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January 10, 2005

Comments

Sad, really.

After all, George W. Bush was AWOL from his National Guard service, and then steadily lied about it for years. (The twist, that his campaign funded the SBVfLs to slander a Vietnam veteran of proven good service, just added some extra irony to the story that barely needed it.)

Personally, I don't particularly admire Bush's actions during the Vietnam war, but there's a right way and a wrong way to discuss them, and fake documents are part of the indisputably wrong way.

If I were CBS, I'd keep investigating the story and then run it the way it should have been reported.

This is how a responsible news organization conducts itself.

Ed, in fairness, wouldn't a "responsible news organization" have followed basic principles of journalism prior to airing a contested and potentially damaging story during a Presidential campaign? I mean, kudos and all to CBS for accepting responsibility for their error, but let's not minimize the fact that it was an error -- and one of enormous magnitude.

Unfortunately this will be used to discredit CBS when, in fact, the incident shws that they are willing to pay the cost of maintianing standards. This wil never happen at Fox (if it did they would have no staff left at all) which is why Fox is not a reliable or responsible news organization.

Can't totally agree with the conclusion (although I agree with the parts), von.

I don't expect any new organization to be perfect. They're made up of people. And in this case, there's good reason to believe they did some of the homework they should have on the documents, just not enough.

I don't judge folks by the mistakes they make, but rather how the make up for them.

The panel said a "myopic zeal" to be the first news organization to broadcast a groundbreaking story about Mr. Bush’s National Guard service was a key factor in explaining why CBS News had produced a story that was neither fair nor accurate and did not meet the organization’s internal standards.

NEITHER FAIR NOR ACCURATE!

The report said at least four factors that some observers described as a journalistic “Perfect Storm” had contributed to the decision to broadcast a piece that was seriously flawed.

"The combination of a new 60 Minutes Wednesday management team, great deference given to a highly respected producer and the network’s news anchor, competitive pressures, and a zealous belief in the truth of the segment seem to have led many to disregard some fundamental journalistic principles," the report said.

So the preocess can be circumvented by producers and anchors who act with "myopic zeal" and "zealous belief" and in answer to "competitive pressures," and THAT's how a "responsible news organization acts?"

Howell Raines is on your other line. A responsible news organization wouldn't have allowed ANY of the FOUR problems. You think the definition of a responsible news organization is one that takes two months to respond to basic failures in their vaunted systems?

What you are seeing here is a desperate attempt to placate irate network affiliates and reverse declining ratings. This ain't journalism, this is cold blooded economics prevailing. This is a declaration of surrender and a request for gentle treatment.

I dunno, Edward: I think I'm midway between you and von on this one. On the one hand, yes, people make mistakes, and I don't expect them to be perfect. And you learn a lot by how they deal with the mistakes they inevitably make. On the other, there are some mistakes that, just because you made them, call your competence and/or your commitment to doing things right into question. On this particular story, I would have thought that good journalism required being sure to get it right.

Unfortunately this will be used to discredit CBS when

In my book, this is rather more to their credit than the other way.

hilzoy,

I totally agree with "there are some mistakes that, just because you made them, call your competence and/or your commitment to doing things right into question."

What I mean by "This is how a responsible news organization conducts itself." is that once it was clear the segment was incompetently/unprofessionally assembled, the organization had two choices: to protect its own or to attempt to restore some of its integrity and weed out those responsible.

It did the latter.

I guess I assume that the team that assembled the NG story is not indicative of the overall quality and committment to professionalism at CBS. That may be a bad assumption, granted. But there's a lot of talented people working for them, and the alternative to my assumption is to assume the whole organization needs cleaned out. That strikes me as overkill. Von's suggesting this mistake taints the entire organization. I'm disagreeing with that (mostly because I'm not sure what the implications of that are...that it close down?). I think it reflects on the team that assembled the story and the rest of the organization is judged by how they handle it.

It's a matter of accountability in the end. When folks screw up this badly, someone should tell them they have to go.

Greatest irony in all this (and yes, I know I should leave it out, but I just can't help myself) is that the target of this investigation doesn't seem to understand accountability. He truly is one of the luckiest people on the planet.

"Unfortunately this will be used to discredit CBS..."

In my view this is the first small step to rehabilitating their already very tattered reputation.

I'm feeling some sympathy with Suburban Geurilla's post on it, actually.

Edward: Greatest irony in all this (and yes, I know I should leave it out, but I just can't help myself) is that the target of this investigation doesn't seem to understand accountability. He truly is one of the luckiest people on the planet.

That's what I mean by "it's rather sad". After all, Bush was AWOL from the National Guard: the core of the story was true.

Comparing the reaction of the blogosphere and the rest of the US media to these memos, versus their reaction to the lies that were told by the infamous "Swift Boat Veterans For Truth" (which were reported for weeks as if they were serious news, rather than a slanderous campaign funded by the Bush/Cheney team with no vestige of truth involved) makes for only one conclusion:

Tell the truth about George W. Bush, and you become subject to a massive attack campaign.

Telling lies about any Presidential candidate opposing George W. Bush, however, is just fine.

1) Screw ups are inevitable.

2) Screw ups this bad probably aren't. On the other hand they're not exactly rare, either.

3) News organizations and reporters that screw up less often and less badly are more credible than news organizations that screw up more often and more badly.

4) The quicker and more complete the effort to correct the screw up, the more it does to restore credibility. CBS' response was slow, grudging and incomplete at first. But now they have responded very, very thoroughly. (Note: I do think it is appropriate to do a full and thorough review before anyone loses their job.)

