Thursday, September 30, 2004
A few things:
1) Remember Gore's weirdness in the previous presidential debates? Not only the pancake makeup and the heavy sighing and the "lockbock" mantra and the awkward entry into Bush's personal space--but also the exagerrations? It was so bad that Gore actually apologized in the next debate for exagerrating some things. Well Kerry may have the same problem on his hands. Check out Robert Novak's column today on this.
2) To keep Kerry honest, the Bush rapid-response team will be live-blogging their responses at DebateFacts.com. Those guys are so nice, they've even developed a briefing book for John Kerry to prep for the debate.
3) The Kerry Spot's Jim Gerharty says: "I cannot think of any statement by any other figure, left, right or center, that exposes such a jaw-dropping ignorance of the greatest issue of our time." If you want to know who he is talking about and what she said, click here.
4) The fellas at Real Clear Politics are discussing what they call "an extremely high risk strategy" for Kerry in the debates tonight." " Kerry is in so much trouble right now that if he truly wants to be President he has to roll the dice, play to win, and forget about the possible consequences." It would basically involve breaking the rules of the debate. The Kerry Spot suggests it might come in this form: "Rules do not permit me to ask direct questions at tonight's debate, but if I could, I would ask Mr. Bush..." I have my doubts this will actually happen--but as the RCP guys said, "to be blunt, Kerry has almost no chance with polling internals this dismal." Hence, he has to try something.
5) Saturday Night Live had a blast four years ago mocking the presidential debates. This greatly cemented the negatives toward Gore. Will it happen again? The season premiere is this Saturday. The host? Kerry-supporter Ben Afleck.
Here's Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard:
You have said that we cannot cut and run from Iraq and that we could "realistically aim to bring all our troops home within the next four years." But if you now consider the war to have been a mistake, how could you, as president, "ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake''?
You've said that it is unacceptable to allow a second African genocide in a decade, this time in Sudan. You've also said you don't propose sending American troops to Sudan. If it becomes clear that the only way to stop the killing is through armed intervention by a coalition of the willing, led by United States troops but lacking the sanction of the United Nations Security Council, would you as president take such an action?
And here's Hanson, a military historian:
How might you explain the apparent abrupt change in policy of Libya; the unexpected removal of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb; and the about-face in Saudi Arabia - and what precise plans do you have to induce similar such positive changes in attitude in Iran, Lebanon and Syria?
In January, you promised to be a president who "reduces the overall need for deployment of American forces in the globe - and I mean North Korea, Germany and the rest of the world." More recently, however, you have chastised
President Bush was the first American president to isolate Yasir Arafat. Do you agree with the president's radical step of ostracizing Mr. Arafat? If so, would you also ensure that he is no longer a party to the Middle East peace negotiations?
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
If you'll recall, last night CBS "News" perpetuated the internet email hoax that the draft is going to be reinstated. As if that wasn't bad enough, they interviewed a concerned mother, Beverly Cocco, who was scared about her sons being drafted. They, of course, left out the minor detail that she is a chapter president of “People Against the Draft"!
After this came out, CBS had the nerve to insert a line identifying her role into the online transcript! That's a lying coverup if there ever was one.
Little Green Footballs has the scoop, along with the original story.
In a story that was a textbook example of slipshod reporting, CBS reporter Richard Schlesinger used debunked internet hoax emails and an unlabeled interest group member to scare viewers into believing that the U.S. government is poised to resume the draft. At the center of Schlesinger’s piece was a woman named Beverly Cocco, a Philadelphia woman who is 'sick to my stomach' that her two sons might be drafted. In his report, Schlesinger claimed that Cocco was a Republican and portrayed her as an apolitical (even Republican) mom worried about the future. Schlesinger did not disclose that Cocco is a chapter president of an advocacy group called People Against the Draft (PAD) which, in addition to opposing any federal conscription, seeks to establish a 'peaceful, rational foreign policy' by bringing all U.S. troops out of Iraq. Like Schlesinger’s Cocco, the group portrays itself as 'nonpartisan' although its leadership seems to be entirely bereft of any Republicans. The group’s domain is registered to a man named Jacob Levich, a left-wing activist who in a 2001 essay compared the Bush Administration to the totalitarian government portrayed in George Orwell’s 1984. CBS News also reported that there are two bills in Congress to reinstate the draft, but failed to mention that they were both introduced by Democrats.
The Selective Service System has added this statement to its website:
Notwithstanding recent stories in the news media and on the Internet, Selective Service is not getting ready to conduct a draft for the U.S. Armed Forces -- either with a special skills or regular draft. Rather, the Agency remains prepared to manage a draft if and when the President and the Congress so direct. This responsibility has been ongoing since 1980 and is nothing new. Further, both the President and the Secretary of Defense have stated on more than one occasion that there is no need for a draft for the War on Terrorism or any likely contingency, such as Iraq. Additionally, the Congress has not acted on any proposed legislation to reinstate a draft. Therefore, Selective Service continues to refine its plans to be prepared as is required by law, and to register young men who are ages 18 through 25.
Here's the exchange, with a few comments of mine inserted
DIANE SAWYER: Was the war in Iraq worth it?
JOHN KERRY: We should not have gone to war knowing the information that we know today. [Real leadership requires making tough decisions at the time with limited information. Everyone's a genius in hindsight. (Actually, even in hindsight Kerry isn't being a genuis, but my point still stands!]
DS: So it was not worth it.
