[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]
The new movie Truth tells the story of the Dan Rather “Bush National Guard documents” scandal from the viewpoint of left-wing conspiracy theorists.
If you’re too young to remember the scandal, I’ll summarize: In 2004, Dan Rather, the anchor of CBS News, presented a story on his network’s venerable news magazine 60 Minutes claiming that President George W. Bush, who was running for reelection, had failed to fulfill his obligations as a member of the Texas Air National Guard. The story was fake, based on forged documents, the forgery apparent under even a cursory examination.
We’ve looked at the case before, at http://capitalresearch.org/2013/05/anti-deception-and-collective-intelligence-how-the-internet-makes-deception-more-difficult-part-1/ (follow-up: http://capitalresearch.org/2013/05/anti-deception-and-collective-intelligence-dan-rather-george-w-bush-and-how-the-internet-makes-deception-more-difficult-part-1/ ). For an update, see these recent stories:
Interestingly, despite being exposed as a liar, Rather managed to hold onto his job as lead anchor of CBS News until March 2005—which means that his tenure overlapped with that of NBC’s lead anchor Brian Williams, who got that job in December 2004. (Williams, caught lying repeatedly, has been demoted to a breaking-news anchor on MSNBC, the network of left-wing fabulism.)
The current version of the Rather/National Guard story, as spread by left-wing conspiracy theorists, is that, well, maybe the documents were questionable, but the story itself was true or mostly true or true in the way that counts. But it wasn’t. Byron York shot down that idea in this article at http://www.nationalreview.com/article/211985/facts-about-bush-and-national-guard-byron-york:
The records show that Bush kept up his rigorous schedule of flying through the spring of 1972: He was credited for duty on ten days in March of that year, and seven days in April. Then, as Bush began his fifth year of service in the Guard, he appears to have stepped back dramatically. The records indicate that he received no credit in May, June, July, August, and September 1972. In October, he was credited with two days, and in November he was credited with four. There were no days in December, and then six in January 1973. Then there were no days in February and March. The change was the result of Bush’s decision to go to Alabama to work on the Senate campaign of Republican Winton Blount. With an obligation to the Guard, Bush asked to perform equivalent service in Alabama. That was not an unusual request, given that members of the Guard, like everyone else, often moved around the country. . . .
The records indicate that, despite his move to Alabama, Bush met his obligation to the Guard in the 1972-73 year. At that time, Guardsmen were awarded points based on the days they reported for duty each year. They were given 15 points just for being in the Guard, and were then required to accumulate a total of 50 points to satisfy the annual requirement. In his first four years of service, Bush piled up lots of points; he earned 253 points in his first year, 340 in his second, 137 in his third, and 112 in his fourth. For the year from May 1972 to May 1973, records show Bush earned 56 points, a much smaller total, but more than the minimum requirement (his service was measured on a May-to-May basis because he first joined the Guard in that month in 1968).
Bush then racked up another 56 points in June and July of 1973, which met the minimum requirement for the 1973-74 year, which was Bush’s last year of service. Together, the record “clearly shows that First Lieutenant George W. Bush has satisfactory years for both ‘72-’73 and ‘73-’74, which proves that he completed his military obligation in a satisfactory manner,” says retired Lt. Col. Albert Lloyd, a Guard personnel officer who reviewed the records at the request of the White House.
All in all, the documents show that Bush served intensively for four years and then let up in his fifth and sixth years, although he still did enough to meet Guard requirements. The records also suggest that Bush’s superiors were not only happy with his performance from 1968 to 1972, but also happy with his decision to go to Alabama. Indeed, Bush’s evaluating officer wrote in May 1972 that “Lt. Bush is very active in civic affairs in the community and manifests a deep interest in the operation of our government. He has recently accepted the position as campaign manager for a candidate for United States Senate. He is a good representative of the military and Air National Guard in the business world.”
By the way, I can personally confirm that Bush was in Alabama during that time. I was a volunteer in the campaign of Winton “Red” Blount, former Postmaster General and former president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and met George W. Bush when he worked in that campaign (as political director, IIRC). I remember a conversation with him, on the porch of the local Republican headquarters, about the election and the state of the Republican Party in the South. The conversation was notable to me because Bush was the son of George Bush, who had served in the U.S. House, run for Senate in Texas, and was then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
The Truth movie—Was it named by the same guy who named the Affordable Care Act?—is now in theaters. It’s part of a long history of movies that re-write history.
Inherit the Wind, the famous film about the Scopes Monkey Trial, is, of course, fiction—a clue to that fact being that the characters don’t have the same names as the actual people. Yet the movie is shown to college and high school students as a fair representation of the struggle by noble evolutionists against dimwitted creationists (never mind that, in real life, things were far more complex: the evolutionists included eugenicists and white supremacists and the creationists included opponents of the ideology that would come to be known as Nazism). Most people, when they recall the Scopes trial, are “remembering” Inherit the Wind. By the way, the play on which the movie was based contained an explicit statement that it was an invention and not a historical document. Co-author Jerome Lawrence noted that “we used the teaching of evolution as a parable, a metaphor for any kind of mind control . . . It’s not about science versus religion. It’s about the right to think.” The play was written in response to McCarthyism, which was seen by pseudointellectuals as an attack on rationality, given that Soviet Communism was clearly the wave of the future.
Fair Game was about the Valerie Plame scandal. Plame’s identity as a CIA operative was exposed by her husband, as was acknowledged even by the editorial board of the Washington Post. The Left blamed the leak of her status on the Bush White House, which was supposedly retaliating for an op-ed in the New York Times in which her husband challenged claims that were the basis for the Iraq War. The investigation of the non-leak lead to the near-indictment of Karl Rove and the fraudulent conviction of “Scooter” Libby, an aide to Vice President Cheney. The movie accepts the view of left-wing conspiracy theorists.
