Thursday, September 16, 2004

Did Rove write the Killian memos?
I have no reason to believe he did, but it would have been brilliant if he had. Someone else (I'd be glad to give credit, but I don't remember who) made this suggestion as a joke last week. As the various arguments have see-sawed around, I haven't been able to get that idea out of my mind.

At the present moment it appears that all of the silliness about fonts amounts to nothing. Not only could the typewriters of the day have produced the memos, but Killian's secretary, Marian Carr Knox, says they did indeed have and use one of those typewriters (an IBM Selectric). On the other hand, she says those are not memos that she or Killian wrote; the format is wrong and the language is wrong. That would seem to cinch things for the forgery advocates except for one disturbing note: Knox says the content is all accurate. What is the point of a forgery that confirms other information?

Last week was a pretty bad week for Bush even without the "60 Minutes" story. Bush's tepid convention bounce was all set to be destroyed by the thousandth Iraq troop death, the Kitty Kelly book, and new economic figures that showed what a complete failure his economic stewardship has been. The "60 Minutes" story would have been just one more blow, but within hours the internet was buzzing with accusations that the story was based on a forgery. By the next afternoon, the mainstream press was all over the story.

The basic principle of conspiracy nut thinking is the question cui bono, who benefits. Forged documents that tell the truth are of little advantage to the Kerry campaign. Why take the risk of such a thing if they can get the same information from a legitimate source? However, I can think of a couple of advantages for the Bush campaign.

First, it blows the other bad news off the front page. Who cares about covering dreary economic figures and depressing deaths when we have a sexy scandal to talk about.

Second, it relativises the slime tactics of the Bush campaign. People will immediately jump to the conclusion that the Kerry campaign is behind the forgeries. This reinforces the perception that slime is business as normal ("they all do it") and gives the Bush campaign a free pass for their next assault on Kerry.

Third, the forgeries disarm all related genuine criticisms of Bush. They don't need to lie or say anything new or even very interesting. They just need to exist. When the noise dies down, all most people will remember will be that they heard that all that stuff was fake. Only hard-core political junkies will keep track of the distinction between the valid evidence and the fake. Since they already know who they're voting for, they are of no interest to the Bush campaign tacticians.

Fourth, it rallies the troops and extends the convention enthusiasm. There's nothing like a good sense of persecution to get the blood up.

All of these advantages depend on the forgery being promptly exposed. But that's easy to arrange. The hard part would be to get the forgeries publicized at the right time.

Let me repeat, this is all speculation of my part without a speck of evidence to support it. But it is an interesting idea.

Comments? Other advantages or disadvantages? Evidence pro or con? Spirited defenses of Rove's ethics? Okay, I put that last one in there just for laughs.

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