The Bush back story: The time in the TANG, the transfer to the Alabama National Guard, the lost years, the 1976 DUI in Maine, the business bailouts, the governorship, hardline on drug crimes despite his own past history and a fast and loose approach to the death penalty.
In the run up to the Presidential elections, Dan Rather presented a piece on Bush’s time in the Texas Air National Guard on CBS‚ 60 Minutes II on September 8, 2004. The segment noted that Bush had received preferential treatment in being admitted to what was called the Champagne Unit comprised of the scions of well to do Texans wishing to avoid service in Vietnam. He then cited critical memos purportedly written by Bush’s squadron leader Colonel Jerry Killian. The authenticity of these was rapidly brought into question by conservative bloggers and their doubts were quickly echoed in the mainstream media. While controversy continues to this day about whether the memos were real or fakes, their content that Bush performed his duties poorly or not at all remains largely uncontested. On September 20, CBS President for News Andrew Heyward issued an apology and Rather a kind of one. An internal commission was organized headed by two men, one at least with a very definite connection to the Bush family: Richard Thornburgh, Bush I’s Attorney General and Louis Boccardi, former head of the AP. That the fix was in was hardly surprising since Sumner Redstone who headed Viacom CBS‚ parent company had declared himself (and Viacom) for Bush Junior. On September 19, 2007, Dan Rather now retired filed a $70 million civil suit against his former employers for scapegoating him. Now what is curious about all this and qualifies it as a scandal is that no major outlet of the mainstream press rushed in before the election or after to investigate the Bush TANG story and verify or debunk its content. The attack on Rather (and his producer Mary Mapes) effectively inoculated Bush against any further charge or investigation on this subject. Quite simply the media didn’t care whether it was true or not. Just as they didn’t care if the swiftboating of John Kerry’s war record was factual or not. This disparate treatment coupled with a studied lack of interest is emblematic of the media’s coverage of the Bush years.