JK: We should not — it depends on the outcome ultimately [Here it is again!] — and that depends on the leadership. And we need better leadership to get the job done successfully, but I would not have gone to war knowing that there was no imminent threat [Bush never said there was--he explicitly said that we should engage Iraq BEFORE they became an imminent threat, and that we can't just wait around for threats to materialize] — there were no weapons of mass destruction [True, but John Kerry sure thought that their were, and said so often! Again, we have Hindsight Leadership here] — there was no connection of Al Qaeda — to Saddam Hussein [Strange that Kerry has apparently not read the 9/11 Commission report that concludes the opposite!]! The president misled the American people — plain and simple. Bottom line.
DS: So if it turns out okay, it was worth it?
JK: No. [Huh? This is the obvious corollary to the idea that "if thinks turn out bad, it's not worth it." Sawyer has called his bluff.]
DS: But right now it wasn’t [ … ? … ]–
JK: It was a mistake to do what he did, but we have to succeed now that we’ve done what he’s — I mean look — we have to succeed. But was it worth — as you asked the question — $200 billion and taking the focus off of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda? That’s the question. The test of the presidency was whether or not you should have gone to war to get rid of him. I think, had the inspectors continued, had we done other things — there were plenty of ways to keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein.
DS: But no way to get rid of him.
JK: Oh, sure there were. Oh, yes there were. Absolutely. [If 17 UN resolutions won't work, try, try again!]
DS: So you’re saying that today, even if Saddam Hussein were in power today it would be a better thing — you would prefer that . . .
JK: No, I would not prefer that. And Diane — don’t twist here. [No twist. Just trying to draw out the logical conclusions.]
Yikes. Consider that Kerry--like Bush--has been spending a lot of time in pre-debate mock sessions preparing for the toughest questions. I'm not sure that Kerry is ready for prime-time.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Recycling and the supposed environmental crisis is built on errors and misinformation.
And there’s no evidence that eating organic food is better for your health or for the environment!
Three cheers to the non-recycling, non-organic-food-eating city-dwellers!
Principle Six: The likelihood of being uninformed and misinformed increases as the number of news sources decreases.
Principle Seven: Beware the error of following the crowd.
Principle Eight: Those who get their news only from broadcast media are missing much of the story, and much of its significance.
Principle Nine: When it comes to issues of importance, turn off the tube and think.
Principle Ten: Use the news media as material for worldview analysis.
Monday, September 27, 2004
According to Spam, the winner of tonight's Redskins vs. Cowboys came would be a reliable predictor for the presidential election. As my friend tells it, the fate of the incumbent always correlates with how the Redskins do on their last Monday Night Football appearance before the elections. The Skins lose, the incumbent loses. The Skins win, the incumbent wins. If you'll recall, 4 years ago the Skins lost a close and controversial contest...a la Albert Gore!
The Redskins lost tonight. So if Spam is right, John F. Kerry will now be our next President.
But, as usual, in his excitable state my friend Spam Sherman forget to do his fact checking. The Center for Policy and Public Affairs accurately explains the real Redskins Rule:
THE WASHINGTON REDSKINS RULE. This one has an impressive winning streak--for 72 years, the victory or defeat of the Washington Redskins in their last game before the election has predicted whether the incumbent party holds the White House. If the Redskins lose or tie, the incumbent party loses the election. If the Redskins win, so does the incumbent party. By any measure the accuracy of the Redskin rule is notable. It has correlated with presidential electoral outcomes in 18 of the past 18 elections back to Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. ...The probability of a Redskin victory or defeat correctly forecasting the presidential election 18 elections in a row has been calculated to be about one in 260 million.
This really is incredible! But note that it has nothing to do with Monday Night Football. For those who care, the Redskins' last game before the election is against the Green Bay Packers on October 31.
No offense to my Cheesehead colleague The Wewinator, but: Go Skins! I predict it'll be a decisive win.
Those who have followed the recent RatherGate story may be confused by one item: Why do people keep saying “courage” when referring to Dan Rather?
The indispensable RatherBiased.com provides the answer:
On September 2, 1985, a Monday, Dan Rather surprised everyone at CBS by ending the news with, "Courage." The next day, Tuesday, he said it again. Executive Producer Tom Bettag asked him about it and told Rather to consult him if he wanted to change the daily sign-off. On Wednesday, Rather said it again. TV columnists began to call into CBS to inquire about this unusual closing. The senior staff of the broadcast met with him to try to talk him out of it. On Thursday, Rather didn't use "Courage." Instead, he said, "Coraje" (cor-a-heh). Inquirers jammed the CBS phone lines. One bureau chief said, "What the hell did he say?" to a New York producer. "I don't know, he either said the Spanish word for 'courage' or an Asian form of the martial arts." CBS's Bill Moyers had just done a story on the Mexican-American border and it must have given Rather Latin fever. On Friday, it was back to "courage."
In the meantime, other journalists began ridiculing Rather's fascination. Bryant Gumble of NBC's Today show poked fun with his own signoffs, "Valor," "Hot dogs," "Mazel tov." The next week, on Monday, Rather didn't say it at all. Some of the people in the Broadcast Center broke into applause.
Below are some recent cartoons that reference Rather’s “courage.” I hope you enjoy them. Until my next post: Courage. And good night.
No word yet on the ABC/Washington Post poll that is due out later today. UPDATE: Here it is. Among likely voter, it's Bush over Kerry, 51-45.
Al Mohler—whose blog I have now decided to make a daily read—is suggesting ten principles for responsible evangelical engagement with the news media.
1. In a fallen world, everyone is biased.
2. News reports are heavily filtered--and the filters matter.
3. The media are driven by commercial interests.
4. The media elite is demographically and ideologically removed from the world inhabited by most Americans.
5. Headlines often lie and language often misleads.
The next five will come tomorrow. Read the whole thing to see the explanations and documentations.
