On September 9, Washington Post Associate Editor (former managing editor) Robert Kaiser appeared in an online chat session with readers. Reading the following questions & responses, I can't help but wonder if part of the Post's ferocity in pursuing RatherGate is based on his having been a little embarassed by being taken in. Remember, even as he was answering these questions, the documents were being shown up as forgeries.
Annapolis, Md.: It might be too early to say, but what impact do you think this National Guard story will have on the campaign? It seems to me that Clinton made actual service in Viet Nam irrelevant (he survived criticism of being a draft-dodger). Kerry invited criticism by making Viet Nam a centerpiece of his campaign. What about Bush?
Robert G. Kaiser: Hello and welcome. This is Topic A for today, and the two campaigns have to be wonderfin gjust what you are wondering. I of course don't know the answer. Bush is a member of my generation, he's a few years younger than I in fact, and we all know friends and relations who used various maneuvers to stay out of Vietnam if they could. And we all know people like John kerry or my friend John Wilbur who did everything they could to get into the war and fight.
Personally I think Bush has never fully fessed up to what he did and how he did it. Today's stories make this a little clearer, I think. He was a young man at the time. Will voters hold it against him? Stay tuned.(Note the assumption that the documents are real, and that the White House has the burden of proof. -ed.)
Culpeper, Va.: The attacks on John Kerry's service, fair or not, have gotten so much traction because he made his service such a centerpiece of his campaign.
The President, on the other hand, has not made his national guard service the center piece of anything, in fact, he has never said boo about it.
Wouldn't you agree that for that reason, as well as the fact that this has the appearance of a "response" rather than an issue in its own right, these attacks will have far less impact notwithstanding the efforts of the press to be "fair" and cover it just as vigorously as the Swifty allegations?
Robert G. Kaiser: Interesting question. I've always thought that negative attacks are most relevant when they resonate with, and re-enforce, impressions voters may already have of a candidate. I have thought from the beginning of the Swift Boat controversy that it would not damage Kerry with open-minded independent voters, because the accusations against Kerry are so flimsy, and so clearly contradicted by the available record. Might image of Bush as a service-dodger alter such voters' views of him? Maybe. I just don't know.(Remember that re:Kerry, Kerry himself has defined the available record. -ed.)
Reading, Mass.: Would you agree that the difference between the Swift Boat controversy and the National Guard controversy is that the documentary evidence indicates that Kerry's accusers are lying and that President Bush did not live up to his sworn committment?
Robert G. Kaiser: Well, that's one difference. But I still want more facts about Bush.(Note, Bush, not Kerry. -ed.)
A series of editorial comments, rather than questions, are followed by a polite "thank you" from Mr. Kaiser. Then this:
Alexandria, Va.: In your shameless, left-leaning defense of Kerry you wrote, "because the accusations against Kerry are so flimsy, and so clearly contradicted by the available record." Do you know what an honorable discharge is? For those of us who have served, it actually means something and it IS documentary evidence that someone did live up to his sworn commitment.
Robert G. Kaiser: Oh.(Surely the moderator could have found someone who asked this question politely. Surely Kaiser could knows this. -ed.)
We'll see if he ever remembers that the Kerry Record is far from complete. What we've seen has been very selectively edited, or even written by Kerry himself. What we haven't, full war records, medical records, diaries, and tax records, has been blocked by Kerry himself.