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Just Dumb Enough

Dan Rather has to be the gift that keeps on giving. His lawsuit against CBS is giving everyone a chance to relive the heady days of Rathergate, and letting some of us recall with pride some of our finest achievements.

Others, though, are taking the opportunity to remind everyone of just how stupid they can choose to be.

One of those people is Sidney Blumenthal, who is absolutely convinced that the whole thing was a master plot by Karl Rove.

The crux of Blumenthal's notion (I can't quite call it a "theory") seems to be this: Rove engineered the fake documents, then arranged for them to be funneled to Dan Rather, who would make the most of them on the air. Then, Rove's specially-prepared legions of minions would then expose the documents as flaws, making Rather look like a dupe and taking the whole "Bush was AWOL from the National Guard" question off the table.

On the surface, it's a tempting theory. Rove has a reputation as a master strategist, and the plot is positively Machiavellian. But it just doesn't pass the smell test. It violates one of the basic tenets of any plan: its success is dependent on factors totally out of the planner's control.

In order for this plot to succeed, it requires that the faked documents be good enough to pass CBS' scrutiny, yet have enough flaws that the "exposers" can plausibly put up an immediate refutation of them.

In other words, it was entirely hinged on Dan Rather's stupidity and gullibility. Had a single CBS staffer seen the flaws that "Rove's minions" latched on to so quickly, the entire story would have been spiked -- or, worse, backfired, as CBS would then turn its Eye on finding out who was trying to set it up.

It's a very, very poor plan that is based entirely on the ineptness of the target. In fact, "plan" is too strong a term -- "fantasy" is a better description.

The flaws in the Rathergate documents are many: incorrect phrasing and terminology, virtually-impossible typographic elements (the superscripts, proportional spacing), and the lack of a single person willing to say "yeah, I wrote that/typed that/received that/saw that" are just a few. The fact that it perfectly matches the "look" of Microsoft Word's default settings in spacing, line breaks, and type size pretty much put the final nail in Gunga Dan's coffin.

In order for Mr. Blumenthal's theory to fly, Karl Rove would have had to know ahead of time that Dan Rather and Mary Mapes would latch on to the fake memos and be so obsessed with them, so eager to sink Bush's re-election, that they would bypass CBS' normal standards and screenings, ignore the warnings of experts, and build an entire story on them. Further, that they would be so blindly arrogant that they would post digital versions of the documents to the public, where the Rove-prepared debunkers could immediately access them and "expose" the flaws.

Noted crank H. L. Mencken once noted that "no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people," and we see examples of that every day -- especially on television. But that's a general rule, and you can't extrapolate that on to a specific individual -- especially someone like Dan Rather, who had decades of experience and the resources of an entire network news division at his disposal. To expect -- in fact, to rely completely on -- his ditching all that and running with the story anyway is beyond arrogance and folly, it is suicidal.

And that is precisely the snake oil Mr. Blumenthal is trying to sell us.

No thanks, Sidney.

Kevin adds: Annoying superscripting removed...

Jay adds:: Whining commenced... I LIKED those.


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Comments (34)

When you've decided the con... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

When you've decided the conclusion, any theory no matter how outrageous becomes fact.

The story isn't required to be convincing in a common sense way, but to give people who want to disbelieve something to hold onto.

In other words, it... (Below threshold)
marc:
In other words, it was entirely hinged on Dan Rather's stupidity and gullibility.
So... how is this not true?
While watching the "Truther... (Below threshold)
Jumpinjoe:

While watching the "Truthers" vs. Popular Mechanics show on the History Channel an interesting explanation was given why so many latch on to these conspiracies. That being that when events seem too large for the mind to comprehend, then an alternate explanation is easily accepted to relieve a person from considering the complexities of reality.

Hence, 9-11 was huge; however the plan was simple and carried out by a few. The simpleminded can't imagine something this big has such an easy explanation. It must have a more complicated theory behind it. That is why "truthers" need to believe a big government was needed to pull off such a big event.

This also applies to the RatherGate conspiracy. This was to be a huge blow to the Bush campaign. I remember the lefties were going ape shit over this revelation that then Lt. Bush was a dud and confirmed by letters from his very own commanding officer.

Of course it then blew up in the face of every lefty. How something could be so easily debunked in such a short period of time is beyond the scope of simpleminded true believing lefties.

