Dan Rather still thinks he will be vindicated for his infamous story on President George W. Bush's Air National Guard Service but after reading a new epic re-investigation into the matter in Texas Monthly, it's difficult to see how that will ever happen.
“I believed at the time that the documents were genuine,” Rather says, in a sprawling 7,000+ word piece by Joe Hagan, “and I’ve never ceased believing that they are genuine.” The former CBS News anchor is "optimistic that somebody, somewhere will one day come forward and reveal the truth" about the so-called Killian documents, which were used to underpin his 2004 story claiming that Bush received special treatment to avoid the Vietnam draft and dodged his responsibilities. Unfortunately for Rather, its unlikely that the documents will ever be authenticated.
"The documents were Xerox copies, which in forensics is a dead end—nothing can be proved, or disproved, without an original," writes Hagan. "Since the report, Rather has hired lawyers and private investigators to get to the bottom of the mystery, to no avail."
It's undoubtedly a nagging issue for Rather, who is confined to an obscure cable channel HDNET. (He will try to re-write the legacy of the story in his memoir Rather Outspoken coming out next month.) Still, as Hagan writes, no less nagging is the issue for President Bush, whose presidential library will open next year and whose curators will be forced to confront the years of his life between 1968 to 1973. And on that front, the president has little to be proud of. Summing up new and established evidence, Hagan says Bush's sins weren't extraordinary but they did belie his manufactured self-image.
"Bush’s commanders let the young pilot bow out early and arranged the paperwork accordingly," Hagan writes. "This story, taken as a whole, isn’t particularly damning; it was typical for young men of Bush’s social standing. But it fundamentally undermines an element of Bush’s political identity: the 'badass' jet pilot for whom flying was a 'lifetime pursuit,' as he once put it."
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