5) Journalists and organizations should not be judged solely on how often they make factual errors, how badly they err, or how quickly they correct their errors. They should also be judged on whether they are covering important stories, how well they are covering them, and how many important stories they break.

You know how doctors feel about how malpractice law suits lead to the practice of "defensive medicine"? What concerns me about the constant attacks on the "liberal media" is that they are leading to the practice of "defensive journalism."

It's safer to write a he-said she-said story than to try to evaluate the truth of those statements. It's safer to write a horse race story than an issues-based story. It's safer to abandon political coverage altogether in favor of the celebrity trial of the moment. It's safer to have pundits scream at each other than do investigative reporting. It's safer to be a pundit or a talk show host or an opinion writer than a reporter--if people criticize you for errors or bias you can just say "I don't claim to be objective" or "this is commentary, not a news show."

And most critics of the "MSM" and "liberal media" do not hold themselves to anywhere close to the same standards as the "MSM" and "liberal media." for example...

I recognize that this is their day job, they get paid and we don't, etc. etc. But I do wish more bloggers (to say nothing of right-of-center newspapers, TV networks and radio who don't even have our "I don't get paid and have another full time job" excuse) would at least try to "be the change they wish to see in the media." The signal-to-noise ratio is high enough as it is.

Having now read some of the sections of report, I have to agree with Andrew Sullivan that it seems very good at looking at symptoms and not very good at dealing with causes.

It did not go through the normal vetting process. Why? If it was personally shepherded by Dan Rather, why is that not evidence pointing toward political bias? What non-biased excuse does Rather offer?

When Mapes called Lockhart, why does that create the appearance of political bias as opposed to that being evidence for political bias?

It was important to get this story (which they had been working on for four years) out within that one week. Why?

Who was the "unimpeachable source" mentioned in the initial defense. Was that just Rather shooting off? If so, why would he do that? What was so important about this particular story that he had to defend it with "unimpeachable sourcing".

If Burkett was the source, who would think he was unimpeacheable? If Burkett was the source, wouldn't good reporting dictate that we hear about his large numbers of flaws as a source (even before we get to the forged documents).

Why did Mapes and Rather overrule some of the document experts when doubts were expressed about the authenticity of the documents. Did they have some sort of axe to grind?

Basically, what was so darn special about this story? If we are to believe both that this is not CBS News general operating procedure and that political bias was not a decisive factor, what was so different about this story?

This is how a responsible news organization conducts itself.

No, a responsible news organization never makes mistakes in the first place. You know, like Fox News.

(end snark)

Basically, what was so darn special about this story?

The media thrives on controversy and sensationalism. This story offered both.

At a time when the rightwing was accusing John Kerry of not earning his medals and/or war crimes and/or treason--a story about Bush's abbreviated service would be a natural.

Especially given Bush's tendency to dress up in flight suits and portray himself as a 'war president.'

And let's face it, there's a lot of smoke there: the missed physical, the missing year of reserve duty, Bush's changing stories of his NG service.

"The media thrives on controversy and sensationalism. This story offered both."

Sure, but a media expose on Kerry would do the same right? Did CBS spend 4 months investigating the Cambodia claims? I think not, and in fact we never got Kerry's 'official' version of that story much less a verification of that story.

Furthermore in any given month there are at least three or four stories that offer both controversy and sensationalism. Am I to believe that CBS News' controls are equally lax for all of those stories?

Sebastian: Did CBS spend 4 months investigating the Cambodia claims? I think not, and in fact we never got Kerry's 'official' version of that story much less a verification of that story.

Oh, good Lord. Remind me again: why did it matter so much to so many right-wing bloggers if Kerry was in Cambodia on Christmas Day or a month or so later? When it mattered to them so little that Bush went AWOL and lied about it extensively, even claiming to have flown with the TANG "for years" when the truth was he was with them just 23 months?

Sure, but a media expose on Kerry would do the same right? Did CBS spend 4 months investigating the Cambodia claims? I think not, and in fact we never got Kerry's 'official' version of that story much less a verification of that story.

Are you kidding? The SwiftBoat stories were given tremendous amounts of airtime despite the fact they'd been repeatedly debunked. Even the Pentagon undertook an investigation which concluded Kerry earned his medals.

As for Cambodia, there is no doubt Kerry was in Cambodia. The only question is whether he was there over Xmas or two weeks later. Is that seriously on a par with someone going AWOL from reserve duty to escape Vietnam service?

Bush's NG service, OTOH, received relatively little scrutiny.

Tangentially related to this post, but what the hell.

Liberals spend a lot of time navel gazing at what's going wrong for our party. We b*tch plenty about the Republicans, but most of us tend to recognize that they are not directly within the control of the Democratic party. So we tend to get into debates about whether it's the party leadership's fault or the press's fault. We tend to argue as if the press' failings mitigate the campaign's or the party's, and the campaign's failings mitigate the media's.

More and more, though, this is what I think: the press does a terrible job. And the Republicans, and especially the Bush administration, exploit the flaws in the way the press does things masterfully, while our media and message strategy simply fails to those flaws into account at all.

Of all the dumb mistakes we make, this might be the dumbest.

hmmm...interesting.

are you suggesting the left attack the media as well, Katherine?

I didn't mention the medal controversy. I may have missed it, but last I had heard the best we had on Cambodia was verification that it was possible for people in Kerry's position to have gone to Cambodia--not that he had actually gone coupled with a complete unwillingness on Kerry's part to clarify details of the story. But that topic is seriously likely to threadjack. :)

So. Am I to believe that CBS News throws out all journalistic principles every time there is a sensational story available? Or was there something special going on here?

So. Am I to believe that CBS News throws out all journalistic principles every time there is a sensational story available? Or was there something special going on here?

