My Reaction to the Rather Report
Hugh points to this little bit in from the report itself:
Oh, I see. Good thing we're all idiots, otherwise we'd recognize this for the absolute BS it is. Read the above again. How did they look for political bias? They asked Dan Rather and Mary Mapes about it. Dan didn't take Nixon's word about what went on during Watergate, so I fail to see how this investigation was up to CBS standards.
"The question of whether a political agenda played any role in the airing of the Segment is one of the most subjective, and most difficult, that the Panel has sought to answer. The political agenda question was posed by the Panel directly to Dan Rather and his producer, Mary Mapes, who appear to have drawn the greatest attention in terms of possible political agendas. Both strongly denied that they brought any political bias to the Segment. The Panel recognizes that those who saw bias at work in the Segment are likely to sweep such denials aside. However, the Panel will not level allegations for which it cannot offer adequate proof.
The Panel does not find a basis to accuse those who investigated, produced, vetted or aired the Segment of having a political bias. The Panel does note, however, that on such a politically charged story, coming in the midst of a presidential campaign in which military service records had become an issue, there was a need for meticulous care to avoid any suggestion of an agenda at work. The Panel does not believe that the appropriate level of care to avoid the appearance of political motivation was used in connection with this story."
The big story here wasn't' that 60 minutes didn't check their sources adequately, or that Dan Rather was irresponsible. It was that they tried to sink the Bush campaign by killing the Swiftvet-inspired surge in the polls. CBS can't even find evidence that Rather or Mapes favored Kerry in that - despite phony evidence, Kerry campaign contact, and a broadcast timed like a kickoff to Kerry's "Fortunate Son" PR campaign.
From Les Moonves:
"We are also gratified that the Panel, after extensive analysis and consideration, has found that, while CBS News made numerous errors of judgment and execution in this story, these mistakes were not motivated by any political agenda."
Of course you're gratified. These idiots just allowed you to scapegoat some low-level flunkies and walk away. What's not to be gratified about if you're Les Moonves? But if you're a thinking human being, "gratified" is a less appropriate word than "insulted."
Hugh is right. This is no victory. CBS played the scapegoat game, pretending this is all just irresponsible Mary Mapes' fault for being too "zealous." No freakin' way.
The real danger here is what I consider to be the most likely reality: CBS attempted to use the public airwaves to broadcast propaganda intended to change the outcome of a U. S. Presidential election. This commission did not take this issue seriously at all.
Just to make sure I wasn't going off all Hewitt-hypnotized (Hewittized?), I ran over to The Moderate Voice to see how Joe Gandelman saw this. Joe isn't terribly satisfied either:
The bottom line seems to be that the network has a lot of money, publicity and brand-identification invested in Dan Rather.
So he's not getting off with a slap on the wrist, but a corporate shrug of the shoulders -- and an "oh well, let's talk about the others we fired."
Joe doesn't make as much about the political play as me, but he nails them even harder over basic journalism:
The report is not enough. It's still covering for things that stink to high heaven. The head of Mary Mapes (Not the real one, it's symbolic of her career! Sheesh! We're not (Michael) savages here) is not sufficient to stop the inquiry.
"But it still does NOT explain (from what we've read so far) in highly specific terms exactly how the basic checks and balances of solid confirmation were suspended and precisely WHY -- even in the light of the warnings the network received.
The program had gotten enough red flags on this story to hold a bullfight in Madrid..."