhere in this vast universe of ours, there is a planet composed entirely of marshmallow, where the rivers run with honey.
This document ended up on the air because neither Rather nor his producer did their jobs right. They ignored glaring red flags about the source of the document, including the fact that he kept changing his story and finally settled on an implausible and uncheckable version about a mysterious woman who wanted the originals destroyed because … um, why? (Mary Mapes, the producer, speculated that she might have been worried about DNA evidence. Too bad she did not settle on the more likely scenario: that they were destroyed to conceal their creation on a laser printer.) Rather and his producer ignored experts who raised problems with the document.
They rushed the documents onto air, and then, when the story exploded in their face, they spent an unconscionably long time attacking the people who had pointed out the glaring issues with their source material. They clung to theories along the lines of Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian assiduously fiddling with the margin stops on his typewriter, such that they coincidentally lined up exactly with the defaults in as-yet-uninvented Microsoft Word. For two weeks, they dragged their network through a professional embarrassment of a scale that has rarely been reached again, because they didn’t do the most basic thing we’re paid for: properly vet their story before they started hurling serious, potentially election-altering accusations at a sitting president.
I find it amazing that there are still people who believe that document was genuine. This was my take, at the time, on the stupidity of Mary Mapes.