Cover Story

Rear Guard

"Rear Guard" Continued...

Issue: "Rathergate," Sept. 25, 2004

"If they're saying someone found these things still at the base in the late '90s, I don't buy it. No one's going to be 'scrubbing' my personal memos after I'm gone. I'll have taken care of that already."

For his part, President Bush sidestepped the memo controversy entirely during his speech in Las Vegas, focusing instead on the need for an aggressive, global war on terror. "You're fighting America's enemies around the globe so that we do not have to face them here at home," he told the officers to thunderous applause. "Our country is stronger, our freedom is more secure, because each of you have volunteered to serve."

With CBS increasingly isolated and under attack, Mr. Bush can afford to take the high road by ignoring the controversy. As evidence mounts against the memos' authenticity, the focus will shift from questions of "if" to questions of "who."

Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) has called for an investigation, but Joe Barton (R-Texas), chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, said media and viewers should take action. Forty congressional Republicans joined House Majority Whip Roy Blunt in a letter asking CBS to retract the story.

Even without proof of Democratic dirty tricks, however, the ongoing scandal is creating a headache for the Kerry campaign. Every day the political press focuses on the memos is one more day Mr. Kerry's own message is muted. With little more than a month and a half until the election, those days are a resource he can't afford to waste.

-with reporting by John Dawson

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