I'm not convinced CBS threw out 'all journalistic principles' as you claim. If you read the report, it's apparent CBS did attempt a lot of verification via interviews. Unfortunately, they also took shortcuts they should not have. Which is a shame since their story is fundamentally true..

But you keep pretending this is not a story that should have been pursued. I wonder why.

No. Not really.

First of all, I find the Bush administration and the Congressional Republicans deeply and systematically dishonest & I don't want to be the same.

Second of all, I think:
a) most of the conservatively biased parts of the media cannot be shamed or pressured into covering liberals fairly.
b) a smaller part of conservative bias in the media is from TV news shows jealous of Fox's ratings. They care only about ratings and revenue, so they also cannot be shamed into covering liberals fairly. It may be possible to persuade them that their ratings or revenues will suffer by tilting further right and declining in quality or will improve by tilting leftwards or improving in quality. But I'm skeptical of our ability to convince them of what should be obvious by now. (MSNBC's strategy, in particular, is inexplicable to me even as a business matter.) And complaining about their shows won't do it, as that is thought to show you have "gotten people talking" and that is thought to be a good thing.
c) a large part of the media is not conservatively biased, but has been intimidated or fallen into bad habits that help conservatives and harm liberals. As this part of the press tends to care most about journalism ethics, or at least feel like they should care, there is some use in explaining what's wrong with their coverage.

But even that is not mainly what I'm talking about. I don't mean criticizing the media, as much as figuring out how the media behaves and how to design our own strategy & message in light of that behavior.

BTW, isn't it interesting Sebastian is so concerned about CBS and its reputation but hasn't said a word about the WH using taxpayer monies to buy journalists?

Jadegold, that's not a fair statement. Sebastian is discussing the topic of the thread. No one here is obligated to discuss tangential issues just because they have a view point that differs from others. We'd never stay on topic if that were the case.

AFA the report is concerned (which I only skimmed), I think the following points emerge which were long obvious: (i)the timing of the 60 Minutes episode was entirely political, which can only mean it was intended to influence the election (and everyone that said so here, on Tacitus, &c. was right), and (ii) the people preparing the 60 Minutes session were totally convinced and biased in favor of their "Bush = bad" story before their "reporting" even began. Canning Mapes was the least they could do.

Jesurgislac -- the Christmas in Cambodia story was a lie Kerry told to embellish his record when he was running for President. What more do you need? What does Bush have to do with it? He didn't tell the fib.

Jadegold: It's also interesting that Sebastian is repetitively concerned about whether or not Kerry was in Cambodia (though he has no real reason to suppose that Kerry wasn't) but has no concern about Bush going AWOL from TANG. There is a distinct double standard going on here, isn't there?

Opps -- forgot one thing:

"Bush Documents Fake But Accurate" -- NYT

Har.

TommyL: the Christmas in Cambodia story was a lie Kerry told to embellish his record when he was running for President.

Or it was a perfectly true story: as Sebastian himself noted, there's no reason to think otherwise, Unless you start out with a bias that Kerry must have lied.

So, tell me, why aren't you concerned about the lies Bush told, distorting his NG record completely, when he was running for governor and then for President?

For instance:

1) the press tends to treat Republicans' and Democrats' positions as equally likely to be correct, equally supported by the facts, and equally moderate or extreme.

(Actually, Republicans' position's will be treated as slightly less extreme as they control all three branches of government, so a) it appears the voters agree with them more, and b) there's a certain amount of sucking up to people in power for access, and they have all the power.)

But the point is: the press acts as if the center is exactly between the Democrats' and Republicans' arguments, regardless of how truthful they are or how moderate they are.

This means that if you move the whole party right to get to "the center," the center will move right too.

Jadegold, that's not a fair statement. Sebastian is discussing the topic of the thread.

Edward, where were you when Sebastain brought up Kerry and Cambodia? Oooops...forgot. Special posting rules.

AFA the report is concerned (which I only skimmed), I think the following points emerge which were long obvious: (i)the timing of the 60 Minutes episode was entirely political,

Suggest you reread the report which specifically states they found no evidence the 60Minutes report was politically-motivated.

Jesurgislac -- How do you know my position on Bush's TANG service when I've never stated it? All I've said is that Kerry's lie about being in Cambodia on Christmas was relevant to his fitness for office, which seems so obvious that I'm surprised some people are still arguing about it. If you want to use that to segue into an attack on Bush, fine. It doesn't change the fact that Kerry lied to make a political point, hardly an admirable trait in a politician. And I fervently hope is was a factor, however small, in his loss.

I don't mean criticizing the media, as much as figuring out how the media behaves and how to design our own strategy & message in light of that behavior.

Suspect everything?

the Christmas in Cambodia story was a lie Kerry told to embellish his record when he was running for President.

Cite?

I mean, if you're gonna state bluntly that the Senator lied to embellish his record, hadn't you back it up? Isn't that the standard here? Finding solid evidence before lobbing accusations. Why is that folks insist that one can't say "Bush lied" about the danger posed by Iraq's arsenal, but saying "Kerry lied" about Cambodia is permitted? Why is the standard so much higher for criticizing Bush than his opponents?

Am I going to have to kick open another open thread? Good grief.

CBS news presented a forged memo as truth. The topic here is their actions in (purported) remedy of that little fiasco.

Now, one might suppose that the memo in question was NOT forged, and that CBS was acting irresponsibly in terminating anyone. But one would have to ignore a great deal of evidence to take that position.

But still, to avoid even further wanderings far afield: assuming that CBS actually did present forged documents as being legitimate, was their action insufficient, sufficient, or above and beyond?

