CBS Debate - History

CBS Debate - History

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The Republican candidates met for a debate on foreign policy in New Jersey. The debate was considered by most observers as the most serious of the Republican debates, with none of the candidates making either major mistakes or making a breakthrough.

CBS Debate - History

Ben Carson invoked one of America’s most notorious foes in his closing statement at the Feb. 13 Republican presidential debate in South Carolina.

"I, like you, am a member of ‘we, the people,’ " Carson said, addressing the audience. "And we know that our country is heading off the cliff. Joseph Stalin said, ‘If you want to bring America down, you have to undermine three things: our spiritual life, our patriotism and our morality.’ We, the people, can stop that decline."

The problem is that in all likelihood, this is not a real quote from the former Soviet leader. Stalin led the communist nation from the 1920s until his death in 1953, and it is believed that millions died during his regime.

Searches for the quote do not turn up in any history books, scholarly works or primary sources. Mostly it’s just social media sharables with the quote text next to a picture of Stalin.

Our friends over at Snopes looked into a similar quote and concluded that it’s "highly unlikely that Stalin ever spoke these words." It seems dubious that Stalin would say something like this, as the quote, in a sense, compliments America for its strengths, Snopes noted.

We searched through an online Stalin Archive and an online library compiled by the University of Pennsylvania. Our searches came up empty.

It’s unclear where this quote originated. The earliest use of the quote Snopes found was in a 1983 letter to the editor in a Kansas newspaper.


The history of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) began in 1927 when talent agent Arthur Judson, unable to obtain work for any of his clients on the radio programs carried by the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), established his own network, United Independent Broadcasters. Judson’s network subsequently merged with the Columbia Phonograph and Records Co. and changed its name to the Columbia Phonograph Broadcasting Company. Plagued with mounting financial losses, the network was purchased for a modest $400,000 by William S. Paley, whose father owned the company that made La Palina cigars, one of the network’s principal advertisers. On January 18, 1929, the newly christened Columbia Broadcasting System signed on the air.

Under the direction of the enterprising Paley as the network’s longtime chairman, CBS made media history beginning in the late 1920s. Realizing that the key to radio success was large audiences that would attract advertisers, Paley offered programming free to affiliated stations in return for having a certain part of their schedules devoted to sponsored network shows. From 22 stations in 1928, the network grew to 114 stations in a decade. By 1932 it was posting an annual profit of $3 million. Although the most popular radio stars and programs of the 1930s and ’40s were heard over the rival National Broadcasting Company (NBC) network, CBS nonetheless maintained a huge audience, thanks largely to the dynamic leadership of Paley’s second in command, Frank Stanton, who served as president of CBS from 1946 to 1971. The network also built up a strong and influential news division under the guidance of Edward R. Murrow and his successors. And while it lagged behind the RCA Corporation-owned NBC technologically, CBS took a major step forward in the late 1940s with the development of long-playing records by its Columbia Records division. In 1938 CBS acquired the American Recording Corporation, which later became Columbia Records. Peter Goldmark of CBS laboratories invented high-fidelity long-playing records, and the Columbia record label introduced them to the public in 1948.

The presence of stars such as Phil Harris, Fred Allen, Bing Crosby, and Kate Smith on CBS swelled the network’s listenership. With the emergence of television during the 1940s, the appearance of performers became as important as their voices, and in 1948 Paley staged a talent raid of rival NBC, signing up stars such as Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll (better known as Amos ’n’ Andy), Edgar Bergen, George Burns and Gracie Allen, and Jack Benny, who proved as popular on television as they had been on radio. As a result, CBS was able to make a smooth transition into the new medium, in which it consistently outrated its competition through the 1950s and ’60s.

Moderators come under criticism online over contentious debate

The CBS News moderators came under fire on social media Tuesday as the Democratic presidential debate in South Carolina grew heated, with crosstalk often drowning them out.

Meghan McCain Meghan Marguerite McCainMeghan McCain, Whoopi Goldberg spar over Biden's outburst at CNN reporter Meghan McCain: Harris 'sounded like a moron' discussing immigration CNN insults #MeToo movement, provides happy ending for Jeffrey Toobin MORE compared the debate’s atmosphere to the contentious discussions she faces on "The View," saying, "these moderators need to get this under control."

These moderators need to get this under control. This is way worse than any bad day @TheView hot topics table. At least Whoopi has the bell. #DemDebate2020

— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) February 26, 2020

MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski Mika Emilie BrzezinskiHarris shares advice for women she mentors The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Citizens' Climate Lobby - Clock winding down on bipartisan infrastructure deal Mayor de Blasio announces New York City to 'fully reopen' on July 1 MORE asked, “Does CBS have a buzzer or something to organize this?” while the Twitter account for “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Trevor Noah'Daily Show' pledges 'brand new look and feel' when it returns from summer hiatus Amazon takes big step in e-book deal with libraries, but activists seek more Ted Cruz, Trevor Noah get into Twitter spat: 'I remember when the Daily Show was funny' MORE ” poked fun at the often unintelligible crosstalk.

Does CBS have a buzzer or something to organize this. What’s going on?

— Mika Brzezinski (@morningmika) February 26, 2020

MODERATOR: The next question is for—

— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) February 26, 2020

Former Democratic National Committee interim chairwoman and Fox News contributor Donna Brazile Donna Lease BrazileCommemorating Juneteenth: Learn from the past to improve the present and future Harris gets new high-stakes role with voting rights effort Donna Brazile leaves Fox, joins ABC as contributor MORE also addressed the moderation issues, tweeting, "Dear Madam Moderators: throw your shoes down. Get control."

Dear Madam Moderators: throw your shoes down.

Former Vice President Joe Biden Joe BidenExpanding child tax credit could lift 4 million children out of poverty: analysis Maria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back MORE in particular spoke over moderators attempting to cut him off on several occasions, insisting, "I am not out of time. You spoke over time, and I'm going to talk" and later asking, "Can we just speak up when we want to? Is that the idea?"

Later, as Biden attempted to break in again, moderator Gayle King Gayle KingFauci to Chelsea Clinton: The 'phenomenal amount of hostility' I face is 'astounding' Caitlyn Jenner: My family not 'involved whatsoever' in gubernatorial bid 'CBS This Morning' moving to new Times Square studio MORE quipped, "I promise, Mr. Vice President, we are going to get to you," with Biden responding, "You keep promising me that, but you never get to me."

Cowboys legend Michael Irvin settles debate on who's the greatest receiver in NFL history

For fans of a certain age, there is no debate as to who is the greatest receiver in NFL history. For those fans, Jerry Rice, the NFL's all-time leader in just about every statistical receiving category, is the best ever at the position. Some fans and media members have even gone as far as to consider Rice to be the greatest player in the NFL's 102-year history, regardless of position.