The Laramie Project depicts the anguish of people in Colorado over the death of Matthew Shepard, who was killed because he was gay. The film, based on a play that was based on interviews, police reports, and news accounts, focuses largely on people who want the world to know that the murder of Shepard for being gay does not reflect the attitude of most people who live near the site of the murder. Of course, Matthew Shepard wasn’t killed for being gay, but the case was useful as propaganda in getting legislation and court decisions favorable to gay-rights activists, so the truth doesn’t matter. I should note that a man named Billy Jack Gaither was killed four months after Shepard—his throat was cut, he was bludgeoned with an axe, and his body was burned on a pile of tires—and he apparently was killed for being gay, but Gaither was an Alabama redneck and thus considered by Progressives to be unsuitable as an icon. (Remember: Bigotry is bad except when it’s left-wing bigotry.)
And the Band Played On depicted how Ronald Reagan was somehow responsible for the AIDS epidemic. After the film was finished, it was reportedly edited to emphasize Reagan’s fault and de-emphasize the role of bath houses, which were kept open for political reasons long after it was clear that they were contributing greatly to the spread of the disease. (Hollywood’s hypocrisy on AIDS is astonishing. Reagan supposedly ignored AIDS, when in fact the Reagan administration and public-health officials across the country were frantic to discover the cause of the syndrome and stop its spread. Reagan, it should be noted, had had many gay friends and colleagues as an actor and as president of the Screen Actors Guild, and personally intervened to kill the Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gay teachers.
Carl Cannon, the veteran reporter who’s considered one of the top experts on Ronald Reagan, noted the claim of playwright and AIDS activist Larry Kramer that “Ronald Reagan may have done laudable things but he was also a monster and, in my estimation, responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler. He is one of the persons most responsible for allowing the plague of AIDS to grow from 41 cases in 1981 to over 70 million today. He refused to even say the word out loud for the first seven years of his presidency and when he did speak about it, it was with disdain.” Cannon wrote (http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/06/01/ronald_reagan_and_aids_correcting_the_record_122806.html):
Comparing a political opponent to Hitler is obvious evidence of fanaticism, but we are living in hyper-partisan times. Rep. Henry Waxman’s official congressional website repeats the “seven years” calumny while adding that “the Reagan administration consistently refused to commit the resources and effort necessary to provide urgently needed research, health care, and preventive services.”
For the record, Reagan first mentioned AIDS, in response to a question at a press conference, on Sept. 17, 1985. On Feb. 5, 1986, he made a surprise visit to the Department of Health and Human Services where he said, “One of our highest public health priorities is going to be continuing to find a cure for AIDS.” He also announced that he’d tasked Surgeon General C. Everett Koop to prepare a major report on the disease. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom, Reagan dragged Koop into AIDS policy, not the other way around.
As for Waxman’s recollections about AIDS funding, he does an unusual thing for a politician: He’s forgotten the success he and other Democrats had in convincing Reagan to spend more money. The administration increased AIDS funding requests from $8 million in 1982 to $26.5 million in 1983, which Congress bumped to $44 million, a number that doubled every year thereafter during Reagan’s presidency.
Finally, the claim that Reagan spoke about AIDS sufferers with “disdain” is simply a smear. Nothing like that ever happened, except maybe in the fictional “The Reagans” miniseries [planned for CBS, but eventually shown on sister network Showtime] in which Barbra Streisand’s husband played Reagan as a bigot and rube.
In real life—that is to say in 1983, early in the AIDS crisis—HHS Secretary Margaret Heckler (accompanied by New York City Mayor Ed Koch, another Larry Kramer target), went to the hospital bedside of a 40-year-old AIDS patient named Peter Justice. Heckler, a devout Catholic, held the dying man’s hand, both out of compassion and to allay fears about how the disease was spread. “We ought to be comforting the sick,” said Ronald Reagan’s top-ranking health official, “rather than afflicting them and making them a class of outcasts.” “I’m delighted she’s here,” Justice said. “I’m delighted she cares.”
Note that AIDS was first noticed by authorities in mid-1981, it was first called AIDS in September 1982, and its cause and means of transmission were identified in 1983. Hollywood released its first major-studio theatrical film on the topic in 1993.
Yes, 1993. December 22, the release date for Philadelphia.
After the Reagan administration was over. After the Bush 41 administration was over. Almost a year into the Clinton administration.
Hollywood, which can insert a reference to the Ferguson shooting (August 9, 2014) into the movie Selma (release date: December 25, 2014), took 10-12 years to do a major movie about AIDS. (I’m not counting low-budget independent films such as Parting Glances, 1986. In those days, few outside the communities of film buffs in major cities saw such films. Needless to say, the people who saw Parting Glances were already inclined to support AIDS research. There was a TV movie, An Early Frost, in November 1985, about which Wikipedia claims: “The teleplay for the film by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman spent two years in development and underwent at least thirteen rewrites before the Standards and Practices division at the network accepted it for airing.”)
From Executive Action and JFK—Kennedy was killed by oil millionaires and the CIA, don’cha know?—to the Reagan biography The Reagans, mentioned above by Carl Cannon… from JFK hagiographies like the Cuban Missile Crisis film Thirteen Days (and an earlier version, The Missiles of October)… from Erin Brockovich to pretty much any film that mentions Joe McCarthy to (I’m assuming, but it’s a reasonable assumption) the upcoming Confirmation about Clarence Thomas, Hollywood has established a record of lying to the American people and the world about history. The box office failure of Truth (http://newsbusters.org/blogs/nb/melissa-mullins/2015/10/19/robert-redfords-dan-rather-flick-truth-has-rough-start-box) won’t change things, because Hollywood has always been willing to put its politics ahead of making money—about which, more in a later column.