Colonel Mustard in the Conservatory with a Candlestick, starring Ben Barnes, Mary Mapes, Dan Rather and Bill Burkett

I like mysteries more for the characters than the intricacies of plot, but this Rathergate mess calls out for clarity.

August 25: the troubled Burkett has the Bush files “reassembled” and has been calling Max Cleland (8/21) and Howard Dean (how does he get through to these people, by the way?)
September 2: memos faxed from Kinkos to Mary Mapes
September 3: CBS contacts document experts
September 4: Mapes calls Joe Lockhart to say call Burkett as part of Burkett’s deal
September 5: Lockhart calls Burkett (maybe 9/6)

However, these dates need to be squared with Bill Burkett in USA Today:

Ultimately, Burkett decided to turn over the documents to one of the most persistent journalists, CBS producer Mary Mapes, sometime in August. He and his wife met Mapes and CBS reporter Mike Smith at a pizza restaurant a few miles from their ranch. At first he gave them only two of the six documents, which Mapes said she planned to have analyzed for authenticity, according to Burkett. Burkett said he passed the rest of the documents to Smith around Sept. 5, at a drive-in restaurant near Baird.

Why did Mary Mapes contact Bill Burkett when she never contacted Killian’s secretary, for example?

First, some history from the LAT:

Although CBS News notes that Mapes had been chasing the National Guard story for five years, it only came back on the active burner in mid- to late August. That’s when executive producer Howard got a call from her, telling him “she was on to something” and wanted to put her other projects aside….. There was nothing definitive” until he got the call from her on Sept. 3, Howard recalled.

On that Friday, just before the Labor Day weekend, Mapes excitedly phoned her bosses from Texas to report a breakthrough in the document quest. “I’ve got them,” she told Howard….

Mapes also set up the interview with Ben Barnes, who said that, as speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, he had intervened to make sure Bush was inducted into the National Guard. Barnes flew to New York to be interviewed by Rather on Sept. 7…

An Hypothesis

Ben Barnes appears to be the central fugure in this puzzle. He is an organizer of Austin4Kerry and Kerry’s #3 fund raiser, as well as a man of dubious ethical standing. In August, he was a prime mover in portraying Bush as a Fortunate Son, releasing a video (of a May 27 speech) around August 27 (NYT) of how he shamefully assisted Bush in getting into the TANG.

Ben Barnes knows all the key players in the story:

1) Barnes knows Dan Rather through their common ties in Travis County
2) Barnes knows of Bill Burkett through Jim Moore, who publicized the Barnes speech, and used Bill Burkett a major source in his anti-Bush books
3) Barnes knows Burkett’s lawyer, David Van Os, through Travis County Democrats, where Barnes is on the Finance Council, and Van Os is past Chairman
4) Barnes knows the key players in the Kerry campaign through his extensive fund raising efforts

So one reasonable working hypothesis is that Barnes became aware of Burkett’s memos through Moore, Van Os, or one of the other people that Burkett was retailing them to, and either directly, or through his friend Rather, alerted Nasty Mary Mapes (who has quite a history herself) to their existence. Barnes was involved in a similar trashing to the Bush/TANG episode. Barnes agreed to appear on 60 Minutes, not solo, but as a lead-in to the Rathergate memos (I can’t find the link).

It will be very interesting to hear Mapes’ explanation as to why she pursued Bill Burkett.


NewsMax shows that the Killian memos, or at least their story, go back to at least April 2004. This raises the possibility again, that I made in an earlier post, that this tired TANG story was resurrected in August as precisely the Democratic campaign’s entire response to the SwiftBoatVets.

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