Monday, January 10, 2005

My Reaction to the Rather Report

Hugh Hewitt is fired up tonight. He's trying to get the blogosphere to rally round him and pummel CBS over the Rathergate report.

Hugh points to this little bit in from the report itself:

"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."

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 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:

"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..."

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.


Blogger R-Five said...

This reminds me of might have been the "retired" Lou Gelfand's biggest challenge, the outrageous, inaccurate, and absurdly politically correct coverage of the murder Mpls Police officer Melissa Schmitt in 2002.

Gelfand's column made no real judgements, angering me at first, but then I read it again. It was full of quotes from the editor (Gyllenhaal), which perhaps all unknowing, Gelfand had woven into a signed confession.

Here with CBS, what more do you want? Looks like another signed confession to me, only with a couple of punches pulled to keep the lawyers happy. Dan Rather should have been canned, but he is already hugely disgraced; firing him means little. People just laugh at him now, if they even watch at all.

Replace Heyward? The report sure suggests he was involved and could have stopped this. But at least he knows he can't afford another of these fiascos, so maybe CBS will now raise its standards, especially when Rather leaves.

All in all, justice was done, and CBS has the black eye it deserves.

12:02 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

I suppose what I want is a real investigation into the political coordination behind this piece. Don't just take Mary Mapes word that it was all above board.

I also want a willingness to add two and two, with or without a confession from the primary culprits. This was a story every one knew would hurt Bush in the polls. And it was timed to come out when the Kerry campaign desperately needed that. And then there were those phone calls between CBS and the Kerry campaign leading up to this piece.

9:17 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Oh yeah. I forgot. I also want them to finally admit that the documents in question are fake.

9:39 AM  

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