But over the past several years, a narrative has been created by some younger fans (and current NFL receivers) challenging Rice's place at the top of the list. The two names that typically come up (besides Rice) in the debate are Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. And while both of those players deserve consideration on the Mount Rushmore of receivers, Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin feels that the question of who is the greatest receiver of all time is not a question.

"Jerry Rice is first, period," Irvin recently said on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. "Jerry Rice is probably the least physically gifted out of those three guys. Probably the slowest out of those three, probably the least vertical out of those three. But, when Jerry Rice put it all together, he's a better receiver. He's the greatest of all time, the most accomplished. He's a better receiver. . TO and Randy Moss, they were great receivers and were physically gifted with all of the gifts."

Irvin is undoubtedly right in his assessment on Rice's physical comparisons. Rice, who checked in at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds during his playing days, was not the biggest, fastest, or strongest receiver. But Rice did have a peerless work ethic that allowed him to put together the greatest sustained run of excellence by a receiver in NFL history. He was a Pro Bowler each season from 1986-96 (and was an All-Pro 10 times during that span), until an injury broke that streak in 1997. Following his serious injury at age 35, Rice earned two more Pro Bowl nods, with his final one coming in 2002 at the age of 40. That season, Rice caught a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl while further adding to his records in the big game.

Rice's brilliance was followed by the exploits of Owens (who was Rice's teammate in San Francisco from 1996-2000) and Moss. A physical specimen who dominated the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX despite having just one healthy leg while with the Eagles, the 6-foot-3, 224-pound Owens earned All-Pro recognization as a member of the 49ers, Eagles and Cowboys. Moss, whose 17 touchdown catches in 1998 remains a rookie record, broke Rice's 10-year-old record when he caught 23 touchdowns while playing with Tom Brady during the Patriots' undefeated 2007 regular season. Both Moss and Owens had their careers immortalized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018, eight years after Rice received his gold jacket and bronze bust.

While Moss and Owens are among the greatest receivers of all-time, Rice's dominance relative to the NFL's other great receivers is substantial. Rice's 311.81 Hall of Fame Monitor (a tool recently created by Pro Football Focus to measure a player's Hall of Fame candidacy) is higher than any other player in league history. It's more than twice the total of Moss, whose 149.59 monitor is the second-highest among receivers. Owens' 139.83 monitor puts him at No. 5 among receivers, behind Rice, Moss, Marvin Harrison and Larry Fitzgerald.

There have been other great receivers since Rice retired in 2004, but the statistics and metrics continue to make Rice's case for him. Irvin, an all-time great receiver in his own right, also continues to make Rice's case for him.

"I've said that before," Irvin said when asked about whether or not Rice should be considered as the greatest player in NFL history. "My opinion is I know what is required to play the position. . There's nothing like playing the position that we played. Jerry Rice, all that he's done, it's insane."

Legacy of the Kennedy-Nixon Debates

A month and a half later, Americans turned out to vote in record numbers. As predicted, it was a close election, with Kennedy winning the popular vote 49.7 percent to 49.5 percent. Polls revealed that more than half of all voters had been influenced by the Great Debates, while 6 percent claimed that the debates alone had decided their choice. Whether or not the debates cost Nixon the presidency, they were a major turning point in the 1960 race𠅊nd in the history of television. Televised debates have become a permanent feature of the American political landscape, helping to shape the outcomes of both primary and general elections. Along with distinguishing themselves from their opponents, candidates have the opportunity to showcase their oratory skills (or betray their inarticulateness), display their sense of humor (or reveal their lack thereof) and capitalize on their rivals’ gaffes (or seal their fate with a slip of the tongue). Two years after the Kennedy-Nixon debates, the man on the losing end acknowledged their importance𠄺nd his fatal misstep–in his memoir “Six Crises: “I should have remembered that 𠆊 picture is worth a thousand words.’”

Schedule Edit

The Republican National Committee announced the 2015–2016 debate schedule on January 16, 2015. It revealed that 12 debates would be held, in contrast to the 20 debates that were held from 2011 to 2012. The announcement included which news organizations would host each debate, with Fox News and CNN having three each and one each for ABC, CBS, NBC, CNBC, Fox Business Network, and a conservative media outlet to be announced. It had some changes during the primary.

The first live-broadcast debate occurred on Thursday, August 6, 2015, [1] at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. It was seen on the Fox News Channel by 24 million viewers, making the debate the most watched live broadcast for a non-sporting event in cable television history. [2] Due to the number of candidates running for nomination, Fox News aired two separate debates on August 6, with the less popular candidates going first, followed by the candidates with more support in the 'prime time' debate.

One debate per month followed through December 2015. [3] The GOP candidates debated twice in January and three times in February 2016. [4] On February 20, 2016, the RNC announced a thirteenth debate, which was to be held in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Monday, March 21. This would have made for three debates in March, [5] but the event was later canceled due to all but one of the candidates opting not to attend.

The following table lists the twelve RNC debates which took place, along with the dates, times, places, hosts, and participants. [6] [7] [8]

Debates among candidates for the 2016 Republican Party U.S. presidential nomination [9]
No. Date Time Place Host Participants *
P Participant, main debate. S Participant, secondary debate. I Invitee, main debate.
N Non-invitee. A Absent invitee, main debate.
AS Absent invitee, secondary debate. O Out of race (withdrawn).
Bush Carson Christie Cruz Fiorina Gilmore Graham Huckabee Jindal Kasich Pataki Paul Perry Rubio Santorum Trump Walker
RNC sanctioned debates
1 August 6, 2015 5 p.m. EDT
9 p.m. EDT
Quicken Loans Arena
Cleveland, OH
Fox News/
2 September 16, 2015 3 p.m. PDT
5 p.m. PDT
Reagan Library
Simi Valley, CA
Salem Radio
3 October 28, 2015 4 p.m. MDT
6 p.m. MDT
Coors Events Ctr.
Boulder, CO
Westwood One
4 November 10, 2015 6 p.m. CST
8 p.m. CST
Milwaukee Theatre
Milwaukee, WI
Fox Business/
5 December 15, 2015 3 p.m. PST
5:30 p.m. PST
The Venetian
Las Vegas, NV
Salem Radio
6 January 14, 2016 6 p.m. EST
9 p.m. EST
N. Charleston Coliseum
N. Charleston, SC
Fox Business/
7 January 28, 2016 6 p.m. CST
8 p.m. CST
Iowa Events Center
Des Moines, IA
Fox News/
8 February 6, 2016 8 p.m. EST St. Anselm College
Goffstown, NH
ABC News/
9 February 13, 2016 9 p.m. EST Peace Center
Greenville, SC
CBS News P P O P O O O O O P O O O P O P O
10 February 25, 2016 7 p.m. CST University of Houston
Houston, TX
11 March 3, 2016 9 p.m. EST Fox Theatre
Detroit, MI
Fox News O O O P O O O O O P O O O P O P O
12 March 10, 2016 9 p.m. EST University of Miami
BankUnited Center
Coral Gables, FL
CNN/Salem Radio/
Washington Times
* ^ Participating in at least one debate listed above: Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida • Neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson of Maryland • Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey • Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas • Former CEO Carly Fiorina of California • Former Gov. Jim Gilmore of Virginia • Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina • Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas • Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana • Gov. John Kasich of Ohio • Former Gov. George Pataki of New York • Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky • Former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas • Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida • Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania • Businessman Donald Trump of New York • Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin

Polling effect Edit

The use of polling data had initially been criticized by polling firms such as highly regarded Marist. Prior to the first debate, Marist decided to temporarily suspend its national polling of preferences for the Republican nominee on the basis that using non-scientific polling data to select the bipartisan debate field puts polling firms such as Marist under pressure to produce high-precision results that are inherently impossible to provide at that point in time.

For instance, it would be difficult to determine the margin of error in any statistical sampling process like a preference poll (see statistical tie for tenth place, and more generally the independence of clones). [10]

FiveThirtyEight made the point of the varying degrees of discretion the television networks gave themselves with their distinct debate invitation criteria, noting that polling data can only be seen as an objective method for selection of the debate participants, if the full and exact criteria are made clear in advance. [11] The rhetoric about the pros and cons of the debate criteria, and the use of polls to winnow the field, partially displaced more substantive discussions of concrete policies that candidates are proposing. [12]

In terms of many GOP candidates, the use of polls to winnow the field was criticized, especially by candidates with relatively low-polling numbers in August, including Rick Santorum and Lindsey Graham, who both said through the media that their exclusion from the main debates could prevent them from being competitive in the primaries and caucuses. [13]

Candidates ranked from 8th to 12th place in the polls prior to the August 2015 debate, which included Chris Christie, Rick Perry, and John Kasich, downplayed the importance of being invited to any specific debate by emphasizing that delegate selection in early states is more important. [12] Christie and fellow one-time candidate Rand Paul both had made the point that the early debates would give candidates a chance to communicate policy ideas to voters, and would subsequently be helpful in giving voters the information needed to decide which candidate to support. [12]

Some in the media questioned Donald Trump's seriousness as a candidate, and pondered as to whether or not he should be included in the debates. [14] [15] Trump filed FEC paperwork to make his run official [16] however, despite doing well in the early polling which effectively guaranteed him an invitation to the Fox News and CNN debates, Trump expressed ambivalence about the value of the debates to his own campaign (saying he was not a debater and therefore did not know how well he would perform in one), and to the process in general (saying that politicians are always debating with little in the way of results). [12]

Logistics Edit

With as many as 17 major candidates vying for the nomination, the prospect of including all the candidates in a debate presented logistical difficulties. For each of the debates held from August 2015 through January 2016, the sponsoring television network conducted both a debate broadcast in prime time preceded by another debate in the afternoon or early evening the candidates who ranked higher in the polls were invited to the prime time debate, with lower-ranking candidates admitted to the earlier debate only. The earlier debates for the lower-ranked candidates were nicknamed the "undercard" debates [17] [18] or the "kids' table" debates. [19] [20]

Ratings Edit

The following table lists the ratings (number of estimated viewers) of the debates to date.

CBS News Debate To Also Air Live On BET

CBS EVENING NEWS anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell and CBS THIS MORNING co-host Gayle King will moderate the CBS News Democratic presidential primary debate in primetime on Tuesday, Feb. 25from 8:00-10:15 PM, ET, at the Charleston Gaillard Center in Charleston, S.C. Joining O’Donnell and King in the questioning will be FACE THE NATION moderator and CBS News senior foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan, chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett, and 60 MINUTES correspondent Bill Whitaker.

The debate is sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee and will be held in coordination with the DNC and the South Carolina Democratic Party.

The debate will be streamed live on CBSN, CBS News’ free 24/7 streaming news service, and on Twitter via @CBSNews. The debate will also air live in its entirety on BET, a subsidiary of ViacomCBS and the nation's leading provider of quality entertainment, music, news, and public affairs television programming for the African-American audience.

Immediately following the debate, CBS News will continue with live coverage from 10:15-11:00 PM, ET, on the CBS Television Network, CBSN, and Twitter. CBSN’s “Red and Blue” anchor Elaine Quijano, with CBS News’ political correspondent Ed O’Keefe, will anchor the post-debate program, produced by CBSN, which will feature live interviews with the candidates, surrogates and other newsmakers, plus in-depth analysis and reporting from the team of CBS News journalists and contributors in Charleston.

CBS News will co-host the debate with the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, social welfare organization that aims to educate today's voters and train tomorrow's leaders. Twitter is a debate partner. Using the hashtag #DemDebate, voters from around the country will be able to tweet questions, which the moderators may ask of the candidates live on the debate stage.

CBS News and the Democratic National Committee will announce the format and the candidates who qualify for the debate at a later date.

The CBS News debate is the last before the key South Carolina primary and Super Tuesday.

In addition to the moderators and network correspondents, CBS News’ robust team of 2020 campaign reporters will continue their coverage of the candidates as they arrive in Charleston and join the debate stage.


The memos, allegedly written in 1972 and 1973, were obtained by CBS News producer Mary Mapes and freelance journalist Michael Smith, from Lt. Col. Bill Burkett, a former US Army National Guard officer. [18] Mapes and Dan Rather, among many other journalists, had been investigating for several years the story of Bush's alleged failure to fulfill his obligations to the National Guard. [19]

Burkett had received publicity in 2000, after making and then retracting a claim that he had been transferred to Panama for refusing "to falsify personnel records of [then-]Governor Bush", [20] [21] and in February 2004, when he claimed to have knowledge of "scrubbing" of Bush's Texas Air National Guard records. [22] [23] Mapes was "by her own account [aware that] many in the press considered Burkett an 'anti-Bush zealot', his credibility in question". [24]

Mapes and Smith made contact with Burkett in late August, and on August 24 Burkett offered to meet with them to share the documents he possessed, and later told reporters from USA Today "that he had agreed to turn over the documents to CBS if the network would arrange a conversation with the Kerry campaign", [25] a claim substantiated by emails between Smith and Mapes detailing Burkett's additional requests for help with negotiating a book deal, security, and financial compensation. [26] During the last week of August, Mapes asked Josh Howard, her immediate superior at CBS, for permission to facilitate contact between Burkett and the Kerry campaign Howard and Mapes subsequently disputed whether such permission had been given. [27]

