Chasing Its Tale

The Chron gets scooped on Bush -- by one of its own

"I think in some ways it would have been weird if [the Chronicle] didn't go with the story," says Jowett. "But it was very innocuous and a lot of it was 'Oh, it was very unfortunate that this happened' and Mickey being a little upset.

"They didn't make much of the story," continues Jowett, who is an acquaintance of Herskowitz's. "I think they had to do the story because otherwise they would've been accused of 'spiking' it, but they did it in a way that sort of buried it."

According to news archives, the piece ran on page ten of the front section. In it, Herskowitz appears to be upset that Baker linked so explicitly Bush's thoughts on "political capital" and invading Iraq. The Chron article also made no mention of Baker's claim that the elder Bush "indicated to [his son] that he disagreed with his son's invasion of Iraq," in addition to avoiding the National Guard issue or Bush's business record. Kim Cobb, who wrote the story for the Chronicle, declined comment.

Jowett posits that because the nature of the assertions -- Bush's National Guard service, Iraq -- were familiar territory, it may not have gotten the legs of other Internet "scoops."

"If [Herskowitz] had said George Bush is a cross-dresser, that's one thing, but I think people knew a lot of this information before," he says.

Baker maintains that only once in their discussions did Herskowitz ask to go off the record, a request he says he honored by keeping that portion of the interview out of the article.

Somewhat presciently, in the days following Bush's re-election, the president returned to the same theme of not wasting the "political capital" he'd earned -- terms that echoed Herskowitz's recollections to Baker.

"He went right back to that same language," says Baker. He notes that he's received numerous requests for follow-up from blogs, radio talk shows and syndicated columnist Helen Thomas. "They all seem to think that this is enormously significant information that should have been out before." Baker noticed, too, that Herskowitz had contacted former president George H.W. Bush's camp to give them heads-up on the piece.

"I think that could possibly explain why at least one major publication reversed its decision to publish the story at the 11th hour," says Baker, again declining to name the news outlet.

"I think [Herskowitz] was candid with me and I respect him for that. I hope he respects me for doing the right thing," says Baker. "I don't think this story is about him or me. I think this is typical of other tempests in a teapot. The issue here is what Bush said to him. I wish we would spend more time paying attention to who our leaders really are and a little less attention to sideline stories about the production process."

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