Truth and Duty: The press, the president, and the privilege of power by Mary Mapes (2005)
I do not recall how I came to watch the movie “Truth” — maybe I saw the author on Book TV, or a promo on another video, but it was fascinating to understand what all the fuss was about back in 2004 about George W. Bush’s reserve duty in the early 70s. I remembered that at some point Dan Rather ending up retiring but I did not really understand that there was a relationship between his retirement and what I thought of as a minor kerfuffle about W’s service duty. Well, it was not so minor after all. And I am confident that over the next few decades, more truth will be revealed about both W’s failure to perform his duties as required.
In the appendix, she details official documents and describes of the Killian papers and others and how they were used to document the case presented on CBS news (60 Minutes) by Dan Rather. Mary Mapes was the “producer” a job I have no ideal what it actually means, but basically sounds like a lead researcher for news stories that gathers evidence and presents it to people like Dan Rather to deliver on TV or the radio. She had won Peadbody awards for breaking news like Abu Ghraib, and Strom Thurmond’s unacknowledged biracial daughter, reconciled and open now, but demonstrating the bizarre and hypocritical stance of the [now dead after 100 years; that’s what government healthcare can do for you!) old coot’s stand against desegregation.
Mary Mapes was fired for her role in the “Killian Papers” report, as was the woman senior vice president for CBS primetime news programs (it’s always the women that get the most negative retaliation, another woman and a man were also fired.). If someone bothered — but I am sure not worth the effort — they could probably reconstruct where all W was during this time (theoretically working on a Republican’s campaign for senator in Alabama, but not necessarily doing duty in the Guard). One of the comments in official documents was that he hadn’t been “sighted” on the base where he was supposed to be. And why did he want to transfer to Alabama in the first place?
The president’s [premature] dramatic flight onto an aircraft carrier in May 2003 to announce the end of ‘major combat operations’ and declare ‘Mission Accomplished’ in the Iraq war was the ultimate marriage of his brief military background and modern political mythmaking. The president looked great [gag] in the flight suit addressing America and its forces. But when he was being paid to wear it, fly planes, and protect the country, that military outfit and the obligations it entailed apparently couldn’t compete with the CHANCE TO WORK ON A SENATE CAMPAIGN IN ALABAMA. (p. 138)
The fact that his daddy was “an up and coming politician with strong Republican ties and a big future. Then Congressman George H. W. Bush wrote a letter to his son’s commander at Moody, commending him and thanking him for the special care and attention shown his son.” (p. 64)
No one had a clue that it would be George W. who would become George the Second. It was supposed to be Jeb. The difference obviously was that Karl Rove met George and blew that plan out of the water.
The report aired on Sunday September 8, 2004, just ahead of the 2004 Presidential election that W won handily. Unlike the Swift Boat veterans lies about John Kerry that people were too willing to believe, the Killian controversy may have actually helped make W seem to be unfairly attacked and actually helped him. Karl Rove was reported to be gleeful at the controversy. After all, controversy equals publicity, and implies that there is some doubt, so all facts are relegated to being in the “suspect” category and people are left to “believe” whatever “facts” they choose.
W got a pass and the Democratic candidate got slammed. The Republicans are masters of turning facts into “opinions” or “beliefs” while “opinions” and especially “beliefs” are treated as facts. That is why we now are living in the “post-fact” world. Religious zealots are particular prone to this upside down view of the world. I was actually at a lunch the other day and what seemed like a normal human being, female, who was sitting next to me, who declared, if Hillary were to be elected president, horror of horrors a MUSLIM could be appointed to the Supreme Court! I mentioned one of our state representatives was a Muslim and did she know that? She replied, “That’s okay, I don’t have a problem with Muslims,” she responded, “They just have no place on the highest court of the land.” With difficulty I managed a civil reply, stating that “We are not a Christian Nation, we are a secular one.”
To my astonishment, in a perfect example of a post-fact, post-truth, world, her response was, “You can believe that if you want,” and shrugged her shoulders dismissively at MY “false” belief! once again squelching my generally hostility to idiots, I replied, “It is not belief, it is fact.”
Everyone at the table knew that was going to have to be the end of that conversation. We did have to spend the rest of the afternoon together. So we moved on to non-controversial topics.
Beginning with the Powell memorandum and so much more, the truth and facts are under attack like no time previously in our history. FAUX NEWS all but sealed our fate of The Donald with the bloated sexual predator Roger Ailes ensuring the propaganda kept pounding out lies 24×7 for the sheeple who watched it, along with that gargantuan slug Rush Limbaugh. Sure, back in the day you had the Inquisition to steal property for the Church by denouncing the owners and amuse psychopaths, plus reinforce a reign of terror on hapless believers. But there was no “fourth estate” out there that had a responsibility to tell the truth and establish actual FACTS.
That’s why what Martin Luther did was so absolutely AMAZING. He dare to question the authority of the Catholic Church and proclaim that the church, it’s dogma, it’s tithing, it’s hierarchy, and behavior like selling indulgences, was bogus. What blows me away is that until MODERN TIMES the mass was still said in LATIN. A dead language that most people did not even know for centuries. It was considered an act of blasphemy or some such to even translate the Bible into ENGLISH so people could read it for themselves (eliminating the whole purpose of the church hierarchy). The first man to do so in England was burned at the stake. He did it so the common people could read the “word of God” for themselves. Not something the Catholics were keen on. As if GOD SPOKE LATIN!!!!