Two documents were provided by Burkett to Mapes on September 2 and four others on September 5, 2004. At that time, Burkett told Mapes that they were copies of originals that had been obtained from Killian's personal files via Chief Warrant Officer George Conn, another former member of the TexANG. [28]

Mapes informed Rather of the progress of the story, which was being targeted to air on September 8 along with footage of an interview with Ben Barnes, a former Lieutenant Governor of Texas, who would publicly state for the first time his opinion that Bush had received preferential treatment to get into the National Guard. [29] Mapes had also been in contact with the Kerry campaign several times between late August and September 6, when she spoke with senior Kerry advisor Joe Lockhart regarding the progressing story. Lockhart subsequently stated he was "wary" of contact with Mapes at this stage, because if the story were true, his involvement might undermine its credibility, and if it were false, "he did not want to be associated with it." [30] Lockhart called Burkett on September 6 at the number provided by Mapes, and both men stated they discussed Burkett's view of Kerry's presidential campaign strategy, not the existence of the documents or the related story. [31]

Content of the memos Edit

The documents claimed that Bush had disobeyed orders while in the Guard, and that undue influence had been exerted on Bush's behalf to improve his record. The documents included the following:

  1. An order directing Bush to submit to a physical examination. [32]
  2. A note that Killian had grounded Bush from flying due to "failure to perform to USAF / TexANG standards", and for failure to submit to the physical examination as ordered. Killian also requested that a flight inquiry board be convened, as required by regulations, to examine the reasons for Bush's loss of flight status. [33]
  3. A note of a telephone conversation with Bush in which Bush sought to be excused from "drill", The note records that Bush said he did not have the time to attend to his National Guard duties because he had a campaign to do (the Senate campaign of Winton M. Blount in Alabama). [34]
  4. A note (labeled "CYA" for "cover your ass") claiming that Killian was being pressured from above to give Bush better marks in his yearly evaluation than he had earned. The note attributed to Killian says that he was being asked to "sugarcoat" Bush's performance. "I'm having trouble running interference [for Bush] and doing my job." [35]

USA Today also received copies of the four documents used by CBS, [36] reporting this and publishing them the morning after the CBS segment, along with two additional memos. [37] Burkett was assured by USA Today that they would keep the source confidential. [38]

CBS investigations prior to airing the segment Edit

Mapes and her colleagues began interviewing people who might be able to corroborate the information in the documents, while also retaining four forensic document experts, Marcel J. Matley, James J. Pierce, Emily Will, and Linda James, to determine the validity of the memos.

On September 5, CBS interviewed Killian's friend Robert Strong, who ran the Texas Air National Guard administrative office. Among other issues covered in his interview with Rather and Mapes, Strong was asked if he thought the documents were genuine. Strong stated, "they are compatible with the way business was done at the time. They are compatible with the man that I remember Jerry Killian being." [39] Strong had first seen the documents twenty minutes earlier and also said he had no personal knowledge of their content [40] he later claimed he had been told to assume the content of the documents was accurate. [41]

On September 6, CBS interviewed General Robert "Bobby" Hodges, a former officer at the Texas Air National Guard and Killian's immediate superior at the time. Hodges declined CBS' request for an on-camera interview, and Mapes read the documents to him over the telephone—or perhaps only portions of the documents his recollection and Mapes's differed. [42] According to Mapes, Hodges agreed with CBS's assessment that the documents were real, and CBS reported that Hodges stated that these were "the things that Killian had expressed to me at the time". [43] However, according to Hodges, when Mapes read portions of the memos to him he simply stated, "well if he wrote them, that's what he felt", and he stated he never confirmed the validity of the content of the documents. General Hodges later asserted to the investigatory panel that he told Mapes that Killian had never, to his knowledge, ordered anyone to take a physical and that he had never been pressured regarding Lieutenant Bush, as the documents alleged. [44] Hodges also claims that when CBS interviewed him, he thought the memos were handwritten, not typed, [45] [42] and following the September 8 broadcast, when Hodges had seen the documents and heard of claims of forgery by Killian's wife and son, he was "convinced they were not authentic" and told Rather and Mapes on September 10. [46]

Response of the document examiners Edit

Prior to airing, all four of the examiners responded to Mapes' request for document analysis, though only two to Mapes directly: [47]

  • Emily Will noted discrepancies in the signatures on the memos, and had questions about the letterhead, the proportional spacing of the font, the superscripted "th" and the improper formatting of the date. Will requested other documents to use for comparison. [48]
  • Linda James was "unable to reach a conclusion about the signature" and noted that the superscripted "th" was not in common use at the time the memos were allegedly written she later recalled telling CBS, "the two memos she looked at 'had problems.'" [48]
  • James Pierce concluded that both of the documents were written by the same person and that the signature matched Killian's from the official Bush records. Only one of the two documents provided to Pierce had a signature. James Pierce wrote, "the balance of the Jerry B. Killian signatures appearing on the photocopied questioned documents are consistent and in basic agreement", and stated that based on what he knew, "the documents in question are authentic". [49] However, Pierce also told Mapes he could not be sure if the documents had been altered because he was reviewing copies, not original documents. [50]
  • Marcel Matley's review was initially limited to Killian's signature on one of the Burkett documents, which he compared to signatures from the official Bush records. Matley "seemed fairly confident" that the signature was Killian's. On September 6, Matley was interviewed by Rather and Mapes and was provided with the other four documents obtained from CBS (he would prove to be the only reviewer to see these documents prior to the segment). Matley told Rather "he could not authenticate the documents due to the fact that they were poor quality copies." [51] In the interview, Matley told Rather that with respect to the signatures, they were relying on "poor material" and that there were inconsistencies in the signatures, but also replied "Yes", when asked if it would be safe to say the documents were written by the person who signed them. [52]
  • Both Emily Will and Linda James suggested to Mapes that CBS contact typewriter expert Peter Tytell (son of Martin Tytell). Associate producer Yvonne Miller left him a voicemail on September 7 he returned the call at 11 am on September 8 but was told they "did not need him anymore". [53]

The segment entitled "For the Record" aired on 60 Minutes Wednesday on September 8. [54] After introducing the documents, Rather said, in reference to Matley, "We consulted a handwriting analyst and document expert who believes the material is authentic." [55]

The segment introduced Lieutenant Robert Strong's interview, describing him as a "friend of Killian" (without noting he had not worked in the same location and without mentioning he had left the TexANG prior to the dates on the memos). The segment used the sound bite of Strong saying the documents were compatible with how business was done but did not include a disclaimer that Strong was told to assume the documents were authentic. [56]

In Rather's narration about one of the memos, he referred to pressure being applied on Bush's behalf by General Buck Staudt, and described Staudt as "the man in charge of the Texas National Guard". Staudt had retired from the guard a year and a half prior to the dates of the memos.

