MORE RATHER BLATHER
by David Sisler
As skepticism over the veracity of the alleged Bush-Killian National Guard documents continues to mount, and as critics wonder why CBS, in McCarthy-like fashion (we have the files, we have the proof, but you can’t see them) refuses to come clean, Dan Rather continues to blame everyone but himself and his network.
Bernard Goldberg, a longtime CBS correspondent who has turned sharply critical of his former employer, said, “CBS News is acting the way the Nixon administration did during Watergate. I’m really sad to say that Dan Rather is acting like Richard Nixon. It’s the coverup, it’s the stonewalling.”
Trying to deflect attention from the increasing weight of evidence that the documents are forgeries, Rather told President George W. Bush, “With respect, answer the questions.”
With respect, Mr. Rather, try some of your own medicine. What about the type style? What about the proportional spacing? What about the superscript? What about the incorrect address for then Lt. Bush? What about the Colonel who retired 18 months before the alleged documents were dated? What about your own key witnesses who say they have never seen the original documents? And there are more inconsistencies – what about them, Mr. Rather?
And what about the CBS News broadcast of August 27?
Dan Rather led with “breaking news, a CBS News exclusive, [of] what could be a serious security breach inside the United States Defense Department.”
Rather continued, “Federal agents now believe there is a mole working at the highest levels of the Pentagon, a spy for a major world power who may have been in a position to influence Bush administration policy – policy on Iran and Iraq.”
CBS said arrests were imminent. As of this writing, no one has been arrested.
Writing for The New York Post, Eric Fettman said, “By all accounts, what started off as a story about espionage at the highest levels of the Pentagon has turned into, at worst, a case of the possible misuse of classified documents – specifically, a single draft memo on U.S. policy on Iran that a Defense Department analyst may have shown to someone at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, who may then have passed the information on to Israeli officials.”
Without evidence to the contrary – and a grand jury is unlikely to level any charge more serious than mishandling classified information – it is easy to conclude that this bit of breaking news was calculated to embarrass the Bush administration and an attempt to erode support for Israel.
If there is any credible information about the allegedly stolen documents, if there is any credible information about the deeply placed mole, if there is any credible information as to why no arrests have been made in this stirring case, Rather and Company have failed to broadcast it.
Defending his own credibility and that of his network in the Killian memo scandal, Dan Rather said, “We took heat during the McCarthy time, during Vietnam, during civil rights, during Watergate. We haven’t always been right, but our record is damn good.”
Well, there are many who disagree with that self-critique. Among them is Anne Morse.
In a piece for National Review Online dated September 15, she writes about a CBS documentary which aired on June 2, 1988. The hour-long special titled CBS Reports: The Wall Within, purported to tell the true story of Vietnam through the eyes of six of the men who fought there. The stories they told were terrible indeed.
There were two problems with the report.
First, the stories were not true, and if CBS had done their homework using the Freedom of Information Act, they would have known they were airing lies.
Second, the report smeared all returning Vietnam veterans with the same brush, painting them as drug-crazed killers who hated America and were ashamed of their wartime service in Vietnam.
Steve Southards described slaughtering Vietnamese civilians, making his work appear to be that of the North Vietnamese.
George Grule described the horror of watching a friend walk into the spinning propeller of a plane, which chopped him to pieces and sprayed Grule with his blood.
Mikal Rice described an enemy grenade attack which blew a fellow soldier in half. The fatally wounded man then died in Rice’s arms.
The truth was uncovered by B.G. Burkett, a Vietnam veteran and author, along with Glenna Whitley, of Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of its Heroes and its History. Burkett discovered that only one of the six vets had actually served in combat.
Steve Southards, who had claimed to be a 16-year-old Navy SEAL assassin, had actually served as an equipment repairman stationed far from combat.
Navy records reveal that a propeller accident did take place on the Ticonderoga when Gruel was aboard – but that he was not around when it happened.
Mikal Rice actually spent his tour as a guard with an MP company. He never saw combat.
Anne Morris writes, “As Burkett notes, the records of all of these vets were easily checkable ... something Rather and his producers simply didn’t bother to do. They accepted at face value the lurid tales ... Perhaps that’s because this is what they wanted to believe.”
And perhaps they produced exactly the story they wished to broadcast, without regard to truth or basic journalistic honesty.
When Burkett shared his discoveries with CBS, spokeswoman Kim Akhtar said, “The producers stand behind their story. They had enough proof of who they are.”
Anne Morris concludes, “Perhaps Vietnam veterans ought to take a page out of the book of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and air television ads exposing Rather’s deceits – something along the lines of: ‘Dan Rather lied about his Vietnam documentary. I know. I was there. I saw what happened. When the chips were down, you could not count on Dan Rather.’”
If you want solid journalism, with the facts researched and documents verified before going on the air, you still can’t. If you want naked, undisguised, partisan politics, you have a different story. To paraphrase one of Mr. Rather’s competitors, it is news that is not fit to print.
Copyright 2004 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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