Edward, the fact that Kerry wasn't in Cambodia on Christmas has been beaten to death -- do you still really believe Kerry? I'll get the cites for you if you do.

When have I ever said that you can't argue that "Bush lied about the danger posed by Iraq's arsenal"? That's another story that's been beaten to death and niether side is going to convince the other. But if you like repeating it that's OK with me.

TommyL: All I've said is that Kerry's lie about being in Cambodia on Christmas was relevant to his fitness for office, which seems so obvious that I'm surprised some people are still arguing about it.

Except that you are leaping to the conclusion that Kerry lied about being in Cambodia that winter. Why do you insist it must have been a lie, when you don't know that it was?

And surely if lies about your term of service thirty years ago are relevant to fitness for office, Bush was unfitted for public office to a much greater degree than Kerry - since he unquestionably lied about his service in TANG, consistently, persistently, and with definite self-aggrandising intent. Yet you don't appear to care about Bush's lies. Why is that?

And I fervently hope is was a factor, however small, in his loss.

But you don't care that Bush's lies were apparently not enough of a factor for him to lose?

Sorry - Tomsyl, not TommyL. Forgive me. No offense intended, just a failure to read the small print.

"But you keep pretending this is not a story that should have been pursued. I wonder why."

No, it could be persued all CBS wanted. It shouldn't have been aired with forged documents, especially when at least half the document experts they asked expressed serious misgivings about them. It shouldn't have been aired when the source was known to have an axe to grind, and could offer no good explanation for how he came up with documents that he surely would have used earlier if he had access to them. When the forgery was detected, Dan Rather shouldn't have gone on the air and defended it as coming from an unimpeacheable source. The fact that all CBS took these actions suggests that either CBS has very low journalistic standards for stories or that it had some reason for circumventing its standards. I suspect it circumvented its standards due to political bias. Maybe I'm being too generous. Perhaps it reflects really bad journalistic standards. Perhaps they were circumvented for reasons other than political bias. But I don't think the sensationalism excuse cuts it. There are lots of sensational stories. If we can't trust CBS News on sensational stories that is fine, but then CBS News should not be considered a reliable news source. If there is another explanation, fine. But I haven't seen it and this report does not offer it.

CBS news presented a forged memo as truth.

The investigation's report is on the CBS website; I'd suggest reading it before claiming 'a forged memo' because the investigation doesn't claim that.

Edward, where were you when Sebastain brought up Kerry and Cambodia? Oooops...forgot. Special posting rules.

Yeah...and so? ;p

Let's go back to what I wrote about and make this really clear. You wrote:

BTW, isn't it interesting Sebastian is so concerned about CBS and its reputation but hasn't said a word about the WH using taxpayer monies to buy journalists?

This is not the same as mentioning Cambodia. You didn't introduce the Armstrong Williams issue within the context of the thread (which I would have applauded, as it does provide some interesting depth to the discussion); you introduced it up as a criticism of Sebastian for not introducing it, as if to imply he shouldn't criticize CBS until he's exhausted all the criticism he could lob at his own side. There's no end to that game.

tomsyl,

the point of both those arguments is to avoid mindreading.

There are many reasons short of lying to embellish his record that Kerry may have mistated the incident. You're insisting that was the reason. Whether you prove he was in Cambodia or not, you're still nowhere near proving why he said he was.

Jade,

"Especially given Bush's tendency to dress up in flight suits and portray himself as a 'war president.'

I guess the fact that we had a war in Afghanistation and Iraq means nothing to you.

I'm just wondering what you think it says about you when you make that comment even though Bush is the President during 2 wars. BTW< was Clinton trying to portray himself as a war President when he wore his flight jacket?

To the posting rules god:

Isn't there some kind of rule against blatant inaccuracy and calling people to task on it. Isn't doing that the job of both those on the left and the right who administer this site. I mean really... who in their right mind can say that Bush is not actually a war president and as being such it would be virtually impossible not to appear as one... whether appearing to the troops, visiting Iraq, wearing a flight suit.

2) the press measures the importance of a story based on how many other people are talking about it, at what volume.

This is the "six year olds playing soccer thing". It is less remarked upon, and I think at least as important as, #1.

Liberal blogs, though we like to think ourselves as media-savvy DO NOT GET THIS. Nor does MoveOn.org. The Swift Boat Veterans do get it. And conservative weblogs do get it, none better than InstaPundit.

For weblogs, links are oxygen.

I'm not suggesting that liberal bloggers or the Democrats start discussing stories or refusing to discuss stories based on how they will hurt or harm our party. That's hackish. I won't do it.

I am suggesting that we talk about what we think is most important, not what the media flap of the moment is. And if we really think something is a non-story, the best response may be to simply ignore it. (Talking about why a story is unimportant and should be ignored does not count as ignoring it, and is probably less useful than either refuting it with factual information or simply ignoring it.) And if we see a story that is not being covered enough by the press, we should cover it ourselves, keep covering it, and keep linking to other weblogs that are covering it.

The investigation's report is on the CBS website; I'd suggest reading it before claiming 'a forged memo' because the investigation doesn't claim that.

Irrelevant; I never represented that the panel said anything of the sort.

Jadegold, honestly can we go through some argumentation 101. I'm not perfect, but it seems like you don't even try sometimes.

Topic of post: CBS finally reacts to the Memo Scandal and issues a report.

Initial discussion: Revolves around what the report means. Issue of bias unsurprisingly comes up.

Further discussion: You suggest that CBS ought to investigate Bush and that the whole problem is one of sensationalism. I suggest that sensationalism can apply to either candidate, but that CBS wasn't interested in using false documents to tar Kerry--indiciative perhaps of bias. I suggest that the Christmas in Cambodia story, which I think we can all agree was not definitively resolved by any major media source, might be a similarly sensational story which CBS News did not throw away many journalistic principles to try to have an hour-long special on their news program.

