Whitewashing the Rathergate
More than four months have passed since Dan Rather appeared on "60 Minutes (Wednesday)" and told the American people he had authenticated documents that revealed problems with President Bush's National Guard Service. The authenticity of the documents was immediately questioned by amature bloggers. CBS and Dan Rather defended their ducuments for days until they were forced to admit that they could not prove their documents were authentic. Later, CBS promised the American people a serious impartial internal investigation.
We now have the results of their Thornburgh & Boccardi investigation. Four months after the fact, and there's very little in it that wasn't already known and no one is saying the documents were fakes, forgeries or fraudulent. Give us all a break! We're not that stupid! This report admits that the content, format and method of producing these documents was either impossible or implausable at the time they were dated. The documents are not supported by official records or testimony from people who were there at the time.
Let me make a humble suggestion to the people who put out this report. If your children, grandchildren or, for that matter, any children challenge you to a game of "Clue", don't play. You will loose!
We are told that the producer of the story, Mary Mapes has been fired and that three other people have been asked to resign. Before we all get scammed and spun into thinking this resolves the issue, I want to point out that a very important problem has yet to be addressed. Dan Rather, in the middle of a close national election, told a lie to the American people about their President. Forged documents were used to back this lie with the clear purpose of wrongly influencing the votes of millions of Americans. This was a high-tech assassination attempt on the character of the President of the United States. Whether Dan Rather knew this was a lie or not is not as important as the crime itself.
Think about the thousands of Ukrainians who stood in the streets of their capital, in the middle of winter, to stop election fraud. The Rathergate documents may not be a case of fraudulent ballots or dioxin in a candidate's food, but they were an attempt to poison a national election in our country, in the United States of America. This is where the world's first representative democracy began more than two hundred years ago. Regardless of the costs, we all have a responsibility to our Founding Fathers, to all those Americans who came before us, and especially to all those who fought, who died and who now serve in harms way to protect our democracy.
CBS News and Dan Rather have announced that Mr. Rather will leave his CBS Evening News Anchor position in March. No doubt, there will be many who will happy to see Dan go because they resent his use of forged documents against the President of the United States. There are also those, especially in the news establishment, who want to grant Mr. Rather some sort of redemption by highlighting his years of "public service" as a member of this powerful media. They will continue to try and save his legacy. But is his legacy worth not knowing the person or persons who created these documents in order to commit an election fraud?
Edward R. Murrow, a CBS News Icon, died in 1965 and, ever since, CBS has always claimed his legacy of using the highest journalistic standards to broadcast the news to the American people. During the first years of World War II, Mr. Murrow, a CBS Radio News Broadcaster, stood on a rooftop while German bombs fell around him and told the truth about the London Blitz to the American people. At the time, the majority of Americans were strongly against our involvement in the war, but just the same, they listened because Edward R. Murrow pursued the truth at any cost and the American people knew it.
Fifty years ago, when even President Eisenhower would not denounce the powerful Senator Joseph McCarthy for his destructive Gestapo-like communist purges, Edward R. Murrow did. This American broadcaster was personally and professionally fearless. Most historians give him credit for bringing an end to McCarthy and McCarthyism in Congress.
Dan Rather has said he talks to Murrow's ghost in CBS Headquarters late at night. Mr. Murrow pioneered television network journalism. The men who worked with him were referred to as his boys. Some of them are still alive and they will tell you that Murrow chose them for their qualifications as journalists, not how they looked on TV. If Edward R. Murrow had been in the building on September 8th when Rather did his Bush document piece, Murrow would have known more within a couple of hours than the Thornburgh & Boccardi report has revealed. And Dan Rather would not be talking to Mr. Murrow because he would be out on the street with a lot more than just four people.
If CBS News was truly misled by the criminal forgery of government documents, then why have they not demanded, in the strongest terms, a criminal investigation of this forgery and fraud? This was a violation of the public trust. This scandal has cost their network audience share, advertisement revenue, and something that's very hard to get, respect. You would think that CBS would be desperate to prove their hands were clean.
In 1958, at a meeting of the News media, Edward R. Murrow stood at the podium and delivered a stern warning.
"Television, in the main, insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read 'Look now and pay later' for surely we shall pay for using this most powerful instrument of communication to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must indeed be faced if we are to survive."
Many people thought this warning was directed at the television news media and their networks. I think the most prominent and trusted broadcaster of the 20th Century was warning all Americans that "this most powerful instrument of communication" could become a danger to the survival of our nation and our very way of life.
It does not matter whether you voted for President Bush or not. If we do not finally pay attention to Edward R. Murrow's warning to us all, then we shall surely pay a price that this nation cannot afford. By not taking action, we encourage those who perpetuate such deeds against our democracy.