President Bush and Sen. John Kerry will debate three times. Vice President Cheney and Senator Edwards will debate once.
The first debate will be on foreign policy and homeland security. It will be on Thursday, Sept. 30, at 8 pm (central time). It will be held at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. Jim Lehrer, anchor and executive editor of PBS’s "The NewsHour," will moderate. The candidates will stand at lecterns for this one.
The second debate will be on Friday, Oct. 8, at 8 pm (central time). It will be a townhall format, hosted at Washington University in St. Louis. Charles Gibson, co-anchor of ABC News’s "Good Morning America" will be the moderator. The audience will be chosen by the Gallup Organization. The voters won’t be “undecideds” per se, but rather those who are “soft” on the candidates. The candidates will sit on stools.
The third debate will be on Wednesday, Oct. 13, at 8 pm (central time), focusing upon domestic and economic policy. It will be held at Arizona State University in Tempe. Bob Schieffer, CBS News chief Washington correspondent and moderator of "Face the Nation," will be moderating. The candidates will stand at lecterns.
The Vice-presidential candidates debate on Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 8 pm (central time). The debate will be held at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Both foreign and domestic issues will be discussed. Gwen Ifill, senior correspondent of "The NewsHour" and moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS will be the moderator. The candidates will be seated at a table.
Bush and Kerry had their surrogates, James Baker and Vernon Jordan (respectively) act as their representatives to reach an agreement on all sorts of formatting issues:
• No opening statements, but candidates may make two-minute closing statements.
• Candidates may not bring props or notes onto the stage.
• Taking notes is allowed. Paper and pens or pencils to be used must be submitted to the commission in advance.
• The candidates cannot question their opponent directly, aside from rhetorical questions.
• Each candidate may use his own makeup person.
• In the town hall debate, each candidate may walk about in a designated area, but the areas can't overlap. [Recall Gore wandering into W’s personal space!]
• Each candidate will be assigned a dressing room of comparable size and quality.
For more on these rules--which are probably more significant than you might think--see this blog post called John Kerry Has ALREADY Lost the First Debate.
For more on these rules--which are probably more significant than you might think--see this blog post called John Kerry Has ALREADY Lost the First Debate.
Wayne Grudem's book Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth : An Analysis of More Than 100 Disputed Questions is due out in November. I encourage you to order a copy.
Consider the following endorsements: Ligon Duncan: "You can write a QED at the end of this book. The debate is over." John Piper: “After the Bible, I cannot imagine a more useful book for finding reliable help in understanding God’s will for manhood and womanhood in the church and the home." J. I. Packer: "“This is the fullest and most informative analysis available, and no one will be able to deny the cumulative strength of the case this author makes." Joshua Harris: "If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines, if you’ve been indifferent on this issue, it’s time to care. The stakes are too high to remain uninformed and silent."Here are a couple of helpful resources related to manhood and womanhood issues:
Wimps and Barbarians: The Sons of Murphy Brown, by Terrence Moore. An absolute must-read for men, fathers, and sons.
And here are a couple of helpful articles on the issue of women and modesty: Modeling Modesty, by Mary Mohler, and Modesty Checklist, by Carolyn Mahaney and her daughters.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
CBS News said yesterday that the producer of its flawed report about President Bush's National Guard service violated network policy by putting a source in touch with a top aide to Senator John Kerry.
"It is obviously against CBS News standards and those of every other reputable news organization to be associated with any political agenda," the network said in a statement....
Privately, network officials said they were caught off guard on Monday when Joe Lockhart, a senior adviser to Mr. Kerry, told reporters that he had spoken to Bill Burkett, the source for the questionable documents, at the behest of Ms. Mapes.
It may be the case that no one will resign or be fired until a newly appointed independent panel conducts a review and presents its findings.
The Philadelphia Inquirer editorializes:
If CBS News is to salvage its credibility, Rather must go. Whether or not his producer did most of the prep work for this report, Rather put his weighty seal of approval on the story. Such carelessness by a veteran journalist, especially on a high-profile story about a sitting president in the heat of a campaign, has irreparably damaged Rather's credibility. His apology Monday night was overdue.
Viewers are now left to wonder whether a veteran anchor was blinded by competitive juices or, worse and more unlikely, motivated by partisan bias. That kind of taint won't wash off, even in a hurricane.According to the LA Times, Les Moonves, Chairman of CBS, broke his silence yesterday:
"In an indication of how deep concern about the issue has become at the network, Chairman Leslie Moonves commented for the first time Tuesday. He said that while CBS News 'has a long tradition of responsible journalism … it's clear that something went seriously wrong with the process' in the production of the National Guard story.
Moonves, who attended the New York premiere for "CSI:NY" on Tuesday night, declined further comment."
Hugh Hewitt responds:
Something went wrong with "the process?" It wasn't the process, it was the producer and the reporter and the president of the news division, who teamed up with the Kerry campaign to launch a smear on the president they hate. How clueless can you be, pointing to "the process?" Mr. Moonves and Viacom's board should process this: Your brand has burned to the waterline while you sat around playing gin rummy and attending premiers.
Today's Washington Post editoralizes:
Such casualness in the face of concerns would be irresponsible whatever the subject; on such a fraught topic, about the president of the United States, and in the heat of a reelection campaign, it's hard to understand. When bloggers and then other media outlets quickly raised doubts about the documents' authenticity, CBS erred even more with a defensive, even pugilistic response.
Michael Goodwin, in the liberal The New York Daily News, asks:
Would you trust anything you saw on CBS now? I wouldn't. Until we know exactly what happened, the entire news division has forfeited our trust and the benefit of the doubt. Guilty until proven innocent.
