Did "Texans for Truth" lie to Nick Kristof, or did Nick Kristof lie to us? And can a reporter be sued for malpractice? Nick Kristof's hit piece on Bush's National Guard Service has significant errors, omissions, and distortions.
Mr. Kristof presents Bob Mintz, who is sure George Bush never did his National Guard duty in Alabama. And Mintz is a man you can trust, says Kristof. What Kristof does not tell us is that Mintz is appearing in a new Bush-bashing ad run by a group (Texans for Truth) about whom we know nothing, and which is funded by, well, they won't say, and the Times doesn't care (but USA Today does some legwork, as does John Cole).
No, I am not kidding - Kristof really was so incompetent that he didn't learn about the forthcoming ad, or so dishonest that he didn't disclose it. Here we go:
President Bush claims that in the fall of 1972, he fulfilled his Air National Guard duties at a base in Alabama. But Bob Mintz was there - and he is sure Mr. Bush wasn't.
Plenty of other officers have said they also don't recall that Mr. Bush ever showed up for drills at the base. What's different about Mr. Mintz is that he remembers actively looking for Mr. Bush and never finding him.
..."I'm sure I would have seen him," Mr. Mintz said yesterday. "It's a small unit, and you couldn't go in or out without being seen. It was too close a space." There were only 25 to 30 pilots there, and Mr. Bush - a U.N. ambassador's son who had dated Tricia Nixon - would have been particularly memorable.
...Mr. Mintz is a compelling witness. Describing himself as "a very strong military man," he served in the military from 1959 to 1984. A commercial pilot, he is now a Democrat but was a Republican for most of his life, and he is not a Bush-hater. When I asked him whether the National Guard controversy raises questions about Mr. Bush's credibility, Mr. Mintz said only, "That's up to the American people to decide."
...In his first interview with a national news organization, Mr. Mintz recalled why he remembered Mr. Bush as a no-show: "Young bachelors were kind of sparse. For that reason, I was looking for someone to haul around with." Why speak out now? He said, "After a lot of soul-searching, I just feel it's my duty to stand up and do the right thing."
Am I alone in inferring that Mr. Mintz has just come forward and is giving his first interview? But somehow Mr. Kristof overlooked the appearance of Mr. Mintz in a CBS News story last February, telling a similar tale. So what is with that "After a lot of soul-searching"jive? He searched his soul last February - this is just recycling.
And somehow Mr. Kristof failed to sniff out a few other crumbs from the Mintz resume. Here is the Thursday NY Times, a day later:
Democrats also worked to stoke the issue with a new advertisement by a Texas group that featured a former lieutenant colonel, Bob Mintz, who said he never saw Mr. Bush in the period he transferred from the Texas Air National Guard to the Alabama Air National Guard.
Mintz is appearing in an ad? Run by whom?
A new commercial, produced by a group of Democrats, Texans for Truth, is to begin on Monday in five swing states that have lost high numbers of soldiers in Iraq. It features a former lieutenant colonel in the Alabama Guard, Bob Mintz, who lives in Tennessee. He told a columnist for The New York Times, Nicholas D. Kristof, for a column published on Wednesday, that he was actively looking for Lieutenant Bush at the Alabama base in the 1970's, because he had heard that Lieutenant Bush was a fellow bachelor who might like to party with him and other pilots. In the spot, Mr. Mintz said neither he nor his friends ever saw Mr. Bush.
...Asked for friends' names who could vouch that they never saw Lieutenant Bush, Mr. Mintz declined, saying he did not have their permission to make their names public.
Well, we know the Times will be probing for a web of connections between "Texans for Truth" and the Democratic Party. After they finally deigned to look at the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, it was their main focus. Here we go with their ace reporting, Texans for Truth under the microscope, NY Times style:
Glenn Smith, the main figure in Texans for Truth, said he wanted to make the spot because he was angry over the Swift Boat veterans.
Steve Schmidt of the Bush campaign said that Texans for Truth was linked to the Kerry campaign in potential violation of campaign finance laws, saying the group was "made possible by contributions" from Moveon.org, another advocacy group that opposes Mr. Bush.
Mr. Smith said that Moveon.org had financed another group that he had founded, Drivedemocracy.org, but that neither had given money to the Texans, though he said that Moveon.org had put a link on its Web site to the Texans and sent e-mail messages to its members in Texas urging them to donate to the Texans.
Mr. Smith said the Texans raised more than $300,000 in 24 hours, with one contribution for $100,000 and most of the rest in $25 donations.
