Bob Novak would be a much better reporter if he weren't so dishonest. Until recently, I hadn't observed his reporting that closely. So I hadn't noticed it. But I don't think there's any way around that conclusion.
Let me illustrate with an example from last night.
Last night on Capital Gang this was Novak's 'outrage of the week' ...
NOVAK: Ben Barnes was one of my favorite Democrats more than 30 years ago. The boy wonder of Texas politics until he was defeated for governor at the age of 34 in 1972. He reappeared this week, when a Texas Bush basher distributed a 45-second video for the Kerry campaign by Barnes, claiming that he, as lieutenant governor of Texas got Bush into the Air National Guard.
But, Ben was not yet lieutenant governor when Bush joined the Guard. This sleazy politics is not the way for my old friend Ben Barnes to get back on the front page.
So, Novak's point is that Barnes <$Ad$>has gotten tripped up in an inconsistency in his story. And thus he's not credible.
The only problem is that Novak knows this is not true. He knows it's not true; but he's trying to fool his listeners into thinking that it is because many aren't familiar with the details of the story, as he is. Again, a dishonest reporter.
Allow me to explain.
The Barnes story isn't a new one. And the relevant dates of it and the office Barnes was serving in at the time have never been questioned. It happened during the time Barnes was Speaker of the House in Texas. In the past, he went to great lengths to avoid discussing. But after being forced to discuss it in a civil suit deposition in 1999, he made a brief public announcement. See this clip from the Houston Chronicle
from September 28th 1999 ...
Austin lobbyist Ben Barnes said Monday that as speaker of the Texas House more than 30 years ago, he recommended George W. Bush for a pilot's position in the Texas Air National Guard at the request of a Bush family friend.
But Barnes, in a statement issued by his lawyer, said he was not contacted by a member of the Bush family and had "no knowledge" that either the future governor or his father, former President Bush, who was then a congressman from Houston, knew of his intervention.
In fact, not only has Barnes been consistent and his account not been questioned, even Bush himself and his campaign have accepted Barnes account. All they have insisted on -- though it is quite
improbable -- is that they did not know at the time about his actions and were not involved in any way in requesting it.
The president even went so far as to thank Barnes in a personal note for being clear that he had no direct, personal knowledge
that the Bush family had contacted the intermediary who contacted him. Consider this clip from a September 27th, 1999 Associated Press
Barnes testified for several hours Monday in a deposition in the case. Afterwards, his lawyer issued a written statement saying Barnes had been contacted by the now-deceased Sidney Adger, a Houston oilman and friend of the elder Bush.
''Mr. Barnes was contacted by Sid Adger and asked to recommend George W. Bush for a pilot position with the Air National Guard. Barnes called Gen. (James) Rose (Texas Air Guard commander) and did so,'' the statement said.
''Neither Congressman Bush nor any other member of the Bush family asked Barnes' help. Barnes has no knowledge that Governor Bush or President Bush knew of Barnes' recommendation,'' the statement said.
Barnes also said he met in September 1998 with Donald L. Evans, a longtime friend and chief fund-raiser for Governor Bush. Barnes told Evans about Adger's request, and ''Governor Bush wrote Barnes a note thanking him for his candor in acknowledging that Barnes received no call from any member of the Bush family.''
In an interview with The Associated Press, Evans said he met with Barnes on his own initiative, without informing the governor in advance. At the time, he was Bush's gubernatorial campaign chairman and was concerned only about that contest, Evans said.
There's a rich backstory to why the subject came up in that civil suit. But as you can see Barnes went to some lengths not to make trouble for Bush; and they were, well ... thankful on many levels.
In the tape someone took of Barnes at a recent Kerry political event he clearly just misspoke. And it's not hard to understand why since Barnes in fact became Lt. Governor of the state a few months after the events in question. Remember, the guy wasn't giving an official statement. He was talking at a pro-Kerry gathering and didn't even know he was being taped. When I first posted
the video a couple days ago, I spoke to several Texas politicos who pointed out to me -- what I hadn't noticed -- that Barnes had misspoken, that he meant when he was Speaker of the House.
Sometimes when someone 'misspeaks' there's something sinister about it. In other cases, it's obvious that the person just misspoke. This is clearly a case of the latter. And Novak knew that in advance.
Like I said, a dishonest reporter.