Rob Owen writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Dan Rather’s storied career at CBS could be nearing an ignominious close. He, his producer and his network authored one of broadcast journalism’s most embarrassing chapters, etched in arrogance, perceived bias and undeniable ineptitude. And it is a chapter that stains all of journalism.
Slate's associate editor, Bryan Curtis, writes:
The CBS cocoons engender a kind of madness. Rather is paid an outsized salary—he makes $7 million per year—that is in no way commensurate with the number of viewers he delivers. Where most prime-time shows have a few weeks to prove their viability, newscasts often are given years and decades. The network's former glory allows Rather to shroud himself in the aura of Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow. "I'm confident we worked longer, dug deeper, and worked harder than almost anybody in American journalism does," Rather told the Washington Post Sunday, when in fact CBS spent less time verifying the Guard documents than most bloggers.
...When Rather quits—whether this week or at a moment of his own choosing—it will mark an enormous shift in American cultural life. For the first time in a generation, viewers will flip on Evening News, grab a snifter of brandy, and prepare to receive the day's stories from someone who isn't barking mad.
In other news: Terry McAuliffe--I'm not making this up--is still blaming the Republicans for the memos! Bill Burkett is planning to sue CBS News. Bob Lee, Chairman of the CBS Television Network Affiliate Association, recently said: "We will certainly take a position and make it known, and hope the network will listen to what the stations are saying." Their Board meeting is in October. (A reminder: you can write one email and send it to 200 affiliates with one click by going here.)
Folks, the man behind the curtain has been exposed. He is not an objective, unbiased, all-powerful journalist who pronounces truth and uncovers error. It is a deeply partisan man who refused to stop in his reckless pursuit of a story.
And just in case you assume that because Rather apologized he now believes--along with everyone else in America--that the documents were forged...
In an interview Monday evening, a repentant Rather conceded it had been a mistake to broadcast the documents. But even though he could not vouch for their authenticity, he said he still did not believe that they were fakes.
"Do I think they're forged? No," Rather said. "But it's not good enough to use the documents on the air if we can't vouch for them, and we can't vouch for them."
Ernest Miller is providing a timeline and an analysis of CBC News’s response to criticism regarding the forged memos. It is now in two parts: Incompetent AND Unethical: The Story of CBS News' Response to Criticism of the Killian Memo Forgeries - Part One, and Incompetent AND Unethical: The Story of CBS News' Response to Criticism of the Killian Memo Forgeries - Part Two. It is very well done.
Making mistakes is one thing. Absurdly defending those mistakes, stonewalling and casting aspersions on those who make credible and legitimate criticism is another. When a major news organization engages in flagrant violations of basic journalistic ethics with regard to a claim that might have significant impact on a presidential election, that is an important story.
It would be absurd to expect or demand aggressive investigative reporters to always get it right the first time. Yes, we should demand high standards, but perfection is not achievable. However, we should demand vigorous correction policies. Imagine if the documents had been better forgeries. What would it have taken to get CBS News to admit error? In this case, the cover up really is much worse than the crime.
Many claim that there are other important institutional media questions, such as potential bias, news judgement and emphasis: more coverage should be devoted to other issues, news organizations need to dig deeper into these stories, be more aggressive in investigating and uncovering government untruths, and etc. Absolutely. These are important questions and they need to be addressed, but the answers aren’t simple or even readily apparent in many cases. However, if you don’t take clear violations of the fundamentals seriously, you’ll never get satisfactory answers to any of the more difficult questions.
Second, I’ll reiterate my stand that this isn’t about Dan Rather, but about CBS News. Dan Rather is important, it is clear, but he is only one link in the web of responsibility with regard to CBS News’ response to valid criticism.
Third, my basic conclusion is that the upper management of CBS News has deliberately acted unethically in responding to legitimate criticism. If the management of CBS News was not deliberately unethical, their sheer incompetence rises to the level of culpability. This is not to say that the rank and file of CBS News are implicated in the guilt of the CBS News executives, just as the rank and file of Enron are only guilty of having the poor luck in inadvertantly [sic] choosing to work for a group of crooks.
In the meantime, I urge everyone who reads this blog (both of you!) to take advantage of an incredible tool offered by the fine folks at RatherGate.com. With just one click, you can email all 200 CBS affiliates.
Along with that, I'd encourage you to read Jim Gerharty's memo to the Pajamahadeen!
In the meantime, I urge everyone who reads this blog (both of you!) to take advantage of an incredible tool offered by the fine folks at RatherGate.com. With just one click, you can email all 200 CBS affiliates.
Along with that, I'd encourage you to read Jim Gerharty's memo to the Pajamahadeen!
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
But USA Today speaks of Burkett's "inability to supply evidence to show that Ramirez exists" (my emphasis). Let me go out on a limb here to make a prediction: "Lucy Ramirez" is a figment of Burkett's imagination. Curioser and curioser.
