From John Fund's Political Diary

When in Doubt, Blame Karl Rove

The widow and son of the late Lt. Col Jerry Killian both say they don't believe the documents CBS News used to claim George W. Bush failed to meet performance standards during his Vietnam-era service in the Texas Air National Guard are genuine.

For now, CBS is standing by its claim that the documents are from Lt. Col. Killian's files and that it consulted "a handwriting analyst and document expert who believes the material is authentic." But CBS won't reveal the name of the expert and the network's claims are challenged by several other experts who say it is almost certain the documents were generated by a computer that wouldn't have been in use in 1972.

But CBS has begun an internal investigation after reports surfaced from inside CBS that the documents may have been brought to the network's attention by Democratic National Committee opposition researchers. Today, the network also trimmed back its statements to rival news organizations about how "convinced" CBS is of the documents' authenticity. If the documents indeed turn out to be fakes, it won't be the first time CBS has been snookered by partisans in a presidential race.

In 1992, Bill Clinton's presidential campaign was nearly ended when tapes between the Arkansas governor and cabaret singer Gennifer Flowers were released. At the time, KCBS, the network's owned-and-operated affiliate in Los Angeles, took the tape and submitted it to private detective and forensic tape expert Anthony Pellicano for analysis. Mr. Pellicano's conclusions that the tapes were "misleading" and "not credible" played a role in Mr. Clinton surviving the controversy.

Only later was it learned that Mr. Pellicano had no formal training in evaluating tapes and was at the time being paid by Democratic sources to squelch "bimbo eruptions" surrounding Mr. Clinton. In other words, Mr. Clinton's own private eye was able to discredit one of the most damaging eruptions that preceded Monica Lewinsky. In his own memoirs published this year, Mr. Clinton confessed to the Flowers affair, contradicting his fierce denials at the time.

Years later, Mr. Pellicano did demonstrate facility with tapes when police investigating threats made against Los Angeles Times reporter Anita Busch uncovered evidence that Mr. Pellicano had been involved and had also illegally wiretapped her conversations. Mr. Pellicano is now serving a 2 1/2 year federal prison term for possessing firearms and explosives. A federal grand jury is still investigating allegations that he wiretapped Hollywood celebrities. CBS would be wise to conclude its internal investigation quickly. If it results in bad news, it should cut its losses immediately.

Meanwhile, former Clinton and Gore operative Chris Lehane, an acknowledged master of the black arts of opposition research, is already making the rounds on television hinting that Karl Rove could have planted fake National Guard documents to embarrass Democrats. If CBS is offered that scoop, my advice is simple: Don't take it, no matter how many documents with Karl Rove's signature you are shown.


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