Saturday, September 11, 2004

TH[e] Truth

More on the documents:

Philip Bouffard, a forensic document examiner in Ohio who has analyzed typewritten samples for 30 years, had expressed suspicions about the documents in an interview with the New York Times, one in a wave of similar media reports. But Bouffard told the Globe Friday that after further study, he now believed the documents could have been prepared on an IBM Selectric Composer typewriter available at the time. . . .

Those who doubt the documents say those typographical elements would not have been commonly available at the time of Bush's service. But such characters were common features on electric typewriters of that era, the Globe determined through interviews with specialists and examination of documents from the period. In fact, one such raised "th," used to describe a Guard unit, the 187th, appears in a document in Bush's official record the White House made public this year.

But William Flynn, a Phoenix document examiner cited in a Washington Post report Friday, said he had not changed his mind because he did not believe that the proportional spacing between characters, and between lines, in the documents obtained by CBS was possible on typewriters used by the military at the time. . . .

Flynn said his doubts were also based on his belief that the curved apostrophe was not available on electric typewriters at the time, although documents from the period reviewed by the Globe show it was. He acknowledged that the quality of the copies of the documents he examined was poor.

The controversy over the authenticity of the documents has all but blocked out discussion of their content. They say Killian was under pressure to "sugar coat" Bush's record, and Bush refused a direct order to take a required medical examination and discussed how he could skip drills.
All the back-and-forthing aside, the rela problem lies in the last graf. As with the rest of the campaign, it's not what was said, but how it was said. Even if it is proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Killian wrote these on the days indicated, people will doubt anyway. So whatever sway power they might've had is gone. People who believe Bush was and is the kind of dodger he's described as in the memos will believe it even if Dan Rather admits to typing these himself.

But what is most troubling, is how it's all a process story again. Most elections are these days - with 24 hour news cycles making it impossible to rest on content for more than 10 minutes. If they are fakes, then, yes, process matters. But the deeper questions about Bush's service remain. And they'll never be addressed now - at least never as anything more substantive than footnotes.

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