Interview clips with Ben Barnes, former Speaker of the Texas House, created the impression "that there was no question but that President Bush had received Barnes' help to get into the TexANG", because Barnes had made a telephone call on Bush's behalf, when Barnes himself had acknowledged that there was no proof his call was the reason, and that "sometimes a call to General Rose did not work". Barnes' disclaimer was not included in the segment. [57]

Internet skepticism spreads Edit

Discussion quickly spread to various weblogs in the blogosphere, principally Little Green Footballs and Power Line. [58] The initial analysis appeared in posts by "Buckhead", a username of Harry W. MacDougald, an Atlanta attorney who had worked for conservative groups such as the Federalist Society and the Southeastern Legal Foundation, and who had helped draft the petition to the Arkansas Supreme Court for the disbarment of President Bill Clinton. [59] [60] MacDougald questioned the validity of the documents on the basis of their typography, writing that the memos were "in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatino or Times New Roman", and alleging that this was an anachronism: "I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old. This should be pursued aggressively." [61]

By the following day, questions about the authenticity of the documents were being publicized by the Drudge Report, which linked to the analysis at the Powerline blog in the mid-afternoon, [62] and the story was covered on the website of the magazine The Weekly Standard [63] [64] and broke into mass media outlets, including the Associated Press and the major television news networks. It also was receiving serious attention from conservative writers such as National Review Online's Jim Geraghty. [65] By the afternoon of September 9, Charles Foster Johnson of Little Green Footballs had posted his attempt to recreate one of the documents using Microsoft Word with the default settings. [66] The September 9 edition of ABC's Nightline made mention of the controversy, along with an article on the ABC News website. [67]

Thirteen days after this controversy had emerged the national newspaper USA Today published a timeline of events surrounding the CBS story. [13] Accordingly, on the September 9 morning after the "60 minutes" report, the broadcast was front-page news in the New York Times and Washington Post. Additionally, the story was given two-thirds of a full page within USA Today's news section, which mentioned that it had also obtained copies of the documents. However, the authenticity of the memos was not part of the story carried by major news outlets on that day. [13] Also on that day, CBS published the reaction of Killian's son, Gary, to the documents, reporting that Gary Killian questioned one of the memos but stated that others "appeared legitimate" and characterized the collection as "a mixture of truth and fiction". [68] In an interview with Fox News, Gary Killian expressed doubts about the documents' authenticity on the basis of his father's positive view of Bush. [69]

In 2006, the two Free Republic (Rathergate) bloggers, Harry W. MacDougald, username "Buckhead", an Atlanta-based lawyer [59] [60] and Paul Boley, username "TankerKC", were awarded the Reed Irvine Award for New Media by the Accuracy in Media watchdog at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). [70] [71]

CBS's response and widening media coverage Edit

At 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 9, CBS News released a statement saying the memos were "thoroughly investigated by independent experts, and we are convinced of their authenticity", [72] and stating, "this report was not based solely on recovered documents, but rather on a preponderance of evidence, including documents that were provided by unimpeachable sources". [73] The statement was replaced later that day with one that omitted this claim. [74]

The first newspaper articles questioning the documents appeared on September 10 in The Washington Post, [72] The New York Times [75] and in USA Today via the Associated Press. [76] The Associated Press reported, "Document examiner Sandra Ramsey Lines . said she was 'virtually certain' [the documents] were generated by computer. Lines said that meant she could testify in court that, beyond a reasonable doubt, her opinion was that the memos were written on a computer." [76]

Also on September 10, The Dallas Morning News reported, "the officer named in one memo as exerting pressure to 'sugarcoat' Bush's military record was discharged a year and a half before the memo was written. [77] The paper cited a military record showing that Col. Walter 'Buck' Staudt was honorably discharged on March 1, 1972, while the memo cited by CBS as showing that Staudt was interfering with evaluations of Bush was dated August 18, 1973." [78]

In response to the media attention, a CBS memo said that the documents were "backed up not only by independent handwriting and forensic document experts but by sources familiar with their content" and insisted that no internal investigation would take place. [79] On the CBS Evening News of September 10, Rather defended the story and noted that its critics included "partisan political operatives". [80]

  • In the broadcast, Rather stated that Marcel Matley "analyzed the documents for CBS News. He believes they are real", and broadcast additional excerpts from Matley's September 6 interview showing Matley's agreement that the signatures appeared to be from the same source. Rather did not report that Matley had referred to them as "poor material", that he had only opined about the signatures or that he had specifically not authenticated the documents.
  • Rather presented footage of the Strong interview, introducing it by stating Robert Strong "is standing by his judgment that the documents are real", despite Strong's lack of standing to authenticate them and his brief exposure to the documents. [80]
  • Rather concluded by stating, "If any definitive evidence to the contrary of our story is found, we will report it. So far, there is none." [80][81]

In an appearance on CNN that day, Rather asserted "I know that this story is true. I believe that the witnesses and the documents are authentic. We wouldn't have gone to air if they would not have been."

However, CBS's Josh Howard spoke at length by telephone with typewriter expert Peter Tytell and later told the panel that the discussion was "an 'unsettling event' that shook his belief in the authenticity of the documents". Producer Mapes dismissed Tytell's concerns. [82]

A former vice president of CBS News, Jonathan Klein, dismissed the allegations of bloggers, suggesting that the "checks and balances" of a professional news organization were superior to those of individuals sitting at their home computers "in their pajamas". [83]

As media coverage widened and intensified, CBS at first attempted to produce additional evidence to support its claims. On September 11, a CBS News segment stated that document expert Phillip Bouffard thought the documents "could have been prepared on an IBM Selectric Composer typewriter, available at the time". [84] [85] The Selectric Composer was introduced in 1966 for use by typesetting professionals to generate camera-ready copy [86] according to IBM archives describing this specialized equipment, "To produce copy which can be reproduced with 'justified', or straight left-and right-hand margins, the operator types the copy once and the composer computes the number of spaces needed to justify the line. As the operator types the copy a second time, the spaces are added automatically." [87] Bouffard's comments were also cited by the Boston Globe in an article entitled "Authenticity backed on Bush documents". [88] However, the Globe soon printed a retraction regarding the title. [89] CBS noted that although General Hodges was now stating he thought the documents were inauthentic, "we believed General Hodges the first time we spoke with him." CBS reiterated: "we believe the documents to be genuine." [84]

By September 13, CBS's position had shifted slightly, as Rather acknowledged "some of these questions come from people who are not active political partisans", and stated that CBS "talked to handwriting and document analysts and other experts who strongly insist the documents could have been created in the '70s". [90] The analysts and experts cited by Rather did not include the original four consulted by CBS. Rather instead presented the views of Bill Glennon and Richard Katz. Glennon, a former typewriter repairman with no specific credentials in typesetting beyond that job, was found by CBS after posting several defenses of the memos on blogs including Daily Kos and Kevin Drum's blog hosted at Washington Monthly. [91] However, in the actual broadcast, neither interviewee asserted that the memos were genuine.

