At CBS, they still don’t get it.
The same holds true for the investigators of Dan Rather’s “60 Minutes” report, which charged that George W. Bush, while in the Texas Air National Guard, used political pull to escape punishment for his insolent insubordination to a superior officer.
For this story, at root, is about far more than just the blunders, deceptions, and stonewalling of Rather, Mary Mapes, and CBS.
The real story is who was behind this criminal conspiracy to bring down a president of the United States, using fake and forged U.S. government documents, which is a felony. And who knew of the plot?
In this conspiracy, CBS and Rather were complicit. They fenced the counterfeit documents — innocently, they say. Yet, their behavior is more like that of guilty accomplices than beguiled victims.
The unanswered questions are these: Who created the fake documents? Was it Bill Burkett alone? Who placed Col. Killian’s signature onto the counterfeits? How many people knew this hit on President Bush was going down? Did the DNC or Kerry campaign know, in advance, CBS was going to dump on Bush?
Why haven’t CBS or ex-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh called in the U.S. attorney’s office and turned over all evidence they have of this felony, designed to assassinate the character of the president and timed to effect his defeat in the election of 2004?
By now, everyone involved in this criminal conspiracy, actively or innocently, should have been taken before a federal grand jury.
There are other unexplained matters.
Where is the outrage of Rather, whose reputation has been ruined and career destroyed by the criminals who cooked up the fakes? Last September, Rather said that if the memos turned out to be fake, he would love to break that story. Why hasn’t he? Why hasn’t CBS turned the dogs loose on those who did this to it?
The second failure of the investigation is in how it dealt with the motivation of Mapes and Rather in rushing to air their “scoop,” and in their fanatic defense of the story when it was apparent to almost everyone they had been had.
Asked if there was any truth to the notion he may have been politically biased, Rather stonewalled: “Absolutely unequivocally untrue!” Mapes, the producer, known to be a hard-core liberal, also denied any political bias. Well, as the Duke of Wellington said, “If you believe that, madam, you will believe anything.”
What other than a vendetta explains a five-year obsession by both Rather and Mapes with a story, the only result of which could be to injure President Bush? What else explains the Alamo defense of the Killian memos, when all America knew they were bogus? What else explains Rather’s insistence to this day the documents may be valid? What else explains CBS’ refusal to hand over the Bush-haters who did this? What else explains why Rather would denounce those who questioned the memos as political “partisans,” while laughably describing as an “unimpeachable” source the certifiable Bush-hating eccentric who gave CBS the memos?
“Myopic zeal” explains it, says the Thornburgh report. But what was behind this myopic zeal? Was it a noble desire to bring the truth to the people on a vital issue, or blind ambition to bring down a Republican president and make Rather, Mapes and CBS the Woodward, Bernstein and Washington Post of 2004?
Even with the Killian memos excluded, the Rather-Mapes piece had all the fairness of an attack ad by Moveon.org.
Finally, what motive, other than an animus against Bush, explains why, to this day, CBS — which must now know it was used as the patsy in a criminal conspiracy to destroy the president — has not issued an apology to George W. Bush along these lines:
“We now believe the Killian memos, which were behind our story that President Bush was an insubordinate officer, are fakes. As we have no other hard evidence that George W. Bush either was insubordinate or used political pull to avoid being punished for insubordination, we retract the charge, we retract the story, we apologize to our viewers, and, especially, we apologize to President Bush.”
But because Rather simply cannot concede what is true, that he abhors the Right and cannot abide Bush, CBS has had to invoke the Ted Baxter Defense on his behalf: Poor Dan stumbled because he was exhausted by his labors at the GOP convention and covering a hurricane.
The first step in the cure of alcoholism is a frank admission you are an alcoholic. The first antidote to preventing a bias from getting you into the kind of trouble CBS and Rather are in is to recognize such a bias exists.
CBS and Rather, however, remain in denial, and they will continue to step into it, again and again, until they look hard into a mirror.