Friday, November 11, 2005

Live-blogging Mapes on "Hardball" 

Updates numbered, running behind to catch everything material on TiVo, my comments in italics. The pseudo-transcript that follows is not perfect, but will hold up, I believe, against the actual once it is released.

[Final UPDATE, 6:30 pm.]

1. Matthews begins by re-running part of the Bill Burkett interview on "Hardball" from February 12, 2004. Then we cut to Mapes today.

CM: All things considered what do you think of Bill Burkett's reliability?

Mapes: Boy, mixed feelings, I think like a lot of people have about most sources. I don't think Burkett is a forger or a liar. I think he is a self-interested person, I think he has strong feelings about Bush.

The one thing I would point out in the year since the debacle as you guys framed it there (which is probably a pretty good word), I have done some more reporting and I did find somebody who backed up -- not a friend of Burkett's but a Guard employee who backed up his story about the scrubbing of documents and how they were all put inside a huge trash can in 1997. Who? It would be nice to get a name and position.

2. CM: Well he told us, we're not going to waste time showing all the tape, but three things he said. One, he [Burkett] overhead a telephone conversation with General James at the National Guard, and he said he overhead Joe Alba's voice, and Dan Bartlett's voice, and he heard them talking about sending Karen Hughes, the president's other aide, out to collect the information on the current governor. Do you buy that?

MM: You know what, Chris, I have not really looked at that. I looked in a completely different direction. What I can tell you is I do buy in 1997 there was some kind of scrubbing. I don't know if it was aimed specifically at Bush, but there was some sort of big deal going through files there at the Austin headquarters of the Guard.

3. CM: Did you buy the fact that [Burkett] said that he happened to be walking by and overheard a senior officer talking another officer about how they were going to scrub the records of President Bush, the second incident, and then the third incident wherer he was standing and he was looking into a trash can and he is standing in the same office of General James, [Mapes interrupting "no".] and on the top of the trash can right on top, were George Bush's records, he then began to read, read six or seven pages, and then began to read. Do you believe?

MM: No, but here's what I do believe, I'll believe what I was able to confirm. There was this scrubbing in '97, the person I spoke with who was a guard employee [Who?] told me that Burkett came in and looked in the trash can, and these were a number of trash cans, and that several people came in and came through and took documents. And what I have also learned about the Guard in the years since and actually in the years before our story aired, was that the TANG and the Army but the TANG in particular I think was a tremendously politicized organization full of patronage, it had been a real, during the Vietnam War, an incredibly favored spot, it had been a place for children of privilege, and it had been a place where political favors had been paid back. [Mapes just asserts this, without offering any evidence. But it is hardly news in and of itself, and not evidence of anything asserted in the Killian memos.]

CM: Did the document he gave you stand up under your inspection. Do you believe that the document he gave you was authentic?

MM: He actually gave me ultimately six documents, and what I did was, first of all, we had the document analysis done and I know that is highly controversial and its always so technical that it makes your eyes glaze over to talk about it and that is what conservatives, bloggers in particular, siezed on. But the things that really gave me confidence were the vetting that we did where we went through looking for small errors in service numbers, address, rankings, we looked up the 1972 Air Force manual paragraph and page, we did all the kinds of tiny things that give away forgeries like the Niger forgeries that people talk about -- the uranium documents. The other I did was mesh these new documents with the old official records so I could see and I really actually was skeptical, I believed I was going to see dates bump up against each other. Things that were impossible. And the other thing I did was corroborate it with Lt. Col. Killian's commander, Bobby Hodges.

4. CM: How come no where in this book do you show a copy of the documents? Books always show materials relevant to the main story. The main story here is that document. I can't find it in the book.

MM: As I said, its six documents, if you go to the back of the book what I did do was show an example -- what we did at CBS was put up a faxed copy of the document. And then I put up a copy that no one's ever seen before which is unfaxed, and you can see there's a real difference in the way they look. The bloggers all seized on the faxed copy and began taking that apart and, to me, that was one of the relevant points. These things have been out on the Internet forever. ... We have a web side -- truthandduty.com -- where you can go and see them.

CM: So you stand behind them?

MM: I do.

5. CM: I want you to put some comments in context. "We had to build our own confidence in the authenticity of the papers." Were you instinctively a little worried that they might not be real?

MM: Absolutely, I was. I lived in Texas for fifteen years, I watched Karl Rove cut his teeth on the gubernatorial races and some other races along with some other extremely colorful Texas political consultants, and as you know politics can get wild and wooly down there...

CM: You know we had Bill Burkett on this show, and what made me somewhat skeptical, I suppose, is that he said he had no problem with President Bush, he has nothing against him. That isn't the case, is it?

MM: No, not at all. He's like most whistle-blowers, he's got his own agenda. Mother Theresa never hands you documents. It's always gotta be somebody who's got a motivation of some kind and Burkett had a lot of them. But what I believe though was that he didn't have a motivation to forge or to lie about getting or what he knew about these documents. [He did lie! He changed his story during the course of CBS' own investigation before the show aired! See the Panel report at pp. 25, 200.] He told me he really knew virtually nothing. I did believe that Burkett was a likely conduit for documents that somebody else was trying to bring forward. I just can't emphasize enough to you Chris, and I know you understand how politicized things can become, how this organization, the TANG, was an absolute hotbed -- I don't want to say corruption -- but I will say it was a hotbed of cronyism, political coups within the organization, discrimination suits, it seemed quite likely to me that people would hand out something like this to Burkett...

CM: I didn't find him very reliable when I had him on...

Let me ask you, you had a good case about favoritism in the TANG. Wouldn't you have been better off not putting this document, these documents into the report?

MM: Would my career have gone easier? Absolutely. On the other hand, what do you do when you get documents that you believe are significant, you check them out every way you possibly can [The Panel report found that she deliberately ignored the experts who warned her that they were of recent manufacture. See, for example, Emily Will, who typed the documents into Microsoft Word and was troubled by their resemblence.], what I was taught to do in terms of investigative journalism was to build a table that you sit a story on, and I did that with three or four legs of documentation and convincing sorts of evidence, and I thought they were ready to be presented to the American people. I think what my myopic -- was I was referred to -- if I had any myopia it is because I did not realize what a toxic political atmosphere we were in and I didn't realize that there would be this incredible swarming blog attack on CBS News and I didn't know they would cave in to it.

That's it. Matthews utterly failed to confront her with any of the evidence against Mapes. It was a genuinely disingenuous performance by Matthews, perhaps the most softball interview he has ever conducted. Shameful.

UPDATE: See my fisking of Mary Mapes' article in Vanity Fair here.


By Blogger corbusier, at Sat Nov 12, 01:15:00 PM:

I enjoy your point by point analysis. I linked to your prior post on Mapes at my blog www.architectureandmorality.blogspot.com. I've just written a post about a columnist in Dallas taking her side of the story. What he says should interest you.  

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