As a result, some CBS critics began to accuse CBS of expert shopping. [92]

60 Minutes Wednesday, one week later Edit

The original document examiners, however, continued to be part of the story. By September 15, Emily Will was publicly stating that she had told CBS that she had doubts about both the production of the memos and the handwriting prior to the segment. Linda James stated that the memos were of "very poor quality" and that she did not authenticate them, [93] telling ABC News, "I did not authenticate anything and I don't want it understood that I did." [49]

In response, 60 Minutes Wednesday released a statement suggesting that Will and James had "misrepresented" their role in the authentication of the documents and had played only a small part in the process. [94] CBS News concurrently amended its previous claim that Matley had authenticated the documents, saying instead that he had authenticated only the signatures. [95] On CNN, Matley stated he had only verified that the signatures were "from the same source", not that they were authentically Killian's: "When I saw the documents, I could not verify the documents were authentic or inauthentic. I could only verify that the signatures came from the same source", Matley said. "I could not authenticate the documents themselves. But at the same time, there was nothing to tell me that they were not authentic." [93]

On the evening of September 15, CBS aired a segment that featured an interview with Marian Carr Knox, a secretary at Ellington Air Force Base from 1956 to 1979, and who was Killian's assistant on the dates shown in the documents. Dan Rather prefaced the segment on the recorded interview by stating, "She told us she believes what the documents actually say is, exactly, as we reported." In the aired interview, Knox expressed her belief that the documents reflected Killian's "sentiments" about Bush's service, and that this belief motivated her decision to reach out to CBS to provide the interview. [94] [96] In response to a direct question from Rather about the authenticity of the memo on Bush's alleged insubordination, she stated that no such memo was ever written she further emphasized that she would have known if such a memo existed, as she had sole responsibility to type Killian's memos in that time period. At this point, she also admitted she had no firsthand knowledge of Bush's time in the Guard. [97] However, controversially, Knox said later in the interview, "The information in here was correct, but it was picked up from the real ones." She went on to say, "I probably typed the information and somebody picked up the information some way or another." [98] [99] The New York Times' headline report on this interview, including the phrase "Fake but Accurate", created an immediate backlash from critics of CBS's broadcast. The conservative-leaning Weekly Standard proceeded to predict the end of CBS's news division. [100] [101]

At this time, Dan Rather first acknowledged there were problems in establishing the validity of the documents used in the report, stating: "If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I'd like to break that story." [102]

CBS also hired a private investigator to look into the matter after the story aired and the controversy began. [103]

Copies of the documents were first released to the public by the White House. Press Secretary Scott McClellan stated that the memos had been provided to them by CBS in the days prior to the report and that, "We had every reason to believe that they were authentic at that time." [104]

The Washington Post reported that at least one of the documents obtained by CBS had a fax header indicating it had been faxed from a Kinko's copy center in Abilene, Texas, [105] leading some to trace the documents back to Burkett.

CBS states that use of the documents was a mistake Edit

As a growing number of independent document examiners and competing news outlets reported their findings about the documents, CBS News stopped defending the documents and began to report on the problems with their story. On September 20 they reported that their source, Bill Burkett, "admits that he deliberately misled the CBS News producer working on the report, giving her a false account of the documents' origins to protect a promise of confidentiality to the actual source." [106] [107] While the network did not state that the memos were forgeries, CBS News president Andrew Heyward said,

Based on what we now know, CBS News cannot prove that the documents are authentic, which is the only acceptable journalistic standard to justify using them in the report. We should not have used them. That was a mistake, which we deeply regret. [14] [15]

Dan Rather stated, "if I knew then what I know now – I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question." [14]

In an interview with Rather, Burkett admitted that he misled CBS about the source of the documents, and then claimed that the documents came to him from someone he claimed was named "Lucy Ramirez", whom CBS was unable to contact or identify as an actual person. Burkett said he then made copies at the local Kinko's and burned the original documents. [38] [108] Investigations by CBS, CNN and the Washington Post failed to turn up evidence of "Lucy Ramirez" being an actual person. [109] [110] [111]

On September 21, CBS News addressed the contact with the Kerry campaign in its statement, saying "it is obviously against CBS News standards and those of every other reputable news organization to be associated with any political agenda." [81]

The next day the network announced it was forming an independent review panel to perform an internal investigation.

Soon after, CBS established a review panel "to help determine what errors occurred in the preparation of the report and what actions need to be taken". [112] Dick Thornburgh, a Republican former governor of Pennsylvania and United States Attorney General under George H.W. Bush, and Louis Boccardi, retired president and chief executive officer and former executive editor of the Associated Press, made up the two-person review board. CBS also hired a private investigator, a former FBI agent named Erik T. Rigler, to gather further information about the story. [113]

Findings Edit

On January 5, 2005, the Report of the Independent Review Panel on the September 8, 2004, 60 Minutes Wednesday Segment "For the Record" Concerning President Bush's Air National Guard Service was released. [114] The purpose of the panel was to examine the process by which the September 8 Segment was prepared and broadcast, to examine the circumstances surrounding the subsequent public statements and news reports by CBS News defending the segment, and to make any recommendations it deemed appropriate. Among the Panel's conclusions were the following:

