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September 10, 2004
The AP: Self-Contradictory Stories Are Our Specialty (UPDATE)

Matt Kelley writes a story that I first noticed from Threshold -55 (see below) that attempts to cast aspersions on the flight skills of George Bush while also moving the forgery story forward, which provides a textbook case of burying the lede:

George W. Bush began flying a two-seat training jet more frequently and twice required multiple attempts to land a one-seat fighter in the weeks just before he quit flying for the Texas Air National Guard in 1972, his pilot logs show. The logs show Bush flew nine times in T-33 trainers in February and March 1972, including eight times in one week and four of those only as a co-pilot. Bush, then a first lieutenant, flew in T-33s only twice in the previous six months and three times in the year ending July 31, 1971.

The records also show Bush required two passes to land an F-102A fighter on March 12 and April 10, 1972. His last flight as an Air National Guard pilot was on April 16.

So what is Kelley alleging? That Bush was incompetent, or drunk, when flying these jets? What, precisely, does it mean to have made two passes when landing a jet or to get flying time in on a trainer when a pilot is in the National Guard? Fortunately, Kelley himself provides the answer, thirteen paragraphs later:

Former Air National Guard officials contacted by the AP said there could be reasons for the trainer flights and multiple-approach landings which have nothing to do with Bush's pilot skills.

Bush could have flown T-33s so many times because his unit did not have enough F-102A jets available that week, for example, said retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd a former head of the Air National Guard. Another former Air National Guard chief, retired Maj. Gen. Paul A. Weaver, said he saw nothing unusual about Bush making more than one landing attempt.

"It doesn't mean anything to have multiple approaches," Weaver said.

So that's it? That's what Kelley considers a lede -- an insinuation of incompetence that he himself discredits well below the jump? I don't know what they're teaching in J-school these days, but they need to rethink their curricula if stories like these result from their education.

Fortunately, the article is not a complete waste of time, as Kelley decided to report some actual news starting around paragraph 4. Kelley reviews the forgery scandal in brief and introduces a new character into the mix -- the personnel chief in Killian's unit, Rufus Martin, who also doubts that Killian ever wrote the CBS memos:

The personnel chief in Killian's unit at the time also said he believes the documents are fake. "They looked to me like forgeries," said Rufus Martin. "I don't think Killian would do that, and I knew him for 17 years." Killian died in 1984.

Independent document examiner Sandra Ramsey Lines said the memos looked like they had been produced on a computer using Microsoft Word software. Lines, a document expert and fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, pointed to a superscript a smaller, raised "th" in "111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron" as evidence indicating forgery.

Microsoft Word automatically inserts superscripts in the same style as the two on the memos obtained by CBS, she said.

"I'm virtually certain these were computer generated," Lines said after reviewing copies of the documents at her office in Paradise Valley, Ariz. She produced a nearly identical document using her computer's Microsoft Word software.

So now the personnel chief, who should have seen any paperwork that would have been critical of George Bush, comes forward to testify that Killian never wrote anything like what those memos contained in the seventeen years they worked together. That seems rather damning, and in fact it represents good investigative work by Kelley. If he hadn't led his story with a baseless insinuation which he discredited in almost the same breath, I'd be impressed. As it is, we can add one more document analyst and another TANG voice to the growing chorus that CBS and the Democrats have been smearing George Bush for months now.

UPDATE and bump to top: The AP has significantly altered this story, removing the Rufus Martin element and instead still pushing the notion that flying trainers and making multiple passes is somehow significant. Talk about dumbing a story down; even CBS is covering Rufus Martin, as is CNN.

On the subject of multiple passes, CQ reader Andrew Koenig notes:

It most definitely does mean something to have multiple approaches. There is a technical term for a pilot who never makes multiple approaches: "Deceased."

Going around is an integral part of pilot training. The safe attitude is that every approach is going to end in a go-around unless you can produce an affirmative argument that it is safe to land. Moreover, every pilot will deliberately practice go-arounds.

So if his flight logs never showed any go-arounds, I would say he was either reckless or lying.

I suppose the AP has never heard of touch-and-goes, either. Debacles like this and the one that happened at CBS spring from a deliberate ignorance of military procedures and processes, part and parcel of the liberal bias at the mainstream media outlets. People with familiarity of military paperwork could have spotted the fraud at CBS in a heartbeat; my readers certainly did. The same thing is true about flight procedures and the use of training aircraft.

We have to ask why the AP continues to aggressively pursue the non-story while the biggest embarassment for a major news provider in a generation gets dropped from their coverage.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 10, 2004 7:30 AM

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these were computer generated." -- Sandra Ramsey Lines, a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, on the CBS documents at the center of the Rathergate scandal, as... [Read More]

Tracked on September 10, 2004 8:32 AM

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