You then respond with: "BTW, isn't it interesting Sebastian is so concerned about CBS and its reputation but hasn't said a word about the WH using taxpayer monies to buy journalists?"

That of course is not the topic of the thread at all. It is just a silly aside about my inability to simultaneously comment on all possible issues which is completely off topic. It would have been EXACTLY as on topic if you had said "BTW, isn't it interesting that Sebastian is so concerned about CBS and its reputation when he hasn't said a word about the fact that he is balding." Which is why Edward said something.

So, on topic. The report establishes that CBS parties in-house broke their code of journalistic ethics and that they overrode a large number of alleged controls to do so. I suggest that they were able to override these controls because of political bias. You suggest they override them because of sensationalism. In neither case would it appear that CBS is a trustworthy new source. But at least in my case you can trust them when they aren't busy attacking presidents they hate. In your case we shouldn't trust them on anything important.

If you want to argue that, fine. But realize what you are arguing.

Isn't there some kind of rule against blatant inaccuracy and calling people to task on it. Isn't doing that the job of both those on the left and the right who administer this site.

This is an opinion forum, not a fact-checking service. You can defend your opinion with facts if you have them as a way of persuading folks you are right, but no one here is responsible for verifying each assertion made; that's just silly.

But you asked for a ruling here so...

Bush called himself a "war president" but as regards Iraq he chose to start that war (against my advice, I'll add), so the connotation that the phrase "war president" normally implies of a president with saddled reluctantly with graver responsibilities than peace-time presidents is somewhat inappropriate. The way he uses it suggests he would have rather not been a war president (in fact he's come right out and said as much)...but the facts remain that against the concerns of millions of people around the world he CHOSE to go to war anyway...

Therefore, I rule in favor of Jadegold's assessment here: Bush IS working to portray himself as a "war president."

Jadegold: given the pussyfooting areound with conclusions in the report, this is good enough for me but YMMV:

The Panel does note, however, that on such a
politically charged story, coming in the midst of a presidential campaign in which military
service records had become an issue, there was a need for meticulous care to avoid any
suggestion of an agenda at work. The Panel does not believe that the appropriate level of care to
avoid the appearance of political motivation was used in connection with this story.

I suggest that sensationalism can apply to either candidate, but that CBS wasn't interested in using false documents to tar Kerry--indiciative perhaps of bias.

Did CBS broadcast the claims of the Swift Boat Veterans?

Let's face it. We should all be forever grateful that the segment of our news reporting industry supporting President Bush remained calm and unbiased during his first Administration, as well as throughout the presidential campaign. We should all remember that the truth shall set us free. Right?

Edward & Jesurgislac -- you both point out that stating that Kerry intentionally lied is Carnak-ian. Point taken. Rule to be enforced bilaterally.

Rule to be enforced bilaterally.

[Shrek]Like that's ever gonna happen.[/Shrek]

But seriously, it's not a rule, it's an opinion.

Rule to be enforced bilaterally.

Which is simply the status quo, btw.

I'm just wondering what you think it says about you when you make that comment even though Bush is the President during 2 wars. BTW< was Clinton trying to portray himself as a war President when he wore his flight jacket?

In general, the reason I, and probably other people, have trouble taking the "Bush as war president" thing seriously is because he doesn't seem to take it seriously. The President allegedly only wants to hear "good news" about Iraq, and won't listen to anybody bringing bad news, for starters. The manipulation of the Colored terrorist alert system during the election (anybody heard anything after the election? At all?) and the "Mission Accomplished" photo op on the carrier, to give two examples, make it seem like the President has been treating the war just as a political tool. This added to the lack of planning and the deceptions in the runup to the war in Iraq make Bush seem like he takes either war seriously.

There's always been a problem with rehashing 30 year old events. Many (of us) have purposely laid low and tried to remember that judging actions in other generation is wrought with hazards. The Viet Nam era is just about as an emotional period in our history as any. For any involved to have escaped anywhere near unscathed would be unusual. I stopped watching Dan Rather long before this story emerged. Many a good person has overstayed their welcome and ended up ending a successful career on the downside after exercising poor judgment. CBS did what it had to do to right the ship. You would think it was time for some of us to do so also.

The President allegedly only wants to hear "good news" about Iraq

Who's alleging that? Anyone reputable?

That last was not intended as a poke at Nate; my apologies if it was so perceived.

The President allegedly only wants to hear "good news" about Iraq...

The Nelson Report. Which is about as reputable as things get on these matters.

Gah. Quoted the wrong paragraph; should be clear what I was saying.

Here's the excerpt made available by Ben Wikler or maybe Al Franken on Air America (picked up the link, after a bit of a chase, from Atrios). You'll have to pay rather handsomely for the full thing, I'm afraid.

The President allegedly only wants to hear "good news" about Iraq...

The Nelson Report. Which is about as reputable as things get on these matters.

More than that...I just read somewhere (still looking for where) that the President has had the word go out to his staff that no one is to bring him bad news on Iraq, as if to imply he needs to remain optimistic in order to get the job done, which makes sense if you the POTUS in a coming of age movie, I guess.

Never mind...read Anarch.

Who's alleging that? Anyone reputable?

Well, this isn't what I was specifically lloking for, but it's related, the Christian Science Monitor, back during the election, on September 30th (which has links to several other news sites)

The exact thing I was referencing was from a Atrios post, over here.
Which came from Al Franken's show here.
So, since I haven't actually heard Al Franken's show, so I can't say how accurate he tends to be, or how accurate The Nelson report is, personally. But I see others have already gotten to it before me.

