September 12, 2004

A third-rate forgery.

Somehow my effort to read the NYT this morning got stalled in the middle of Frank Rich's explication of how Iraq is like Vietnam. It's printed on a page with a big, color illustration of a galloping horse that is kicking up a lot of dirt. The text of Rich's piece looks dusted with brown dirt, and this is heightening my usual aversion to Rich. But I did read enough to start thinking about how no one can seem to stop talking about events from the Nixon Era, and then, that Rathergate is a bit like Watergate.

Watergate--a "third-rate burglary" that brought down a President--was not just an outrageous and bold thing to decide to do, it was done so clumsily. Couldn't they have wrapped the fateful tape around the door jamb a little less conspicuously? The idea of forging documents to question Bush's National Guard service is similarly outrageous and bold and clumsy. It's a third-rate forgery. [ADDED: I realize I am assuming it is a forgery and that there is some chance it's not.]

It's one thing to decide to do the forgery, but who would dare to do it and also dare to do is so badly? Kausfiles notes the pro-Kerry conspiracy theory: some Bush operative--who is this "Buckhead"?--intended first to trick "60 Minutes" and then to have the forgery discovered. I find it hard to believe that bizarrely over-clever pro-Bush people generated the documents, because this story reopened actual questions about Bush's Guard service and, more importantly, eclipsed the Swift Boat story that was hurting Kerry so much. It was the Kerry people who were desperate to kill the Swift Boat story. Their man was in decline and that story would not die. Do something, anything! The call went out for dirty tricks. (Bloggers who linked to Susan Estrich's much-blogged "dirty tricks" column may want to check their links: they don't go where you want them to anymore!)

Rathergate is a third-rate forgery, but who, if anyone, will it bring down? It may never be traced to anyone of importance within the Kerry campaign. I'd like to think that no one at that level would be so reckless and so stupid. Yet CBS fell for the forgery, so stupidity and recklessness at high levels is surely not impossible. The one person most likely to fall is Rather himself, who must truly have wanted to help Kerry if he fell for this feeble forgery.

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