How much money did CBS pay Dick Thornburgh and Louis D. Boccardi - and their associates - for the "independent" Rathergate Report?
Les Moonves' gambit: will CBS' damage-control wet-dream - the Thornburgh/Boccardi "independent" report - do the trick? Will it save CBS from federal criminal prosecution for publishing forged documents as true military records?
The Rathergate Report is available here. The Report's exhibts and appendicies are here. The CBS "reaction" (ha ha - read below) is here. Some good commentary on the report, with links, is available at Instapundit.
Why is the legacy media unable or unwilling to ask this screamingly obvious first question about the Rathergate Report? How much money did CBS pay Dick Thornburgh and Louis D. Boccardi - and their associates - for the Rathergate Report?
Has it actually come to this? Does the legacy media just assume that the blogosphere will ask the tough questions in any anti-legacy-media (or anti-Democrat) story?
For Pete's sake, this is the first question one hears in court - and in most situations where the press is not covering itself - when an organization PAYS MONEY TO SOMEONE to generate a controversial (and potentially exonerating) report about the organization itself.
So - for all the talk about the legacy media now taking honesty and "good reporting" seriously - we will know this is true when this happens: CBS news tells us how much money they paid Thornburgh/Boccardi et al. - or a legacy media reporter at least asks CBS this screamingly obvious question.
Suppose President Bush paid some private panel to generate a report about his possible wrong-doing - and the resulting report exonerated Bush? How long do you think it would take a reporter to ask Bush or his spokesman, "How much money did President Bush pay the members of the panel and their associates"? That would be the FIRST QUESTION. And it would be pursued relentlessly until it was answered. And once Bush admitted the sum paid - this would completely eviscerate the value of the "findings" of the report in the minds of the legacy media and probably the public as well.
There is another reason why this question is important - and this is a point that has not been made very often: the Rathergate Report is actually a damage-control wet-dream for CBS senior management. The Thornburgh/Boccardi Report gives the public the (false) impression that some entity INDEPENDENT of CBS News has opined fairly as to the correct findings in, and the correct solutions to, CBS' Bush Guard story debacle.
This is not the case. CBS has, in effect, issued an internal report about its own wrong-doing which - SURPRISE! - exonerates CBS senior management. The fact that an "independent" panel issued the report is completely and entirely off-set by the fact that such "independent" panel was paid cold hard cash for their report ... by CBS senior management. CBS President Les Monves should be on the hook too for the Bush Guard story debacle too. Moonves' clever "independent report" two-step shows that Monves and Heyward may have screwed-up horribly as managers - but they're awesome at damage control.
The reason this is a damage-control wet-dream for CBS senior management is that it gives them a depressingly good chance of completely avoiding the tough questions that STILL NEED TO BE ASKED by a truly independent source - like a federal prosecutor or a federal grand jury. These hard and troubling questions include:
1. Did CBS News commit a federal crime by publishing, and vouching for, forged documents as true military records? This conduct would, in fact, be a crime. And it is pretty clear that CBS PROBABLY DID COMMIT THIS CRIME - since their own document examiners who opined on the authenticity of the documents said that the documents were not authentic (or couldn't reliably be said to be authentic) - and they said this BEFORE the report aired.
Where's the follow-up? Answer: so far there hasn't been any follow-up because of the alleged "independence" of the Thornburgh/Boccardi Report.
When will a federal prosecutor or a federal grand jury at least ask the question whether CBS committed a crime? I think it's at least probable from the facts in the Report itself that CBS did commited this federal crime.
2. Did CBS slander and libel President Bush (due to malicious intent) and the other people in the story, such as General Hodges - and a defenseless dead man, Colonel Killian himself? The Thornburgh/Boccardi Report tries to direct us away from these questions. These are very fair questions.
3. Did CBS and the Democrat Party coordinate the roll-out of this "story" about Bush's Guard service? The Report itself give strong evidence of this. When will the FEC or other federal agency begin investigating the very serious possibility that CBS News and the Democratic Party coordinated with one other - in violation of federal law - to generate a false story about a sitting President at the height of a political campaign?
Other thoughts on the Rathergate Report
Thought Number One.
Throughout their report, and especially leading up to page 208 of the Report, Thornburgh and Boccardi go to great pains to shoot down Dan Rather's "fake but accurate" defense. Thornburgh and Boccardi rightly opine that, if the documents are forged (or if their authenticity cannot be determined, as they would say it) then any content in the documents is utterly irrelevant.