But...ah-ha, it isn't that simple and so easily debunked. It has to be larger than CBS making a tiny mistake; it has to be a big conspiracy in order to dupe CBS and Dan Rather.

Just think folks, one major political party is controlled by the simpleminded and paranoid, and they want to run this country and YOUR life. God help us if this become reality.

Sidney Blumenthal:<b... (Below threshold)
Jumpinjoe:

Sidney Blumenthal:

Rather's suit will seek to demonstrate that the documents used in his "60 Minutes II" piece were not inauthentic and that he and his producers acted responsibly in presenting them and the information they contained -- and that that information is true. Indeed, no credible source has refuted the essential facts of the story


Again the simpleminded thinking of lefties;

Step One: Make-up an allegation with no proof.

Step Two: Demand proof from the person that the allegation is not true.

Step Three: When proof counter to the allegation is not given then claim to the simpleminded your proof stands based on lack of debunking.

However in this case, given that overwhelming debunking was given, lefties no longer care about the origin of the letters, but want a debunking of the content of the letters. If not they stand by the allegation.

Sheesh.....and they claim to be the ones with the more better smarts.

Maybe we can start talking ... (Below threshold)
kim:

Maybe we can start talking about Tora Bora again. Read Ray Robison in the American Thinker. He believes the Taliban in Afghanistan has turned on al-Qaeda in a fashion similar to the Anbar Awakening. Several months ago when there was mishigas in the borderlands, I wondered if this was happening, but I've not seen it in print until today.
===================

JumpinjoeSheesh... (Below threshold)

Jumpinjoe

Sheesh.....and they claim to be the ones with the more better smarts.

Utmost Blumenthal, who still can't come to grips with the fall of the Soviet empire, the failure of communism and the success of Reagan. These demons haunt him.

He simply will not accept that what he considers a crowd of petty bourgeois' idiots could took down the dictator of the Tiffany Network.

For him to think Rove set i... (Below threshold)
kim:

For him to think Rove set it up, he has to admit that Rather et al were expected to not check it out. In other words, for his theory to work, he must admit incompetence at CBS. These spinners look for superficial plausibility, not underlying logic.
==============================

"...Rather will detail h... (Below threshold)

"...Rather will detail how network executives curried favor with the administration, offering him up as a human sacrifice."

When has CBS, or any other network, tried to 'curry favor' with this administration? (Cue FreedomFries here with spittle spraying, "Faux news!")

"In early 2004, Mary Mapes, a producer for "60 Minutes II" with more than two decades of experience, uncovered the torture at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq."

She did no such thing. The 'torture' at Abu Graib was uncovered and reported by American soldiers to their superiors and no amount of misrepresentation by Blumenthal of Mapes' 'uncovering' of those events will change it. Blumenthal is careful in his wording; Seymour "what I say and what I write are two different things" Hersh unearthed the story, but Mapes uncovered the torture.

I didn't even bother to read past page one.

You removed the superscript... (Below threshold)

You removed the superscripting, but you keep the likes Lee Ward around? Amazing.

Two items that were missed ... (Below threshold)
Mycroft:

Two items that were missed in the original debunking which my wife and I found about those documents.

1. The Microsoft Word lineup only works with Word 2000 or later. Word 97 does NOT match up.

2. Each page would have been in a military folder. However, all military folders since WWI have had the contents held in by two holes punched at the top of the document, and held thru them with the metal strap. Where was the evidence of those holes in the tops of the documents? (Such holes would have shown up in photocopies, as they would have pierced the headings.)

So, don't try and tell me those documents weren't fake from the get go there Dan.

Thanks, Kevin. Now can you... (Below threshold)
The "I Didn't Do It" Dancers:

Thanks, Kevin. Now can you get him to stop with the lameass (D-Chivas) every time he mentions Ted Kennedy?

Oyster - actually the abuse... (Below threshold)
Mike:

Oyster - actually the abuses at Abu Graib were reported by the military press months before the MSM stories with photos came out. The Army had pretty much concluded its investigation and identified the perpetrators by the time the MSM story "broke." The only thing special about the Hersh and Mapes reporting is that it included the now-infamous photos.

And one more thing about those memos - the "signature" of Jerry Killian on the fake documents is completely different from the real signature of Killian. Just another nail in the coffin.