And no problem, Slartibartfast, I should have cited it at the time.

Cites are always good. Not that it got us much close to the answer, but it's always nice to know where comments like that come from.

Followed that link to the Nelson Report excerpt.
Someone tell me that's not true? Please?

The Nelson report is, as far as I know, usually quite accurate. (And I have followed it on various stories, e.g. the al Qaqaa weapons depot, to see whether it was.) Whether this particular story is true or not I can't say, since naturally I am not privy to Bush's briefings, but they are in general good.

My experience is the same as hilzoy's; I'd rank the Nelson report as one of the better, if not one of the best, sources out there.

you introduced it up as a criticism of Sebastian for not introducing it, as if to imply he shouldn't criticize CBS until he's exhausted all the criticism he could lob at his own side.

Again, I disagree. Sebastian demanded to know why the Bush/NG was so important and why CBS didn't devote equal time to Kerry/Cambodia.

Doggone special posting rules.

Once again Jadegold:

You suggested that the CBS reporting was not politically biased. You offered sensationalism bias as an alternative explanation. I suggested that there were equally sensational stories floating around about Kerry which were not exploited by CBS. This suggests that CBS is able to exercise journalistic standards with respect to stories about Kerry, but that they may have trouble doing so with Bush--which is to say they exercise political bias. That is all squarely on topic and raised in the logical course of the conversation. I might be wrong. Perhaps there are other reasons for CBS thinking that the Kerry story didn't need investigating while the Bush story needed to be buttressed by fraudulent documents. But I raised evidence which I thought led to (but is not sufficient in itself to prove) the consideration of the concept that political bias may have played an important part in this story. At that point, if you believed that it was important to raise the issue of the administration paying shills for its education policy--a bad thing by the way--you could have mentioned it and linked it to the conversation. If you wanted to be snarky you could have even said something like "At least the Kerry campaign didn't have to pay CBS" (which is of course true, CBS volunteered). Instead you went for 'isn't it interesting that Sebastian worries so much about CBS and not at all about' which in this context is the equivalent of "look at the hack who doesn't even deal with X" before you had even raised 'X' as an issue. If you had connected the issue to the argument, or if you would ever like to, I would be happy to address it. Pretending I was ignoring some crucial issue which had as-of-yet remained unintroduced by any side of the discussion was just obnoxious.

And if I can try to remain on topic, I would love to hear from those who believe that CBS flogging a story based on fraudulent documents from a questionable source can be explained under a 'sensationalism' rubric without calling into question CBS News' integrity on all sensational stories.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Jadegold's comment was indeed snarkily on-topic (although I didn't recognize it until his 4:10 explanation) -- he was riffing off the argument that since CBS pushed this story but not a similar story about Kerry, they must be biased, and saying that since Sebastian wrote about this story but not the issue that's damaging to the administration, he must be biased as well.

While we're doing this, I would love to hear any reply at all, and especially from CBS' critics, to my 12:18 post and especially the concern over "defensive journalism."

Is CBS liberal? Perhaps. It does not concern me that there be one liberal news network when I believe all three cable news networks lean right. It only concerns me when it leads to inaccuracy and breach of journalistic happens. It did. That was bad. But they have corrected their mistake, everyone knows the story was inaccurate, it helped rather than harmed Bush in an election that is now months past, they have fired many people and reported on it in detail even when it reflected badly on them. At this point, the story has gotten much more attention than it really deserves, from everyone quarter of the media and the political spectrum. (BTW, I am blatantly breaking the rule in one of my previous posts here. See? Liberals are pathologically defensive, myself included.) I don't care so much if you don't agree with all of CBS' conclusions. If you think they're still compromised don't watch them.

I will still watch them, as much as any TV network (other than my beloved Daily Show). The underreporting of the various human rights abuses is of much greater concern to me and of much greater consequence than the forged 60 Minutes documents, have continuing news significance, are much less reported on and much less widely known. CBS has done a better job covering this story than any other TV news network that I am aware of. I am thinking specifically of its coverage of Abu Ghraib and its special on the Maher Arar case. I believe the effect of continued attacks on CBS will be to intimidate them out of doing such investigative work in the future. I believe that for many of their critics on the right (though few if any of the ones on this site) that this is the purpose of the attacks on CBS--to intimidate them out of investigative stories potentially harmful to Bush in general, that is, not only with regard to prisoner abuse. If they succeed they will do much more harm to the country than a four-month-old, obsessively covered story that has reached its end.

hmmm....nice analysis kenB.

Jadegold is that true?

If so, I may owe you an apology.

And it's worth noting that, although the whole right-wing blogosphere maintains otherwise, the famous memos have still never been proven to be forged.

"I believe that for many of their critics on the right (though few if any of the ones on this site) that this is the purpose of the attacks on CBS--to intimidate them out of investigative stories potentially harmful to Bush in general, that is, not only with regard to prisoner abuse. If they succeed they will do much more harm to the country than a four-month-old, obsessively covered story that has reached its end."

This seems like an unlikely analysis since many of CBS's critics have attacks on the network which predate the Bush administration. For instance the book 'BIAS' was being written at about the same time as Bush's initial election and has many examples which predate Bush's election by many years.

