Friday, March 18, 2005

Top 10 observations on Rathergate

"This is not about me," Rather said before anchoring last night's newscast.
"I recognize that those who didn't want the information out and tried to
discredit the story are trying to make it about me, and I accept
But he also delivered a message to "our journalistic
competitors," including The Washington Post and rival networks: "Instead
of asking President Bush and his staff questions about what is true and
not true about the
president's military service, they ask me questions:
'How do
you know this and
that about the documents?' "

—Quotes from
Howard Kurtz column,
Sept. 16, 2004

Ah, but it was always about you, Danno.

As I clean out my old, sent email files, I've culled some reflections on the "downfall" a week after Dan said goodbye.

  1. Didn't you just love how, even if the documents were forged, the accuser demanded the subject still be addressed? Those bogus documents provided the impetus for the whole story to begin with.
  2. If I were GWB – who HAD already addressed this subject at least one campaign before this past one – I wouldn’t respond either to a “When-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife” line of questioning.
  3. What was really scary was that few people seemed to equate this episode as they would any other "Big Business corruption" or "media empire that has too much power" (read: Murdoch) story. To ME this was Manchurian Candidate scary. Think about it: a single, national news organization (which really answers to no one directly in the citizenry) has the power and the audacity to run a story that is so badly flawed and one that could substantially affect the outcome of a US presidential election! That Dan/CBS had the FREEDOM to do so is an amazing "only in America" quality that we on one hand should marvel about, while at the same time chill to the bone how close it was to causing a "bloodless coup."
  4. And THEN to completely get off with basically a pass (from others in The Press, not to mention the Government, courts, ACLU, and the populace in general), with only "a thorough internal investigation." ?!?! As Bob Dole said, "Where's the outrage!?" over that? People on both sides of the aisle should think about that one.
  5. How could an alledged “respected” news operation run a story so one-sided that any J-School student knows better to research? How can an unbiased reporter NOT at least talk to the family of the man who allegedly wrote the documents? CBS didn't even give them the 'ol 5:01 p.m. phone call trick: "We're running this story tonight and wanted to give you a chance to respond." Even if they didn’t corroborate what you suspect, at least they would give you pause to “redouble” your efforts to make sure it’s right. Why not take the time to ensure it is right?
  6. But we forget, Dan had to rush this out because Kitty Kelly --remember her?-- was scheduled on NBC the next week. Maybe CBS should have waited until Hans Blix had more thoroughly searched for these weapons before attempting their own “shock and awe.”
  7. Looking back, this should be a textbook example why Campaign Finance Reform is a bad idea: it leaves the voting public at the mercy of a single media strata (“the News Media”) to say -- without real accountability -- substantially whatever it wants to. Worry about defamation? So what--the election wouldn't be postponed or cancelled until after the media and the aggrieved party would go to court. The damage would be done and a US Presidential Election you can't have a "do-over" because some news outlet "made mistakes in rush to get the story" or "to beat a deadline" or "scoop the competitor." Thank goodness for blogs!
  8. Campaign Finance Laws, as this issue could demonstrate, the danger in potentially restraining or outright preventing a candidate's options to defend him/herself without going through that same media. Who would THEN control the power over what the public heard or saw?
  9. What Dan missed at the time (or decided not to cover) and what I found truly ironic (actually laughable) was the hyprocacy. Of all political topics -- given recent presidential histories and the softball, sympathetic and "blind eye" he turned during the 1990s-- Dan rekindled old stories that didn't gain traction the first go-round. Seemingly without any attempt to be "balanced", Dan questioned the "honesty" and the "character" of W to be president but never even mentioned a NYTimes best selling book or the charges of the Swift Boat Vets for Truth. How could the media critics, or CBS' investigation panel not bring that up?
  10. While simultaneously featuring pictures of dead Americans on his news cast as a tribute to their ultimate sacrifice (some even National Guard fatalities) Dan coasted aspersions upon National Guard service by saying "W" coasted through Vietnam by serving in this capacity. How does that NOT constitute a disservice to the Guard troops deployed today that Dan seemed to care so much about when they were dying in Iraq.

    Regardless of what Dan may have thought about Bush's time served, W certain has more legit standing in the role of Commander in Chief than, say, another recent president (who "loathed the military") and who "sent other people's children in harm's way." I guess Mogadishu didn't ring a bell. Somehow the president who did that was found worthy to serve in this capacity for 8 years and Dan didn't spend a fraction of the time pursing that Vietnam-era story. Talk about giving someone a pass....