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September 21, 2004

RatherGate vs SwiftVets: Can You Say "Double Standard"?

From the WSJ:

The big news in yesterday's mea culpa by CBS News isn't that the network was "misled" about "documents whose authenticity is in doubt," as it was finally forced to concede. The story is the admission that the source Dan Rather trusted with CBS's reputation was none other than Bill Burkett, a noted antagonist of President Bush....It isn't as if Mr. Burkett's motives were hard to discover. On August 25, addressing Mr. Bush in the second person, Mr. Burkett wrote in a Web posting, "I know from your files that we have now reassembled, the fact that you did not fulfill your oath, taken when you were commissioned to 'obey the orders of the officers appointed over you.' "
More intriguing, in an August 21 posting, Mr. Burkett said he had spoken with Max Cleland, the former Georgia Senator and fierce John Kerry advocate, about how to respond to Republican campaign tactics. "I asked if they wanted to counterattack or ride this to ground and outlast it, not spending any money. He said counterattack. So I gave them the information to do it with. But none of them have called me back."
This, believe it or not, is the source Mr. Rather described as "unimpeachable." The kindest interpretation is that the famous anchor and CBS were gullible. But perhaps they will forgive their audience for also now suspecting some partisan bias--especially in light of an interview with Mr. Rather that the trade publication Broadcasting & Cable published August 30.
Asked if the media were paying too much attention to the Swift Boat Veterans' criticisms of John Kerry, Mr. Rather replied: "In the end, what difference does it make what one candidate or the other did or didn't do during the Vietnam War? In some ways, that war is as distant as the Napoleonic campaigns." Yet nine days later Mr. Rather was reporting on Mr. Bush's National Guard service as if it were the story of a lifetime.

In watching the media analysis of the brouhaha last night, I was repeatedly struck by the over-charitable treatment extended to CBS. "It was just a case of journalistic zeal, not partisanship", I kept hearing. But there are three things wrong with this theory:

1. When writing a balanced story, you actively seek out sources from both sides. How to explain CBS's mysterious omission of pro-Bush sources from the 60 Minutes broadcast? Would it not have made sense to ask Killian's wife and son about the memo? They were, after all, the sources closest to the dead man - the person who supposedly wrote the memo. They could have given the best insight into his opinion of the young Bush and his habits. Would that not have been "due diligence"? Didn't it seem strange to CBS to get a memo purportedly from "private files" that didn't come from the dead man's family? Did they ever try to verify whether it in fact came from his private files? Why would an officer keep a CYA memo that implicates a senior officer and admits wrongdoing (last time I checked, covering up wrongdoing in a junior officer is punishable) anywhere other than his own home? More importantly, what kind of moron writes a CYA memo that admits wrongdoing? Sounds like more of a "baring your arse" memo to me.

Why tell Hodges (the only pro-Bush source who was interviewed - inexplicably - over the telephone) that the memos were handwritten, when they were in fact typed? This was a lie. Why was this lie necessary?

2. If the media questioned the trustworthiness of the Swift vets' accusations (and almost to a man - or woman - the media have done so, as has Rather) why didn't anyone question the trustworthiness of Burkett - a man with a grudge against Bush, a history of mental instability, strong ties to the Democratic party, and a history of making public statements opposing his candidacy? Rather and the mainstream media seem to have accepted Burkett's word at face value, while rejecting the sworn affadavits of over 60 Swift vets - decorated war heroes who served this nation in Vietnam, and many of whom are not even supporters of President Bush - just because he doesn't like what they have to say.

3. When the Swift Vets story broke, the folks in the New York Times graphic arts department almost dislocated several vertebrae trying to find a sinister web of connections between the Swift Vets and the White House, thus provoking me into a fit of pique:

Who can forget the shadowy Web of Connections that finally proved beyond all doubt that John O'Neill's lesbian sister's ex-wife's hamster once bore the illegitimate cross-species love child of that shrew Laura Bush's daughter Lauren's pet Gerbil, thus establishing to any distinterested party that the White House was certainly funding the Swift Vets latest disgraceful ads? (You know...those lying, vicious, partisan attack ads that dared to confront John Kerry with his own words slandering his Band of Brothers during the Winter Soldier investigation.

Good God, how dare they? One might think that by serving out a complete tour in Vietnam, they had earned the right to speak their minds.

Now C-BS has splashed a totally unfounded slander against the President of the United States all over the TV screens worldwide for over a week without repercussions. And the first call they had after airing the 60 Minutes episode was from... Mary Beth Cahill, head of the Kerry campaign. Imagine that....

The DAY AFTER 60 Minutes airs its UNFOUNDED smear against a sitting President, the DNC launched their newest campaign video: "Operation Fortunate Son," .

Coincidentally, it just happened to include footage from the 60 Minutes show that aired THE NIGHT BEFORE.

Strangely, neither the lamestream media nor the New York Times seem to see a sinister Web of Connections in any of this. It must not be shadowy and vague enough for them: apparently it requires the investigative talents of a kindergartener to see what ought to be obvious to anyone with half a brain (or perhaps just someone not blinded by partisanship). If only Mr. Roberts were still with us: I'm sure he could shed some light on what's going on in Dan Rather's Neighborhood.

"Can you say "Collusion" boys and girls? I knew that you could."

- Cassandra

September 21, 2004 at 09:20 AM | Permalink

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Tracked on Sep 21, 2004 11:53:41 AM

Comments

unimpeachable

Difficult or impossible to impeach: an unimpeachable witness.
Beyond reproach; blameless: unimpeachable behavior.
Beyond doubt; unquestionable: “works of such unimpeachable greatness” (Musical Heritage Review).


Well.. Perhaps Dan was refering to the fact that the person couldn't be impeached by congress :)

Posted by: LarryConley at Sep 21, 2004 4:24:04 PM

Maybe, before she gets the opportunity to check out the revolving door, Mary Mapes can do a piece on "SCAPEGOATS." Not that she doesn't deserve the title.

Posted by: RIslander at Sep 22, 2004 8:42:51 AM