As for defensive journalism, I don't see it. Maybe if you gave examples about what you thought was defensive journalism I could respond, but it isn't something I have noticed on my own. If you are talking about some of the 'on the one hand on the other hand' reporting, I suspect it is laziness as much as anything. Journalists seem to be willing to trust statistics far to easily, and seem to be unable to understand all sorts of very basic economic concepts. I agree that successful pressure from the right COULD eventually create defensive journalism. But I don't think the criticism of media bias became an effective riposte until the last six or eight years. It has been acknowledged as a problem among thinkers on the right for decades, but it didn't really break through to the popular culture level until maybe 2000 or 2001 (I would mark it around the time of the publication of "Bias". As such I would be surprised if a culture of defensive journalism could have taken root in any way to bother talking about in so short a time. The criticism of media bias just hasn't been taken seriously enough to bother journalists on a large scale until very recently.

So... Anyone care to tackle why CBS aired this story while circumventing so many of their procedures if they were not displaying political bias? If your explanation is 'sensationalism', why should we trust anything they say on a sensational topic?

Sebastian, if I may ask again: did CBS broadcast reports about the Swift Boat Veterans?

"And it's worth noting that, although the whole right-wing blogosphere maintains otherwise, the famous memos have still never been proven to be forged."

Whatever. You are relying on a metaphysical definition of proof which is unrealistic. We don't have a picture of someone forging the documents, and that is just about all we are missing. But since you brought it up, let's go to the report:

The Panel observes at the outset, however, that what was at first asserted by Mapes prior to the broadcast of the Segment to be a good meshing without any apparent qualification has now been transformed into an argument that there is nothing in the official Bush records that would rule out the authenticity of the Killian documents. This is similar to statements made by Matley, one of the document examiners, before the airing of the Segment that he could not see anything in the Killian documents that would rule out the possibility that they were authentic. While such an argument may have legitimacy in an advocacy proceeding, the Panel does not find it to be a sufficient standard for journalism, which should not stand on a “nothing to rule it out” foundation.

...

The Panel has not been able to conclude with absolute certainty whether the Killian documents are authentic or forgeries. However, the Panel has identified a number of issues that raise serious questions about the authenticity of the documents and their content. With better reporting, these questions should have been raised before the September 8 Segment aired.

And if you read in the apendix, you find all sorts of evidence that the documents are not genuine.

The documents have been shown to be fraudulent beyond a reasonable doubt. Unreasonable doubt cannot, by definition, be reasoned away.

Anarch, to my knowledge CBS only reported the Swift Boat allegations in the least damaging possible ways--i.e. "anti-Kerry Veterans allege X in attempt to force Kerry to discuss Vietnam", or very tepidly as in "Some allege that Kerry's record in Vietnam may not be all he claimed". They most certainly did not run independent investigations resolving the Cambodia claims (or saying that they resolved the claims). Or if they did, they never released them.

My response to Sebastian's question is this: I trust CBS because of their track record over the thirty years or so that I've watched them. Also the fact that they take responisbility for, and fire, people who breach their standards should increase their credibility, not decrease it. We know that their people know what the standards are and that the standards will be enforced.

. . . the famous memos have still never been proven to be forged.

Just to be contrarian, they've also never been proven to be authentic, which was the positive assertion made by CBS and the individuals who supplied them. In the absence of any concrete evidence that they are authentic, and in the presence of overwhelming circumstantial evidence that they were forged, if I were on a jury, I'd have to vote "forged."

And I'm on the "Bush shirked his service" side of things, so don't start.

Edward: In my opinion, you're right on the ball. It's the flipside of Timmy's or Stan's constant, "I think it's interesting that X hasn't commented on Y, but is so concerned about Z." It's a form of the tu quoque fallacy and it's dumb.

Edward: In my opinion, you're right on the ball.

You know, I've always like you Phil. ;-)

The only allowance I was making (and I guess we've lost Jadegold for a while), was that perhaps he was using that fallacy to try and get Sebastian to see his own bias...where KenB's argument doesn't quite work for me though is here:

saying that since Sebastian wrote about this story but not the issue that's damaging to the administration, he must be biased as well.

because Sebastian was responding within a post that he had not written.

Sebastian: The documents have been shown to be fraudulent beyond a reasonable doubt. Unreasonable doubt cannot, by definition, be reasoned away.

And the unreasonable doubts you feel about whether or not Kerry was in Cambodia?

The problem with the memos is that they fit the facts of Bush's lack-of-service - he quit bothering to actually serve round about the time (a) regular drug tests were instituted (b) it became unlikely that simply dropping out of NG service would get you drafted and sent to Vietnam - and no one was able to show that Killian didn't write them.

The problem with querying Kerry's Vietnam service, and especially his reference to being in Cambodia, is that Kerry's service is well-documented: the worst anyone was able to prove was that it wasn't possible for Kerry to prove absolutely that he ever was in Cambodia.

However, I noticed that right-wing bloggers who had leapt enthusiastically on the unproven insinuations by the SBVfL, repeating them as if they were factual accounts by eyewitnesses rather than invented fantasies by people who had mostly never served with Kerry, were as prompt to claim that they knew the Killian memos must be forgeries.

What the Killian memos and the SBVfL proved to me was that the Bush supporters of the blogosphere were, for the most part, willing to believe anything bad about Kerry, no matter how improbable, and unwilling to believe anything bad about Bush, no matter how probable. Unfortunately, the MSM, while less open about its bias, tended to react the same way. Those who broadcast serious stories about the SBVfL slanders have not tried to clean their house by firing all those reporters who took the SBVfL seriously.

"The problem with querying Kerry's Vietnam service, and especially his reference to being in Cambodia, is that Kerry's service is well-documented: the worst anyone was able to prove was that it wasn't possible for Kerry to prove absolutely that he ever was in Cambodia."