Roger Simon puts some icing... (Below threshold)

Roger Simon puts some icing on Jay's cake.

http://www.rogerlsimon.com/mt-archives/2007/09/sydney_vs_charl.php

Sidney Blumenthal:<b... (Below threshold)
Jumpinjoe:

Sidney Blumenthal:

Through carefully placed calls made by Bush family friends, Bush was edged ahead of a 500-man waiting list

I'm still waiting for any lefty to produce any person that claims they were bumped by G.W. Bush.

That 500 person waiting list was NOT for applicants to fly the F-102 and willing to commit to one year of active duty training.

Again, it's funny how lefties demand someone debunk their made up allegations, yet they won't even back up their own talking points with proof.

The Texas Air National Guar... (Below threshold)
Jumpinjoe:

The Texas Air National Guard commander, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian wrote this about then Lt. Bush:

"a dynamic, outstanding young officer"
"a top-notch fighter-interceptor pilot. Lt. Bush's skills far exceed his contemporaries."
"He is a natural leader whom his contemporaries look to for leadership. Lt. Bush is also a good follower with outstanding disciplinary traits and an impeccable military bearing"
I guess the letters matched the technology of the day otherwise we would have heard about it.

So we have 100% proof Lt. Bush was an outstanding pilot and zero proof that the Colonel wrote anything negative. And the intellectual left still clings to the notion they will be vindicated.

Too funny.

If Bush had killed 500 Viet... (Below threshold)
Dirk:

If Bush had killed 500 Viet Cong with his bare hands, would any of the libtards here like him a scintilla more? I doubt it. They made a big deal about Vietnam is the last election and didn't give two shits when they ran a genuine draft dodger against two vets.

Dan Blather is still a lie ... (Below threshold)
Spurwing Plover:

Dan Blather is still a lie a day liberal left-wing journalists you cant trust these reptiles

"The crux of Blumenthal's n... (Below threshold)
King Leonidas:

"The crux of Blumenthal's notion (I can't quite call it a "theory") seems to be this: Rove engineered the fake documents, then arranged for them to be funneled to Dan Rather, who would make the most of them on the air."

Jay, I think you need to read the article. He does not claim that Rove engineered fake documents.

I like the way Newcomer fis... (Below threshold)
kim:

I like the way Newcomer fisks Pein in his January update.

www.flounder.com/bush2.htm
==========================

Thank you Mr. Blumenthal fo... (Below threshold)
kbiel:

Thank you Mr. Blumenthal for you tacit admission of Dan Rather's obsessive, self-destructive bias. Perhaps you can warn your other friends in the media to moderate their own biased reporting lest they fall pray to Rove too.

The sad thing about all of ... (Below threshold)
bio mom:

The sad thing about all of this isA:

NOBODY CARES ABOUT THIS! Whether Bush did or didn't use influence to get in to the National Guard and whether he skipped this or that is totally immaterial to anything going on in the country or world today. Only those in need of psychotherapy care. Even in the 2004 election, nobody cared about this except Rather and Mapes. Fighting bin Laden, at war in Iraq, balancing economic interests, etc. were the issues. Not some stupid thing like this.

I don't believe Blumenthal'... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

I don't believe Blumenthal's hypothesis, but the bit about the documents needing to be real enough to fool CBS and fake enough to not fool people like the guys at Powerline (who really do not seem like very intelligent people) is false. If one were to grant Blumenthal's hypothesis for the sake of conversation, one could suggest that Rove called up some friends and said "Pay EXTRA SPECIAL MICROSCOPIC scrutiny to the font and other details on this report that Rather is going to air tonight."

The outcome of the plot needn't have been out of Rove's hands, Jay Tea, as you say it must've been. And again, it's a silly theory anyway.

I like that Lord Rove is be... (Below threshold)
Son Of The Godfather:

I like that Lord Rove is being linked to this..

The Legend continues to grow!

Let the libtards tell their children of the Rove hiding in their closet or beneath their beds. At lefty parties, they will dare each other to look into a mirror and say "his" name three times...

Booogah boogah! :)

Hyperbolist, did you know t... (Below threshold)
kim:

Hyperbolist, did you know that Buckhead happened to have expertise in fonts because of a case he'd been involved with? There were two or three others with Buckhead that night, groping through the unknown. It was authentic revelation. I just wish Rove were powerful and clever enough to have pulled this off, but actually glad no one can be. Truth will out.

