I want to reserve my final judgment on this one — but the early evidence doesn't look good for CBS, or the Boston Globe.
The Boston Globe runs a front-page story
In August 1973, President Bush's superior officer in the Texas Air National Guard wrote a memorandum complaining that the commanding general wanted him to ''sugar coat" an annual officer evaluation for First Lieutenant Bush, even though Bush had not been at the base for the year in question, according to new documents obtained and broadcast last night by CBS News.
The commander, the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian, wrote that he turned aside the suggestion from Brigadier General Walter B. Staudt, Bush's political mentor in the Guard. But he and another officer agreed to ''backdate" a report — evidently the evaluation — in which they did not rate him at all. There is such a report in Bush's file, dated May 2, 1973.
''I'll backdate but won't rate," Killian apparently wrote in what is labeled a ''memo to file." Initials that appear to be Killian's are on the memo, but not his name or unit letterhead.
The August 1973 document, dated as Bush was preparing to leave Texas to attend the Harvard Business School, represents the first apparent evidence of an attempt to embellish Bush's service record as his time in the Guard neared its end.
Check out the document here
. There does not appear to be a link to the document from the Globe. Instead, they type up what it says on their own site, and mention, "The document carries no letterhead or clear identification of the author."
Kerry Spot readers have been e-mailing all morning, pointing to PowerLine
blog's contention this is a forged document, written on a modern computer. The typeface doesn't look anything like something written on a typewriter in 1973.
Now it appears this document includes include the superscript "th" in 187th, and as a Powerline correspondent points out, "There are no keys on any typewriter in common use in 1973 which could produce a tiny "th." The forger got careless after creating the August 1, 1972 document and slipped up big-time."
CBS News and the Globe ought to check this out big-time, and fast. If they ran with a story based on a forgery (and a forgery that the blogosphere managed to check out in just a few hours) this report will join Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, and Janet Cooke in journalism's hall of infamy.
UPDATE: From Kerry Spot reader Christopher: "As a graphic designer, another thing pops out at me in that supposed Guard memo...the apostrophes. They don't seem consistent with a typewriter. A typewriter would have straight apostrophes, not the curly-queue kind."
UPDATE, AGAIN: Ready for real typeset-lingo? A couple of Kerry Spot readers explain that the memo linked above is "proportionally spaced," meaning a thin letter like an "i" or an "l" takes less space than an "n" or an "m". Apparently proportional spacing was impossible on typewriters during this period.
UPDATE, YET AGAIN: Everybody and their brother is weighing in. One guy says, the "IBM Selectric typewriters from that era contained a variety of "typing elements" that included virtually all modern typefaces, and included superscript, subscript and other secondary typeface characters. The Selectric was the common typewriter in that era in many governmental and military offices."
Then the very next e-mail says, "due to its relatively high price in relation to other typewriters, the odds of an IBM Executive Typewriter appearing in an Air National Guard office are slim. Also, typists needed additional training in
order to operate them effectively."
Then another Kerry Spot reader did an experiment to create the same document in Microsoft Word, and found, "There appears to be 2 spaces afterthe sentence "I will not rate." And all the words line up perfectly using Times New Roman size 12. Each line ends in the same word. I would tend to believe that the chances of a person anticipating the appropriate time to go to the next line in the exact manner that Microsoft Word does it automatically due to preset margins is highly unlikely."
Yet another Kerry Spot reader who worked in a similar environment writes, "when i worked for DOD, we printed on 8.5x10.5" paper. when you xerox a page, particularly an older one, it's common to see lines from the paper edges. The Bush memo here appears to be 8.5x11" but there are no lines visible on either top of page nor bottom of page.
All the filing cabinets i used were sized for less-than-letter sized paper. Placing a 8.5x11" page therein would entail folding the page. Creases are commonly visible on xeroxed copies."
By the way, a couple of e-mailers, upon learning that IBM's Selectric model had the ability to use "proportional type," are convinced this is a smoking gun, that the "this memo is a phony" crowd is automatically entirely discredited, and that I'm a partisan hack who should commit Seppuku in disgrace for even bringing up the argument others have made.
Can we turn down our outrage dials for a bit? CBS News and the Globe come out with a story that slams the president, based on a memo from personal office files
, not Department of Defense files. The file does not look like it was written on a typewriter, and, in fact, resembles something written with modern word processing software and printed on a laser printer. People begin asking questions. Maybe this document is the real deal, maybe it isn't. Let's figure out what we can figure out, and withhold final judgment until all the facts are in.