That's it? No background on Mr. Smith? No source for the $100,000? Wow. USA Today had a lot more success:
Texans for Truth is an arm of DriveDemocracy, an Austin-based organization that got its initial funding from the liberal group MoveOn.org. Affiliates of MoveOn.org — MoveOn PAC and MoveOn Voter Fund — have spent about $7 million since March 1 on anti-Bush TV ads.
DriveDemocracy is run by Glenn Smith, who managed the unsuccessful 2002 Texas gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Tony Sanchez. Smith is a former managing director at the consulting firm Public Strategies. That firm employs former Texas governor Ann Richards, a Democrat whom Bush beat in 1994. Mark McKinnon, the Bush-Cheney campaign's ad czar, is on leave from the same firm.
That couldn't have been so difficult - can't the NY Times even keep pace with USA Today?
I have no idea how Mr. Kristof could have failed to disclose Mintz's star turn in a new Bush-basher. In fact, I can even imagine that he was duped - maybe Mintz never mentioned either his February interview or the upcoming ad, and Kristof never asked (or Googled). But since Mintz was telling his story last February, PLEASE don't ask me to believe that Mintz happened to chat with Kristof on Tuesday, the Texans for Truth read the Kristof column on Wednesday, "discovered" Mintz, shot the ad, and got it on their website by Wednesday evening. I'll settle for "Mintz lied to Kristof, who should have known better", or maybe, "Kristof utterly failed to do his homework". "Kristof went into the tank" remains the betting favorite, of course.
But that is hardly the only puzzle Kristof leaves us; in his description of Bush's service, he poses a math problem:
Mr. Bush signed up in May 1968 for a six-year commitment, justifying the $1 million investment in training him as a pilot. But after less than two years, Mr. Bush abruptly stopped flying, didn't show up for his physical and asked to transfer to Alabama. He never again flew a military plane.
Mr. Bush insists that after moving to Alabama in 1972, he served out his obligation at Dannelly Air National Guard Base in Montgomery (although he says he doesn't remember what he did there). The only officer there who recalls Mr. Bush was produced by the White House - he remembers Mr. Bush vividly, but at times when even Mr. Bush acknowledges he wasn't there.
Hmm, the transfer to Alabama and the missed physical were in 1972. Is that really only two years after 1968? Time flies when you're a Times columnist with an election to win. OK, Kristof may have been aiming for something like, "less than two years after completing his two years of training", but it looks like he deliberately phrased it to minimize Bush's flight time, or to confuse his readers.
And let's note the "only officer" to vouch for Bush dodge - an enlisted man, Retired Master Sgt. James Copeland, has come forward, to say he saw Bush in Alabama. How elitist of the Times to ignore this.
Now, we have to mock Mr. Kristof's touching faith in the mighty memory of Mr. Mintz. Mr. Mintz is sure he would remember if he had seen Bush. Fine, John Kerry was sure he had been in Cambodia at Christmas in 1968. John Kerry was sure he did not attend the Kansas City VVAW meeting when this group of disgruntled veterans discussed the assasination of US Senators. It's astonishing what people remember!
And is it really this simple to win Mr. Kristof's trust? He tells us this - [Mintz] is not a Bush-hater. When I asked him whether the National Guard controversy raises questions about Mr. Bush's credibility, Mr. Mintz said only, "That's up to the American people to decide."
Oddly, that is almost exactly what Admiral Schachte, who is not a member of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, said when he told his story to Lisa Meyers of MSNBC:
Myers: So you're not saying that John Kerry was, quote, ‘unfit for command?’
Schachte: Listen, who is fit for command in the context of Commander-in-Chief is up to the American people to decide…
And what do people really remember, anyway? The Washington Post attempted to recreate the events of the day when John Kerry won his Bronze Star. Five Swift Boat captains were involved. One, Dan Droz, died in Vietnam; one, John Kerry, is not speaking to reporters; and three say that Kerry's story is a lie, and that the rescues were not performed while under fire.
Three eyewitnesses. The Times dismissed them all, and why not - these three former officers hate Kerry because they think he is a self-promoting liar; consequently, when they say that Kerry is a liar, they should be ignored, because they hate him.
I have seen Captain Kirk use that logic to destroy many an evil computer, so I know it's compelling.
Mr. Mintz, on the other hand, is appearing in an ad (Kristof didn't mention that) run by Texans for Truth (about whom we know nothing), funded by undisclosed donors. This, Kristof can take to the bank!
MORE: Byron York updates his version of the Bush National Guard service record. No mention of the missed physical?