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September 17, 2004
The Cleland-Burkett-Kerry Campaign Connection?

Michael Dobbs pushes the Rathergate story even farther forward in tomorrow's Washington Post, in the first indication that the Kerry campaign may have been explicitly involved in the Killian forgeries:

The former Texas National Guard officer suspected of providing CBS News with possibly forged records on President Bush's military service called on Democratic activists to wage "war" against Republican "dirty tricks" in a series of Internet postings in which he also used phrases similar to several employed in the disputed documents. ...

In e-mail messages to a Yahoo discussion group for Texas Democrats over the past few months, Burkett laid out a rationale for using what he termed "down and dirty" tactics against Bush. He said he had passed his ideas to the Democratic National Committee but that the DNC seemed "afraid to do what I suggest."

In another message, dated Sept. 4, Burkett hinted he might have had advance knowledge of some details in an explosive segment that aired Sept. 8 on the CBS News program "60 Minutes."

More and more evidence has come out that Burkett was the culprit behind the forgeries. His proximity to the Kinko's that faxed them to CBS (and their computers, which could have produced them), his claim to have "reassembled" Bush's record, and his postings on the Internet groups he frequents all point to the fanatical ex-Guardsman.

However, Dobbs notes a new revelation at the end of the article which links Bill Burkett to Max Cleland, of all people -- and an idea where Burkett went with his proposed smear campaign:

In an Aug. 21 posting, Burkett referred to a conversation with former senator Max Cleland (D-Ga.) about the need to counteract Republican tactics: "I asked if they wanted to counterattack or ride this to ground and outlast it, not spending any money. He said counterattack. So I gave them the information to do it with. But none of them have called me back."

Cleland confirmed that he had a two- or three-minute conversation by cell phone with a Texan named Burkett in mid-August while he was on a car ride. He remembers Burkett saying that he had "valuable" information about Bush, and asking what he should with it. "I told him to contact the [Kerry] campaign," Cleland said. "You get this information tens of times a day, and you don't know if it is legit or not."

On August 21, after pushing his idea for a dirty-tricks campaign to the DNC with little success, Burkett asks Cleland where he can take derogatory material on George Bush -- and Cleland directs him to the Kerry campaign by his own admission, a revelation in itself. (You'll note that Cleland isn't bright enough to suggest, which would have protected his candidate.)

On August 25th, Burkett publishes his Online Journal piece, warning Bush that Burkett had "reassembled" Bush's Guard files.

By September 4, he's posting messages that more information is waiting to come out against Bush after the Barnes interview, and the forgeries are on their way or already in the hands of CBS.

It looks like Cleland's advice worked, didn't it? If I had subpoena power, I would check Burkett's phone records to see if he contacted the Kerry campaign during the period between the Cleland contact and the date on the faxes. This appears to be moving towards a very ugly conclusion -- that someone in the Kerry campaign has some involvement in perpetrating a fraud intended to pervert an election.

I think the Congressional hearings may be a good idea now. In fact, an FBI investigation may be an even better idea.

UPDATE: More from the New York Times.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 17, 2004 10:51 PM

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