Indeed, this is the only rational position that one could take. If I go draft a forged document, "signed" by Dan Rather, in which Dan extols the virtues of space unicorns, the fact that my "signed" document is a forgery would totally obviate any need for anyone to still question what Dan really does like space unicorns. Even though such forged document's "content" about Dan and space unicorns might be "right on the money" - to use Dan's consistent language about the forged Guard documents from the Report.
This simple proposition - that forged documents cannot prove anything - still, stunningly, seems beyond Dan's comprehension.
Thornburgh and Boccardi actually seem somewhat amazed themselves, in their own report, that Dan Rather apparently - TO THIS DAY - still does not comprehend this most basic of points. And, of course, if Dan doesn't get this, how on Earth can he be reliable as a reporter?
Indeed, one must ask, doesn't Dan Rather's failure to get this most basic of points - that forged documents are not good proof for anything - show that Dan DOES have an extreme liberal bias, or that he's completely insane, or both? I mean that seriously. How can Dan still not concede this simple point?
See Thornburgh/Boccardi's careful summary - at page 208 of the Report and leading up to page 208 - of how all the content "confirmation" for the forged documents (which Rather and Mapes STILL tout) evaporates under scrutiny. Thornburgh and Boccardi actually seem to be going out of their way to help Rather and Mapes "get it" - i.e., that forged documents cannot be good proof for anything.
Yet, amazingly, Rather and Mapes still insist that they - and the viewing public - can rely on the "content" of forged documents. Stunning.
Thought Number Two.
After reading the report, it becomses pretty clear what actually happened. So it's unclear, if the legacy media can air the Bush Guard story with so little proof, why someone can't opine on what really did happened here - now that there's so much proof of it.
What happened - as the Report clearly appears to support - is that Bill Burkett forged the infamous Bush Guard "documents" himself. Burkett simply made a copy of Killian's signatue from an existing document - cut if off of his copy - and pasted onto the bogus documents prepared by Burkett. (This is why the "authentication" of the "documents" by CBS's "expert," Matley - by comparing "signatures" - was always so absurd).
Burkett then tried to peddle the forgeries to several news organizations. Mary Mapes of CBS News was the only reporter so blinded by Bush hatred that she actually took this bait. Apparently Burkett sought to kill two birds with one stone. He was a serial Bush-hater and he needed money. So Burkett tried to get CBS to actually pay him for his forged anti-Bush "records." You do have to give Burkett an A+ for creativity and chutzpah.
The above suppositions are bolstered by several Report-supported facts: (1) the Bush Guard "documents" used Texas Army National Guard lingo (like "billet"), and not Texas Air National Guard lingo - in which service Bush served; Bill Burkett had served in the Texas Army National Guard; (2) no one has to this day established that the documents came from anyone other than Bill Burkett; and (3) Bill Burkett lied at least three times (about Conn, and "Lucy Ramirez," and about an anonymous mailing) about the source of the "documents" according to the Report.
Indeed, CBS's mid-level producer (Howard) became convinced, apparently pretty early on, that CBS had been the victim of a "hoax" by Burkett.
Why can no legacy media report actually say that the above evidence strongly supports the above conclusion? For all the thousands of words written about this story I have yet to see a legacy media reporter at lease opine that maybe the whole Bush Guard "story" (including the "documents") was created out of whole cloth by Burkett. Why? This IS pretty clearly what, in fact, happened.
Unfortunately, it appears that the legacy media will never, ever, be trustworthy when it comes to reporting wrong-doing by ... the legacy media.
So - viva the blogosphere. What did we do before it existed? I guess - I know - that we swallowed a lot of legacy media falsehoods - and usually we didn't even know it.
Again - viva the blogosphere.
Thought Number Three.
You want to know the punchline on the whole Thornburgh/Boccardi "independent" report?
It was published in Times New Roman.
As Glenn would say - heh.
Thought Number Four.
CBS - to this day - has not retracted the September 8 Bush Guard story "reported" by Dan Rather on "60 Minutes Wednesday."
Why hasn't CBS formally run a retraction?
There was an off-the-cuff comment run in the Washington Post recently, in which Les Moonves told Dana Milbank that the report "has been retracted."
This is a dodge.
An actual retraction goes something like: here's where we were wrong ... and here's what the truth is. And it's in black and white in a press release - or it's done on the airwaves.
CBS has not done this.
Why? Probably because they would open themselves up to federal criminal prosecution - and claims of libel and slander - as discussed above.
CBS is trying to weasel out of a retraction - and the legacy media is letting them get away with it.
See, also, the excellent Rathergate commentary at Captain's Quarters.
Note: This is cross-posted at nikita demosthenes.