  1. The failure to obtain clear authentication of any of the Killian documents from any document examiner
  2. The false statement in the September 8 Segment that an expert had authenticated the Killian documents when all he had done was authenticate one signature from one document used in the Segment
  3. The failure of 60 Minutes Wednesday management to scrutinize the publicly available, and at times controversial, background of the source of the documents, retired Texas Army National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Bill Burkett
  4. The failure to find and interview the individual who was understood at the outset to be Lieutenant Colonel Burkett's source of the Killian documents, and thus to establish the chain of custody
  5. The failure to establish a basis for the statement in the Segment that the documents "were taken from Colonel Killian's personal files"
  6. The failure to develop adequate corroboration to support the statements in the Killian documents and to carefully compare the Killian documents to official TexANG records, which would have identified, at a minimum, notable inconsistencies in content and format
  7. The failure to interview a range of former National Guardsmen who served with Lieutenant Colonel Killian and who had different perspectives about the documents
  8. The misleading impression conveyed in the Segment that Lieutenant Strong had authenticated the content of the documents when he did not have the personal knowledge to do so
  9. The failure to have a vetting process capable of dealing effectively with the production speed, significance and sensitivity of the Segment and
  10. The telephone call prior to the Segment's airing by the producer of the Segment to a senior campaign official of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry – a clear conflict of interest – that created the appearance of a political bias.
  1. The strident defense of the September 8 Segment by CBS News without adequately probing whether any of the questions raised had merit
  2. Allowing many of the same individuals who produced and vetted the by-then controversial September 8 Segment to also produce the follow-up news reports defending the Segment
  3. The inaccurate press statements issued by CBS News after the broadcast of the Segment that the source of the documents was "unimpeachable" and that experts had vouched for their authenticity
  4. The misleading stories defending the Segment that aired on the CBS Evening News after September 8 despite strong and multiple indications of serious flaws
  5. The efforts by 60 Minutes Wednesday to find additional document examiners who would vouch for the authenticity of the documents instead of identifying the best examiners available regardless of whether they would support this position and
  6. Preparing news stories that sought to support the Segment, instead of providing accurate and balanced coverage of a raging controversy.

Panel's view of the documents Edit

The Panel did not undertake a thorough examination of the authenticity of the Killian documents, but consulted Peter Tytell, a New York City-based forensic document examiner and typewriter and typography expert. Tytell had been contacted by 60 Minutes producers prior to the broadcast, and had informed associate producer Yvonne Miller and executive producer Josh Howard on September 10 that he believed the documents were forgeries. The Panel report stated, "The Panel met with Peter Tytell, and found his analysis sound in terms of why he thought the documents were not authentic . The Panel reaches no conclusion as to whether Tytell was correct in all respects." [115]

The controversy had long-reaching personal, political and legal consequences. In a 2010 issue of TV Guide, Rather's report was ranked No. 3 on a list of TV's ten biggest "blunders". [116]

CBS personnel and programming changes Edit

CBS terminated Mary Mapes and demanded the resignations of 60 Minutes Wednesday Executive Producer Josh Howard and Howard's top deputy, Senior Broadcast Producer Mary Murphy, as well as Senior Vice President Betsy West, who had been in charge of all prime time newscasts. Murphy and West resigned on February 25, 2005, [117] and after settling a legal dispute regarding his level of responsibility for the segment, Josh Howard resigned on March 25, 2005. [118]

Dan Rather announced on November 23, 2004, that he would step down in early 2005 and on March 9, his 24th anniversary as anchor, he left the network. It is unclear whether or not Rather's retirement was directly caused by this incident. Les Moonves, CEO of CBS, stated "Dan Rather has already apologized for the segment and taken responsibility for his part in the broadcast. He voluntarily moved to set a date to step down from the CBS Evening News in March of 2005." He added, "We believe any further action would not be appropriate." [119]

CBS was originally planning to show a 60 Minutes report critical of the Bush administration justification for going to war in Iraq. This segment was replaced with the Killian documents segment. CBS further postponed airing the Iraq segment until after the election due to the controversy over the Killian documents. "We now believe it would be inappropriate to air the report so close to the presidential election", CBS spokesman Kelli Edwards said in a statement. [120]

After the Killian documents controversy, the show was renamed 60 Minutes Wednesday to differentiate it from the original 60 Minutes Sunday edition, and reverted to its original title on July 8, 2005, when it was moved to the 8 p.m. Friday timeslot. It was cancelled in 2005 due to low ratings.

Mapes's and Rather's view of the documents Edit

On November 9, 2005, Mary Mapes gave an interview to ABC News correspondent Brian Ross. Mapes stated that the documents have never been proved to be forgeries. Ross expressed the view that the responsibility is on the reporter to verify their authenticity. Mapes responded with, "I don't think that's the standard." This stands in contrast to the statement of the president of CBS News that proof of authenticity is "the only acceptable journalistic standard." Also in November 2005, Mapes told readers of the Washington Post, "I personally believe the documents are not false" and "I was fired for airing a story that could not definitively be proved false but made CBS's public relations department cringe." [121] As of September 2007, Mapes continued to defend the authenticity of the documents: "the far right blogosphere bully boys . screamed objections that ultimately proved to have no basis in fact." [122]

On November 7, 2006, Rather defended the report in a radio interview, and rejected the CBS investigation's findings. In response, CBS spokesman Kevin Tedesco told the Associated Press, "CBS News stands by the report the independent panel issued on this matter and to this day, no one has been able to authenticate the documents in question." [123]

Dan Rather continued to stand by the story, and in subsequent interviews stated that he believed that the documents have never conclusively been proven to be forgeries – and that even if the documents are false, the underlying story is true. [124]

Rather's lawsuit against CBS/Viacom Edit

On September 19, 2007, Rather filed a $70 million lawsuit against CBS and its former corporate parent, Viacom, claiming they had made him a "scapegoat" over the controversy caused by the 2004 60 Minutes Wednesday report that featured the Killian documents. [125] The suit names as defendants: CBS and its CEO, Leslie Moonves: Viacom, Sumner Redstone, chairman of both Viacom and CBS Corporation and Andrew Heyward, the former president of CBS News. [126]

In January 2008, the legal teams for Rather and CBS reached an agreement to produce for Rather's attorneys "virtually all of the materials" related to the case, including the findings of Erik T. Rigler's report to CBS about the documents and the story. [127]

On September 29, 2009, New York State Court of Appeals dismissed Rather's lawsuit and stated that the lower court should have honored CBS's request to throw out the entire lawsuit instead of just throwing out parts. [128]

No generally recognized document experts have positively authenticated the memos. Since CBS used only faxed and photocopied duplicates, authentication to professional standards is impossible, regardless of the provenance of the originals.

Document experts have challenged the authenticity of the documents as photocopies of valid originals on a variety of grounds ranging from anachronisms of their typography, their quick reproducibility using modern technology, and to errors in their content and style. [129]

The CBS independent panel report did not specifically take up the question of whether the documents were forgeries, but retained a document expert, Peter Tytell, who concluded the documents used by CBS were produced using current word processing technology. [130]

Tytell concluded . that (i) the relevant portion of the Superscript Exemplar was produced on an Olympia manual typewriter, (ii) the Killian documents were not produced on an Olympia manual typewriter and (iii) the Killian documents were produced on a computer in Times New Roman typestyle [and that] the Killian documents were not produced on a typewriter in the early 1970s and therefore were not authentic.

