Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The "60 Minutes II" Marian Knox Interview -- Annotated


I am still in a state of astonishment about the Marian Knox interview on "60 Minutes II" tonight. Here is my annotated version of the full transcript (annotations in bold italics). (Thanks to for the cartoon and the interview text; the bold, italicized comments are mine):
60 Minutes, September 15, 2004.

DAN RATHER: Last week on this broadcast, we heard for the first time the
full story from a Texas politician who says he helped George Bush avoid
military service in Vietnam. Former Texas House Speaker Ben Barnes said he
helped Bush get a highly coveted place in the National Guard. We also
presented documents for the first time, which indicated that once Bush was
accepted into the guard he failed to live up to the requirements of his
service. We reported that the documents were written by lieutenant Bush's
National Guard squad commander, colonel Jerry Killian, who passed away in

In the past week, those documents have been subjected to extraordinary scrutiny and criticism tonight, another voice-- a credible voice-- has entered the debate. [We shall see how credible she is, but thanks for the reassurance.] The woman who describes herself as colonel Killian's right hand [When does she do that? Not in the interview, and not in the L.A. Times story, which describes her as a typist.] during much of the 1970s, Marion Carr Knox, colonel Killian's secretary, flew to new york this afternoon to tell us she believes the documents we obtained are not authentic. But there's yet another confusing twist to this story: She told us she believes what the documents actually say is exactly as we reported. Marion Carr Knox is 86 years old and completely comfortable in the eye of a storm. She spent more than two decades keeping pilots and officers in line at Ellison Air Field in Houston. Now she wants to set the record straight about the memos CBS obtained.

There's a twist. You've seen the memos that we broadcast, these memos that we got.

MARION CARR KNOX: I did not type those memos.

RATHER: You didn't type these memos?

KNOX: No. And it's not the form that I would have used. And there are words in there that belong to the army, not to the air guard. We never used those terms.

RATHER: So with these memos, you know that you didn't type them.

KNOX: I know that I didn't type them. However, the informati n in those is correct. [Huh?]

RATHER: [Drum roll here.] Few, if any, things that I ask you about will be more important than this point: You say you definitely didn't type these memos.

KNOX: Not these particular ones.

RATHER: Did you type ones like this?

KNOX: Yes.

RATHER: Containing the same or identical information?

KNOX: The same information, yes. [What on earth that does mean-- "the same information?"]

RATHER: Mrs. Knox says the information in the four memos CBS obtained is very familiar, but she doesn't believe the memos are authentic. She does remember her boss, colonel Jerry Killian, being upset over Mr. Bush's failure to follow orders to take a physical. Did or did not lieutenant Bush take a physical as ordered by Colonel Killian?

KNOX: That last time no he didn't. [Meaning, I suspect, that he took all the earlier physicals required of him but after he headed to Alabama, where the National Guard had no planes for him to fly, he did not need to take a physical. The Washington Times reported on that aspect of the story here.]

RATHER: To your knowledge was he ordered to do so? According to the L.A. Times, not exactly a right-wing rag, Mrs. Knox was a typist, not a secretary, and not Killian's secretary; she worked for a number of officers simultaneously. Read that here. Somehow CBS missed this fact.]

KNOX: Yes.

RATHER: This is important: I think you'll agree, that then-lieutenant Bush was in the military, lieutenant colonel Killian was his immediate military commander, correct, his squadron command center

KNOX: Right. Yeah.

RATHER: The country was at war. It's very unusual for a military officer, particularly a flying officer, not to obey a direct order from his superior, or if not, tell me.

KNOX: It was a big no-no. To not follow orders. I can't remember anyone refusing now, for instance, with the physical, every officer knew that at his birthday he was supposed to have that flying physical. Once in a while they might be late, but there would be a good excuse for it and let the commander know and try to set up a date for make-up. If they did not take that physical, they were off of flying status until they did. [And this is something a typist would know about?]

RATHER: Did you ever hear lieutenant colonel Killian talk about this or did he write memos about this? What was his feeling if lieutenant Bush did not take the physical as ordered?

KNOX: He was upset about it. That was one of the reasons why he... well, he wrote a memo directing him to go take the physical.

RATHER: I don't understand it.

KNOX: I'm going to say this: It seems to me that Bush felt that he was above reproof. [And her basis for this view is?]

RATHER: Marion Carr Knox remembers lieutenant Bush well, seeing him often as he showed up for training in 1971 and '7 2,

KNOX: He was always gentlemanly. He called me by the name of his father's secretary. He was always apologizing about that. He couldn't remember my name. He was very gentlemanly. I felt that his parents must have been wonderful to have produced somebody as nice as that. [Golly, to read this you would think Mrs. Knox likes and admires GWB. This omits the fact that Mrs. Knox says she is a Democrat, dislikes Bush and does not intend to vote for him. Read about that here.]

RATHER: Among the contentions one of the questions raised, one, did or did not George W. Bush get into the National Guard on the basis of preferential treatment.

KNOX: I'm going to say that he did. I feel that he did because there were a lot of other boys in there the same way. ["I feel he did?" What?]

RATHER: Accurate or inaccurate to say that this unit was filled with people who had republican and democratic connections who got in on the basis of preference?

KNOX: At that time, yes.

RATHER: Now, you observed lieutenant Bush yourself.

KNOX: Uh-huh.