Kerry was on Letterman last night. A few observations: (1) Painfully unfunny. Which is really okay by me—we’re not electing someone to tell us jokes—especially in this post-9/11 world. But if you go on Letterman, you should at least be able to make us chuckle! (2) Bad on camera. I was surprised at this—Kerry is better looking and more charming the further you get away from him. Again, that’s okay—I’m not exactly the most telegenic person on the planet! But people have based their vote on stranger things. (3) Wonkish. As Jim Gerharty at the Kerry Spot notes, Kerry basically gave his stump speech to Letterman! I actually think this is a good thing. Kerry has been so mocked and pummelled lately that people rarely get to hear his actual ideas. So from the Kerry Campaign perspective, I thought going on the show and doing this was a smart move. Letterman asked the most mindless softball questions imaginable, and essentially let Kerry speak uninterrupted. Not a bad tactical move by Kerry’s camp. (4) The drone was gone. I’m sure his advisers have been working with him on this. Major improvement. To paraphrase Andrew Sullivan, my hand didn’t instinctively reach for the remote as soon as Kerry opened his mouth. (5) Made no sense on his votes for the war and against the funding. The reasoning just doesn’t work. Kerry said he voted not to go to war, but to authorize the war. In fact, he said: Most people think that voting to authorize a war is the same as voting to authorize it. Well, yes we do as a matter of fact! He spoke of all the additional things the US needs to be doing in the war: increased security, accelerated elections. But when Letterman asked him about his vote against funding the war, Kerry actually said he was proud of that vote and that it was the right decision. He then made an abrupt transition to say that now that money is being used for fraudulent paybacks to Halliburton! Biggest applause line of the night. But, for the life of me, I can’t see how middle-of-the-road America is going to be impressed with this demagogury and flip-floppedness.
Monday, September 20, 2004
For a producer at a mainstream news source to be working on a story, and then to feed the story to the opposing campaign 50 days before the election.... It's simply beyond the pale. But I have to say, given what is being revealed about CBS these days, their naked partisanship should surprise no one.
DAN RATHER: Now, news about CBS News, and the questions surrounding documents we aired on this broadcast and on the Wednesday edition of "60 Minutes" on September 8. The documents purported to show that George W. Bush received preferential treatment during his years in the Texas Air National Guard.
At the time, CBS News and this reporter fully believed the documents were genuine. Tonight, after further investigation, we can no longer vouch for their authenticity. The documents were provided to CBS News by a former commander in the Texas Air Guard [sic], Bill Burkett. He did not come to us, we went to him and asked him for the documents. Burkett is well known in National Guard circles for a long battle over his medical benefits, and for trying, for several years now, to discredit President Bush's military service record.
Burkett initially told CBS News he got the documents from a fellow guardsman. But when we interviewed Burkett this past weekend, he changed his story, and told us he got the documents from a different source, one we cannot verify. Why did Burkett tell CBS News something he now says is not true? We put the question to him.
Why did you mislead us?
BILL BURKETT: Well, I didn't totally mislead you. I did misled you on the one individual. You know, your staff pressured me to a point to reveal that source.
RATHER: Well, we were trying to get the chain of possession.
BURKETT: I understand that.
RATHER: And you said that you had received them from someone.
BURKETT: I understand that.
RATHER: And we did pressure you to say, well, you received them from someone. And that someone was who--
RATHER: And it's true, we pressured you. Because it was a very important point for us.
BURKETT: Yes. And I simply threw out a name. That was basically, uh, it was, I guess, to take a little pressure off for a moment.
RATHER: Have you forged anything?
BURKETT: No, sir.
RATHER: He you faked anything?
BURKETT: No, sir.
RATHER: But you did mislead us.
BURKETT: Yes, I misled.
RATHER: You lied to us.
BURKETT: Yes, I did.
RATHER: Why would I or anyone believe that you wouldn't mislead us about something else?
BURKETT: I could understand that question. I can. That's going to have to be your judgment and anybody else's.
RATHER: Burkett still insists the documents are real, but now says he was in no position to verify them.
BURKETT: I also insisted when I sat down with your staff in the first face-to-face session, before I gave up any documents, I wanted to know what you were going to do with them, and I insisted that they be authenticated.
RATHER: The failure of CBS News to do just that, to properly, fully, scrutinize the documents and their source, led to our airing the documents when we should not have done so. It was a mistake. CBS News deeply regrets it. Also I want to say personally and directly, I'm sorry.
CBS News President Andrew Heyward has ordered an independent investigation to examine the process by which the report was prepared. The results of that investigation will be made public. This was an error made in good faith as we tried to carry on the CBS News tradition of asking tough questions and investigating reports. But it was a mistake.
Now, some reaction to our revelations today. It comes from a spokesman for President Bush, Scott McClellan.
SCOTT McCLELLAN (White House Spokesman): Obviously there are still a number of questions that need to be answered, and we look forward to seeing the results of the investigations that other media organizations have undertaken, and that the CBS says that they are now undertaking. And we appreciate the fact that they have said they deeply regret it, but we still want to see those questions answered.
RATHER: And Scott McClellan repeated the the White House insistence that President Bush fulfilled his obligation to the National Guard and he noted again the president was honorably discharged.
Top Ten Things Dan Rather Would Never Say On The CBS EVENING NEWS
10. I'm Dan Rather, your love anchor
9. Connie, mind if I borrow your mascara?
8. Wanna buy a fake Rolex?
7. And now a report from our White House correspondent, Howie Mandel
6. Maybe Letterman ought to spend some of that big-time TV money on better wigs
5. That's the news, I'm Oprah Winfrey
4. Hey, let's bomb Alaska!
3. Honey, I'll be home soon--have the tequila ready
2. Good evening. I'm Dan Rather and I'm not wearing pants
1. I made that last story up
From an interview with Dan Rather, published by Broadcasting & Cable on Aug. 30:
Is the media doing a good job covering the 2004 election? Or is there too much attention on the Swift Boat flap?
I would like us to concentrate more on issues and less on campaign process. But there is always a tendency to go with what's sensational. Also, we're human, and humans keep making the same mistakes. In the end, what difference does it make what one candidate or the other did or didn't do during the Vietnam War? In some ways, that war is as distant as the Napoleonic campaigns. What's far more import is this: Do they have an exit strategy for Iraq? If so, what is it? How will they address the national deficit? And what are the chances their plans will work?
