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Dan Rather Lawsuit Claims President's Shoddy Military Record is TrueOp-Ed by Tim King Salem-News.com
Rather says his report on Bush's military record was accurate, but maintains he was made a "scapegoat" by CBS.
(SALEM, Ore.) - The Bush Administration has learned a great deal since taking the reigns of this nation in 2001, but accumulated knowledge keeps leaving the team as the voices of critics grow louder. Another nagging problem is the growing lineup of skeletons in the President's closet, seemingly locked in competition to gain exposure.
One of those problems came up in September 2004, when veteran CBS News Anchor Dan Rather reported information about the President's less than lustrous military record during the Vietnam conflict. While CBS initially backed Rather and his news team, major fallout followed and the report served as a turning point in Rather's lengthy, distinguished career.
But an announcement this week that Dan Rather is suing CBS for problems stemming from that story, could pose real problems for George W. Bush. A verdict in Rather's favor would mean the report was accurate, and all of the negative aspects of the President's military service are true.
Many doubts about OJ Simpson's involvement in the murders of his wife Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman changed when a civil court returned a verdict mandating Simpson to pay large sums to the families for the murders.
If a court rules in Rather's favor, his story will be vindicated, and it could lead the President's military record to an OJ Simpson-like verdict in civil court, and that may be a more difficult matter to control, even from the oval office of George W. Bush.
Rather's September 2004 report claimed President Bush avoided some of his duties during his National Guard service and that a commander felt pressured to soft-pedal the President's military record. Rather's position is that the story was true.
The former anchorman of the "CBS Evening News," is seeking $20 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages.
The AP reports that the lawsuit also names CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves, Viacom Inc., Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone and former CBS News President Andrew Heyward. CBS was the owner of Viacom Inc. at the time, prior to splitting into two companies in January 2006.
CBS dismisses the complaints as old news, claiming that Rather's lawsuit is without merit.
In filing the lawsuit, Dan Rather alleges that the network and other parties made him a "scapegoat" when they discredited the story about President Bush's National Guard service.
Dan Rather left CBS News for good shortly after the story, and it did not make him look better when an independent review for the network concluded that the story was neither fair nor accurate.
Three CBS News executives were fired, along with a producer who aired the report. His last months at the network, as one of America's longest standing and most respected news anchors, were an uncomfortable period for Rather.
Dan Rather did something that day in September 2004 that set him apart from almost all other national network reporters; he did his job and took the President to task, whether people like it or not, that is what good journalists are supposed to do.
President Clinton screwed up, and he was afforded no quarter for his sins. He lied and was exposed, but there is not a soul who doesn't know about it today.
President Bush on the other hand, had led the country with far more of a totalitarian approach regarding the handling of his personal problems, disallowing any uncontrolled response by the media. Perhaps the Rather lawsuit will bring to the surface more of the Texas Republican's real character, qualities that many people claim to have been painfully aware of for years.
Bush's Military Years
The story on Bush's military record is multi-fold. On May 27th, 1968, Bush was 12 days away from losing his student draft deferment. At this point in the war, 350 Americans a week were dying in combat and Americans watched it on television every night.
The senior George Bush was serving as a Texas Congressman, and it is reported that he and his family friends pulled strings, and the young Bush was granted admittance to the guard the same day he applied.
Bush's acceptance into the military came in spite of the fact that he scored in the 25th percentile on the written pilot's aptitude test. That is the lowest acceptable passing grade. He also reportedly was able to enter the military without attending Officer's Candidate School.
That's food for thought for all of us who have had to endure Marine/Army/Navy boot camp or Officer's Candidate School. At that time in particular, there were few rules about the treatment of recruits and cadets, and people in the U.S. military service were treated harshly. President George W. Bush, the son of a distinguished WWII Navy fighter pilot, avoided those hardships.
As Bush became a pilot flying the F-102 jet for the Texas Guard, more than ten thousand Air National Guard personnel, many fighter pilots, had been called to active duty to serve both in Vietnam, and in support of the war effort.
Bush was assigned to Houston, after completing the Convair F-102 training program. This is the time-frame critics allege, that Bush was treated with favor due to his father's political standing. It is also a time when he reportedly had very poor attendance, which any aviator would be severely reprimanded for, according to military law, with few exceptions.
Realchange.org reports that National Guard records and Bush's own supervisor's and friends show no sign of him attending any drills or performing any service for nearly a year, from May 1972 until May 1973. This period began with Bush moving to Alabama for a political campaign.
After this period, he was transferred to the Alabama Air National Guard to work on a Republican senate campaign. He was let go from the Alabama Guard almost eight months early, so that he could complete his MBA at the Harvard Business School.
The United States Department of Defense has released all of the records of Bush's Texas Air National Guard service, but critics scoff at the likelihood that the records were left in their true form.
Two years later, Bush was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol near his family's summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine. George W. Bush pled guilty, was fined, and had his drivers license suspended for almost two years.
Rather maintains that he was accurate in claiming that President Bush skirted some of his duties during his National Guard service, and that a commander felt pressured to sugarcoat Bush's record.
Interestingly, Dan Rather did not avoid spending time in Vietnam. He first arrived in December 1965, and in just a few days found himself in Tam Ky, in the middle of a fire fight. A Marine was hit in the crossfire. Rather offered medical assistance, and helped carry the wounded Marine from the battlefield.
A contact gave me copies of Bush's military records in 1999 and 2000, while I was an assignment editor with KVVU FOX-5 in Las Vegas. I was surprised when Rather went on the air with material I had long been in possession of. It will be interesting to watch the matter unfold.
Watch Dan Rather's first TV appearance on the matter tonight on Larry King Live at 9:00 PM ET.
Visit CNN to learn more about Thursday's upcoming appearance with Dan Rather: Larry King Live
Check these sites for more information on the history of U.S. President George. W. Bush. Wikipedia page on President George W. Bush
Thanks to Wikipedia for information in this report
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with almost twenty years experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist and reporter. Today, in addition to his role as a war correspondent in Afghanistan where he spent the winter of 2006/07, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated only with Google News. You can send Tim an email at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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