RATHER: Tell me about him. What kind of officer was he?

KNOX: Bush seemed to be having a good time. He didn't seem to be having any problem with the other pilots, let me say that. But his time there, it seemed that the other fellas were, I'm going to say this, sort of resentful for his attitude. [Well, CBS could talk to some of those "other fellas." Guess they ran out of time to do that.]

RATHER: What was his attitude?

KNOX: Well, that he really didn't have to go by the rules. [Oh, please. The typist knows this?]

RATHER: He didn't really have to go by the rules?

KNOX: It seemed that way to me. [Well, in that case, never mind.]

RATHER: Knox says her boss, colonel Jerry Killian, started what she calls a cover-your-back file, a personal file where she stored the memos about the problems with Mr. Bush's performance and his failure to take a physical and the pressure Killian felt from upstairs. She addressed this memo and a reference to retired General Staudt pushing for a positive officer training report on lieutenant Bush. "And Staudt is pushing to sugar coat it." Does that sound like colonel Killian? Is that the way he felt?

KNOX: That's absolutely the way he felt about that. [Is there no one else in the wide world in a position to tell us how Killian felt about this?]

RATHER: And she talked about this mental moment. She doesn't believe the memo is authentic, but she says the facts behind it are very real. [Again, what on earth does that mean?] He did write a memo like this?

KNOX: Yes.

RATHER: So he did write a memo like this, not this one is your contention, but one like it?

KNOX: It's just like a personal journal. You write things.

RATHER: Is that what he was keeping, more or less a personal journal?

KNOX: It was more or less, that yes.

RATHER: These memos were not memos that you tipd and you don't think they came directly out of his files?

KNOX: The information, yes. It seems that somebody did see those memos, and then tried to reproduce and maybe changed them enough so that he wouldn't get in trouble over it. [Oh, my. A novel theory to add to the pile. But after all, she was a typist, she ought to know. Can anyone find the air base custodian? He probably has an opinion too, if he's still alive.]

RATHER: I understand.

KNOX: Could deny it.

RATHER: I understand.

KNOX: That's all just supposition.

RATHER: I understand. [Really? Then why are you reporting it if you understand it's "all supposition?"]

(voiceover) Mrs. Knox says the fact that then-lieutenant Bush was repeatedly missing drills was not lost on his fellow pilots. [Excuse me, but from where do we get this "fact?" This is the first time the notion of Bush missing drills appears in this story. A different story is told here. Haven't seen it rebutted anywhere.]

Was it common knowledge or not that lieutenant Bush had not attend some drills?

KNOX: Well, they missed him. It was sort of gossip around there, and they'd snicker and so forth about what he was getting away with. [I see. Gossip.]

RATHER: What lieutenant Bush was getting away with?

KNOX: Yeah.

RATHER: They were snickering about that?

KNOX: Well, the other officers, and I guess there was even a resentment.

>> RATHER (voiceover): She told us again and again she believed then-lieutenant Bush refused a direct order to take take a physical.

Colonel Killian's son, with whom I have no argument and I respect the Killian family tremendously for the sacrifice that they made when their husband and father was serving in the military, colonel Killian's son says that this this isn't true.

KNOX: He has no way of knowing whether it's true or not. [And you do?]

>> RATHER (voiceover): Mrs. Knox says for young George Bush in 1972, working in a senate campaign became more important than flying for the guard.

Back off for a moment. Take a breath. Think a little and have you tell me what you believe the story here is.

KNOX: I think it's plain and simple. Bush didn't think that he had to go by the rules that others did. He had this campaign to take care of, and that's what he was going to do, and that's what he did do. [At last! The authoritative "bottom line" on this story.]

RATHER: A few personal thoughts on the story we have reported tonight. [OK, we all move forward to the edges of our seats.] We shall continue to aggressively investigate the story of President Bush's service in the National Guard, and the story of the documents and memos in Colonel Killian's file. Are those documents authentic, as experts consulted by CBS news continue to maintain? [And which experts would those be? The handwriting expert and the typewriter repairman?]

Or were they forgeries or recreations, as Marion Carr Knox and many others believe? [Golly, the suspense is killing me. Rather seems to be one of only a few people in the USA who think there's any doubt about this.] We will keep an open mind, and we will continue to report credible evidence and responsible points of view as we try to answer the questions raised about the authenticity of the documents. [I'm glad you cleared that up. You are yet the intrepid news organization, CBS, where Murrow once worked. For a few days there I thought you were a black hole of arrogance, impervious to criticism. I feel reassured, knowing that you are now "on the story" of the forged documents. Can't wait to see what you find out.]

Having said that, we do feel that it's important to underscore this point: Those who have criticized aspects of our story have never criticized the heart of it, the major thrust of our report: That George Bush received preferential treatment to get into the National Guard, and, once accepted, failed to satisfy the requirements of his service. [Huh? This has never been proven, not when Bush ran for governor twice or when he ran for president last time. And you haven't proved it either.]

If we uncover any information to the contrary, rest assured we shall report that also. [Oh, brother.]

UPDATE: We can all rest easier now. Dan Rather is "on" the forged documents story, according to Howard Kurtz in today's Washington Post:

"If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I'd like to break that
story," Rather said in an interview last night. "Any time I'm wrong, I want to
be right out front and say, 'Folks, this is what went wrong and how it went
wrong.' "

Bill Clinton couldn't have said it better.


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