Burkett, a retired National Guard lieutenant colonel, also admits that he deliberately misled the CBS News producer working on the report, giving her a false account of the documents' origins to protect a promise of confidentiality to the actual source.
Burkett originally said he obtained the documents from another former Guardsman. Now he says he got them from a different source whose connection to the documents and identity CBS News has been unable to verify to this point. Burkett's interview will be featured in a full report on tonight's CBS Evening News with Dan Rather (6:30-7:00 p.m., ET/PT).
Andrew Heyward Internal E-Mail to CBS News Employees
Mon Sep 20 2004 13:25:11 ET
Dear CBS News Colleagues,
Many of you have expressed understandable concern about the disputed documents used in the 60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY report on President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard.
Obviously, 60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY had full confidence in the original report or it would not have aired. However, in the wake of serious and disturbing questions that came up after the broadcast, CBS News has done extensive additional reporting in an effort to confirm the documentsÕ authenticity. That included interviews with Marian Carr Knox, secretary to the late Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, the officer named as the author of the documents; an interview with Bill Burkett, the former Guard officer who provided the memos to 60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY; and a further review of the forensic evidence on both sides of the debate.
Based on what we now know, CBS News cannot prove that the documents are authentic, which is the only acceptable journalistic standard to justify using them in the report. We should not have used them. That was a mistake, which we deeply regret.
CBS News and CBS management are commissioning an independent review of the process by which the report was prepared and broadcast to help determine what actions need to be taken. The names of the people conducting the review will be announced shortly, and their findings will be made public.
Nothing is more important to us than our credibility and keeping faith with the millions of people who count on us for fair, accurate, reliable, and independent reporting. I know all of you work tirelessly to be worthy of that trust. I hope today's public statements about the documents are an important first step in restoring YOUR confidence in the standards and systems we have in place to ensure that we live up to our obligations to our viewers, listeners, and readers -- and to one another.
In a statement, CBS said former Texas Guard official Bill Burkett “has acknowledged that he provided the now-disputed documents” and “admits that he deliberately misled the CBS News producer working on the report, giving her a false account of the documents’ origins to protect a promise of confidentiality to the actual source.”
The network did not say the memoranda — purportedly written by one of Mr. Bush’s National Guard commanders — were forgeries. But the network did say it could not authenticate the documents and that it should not have reported them.
“Based on what we now know, CBS News cannot prove that the documents are authentic, which is the only acceptable journalistic standard to justify using them in the report,” said the statement by CBS News President Andrew Heyward. “We should not have used them. That was a mistake, which we deeply regret.
”Nothing is more important to us than our credibility and keeping faith with the millions of people who count on us for fair, accurate, reliable, and independent reporting,“ Heyward continued. ”We will continue to work tirelessly to be worthy of that trust."
EXCLUSIVE // Mon Sep 20 2004 11:58:02 ET
STATEMENT FROM DAN RATHER:
Last week, amid increasing questions about the authenticity of documents used in support of a 60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY story about President Bush's time in the Texas Air National Guard, CBS News vowed to re-examine the documents in question—and their source—vigorously. And we promised that we would let the American public know what this examination turned up, whatever the outcome.
Now, after extensive additional interviews, I no longer have the confidence in these documents that would allow us to continue vouching for them journalistically. I find we have been misled on the key question of how our source for the documents came into possession of these papers. That, combined with some of the questions that have been raised in public and in the press, leads me to a point where—if I knew then what I know now—I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question.
But we did use the documents. We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry. It was an error that was made, however, in good faith and in the spirit of trying to carry on a CBS News tradition of investigative reporting without fear or favoritism.
Please know that nothing is more important to us than people's trust in our ability and our commitment to report fairly and truthfully.
Insufficient: thy name is Dan.
CBS News planned Monday to issue a statement about documents purporting to show President Bush neglected some duties when he was in the National Guard more than 30 years ago. . . . CBS sources confirm that the network plans to issue a statement but would not comment on its content. Additional reporting on the documents dispute will air on Monday's CBS Evening News.
1. Resignations would be nice.
2. An apology to the first lady, for claiming she had no evidence the documents were forged. An apology to President Bush.
3. An apology to Killian's widow. An apology to Killian's son.
4. An apology to the two doubtful document experts who were ignored.
5. An apology to Marcel Matley and James Pierce, whose views were apparently misrepresented.
6. An apology to Hughes, who was asked to verify a fake document over the phone.
7. An apology to every skeptic, who Dan Rather initially called "partisan political operatives."
8. An apology to every computer and typewriter expert who Dan Rather pretended didn’t exist.
9. A separate apology for insulting the intelligence of those who use Microsoft Word, or who ever used a typewriter.
10. An apology to CBS viewers, who apparently Rather thought he could treat like Montel Williams.
11. An apology to Mrs. Knox, who was not interviewed before the initial story.
12. An apology to Retired Col. Walter Staudt, who was accused of pressuring others in the Texas Air National Guard to help George W. Bush in the memo.
And this is off the top of my head.
