Dan Rather: The Final Days
Patrick J. Buchanan
September 20 2004
"I gave them a sword, and they ran it right
through me," said Richard Nixon. Thirty years later, Nixon nemesis Dan
Rather might say the same of the blunders that are about to bring an
inglorious end to his long career.
What – other than a blind bias against George Bush rooted in animus or
ideology, or an obduracy bred of arrogance and hubris – can explain
Rather's near-suicidal behavior since his "60 Minutes" segment aired
over a week ago?
In that piece, Rather revealed four newly discovered memos from the
"personal file" of Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, George W. Bush's squadron
commander in the National Guard. The memos seemed irrefutable proof that
Killian thought Bush a shirker whose defiance of orders was being
protected by higher-ups like Col. "Buck" Stoudt.
Rather thought he had a story that could bring down a president.
Instead, he has ravaged what remains of the reputation of CBS News and
made of himself a cartoon caricature of liberal bias. His stonewalling
defense of his Guard story will be studied in journalism schools
alongside the frauds perpetrated by Jayson Blair and Janet Cooke.
How could Rather have been so stubborn and blind?
At least two experts consulted by CBS warned against going with the
Guard story, saying there were "problems" with the memos. Within hours
of the airing of the Rather piece, the Web had exploded with bloggers
saying the Times New Roman font and "superscript" letters "th" in "111th
squadron" appeared to have come from a word processor.
By Thursday night, the story of the forged memos was all over the
country. Killian's widow and son declared them fakes. Ben Barnes, who
told Rather he used his influence to get Bush into the Guard, was being
called a liar by his own daughter.
But the smoke alarms at CBS were not working. Friday, a defiant Rather
went on air to denounce his critics as partisans and assert that CBS
stood by its story.
Over the weekend, the Dallas Morning News reported that Stoudt had been
out of the Guard for 18 months when he was supposed to be pressuring
Rather's hole card, the testimony of Gen. Bobby Hodges, then head of the
Guard, that the memos were consistent with what Killian believed, turned
out to be a deuce. Hodges claims he was misled by CBS into thinking the
Killian memos were handwritten.
Shown copies, he dismissed them as computer-generated frauds.
Yet on Monday, Rather – his memos a national joke, his experts and
witnesses defecting and recanting – went on air to assert once again the
memos were authentic and the president must address the Guard issues.
"With respect, answer the questions," Rather thundered at Bush. "The
longer we go without a denial of such things – this story is true."
This was ludicrous. It is the prosecution that must prove a man guilty,
not the accused who must prove himself innocent.
Rather's conduct remains inexplicable. Why would he risk his career on
the authenticity of 30-year-old memos that CBS' own experts questioned
and he apparently got from an inveterate Bush-hater who was demanding
anonymity for his accusations?
Of what is CBS now palpably guilty? Certainly of stupidity and
gullibility of Olympian proportions. Certainly of an obduracy at odds
with any reportorial temperament. Certainly of a blind bias toward the
president. Can anyone believe CBS would have clung this long to so
patently falsified an attack on John Kerry?
Worse, CBS appears to have been complicit in a criminal conspiracy to
use forged U.S. government documents to bring down a president. The man
who passes counterfeit money he knows or suspects to be counterfeit is
guilty of a felony. And CBS must have suspected it was using counterfeit
documents to damage President Bush.
CBS has to take Rather off the air for the duration of this campaign if
it is to even begin to restore its reputation and credibility. For where
President Bush is concerned, Dan Rather has no credibility left.
An investigation must be conducted into who tried to affect an election
and bring down a president using forgeries of federal documents. And
Rather and the CBS executives and producers must testify against the
hatchers of this rotten plot to which they were an indispensable party,
or they, too, must stand trial as accomplices in the scheme.
Dan Rather likely saw himself striding to the podium of the Radio and TV
Correspondents' Dinner to accept the profession's highest award for
investigative journalism. Now he will be the principal object of mockery
and ridicule from that same podium, should he dare to show up.
In a way, this is a tragedy. A flaw in a man's character, magnified by
his position of preeminence, brings about his downfall and ruin. In
Rather's case, it was pride and a blind hatred of the right that led him
to commit a journalistic atrocity that will end up killing not the
president's re-election, but his own reputation and career.
© 2004 Creators
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