That Luther and his followers were met with persecution and the deaths of millions ultimately over something as unprovable as a “god” that made rules via the Pope and his minions through the Catholic church or a less greedy and ostentatious Lutheran Church, is basically nearly as stupid as hating the Muslims who share the same Abrahamic god and consider Jesus a prophet too. And now the evangelists, especially the Dominionists, want to make us all slaves to their interpretation — belief — in their version of the Christian god., cherry picking the Bible to pick phrases that best meet their agenda and ignoring the rest or denying it outright.
Back to the Bush legacy.
Oh, fun tidbit: “In the summer of 1969, about the time George W. Bush was flying out of Moody for his onetime date with presidential daughter Tricia Nixon. . . [!!!!] (p. 137)
By using the index that cited Tricia Nixon, I was able to go directly to the story behind this. At this point, I have grown tired of reading this ancient history that all came to nothing and gave us proof of what we already knew: politicians are liars and cheats. I decided just to hop around some more. She has so much detail it is actually tiresome, but clearly indicates her need to validate her Killian papers report as the truth rather than “controversial” as it has been tainted.
On page 64, she relays the story behind George and Tricia’s date. Again, there are no footnotes at all in any of the text, so that is weird, but let’s just say she had absorbed so much data and much was unpublished from her files, so footnotes would not be useful.
The well-connected young pilot was infamous for another incident at Moody Air Force Base, when then-president Richard Nixon SUMMONED THE YOUNG PILOT FOR A DATE WITH HIS DAUGHTER Tricia. Bush was flown to Washington in an air force plane for this star-crossed rendezvous of Republican royalty. Nothing seems to have come of the date, but Bush’s fellow pilots still laugh about the teasing they gave their colleague when he came back from his high-profile, high-flying date. (p. 64)
In a Goggle search, I found different articles, one that cited a memoir of W about his father, George the First, and it says that his father arranged the date, which is different from Richard Nixon “summoning” him for a “blind date” for Tricia. Another article made it sound a lot less like an official date than a “meet” at a celebratory event, and says George Ist was “working for the Nixon administration” (was he CIA director then?).
Probably most people remember that there was also controversy about how he was so fortunate to get in the Air National Guard in the first place.
President Bush has always insisted that his entry into the Guard was fair and square. But early on, there were signs that Bush’s entrance into the Guard was very different. Most young men who wanted to get into the National Guard had to sign up on state waiting lists, some of them hundreds of names long. They had to literally wait for someone to leave the Guard in order to get in.
Young George W. Bush didn’t do that. In the spring of 1968, when he no longer had a LEGAL STUDENT DEFERMENT available — after he met with leaders of the Texas Air National Guard — he was chosen outright to test for a pilot position. He passed — though not with flying colors — and was given a slot. No wait. No worry.
Bush’s supporters have always said that happened because the Texas Air National Guard was looking hard for pilots. But the president’s critics counter that with so many pilots cycling out of Vietnam, there was no shortage of fliers for state Guard units. (p. 60)
BTW, I should note that the Killian of the Killian papers was Lt. Col. Jerry Killian. W stopped flying March 1972.
A form filled out by Lt. Col. James Killian notes that Bush left his Houston base on May 15, 1972, for a civilian job. The form also states that the young pilot had been performing ‘equivalent duty in a non-flying status’ with the 187th Tactical Recon Unit at Dannelly Air National Guard Base in Alabama.
Some of Bush’s records spell out the civilian job he was so anxious to get to in Alabama — working on the campaign of Republican Winton Blount, who was running for Senate. (p. 62)
Man, you really gotta read the Wikipedia link. Fascinating stuff! Blount lost (W was theoretically his campaign director). But the details of the incestuous gang of crooks in the government never fails to astonish me. George Wallace had dropped out the presidential race against Nixon due to the assassination attempt and made a comment that Blount’s wealth allowed him to have his race horses in air conditioned stables; Wallace pointed out that this was not the basis to understand working people issues. Blount went back to being president of a construction company. Among the things mentioned in the Wikipedia entry, the fact that he built a University in Saudi Arabia caught my eye. Given the subsequent events of 9/11 and Bin Laden’s family flight out of the U. S. and him holding hands with a Saudi prince or king, and Halliburton under Dick Cheney, it begs the question, is there something a little too coincidental there?
Thumbing through more of the book has just made my head and heart ache. The media has been bought, the Congress has been bought, the Presidential candidates have been rigged and presented like cupcakes for us to chose between for decades. We had a chance with Bernie Sanders, but Hillary Clinton and her cabal of neoliberal corporate masters cheated us of that last chance. They all treated Trump as a joke, but they are not laughing now. With the pick of Pence (as in Periods for Politicians) as vice president, we will get a madman fascist and an authoritarian theocrat, both of whom will separately or in combination, destroy our country. Hillary is not much better, but I would go so far as to say “sane” is now a minimal qualification for president and she at least is that, little more, but at least sane.
Unfortunately there is a wide swath of willfully ignorant, uncaring, and self-righteous zealots who do not care to have OTHER people be free to live their lives. These people don’t care if children starve, workers are essentially enslaved, and elderly people just die and save the Medicare funds that keep them alive when they can no longer perform wage work — and dare to demand the money they paid into Social Security back as promised.
So this book is interesting but demoralizing and without footnotes, does not do her any favors. The organization of the chapters — just by number, no header context is especially useless and contributes to her random jumping around and repetition (like Tricia being mentioned on p. 64 and then again on p. 137). But it has led me to a new fun research for amusement concept: Google all the names in the indices of various books to discover the many gems of who knows who and who did what when it the vast conspiracy known as politics as usual.