Well, unless the Clintons get elected. Then culture becomes surreal.
==============================================

No suprise with Sid.B. He i... (Below threshold)
Mark:

No suprise with Sid.B. He is a big Joe Wilson Fan.....

Some of us involved in the ... (Below threshold)
SPQR:

Some of us involved in the Rathergate debunking had also written word processing software, Kim.

Could I care less?==... (Below threshold)
kim:

Could I care less?
===================

See the irony exposed by th... (Below threshold)
kim:

See the irony exposed by the reverse construction?

Yes, many helped that night and day. I was the first on a local board to post about it, probably 12 hours after Buckhead, and still relish the abuse I absorbed over the next few hours.
==========================

"Further, that the... (Below threshold)
Eric:
"Further, that they would be so blindly arrogant that they would post digital versions of the documents to the public, where the Rove-prepared debunkers could immediately access them and "expose" the flaws."

This to me is where the Rovian Plot theory falls apart. Darth Rove would easily have anticipated Rather and Mapes being so over zealous that they would run the story with the flimsiest of analysis and self scrutiny.

However, even a Sith Master as great as Darth Rove could not have forseen that CBS would post digital copies of the documents on the Internet. If CBS had only reprinted the contents of the documents then all of the scrutiny of fonts, proportional spacing, superscripts, etc. could not have been done. The story would have turned out completely different.

So Rather can thank his misfortune on some anonymous webmaster in the CBS Newsroom who put the docs on the CBS website.

That article has another ho... (Below threshold)
Veeshir:

That article has another howler I'm surprised you all didn't catch, he claimed that "investigative journalism" is why we found out about abu Ghraib.
I can understand his point, you see, the military put out the details of abu Ghraib and what self-respecting "journalist" would believe them?

Jay adds:: Whining comme... (Below threshold)
Veeshir:

Jay adds:: Whining commenced... I LIKED those.

Maybe you should file a complaint with Wizbang management for someone stifling a Wizbang co-writer? I hear those work.

"During the time the younge... (Below threshold)
King Leonidas:

"During the time the younger Bush was under the watchful eye of the Allisons, he never went to a National Guard base or wore a uniform. "Good lord, no. I had no idea that the National Guard was involved in his life in any way," said Allison. She did, however, remember him drinking, urinating on a car, screaming at police and trashing the apartment he had rented."

Now that's funny.

The fakes weren't remotely ... (Below threshold)

The fakes weren't remotely plausible.

The heading and signature were centered. Military documents are flush left. Whoever typed those documents was ignorant of military memos.

A number of Rather's defenders went to great lengths to "prove" that proportionate spacing WAS available on certain IBM typewriters at the type. True dat - but the machine which could do that was a special one used in the printing industry and cost over $15,000 in today's dollars. The TANG never had one; Col Killian - who, according to his wife and secretary, could not type and never tried - never owned one. If the memo had been typed on such a machine, where did it come from, who typed on it, and where did it go?

Then, of course, was the photocopying. The documents given to CBS were copies of copies of copies of copies. If they were genuine, what happened to all those other copies? Who made them and why? Unless, of course, it was done to make the documents look older and disguise the fact they had been printed with a modern printing and word processing program.

There were so many such obvious defects as to make Blumenthal's theory laughable. You would have to assume CBS would ask no questions at all of Barnes, a known Bush-hater, whose tale of coming into possession through a cloak-and-dagger exchange at a public fair and the nonexistent "Lucy Ramirez" never sounded remotely plausible.

Fonts, style, typist, source . . . not a single area of the documents could pass even a rudimentary scrutiny. The faker was an amateur who covered his work clumsily. The fakes were accepted because they fit the Mapes-Rather mindset, and their conception of Bush. That's why they ignored the warnings and went full speed ahead, and also why they came up with the absurd "fake but accurate" argument when the evidence fell apart.

If they really believed tha... (Below threshold)
kim:

If they really believed that this was a deliberate plot, then they should be angry at Dan Rather and Mary Mapes for falling for it and ruining the plausibility of the 'accurate' meme. That would put everyone on the same page about their sloppiness and we could just argue about their bias, which the journalism professors remind is to be expected.
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