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Second Time's a Charm?

Mary Mapes comes back for more.

11:00 PM, Nov 28, 2005 • By SCOTT W. JOHNSON
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As a fittingly bizarre last touch, Burkett told our group that he had hidden the papers in his venison locker, close to one hundred miles from his home. He boasted that he'd driven so fast to get to our meeting that the papers were still cold from his freezer when he handed them to me.

Mapes calls Burkett's third story--which she also believes--a "tale of bovine intrigue." But would any reasonable person believe that the documents procured from Burkett are what they purport to be based on this "tale"? Here is Mapes's credo:

As I sat listening to Burkett's scenario spill out, I realized how truly ridiculous this sounded from our vantage in New York. But in Texas, one of the world capitals of "shit happens," a place where bull semen is worth its weight in gold (and the bizarre long ago became the mundane), I believed it was quite possible that Bill Burkett was finally telling the truth, the whole weird truth, and nothing but the truth. By God, in Texas, anything could happen.

"Quite possible" is a rather low threshold of credibility.

(2) The font / typestyle of the documents: The Thornburgh-Boccardi report provides the analysis of forensic document examiner and typewriter expert Peter Tytell, both in the text and at greater length in the report's Appendix 4. Tytell is a diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Documents Examiners and a highly qualified expert on the issues raised by the typographic characteristics of the documents. Tytell examined the official Bush Guard documents as well as the CBS documents procured from Burkett and concluded that the Burkett documents were produced on a computer in Times New Roman typestyle.

According to Tytell, Times New Roman was designed in 1931 for the Times of London and was only available on typesetting and other non-tabletop machines until the desktop publishing revolution in the 1980s. Tytell concluded that the Times New Roman typestyle was not available on a typewriter in the early 1970s and that the Burkett documents must have been produced on a computer. The Thornburgh-Boccardi report states: "The [Thornburgh-Boccardi] Panel met with Tytell and found his analysis sound in terms of why he believed that the documents are not authentic." If the documents are not authentic, they are frauds.

How does Mary Mapes address Peter Tytell's analysis? Tytell's name does not appear in her book. Mapes does, however, dispute the proposition that the Burkett documents are in Times New Roman font (she suggests that they are in Press Roman). She writes: "There are comparisons of some of the letters in the memos with the Times New Roman version of the same letter at" No such comparison appears on her site. Last week the editor of Mapes's book (Elizabeth Kieffer) told me the comparison had been removed from Mapes's site as the result of a technical glitch and said she would fax it to me if she could find it. No fax ever arrived.

Readers interested in this issue should also be aware of Joseph Newcomer's definitive analysis of the typographic issues. Newcomer reports that he reproduced Charles Johnson's experiment recreating the August 1, 1972 Burkett document in Microsoft Word in less than five minutes. Newcomer adds: "I was a bit annoyed that the experiment dealing with the 18-August-1973 memo was not compatible, until I changed the font to an 11.5-point font. Then it was a perfect match, including the superscript 'th'."

(3) The content of the documents: Mapes ultimately relies on the contents of the documents to authenticate them. However, if the documents did not come from the personal file of Lieutenant Colonel Killian, if the documents were not typed on a typewriter, they cannot be authentic regardless of their content. Even if the documents "meshed" perfectly with the official Bush Guard records, they would still be frauds. Yet Mapes's "meshing" analysis is also deficient.

Mapes's analysis of the contents of the documents is scattered throughout her book and in the book's Appendix 2, her "meshing document." The "meshing document" is posted in full on her site. The Thornburgh-Boccardi report devotes an entire chapter (chapter VIII) to Mapes's meshing analysis, comparing the official Bush Guard records with the Burkett documents. The report found several problems with the content of the documents.

To take just one example, in the Burkett document dated May 4, 1972, Lieutenant Colonel Killian orders Bush to report for a physical at Ellington Air Force Base no later than May 14, 1972. Testimony from witnesses, including Major General Bobby Hodges and other officers who served with Bush at Ellington Air Force Base, indicated that no one had ever seen or heard of "an order commanding anyone to take a physical, much less Lieutenant Bush." The requirement of an annual physical was automatic.

The report found that there was a 90-day window during which a pilot could take his physical, and that the window ended on the last day of a pilot's birth month; in Bush's case, the earliest he could have sought a timely physical was on May 4, 1972 and the 90-day window for it would have closed on July 31, 1972. The Thornburgh-Boccardi report accordingly concluded that the May 4, 1972 memo "does not mesh well with the official Bush records."

Colonel William Campenni also addressed the memo in a Washington Times column this past January after the release of the Thornburgh-Boccardi report. Campenni noted:

[F]or the weekend that 1st Lt. Bush was supposedly ordered to report for his physical, May 13-14, 1972, the Ellington Air Guard Base was closed. It was Mother's Day. Except for emergencies, Air Guard units never drilled on Mother's Day; the divorce lawyers would be waiting at the gate.

If George Bush showed up at the clinic that weekend, he would have had to get the key from the gate guard. The drill weekend for May 1972 was the following weekend, May 20-21.

What does Mapes have to say about these "meshing" problems in Truth and Duty? Nothing.

In an important sense, however, Truth and Duty gives us a key insight into the motivations of Mary Mapes. She is still peddling the same fraud that she was peddling on September 8, 2004, but whatever the state of her knowledge was then, she must now know that she is peddling a fraud. Although Mapes portrays herself throughout the book as a victim, she is in fact a perpetrator who has yet to acknowledge her offense.

Scott Johnson is a contributing writer to THE DAILY STANDARD and a contributor to the blog Power Line.