RatherBiased.com is hoping—but not expecting—that CBS will apologize today for the following:
1. Failing to use the best document experts it could find,
2. Hiring a signature expert to look at a copied document when he himself said earlier that doing such a thing was foolish,
3. Ignoring and lying about the testimony of those it did hire,
4. Failing to interview Marian Knox as well as the others listed above,
5. Not interviewing anyone directly connected with Lt. Col Killian,
6. Not informing viewers that Staudt had retired a year-and-a-half before the time he was supposedly trying to help "sugarcoat" Bush's record,
7. Failing to inform viewers that not a single verified document signed by Killian or his fellow officers during the time period used the typographical techniques used in the CBS Memos,
8. Not mentioning Ben Barnes's partisan background enough,
9. Not disclosing the 30-year friendship of the two Texas Democrats Barnes and Rather,
10. Failing to even know who producer Mary Mapes's document source was before the broadcast,
11. Dishonestly impugning the motives of critics,
12. Using its news broadcasts to defend a bad report instead of examining how it could be wrong,
13. Never once featuring a single document expert on the air who doubted CBS's claims,
14. Putting total non-experts on the air to spin the preferred "authentic" line even though CBS would not allow them to see its documents,
15. Not mentioning that Killian never kept notes and hated to type,
16. Failing to provide the public with copies of the documents as close as possible to the ones CBS obtained,
17. Not finding out if the office in which Killian worked even had a typewriter capable of duplicating most of the complex formatting used in the CBS documents (it did not),
18. Using the testimony of a vehemently anti-Bush author to prove its case and simply referring to him as an author who "wrote two books on the subject,"
19. Failing to inform viewers that its document source was someone who hated George Bush,
20. Not telling viewers that one of its key (if not the key) sources was a man known to be mentally unstable and one who has lodged false accusations against Bush for years.
Something tells me the real apology--if indeed it happens today--is going to be a lot more vague and diversionary and even accusatory than these!
After days of expressing confidence about the documents used in a "60 Minutes'' report that raised new questions about President Bush's National Guard service, CBS News officials have grave doubts about the authenticity of the material, network officials said last night.
The officials, who asked not to be identified, said CBS News would most likely make an announcement as early as today that it had been deceived about the documents' origins. CBS News has already begun intensive reporting on where they came from, and people at the network said it was now possible that officials would open an internal inquiry into how it moved forward with the report. Officials say they are now beginning to believe the report was too flawed to have gone on the air.
But they cautioned that CBS News could still pull back from an announcement. Officials met last night with Dan Rather, the anchor who presented the report, to go over the information it had collected about the documents one last time before making a final decision. Mr. Rather was not available for comment late last night.
...The developments last night marked a dramatic turn for CBS News, which for a week stood steadfastly by its Sept. 8 report as various document experts asserted that the typeface of the memos could have been produced only by a modern-day word processor, not Vietnam War-era typewriters.
The seemingly unflappable confidence of Mr. Rather and top news division officials in the documents allayed fears within the network and created doubt among some in the news media at large that those specialists were correct. CBS News officials had said they had reason to be certain that the documents indeed had come from the personal file of Colonel Killian.
...But officials decided yesterday that they would most likely have to declare that they had been misled about the records' origin after Mr. Rather and a top network executive, Betsy West, met in Texas with a man who was said to have helped the news division obtain the memos, a former Guard officer named Bill Burkett.
Mr. Rather interviewed Mr. Burkett on camera this weekend, and several people close to the reporting process said his answers to Mr. Rather's questions led officials to conclude that their initial confidence that the memos had come from Mr. Killian's own files was not warranted. These people indicated that Mr. Burkett had previously led the producer of the piece, Mary Mapes, to have the utmost confidence in the material.
It was unclear last night if Mr. Burkett had told Mr. Rather that he had been misled about the documents' provenance or that he had been the one who did the misleading.
...In the coming days CBS News officials plan to focus on how the network moved ahead with the report when there were warning signs that the memorandums were not genuine.
...In examining where the network had gone wrong, officials at CBS News [sic = are] turning their attention to Ms. Mapes, one of their most respected producers, who was riding particularly high this year after breaking news about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal for the network.
...Several people familiar with the situation said they were girding for a particularly tough week for Mr. Rather and the news division should the network announce its new doubts.
One person close to the situation said the critical question would be, "Where was everybody's judgment on that last day?''
Sunday, September 19, 2004
The Burkett connection looks stronger and stronger with each passing day. For extensive background on Burkett, go here. But here are a few points of interest.
On August 21 [more below on this date], Burkett wrote an email to a list of Texas Democrats, saying that he had recently spoken with former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland. Burkett gave the Kerry campaign information that would serve as a counterattack to the criticism over Kerry's Vietnam service. According to Burkett's email, the Kerry campaign didn't followup with him about the information. Cleland told the NYT that "It was some kind of stuff, some kind of information he wanted to get to the campaign, or something, regarding Bush's National Guard service."
The WaPo also reports: "The former Texas National Guard officer suspected of providing CBS News with possibly forged records on President Bush's military service called on Democratic activists to wage 'war' against Republican 'dirty tricks' in a series of Internet postings in which he also used phrases similar to several employed in the disputed documents.... In e-mail messages to a Yahoo discussion group for Texas Democrats over the past few months, Burkett laid out a rationale for using what he termed 'down and dirty' tactics against Bush. He said he had passed his ideas to the Democratic National Committee but that the DNC seemed 'afraid to do what I suggest.'"
Note the timeline indicators in a recent WaPo piece: "In mid-August, Mapes [CBS producer] told her bosses that she had finally tracked down a source who claimed to have access to memos written in 1972 and 1973 by the late Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, Bush's squadron commander in the Texas Air National Guard. The memos, she was told, revealed how the young pilot from a famous family had received favorable treatment, even after refusing an order to report for a physical. Rather and his producer me the source at an out-of-the-way location...." Is the mid-August date a coincidence? I suspect not.