The problem is that Kerry's service in Vietnam is well-documented AND that documentation does not include being in Cambodia. Furthermore it was shown that his initial claim of having been there on Christmas Eve was shown to be highly implausible--and after that Kerry's campaign backed away from the specific claim and refused to elaborate further. My doubts seem reasonable on that count. With respect to the CBS documents, they fit with a story that has some support, but that is pretty much all they have going for them. They are on an unlikely typeface for the time, they are too well typeset, they came from a source with an axe to grind who hadn't documents the last time the issue was investigated, the memo uses an internal format which is inconsistent with the typical formatting, it also uses the wrong identifying information.

Jesurgislac: And it's worth noting that, although the whole right-wing blogosphere maintains otherwise, the famous memos have still never been proven to be forged.

A good portion of the left-wing blogosphere maintained that the memos were forgeries as well, yours truly included. And the most technically educated of the naysayers were also Kerry-supporters.

I'd say it is a rather busy day at ratherbiased, it is so flooded you can't get to it anymore.

(Don't try it now, you'll just make things worse.)

So... Anyone care to tackle why CBS aired this story while circumventing so many of their procedures if they were not displaying political bias?

Sure...the story would be worthless after the election whether the President was re-elected or not. CBS had some pretty good sunk costs in the reporting already and needed to air the story while their ROI might include props from one side of the electorate rather than simply glares from the current (and then re-elected) Administration.

Why would it be worthless after the election? Or by 'worthless' do you mean 'not as helpful to Democrats'?

Powerline has excerpted some fascinating internal emails between Mapes and a Dallas free-lance reporter on how the 60 My-noots TANG story could effect the election.

"Hypothetically speaking, of course" per Mapes.

Worthless as in no one would pay any attention to it, no matter who won. Cf. Al Qaaqaa.

Why would it be worthless after the election? Or by 'worthless' do you mean 'not as helpful to Democrats'?

Which is why we are seeing the fruits of the Swiftboat investigation now, as the truth has a value beyond mere timeliness, eh?

Edward,

"Bush called himself a "war president" but as regards Iraq he chose to start that war (against my advice, I'll add), so the connotation that the phrase "war president" normally implies of a president with saddled reluctantly"

Very weak Edward. I guess that FDR wasn't a war president either. I'm pretty sure he froze assets and stopped oil shipments to Japan. FDR also declared a shoot-on-sight order against all German and Italian shipping. Only after that was war declared by the Axis. By your logic FDR was just gunning for the war, right? He was ignoring the law the U.S. passed to remain neutral.

I guess Lincoln wasn't a war president either. All the Southern states wanted to do was seccede. They didn't want a war with the North. Just a separation.

I guess Churchill wasn't a war time leader either based on your logic.


"but the facts remain that against the concerns of millions of people around the world he CHOSE to go to war anyway..."

Again sounds alot like FDR and Churchill.


Reading Smlook's comment above--why am I reminded of the famous rallying cry 'Bluto' Blutarsky gave the Delta House? You know, the "..was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?!?"

Oh yeah...the fractured and distorted history.

This is how a responsible news organization conducts itself.

A responsible news organization would have properly vetted the forged documents in the first place. A responsible news organization would have not pigheadedly stonewalled after credible evidence showed that the documents were forgeries. A responsible news organization would have been honest enough to admit that the documents were forgeries, instead of putting forth the transparently idiotic excuse that the "documents could not be authenticated". A responsible news organization would have apologized directly to the president for its journalistic malpractice. A responsible news organization would not have cast a wide and long search for "experts" to support their indefensible position. A responsible news organization would not have ignored and ridiculed the numerous recognized experts who concluded that the documents were forgeries. A responsible news organization would have fired Rather and Heyward for their allowing forged documents to air and then stonewalling after they were busted on it.

After all, Bush was AWOL from the National Guard: the core of the story was true.

AWOL applies only to active duty personnel, so it doesn't apply to reserve personnel. The fact remains that Bush missed or skipped attending drills, he made up the time and he was honorably discharged.

Or it was a perfectly true story: as Sebastian himself noted, there's no reason to think otherwise, Unless you start out with a bias that Kerry must have lied.

The Kerry campaign admitted that JFK was not in Cambodia on Christmas Eve. JFK also refused to release his records for the time in question. When Kerry spoke in the well of the Senate reminiscing about events on Christmas Eve that were seared--seared into his memory--he was telling a falsehood.

"Which is why we are seeing the fruits of the Swiftboat investigation now, as the truth has a value beyond mere timeliness, eh?"

I don't understand the question. Kerry's Cambodia claims were not investigated by the mainstream media even during the campaign, much less now.

Oh please oh please oh please let's not do Swift Boats again.....

Oh please oh please oh please let's not do Swift Boats again.....

Seconded. And ditto on the merits of the AWOL charges and the authenticity of the documents. Those horses are all well on their way to the Elmers factory.

Kerry's Cambodia claims were not investigated by the mainstream media even during the campaign, much less now

Kerry's campaign aides admitted fairly quickly that Kerry was probably not in Cambodia in 1968. Are you eagle-eyed enough to spot the difference with the NG memo story?

So, when are they going to fire the journalistic morons who repeated ad nauseum Bush's lies about Iraq? Well?

AWOL applies only to active duty personnel, so it doesn't apply to reserve personnel. The fact remains that Bush missed or skipped attending drills, he made up the time and he was honorably discharged.

AWOL can certainly be applied to reservists. There's an additional step involved, but it's false to claim a reservist who blows off assigned drills can't be found AWOL.

The real fact is Bush can't account for nearly a year's worth of time; there's no paperwork and, more importantly, there's nobody who will step forward and say 'hey, I remember serving with him.'

I've served active duty and in the reserves and I could easily find several people at each unit or duty station or ship that I've served with. Of course, I did show up.

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