Some critics of CBS and Dan Rather argued that by proceeding with the story when the documents had not been authenticated, CBS was exhibiting media bias and attempting to influence the outcome of the 2004 U.S. presidential election. Freelance journalist Michael Smith had emailed Mapes, asking, "What if there was a person who might have some information that could possibly change the momentum of an election but we needed to get an ASAP book deal to help get us the information?" Mapes replied, "that looks good, hypothetically speaking of course." [131] The Thornburgh–Boccardi report found that Mapes' contact with Kerry adviser Joe Lockhart was "highly inappropriate", and that it "crossed the line as, at a minimum, it gave the appearance of a political bias and could have been perceived as a news organizations' assisting a campaign as opposed to reporting on a story" [115] however, the Panel did not "find a basis to accuse those who investigated, produced, vetted or aired the Segment of having a political bias". [132] In a later interview with The Washington Post, when asked about the issue of political bias, review panel member Louis Boccardi said "bias is a hard thing to prove". [133] The panel concluded that the problems occurred "primarily because of a rush to air that overwhelmed the proper application of the CBS News Standards". [134]

Some Democratic critics of Bush suggested that the memos were produced by the Bush campaign to discredit the media's reporting on Bush's National Guard service. The chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe, suggested that the memos might have originated with long-time Bush strategist Karl Rove. McAuliffe told reporters on September 10, "I can tell you that nobody at the Democratic National Committee or groups associated with us were involved in any way with these documents", he said. "I'm just saying that I would ask Karl Rove the same question." [135] [136] McAuliffe later pointed out that Rove and another Republican operative, Ralph E. Reed, Jr., had "a known history of dirty tricks", and he asked whether Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie would rule out any involvement by GOP consultant Roger Stone. [137] [138] At a community forum in Utica, New York in 2005, U.S. Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) pointed out that the controversy served Rove's objectives: "Once they did that, then it undermined everything else about Bush's draft dodging. . That had the effect of taking the whole issue away." [139] After being criticized, Hinchey responded, "I didn't allege I had any facts. I said this is what I believe and take it for what it's worth." [139]

Rove and Stone have denied any involvement. [140] [141] In a 2008 interview in The New Yorker, Stone said "It was nuts to think I had anything to do with those documents . [t]hose papers were potentially devastating to George Bush. You couldn't put them out there assuming that they would be discredited. You couldn't have assumed that this would rebound to Bush's benefit. I believe in bank shots, but that one was too big a risk." [142]

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Killian documents PDF files Edit

These are the Killian documents supplied to CBS Reports by Bill Burkett:

Bush documents from the TexANG archives Edit

Page 31 is a 3 November 1970 memo from the office of Lt Col Killian on promotion of Lt Bush:

Debate History Gives Romney A Tough Hill To Climb

DENVER (CBSMiami) &ndash With national polls narrowing, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are set for their first debate Wednesday night in Denver. Romney has been consistently trailing Obama in the last few weeks and many say he needs a game-changer in the debates.

But, historically speaking, it&rsquos been very rare that a candidate has performed well enough in a debate to completely reset the campaign. According to Gallup, polling dating back a half-century revealed &ldquofew instances in which the debates may have had a substantive impact on election outcomes.&rdquo

Gallup noted there were two exceptions to the rule, 1960 and 2000, which were both extremely tight races where the smallest change could have impacted the race. Gallup found the 1976 and 2004 debates &ldquoseemed to have made the races more competitive, but they did not change the fundamentals of those elections.&rdquo

According to a new book titled, &ldquoThe Timeline of Presidential Elections,&rdquo the authors found &ldquono case where we can trace a substantial shift to the debates,&rdquo according to the Washington Post. Additionally, a study by political scientist James Stimson also found that at best, debates may provide a nudge in close elections, but no game changing moments.

The New York Times&rsquo 538 Blog, which constantly runs statistical simulations of the presidential race, found, &ldquothe debate normally have a modest impact.&rdquo Five-Thirty-Eight&rsquos blog said the largest shift came in 1984 when Mondale moved up 3.6 points, but still trailed President Ronald Reagan by 17 points.

Five-Thirty-Eight&rsquos Nate Silver said there were just two debates that &ldquoreversed the leader in the race,&rdquo Ronald Reagan in 1980 and George W. Bush in 2000. Silver also said, &ldquothe candidate ahead in the polls after the first debate always won the Electoral College dating back to 1976.&rdquo

Still, Silver and other pollsters said that on average, the challenger is usually the biggest beneficiary of any debate bump. Romney already has a big burden on his shoulders going into the first debate as it may be his only chance to really change the campaign after several miserable weeks on the trail.

From his comments saying as president he wouldn&rsquot care about nearly half of Americans to reports of problems within the campaign, Romney has not been able to stay on message since the political conventions.

Romney has reportedly been rehearsing &ldquozingers&rdquo to try and nail Obama on anything he might mess up during the debate. Part of the problem both candidates will face this year as well is the fact-checkers in real-time on social media sites like Twitter.

Both campaigns will want to spin the debate in their favor immediately afterward, but the speed of fact-checking online could make that nearly impossible. The Romney and Obama campaigns have also lowered expectations so that as long as the candidates don&rsquot screw up anything major, they performed well.

But, Romney is facing an uphill battle. According to 538, &ldquono candidate who trailed by as much as Romney does heading into the first debate went on to win the election.&rdquo Additionally according to 538, &ldquothere has not been any tendency for the challenger to gain over the remaining weeks of the election.&rdquo

The first debate&rsquos format has been set and it will be divided into six, 15 minute segments. Moderator Jim Lehrer will open each segment with a question and each candidate will have two minutes to respond. Lehrer will then use the remaining time to further discuss the topic, according to

What could ultimately turn the one to two percent of those who change their minds based on the debate may be the media spin coming out of the debates. A 2004 Vanderbilt study had 74 voters watch the Bush-Kerry debate with 25 watching without commentary afterwards, 25 watching with CNN commentary afterward, and 24 watched with NBC commentary.

The study found that those who watched just the debate thought Joyhn Kerry won, while those who watched with NBC thought Bush won, and the group that watched CNN almost split evenly between saying Kerry won and neither candidate won.

So while the debate itself is part of the equation, what could ultimately turn the opinions of the one to two percent of undecided voters who may shift after the debate will be the media coverage in the next 48-72 hours after the debate.

All of this could get thrown out the window with a phenomenal performance by either candidate in Wednesday&rsquos debate. For Obama, he basically needs a split-decision or draw to maintain his 3-5 point lead in the polls nationally and in the swing states. That said, he can&rsquot come off as being overly cautious either.

For Romney, he needs a knockout shot that can reset his campaign in a way that can propel him to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. If Romney doesn&rsquot land the big blow Wednesday night, he may not have enough time left in the campaign to overcome Obama&rsquos current lead.

Watch the video: History of CBS Evening News intros