The WaPo has also reported that Robert Strong--an ex-Guardsman interviewed by CBS and shown copies of the documents--has indicated that they bore the markings of being faxed from a Kinkos in Abilene, Texas. Burkett lives 21 miles from Abilene. Apparently Burkett has a standing account at that very location.
If you want to see a graphic comparing the forged Killian documents with authentic documents from that time and place, click here. If you are still unconvinced that the forgeries were created on MS Word, you must click here and here. And if you're interested in a graphic displaying the web of connections involved in RatherGate, try this.
A final note for now: Many of us have been quite critical of the MSM (mainstream media). But hats must go off to the fine work of the Washington Post--especially Howard Kurtz and Michael Dobbs. They have pursued this story with objectivity, fairness, and seriousness. Sunday's 4-page story starts on A1. It's well worth the read: In Rush to Air, CBS Quashed Memo Worries. A key quote:
An examination of the process that led to the broadcast, based on interviews with the participants and more than 20 independent analysts, shows that CBS rushed the story onto the air while ignoring the advice of its own outside experts, and used as corroborating witnesses people who had no firsthand knowledge of the documents
Ouch. More to come....
On the way to Grandma's house, Red Riding Hood was accosted by a wolf, who asked her what was in her basket. She replied, "Some healthful snacks for my grandmother, who is certainly capable of taking care of herself as a mature adult."
The wolf said, "You know, my dear, it isn't safe for a little girl to walk through these woods alone."
Red Riding Hood said, "I find your sexist remark offensive in the extreme, but I will ignore it because of your traditional status as an outcast from society, the stress of which has caused you to develop your own, entirely valid, worldview. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must be on my way.
Red Riding Hood walked on along the main path. But, because his status outside society had freed him from slavish adherence to linear, Western-style thought, the wolf knew a quicker route to Grandma's house. He burst into the house and ate Grandma, an entirely valid course of action for a carnivore such as himself. Then, unhampered by rigid, traditionalist notions of what was masculine or feminine, he put on Grandma's nightclothers and crawled into bed.
Red Riding Hood entered the cottage and said, "Grandma, I have brought you some fat-free, sodium-free snacks to salute you in your role of a wise and nurturing matriarch."
From the bed, the wolf said softly, "Come closer, child, so that I might see you."
Red Riding Hood said, "Oh, I forgot you are as optically challenged as a bat. Grandma, what big eyes you have!"
And on it goes. Quite fun!
Friday, September 17, 2004
Here are some links to a few of my favorite online clips.
First is a fella named John Daker. John is real; this isn't a parody. It's a talent show on public television, hosted by a United Methodist Church, circa 1980's. Enjoy. It repays multiple viewings.
Second is a commercial for Ford SportKa. If you love cats, don't watch it. If you hate cats: enjoy!
Third is of a slightly different genre. I think this is a fun one to watch. But in order to "get it," you have to watch and listen closely.
And please, no hate mail over these!
"Rather was confronted about 11 p.m. while walking on Park Avenue. When he tried to walk away, he was punched from behind and knocked to the ground. The attacker then chased Rather into a building and kicked him several times in the back. [...]
|Dan Rather singing backup with R.E.M. on the Late Show with David Letterman. Listen to the song's first minute in MP3 (305K) or Next/Sun .au (244K).|
"The mystery may be solved: Dan Rather has identified the man he says beat him up on the street in 1986 while demanding to know 'Kenneth, what is the frequency?' The CBS anchorman said his assailant was William Tager, now in prison for killing an NBC stagehand outside the Today show in 1994. Tager was convinced the media had him under surveillance and were beaming hostile messages to him, and he demanded that Rather tell him the frequency being used, according to a forensic psychiatrist who examined Tager after the NBC shooting. Rather was told by the psychiatrist, Dr. Park Dietz, that Tager was almost certainly his attacker. The anchorman identified Tager from pictures supplied by the New York Daily News. 'There's no doubt in my mind that this is the person,' Rather said."
--January 1997, Associated Press.
The street mugging of Rather was well reported in the national press. The rock band R.E.M. even made a song after the incident, "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" Rather later appeared onstage with R.E.M. on CBS's The Late Show with David Letterman.
It appears that Mr. Rather did indeed check and re-check the authenticity of the papers. The problem is that, when each check and re-check cast doubt, he decided to go ahead anyway. And when he was caught out, mostly by a legion of bloggers who seemed to know more about the subject than he did, Mr. Rather responded like a politician caught in a scandal, attributing partisan motives to his critics while ignoring most of the charges against him.
Since that time, Goldberg has written two books: Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distorts the News, and Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite. (President Bush gave the book on Bias a nice plug by simply doing this.) The interesting thing about Goldberg is that he's not a conservative. He's never voted Republican in his life. But he's honest enough to call a spade a spade. He doesn't think that there's some vast liberal conspiracy in the media. Rather, he thinks that their elitisim has led to isolation and groupthink that is blind to their deep bias. Goldberg argues that they seek conservatism as "right wing," but liberalism as "mainstream"--not by intention per se, but because they can go weeks and months and even years without actually running into anyone friends or peers who hold to a conservative point of view. Most simply, they live in a bubble.
For example, Goldberg wrote in the Journal:
The old argument that the networks and other "media elites" have a liberal bias is so blatantly true that it's hardly worth discussing anymore. No, we don't sit around in dark corners and plan strategies on how we're going to slant the news. We don't have to. It comes naturally to most reporters.
Well, this morning Goldberg is back in the op-ed pages of the Journal with a new piece on RatherGate. It's an interesting read. One interesting line. Goldberg says that Rather's follow-up pieces to the original 60 Minutes piece have been "so one-sided they'd get a junior-high journalism student an 'F' for lack of balance."