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And he would be, except for one report that he will never forget, because no one will ever let him: the botched segment in 2004 on George W. The report, which lasted fifteen minutes, forever damaged Rather’s reputation and ended his network TV career after forty years.Its claims were potentially explosive—that Bush had received preferential treatment to enter the National Guard in 1968 in order to avoid the Vietnam draft and that he had then shirked his duty without repercussion.Bush, by anyone in his close circles, including his family,” says Rather.“They have never denied the bulwark of the story, the spine of the story, the thrust of the story.” (In fact, Bush officials have indeed denied it, repeatedly.In 16mm films you can see him, young and square-jawed, hair thick and black, barking into a microphone and recoiling from machine guns that rat-a-tat-tat behind him.“It’s a little tighter than it used to be,” says Rather, considering the shirt now.
It would be one of the legendary network anchor’s most famous assignments: dispatching dramatic reports on the Vietnam conflict for millions of Americans sitting down to the evening news.
Eight years later, Bush is back in Texas, keeping a low profile and building his presidential library.
Rather is still a newsman, hosting a program called his fourth memoir but the first since his downfall.
Michael Dukakis, the elder Bush’s opponent, had recently chosen Senator Lloyd Bentsen, of Houston, as his running mate.
One Sunday morning in August of that year, George H. Bush’s campaign co-chairman, New Hampshire governor John Sununu, went on TV to attack Bentsen for allegedly helping his son, Lloyd Bentsen III, enter the Texas Air National Guard in 1968.
For 36 years, it made its way through the swamps of state government as it led up to the collision between two powerful Texans on the national stage.