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This would be great in a political debate, which is not at all for this board.

OK, I have to come clean. If "I had to wait in line at Home Depot" is valid for the Home Depot board then I think "Dan Rather made a huge mistake" is valid for the Viacom board.

I would have hoped that it would have risen to a level higher than DAN RATHER IS A COMMUNIST BECAUSE HE MADE A MISTAKE, but then perhaps I expect too much.

Time has a decent piece about it; unfortunately it's in their premium archive, but there's an extract that's interesting:

The morning before Dan Rather went on the air with his flammable story, senior staff at CBS's 60 Minutes gathered to consider whether it was true. Network producers, lawyers and Betsy West, a CBS News senior vice president, among others, met in a screening room to decide whether to broadcast the story about President Bush's record in the National Guard. Five days before, they had received copies of new and intriguing memos suggesting that Lieut. Bush had ignored a direct order to get a physical and that his superiors were pressured to " sugar coat" his evaluation. No one talked much about...",10987,1101040927-699345,00.html

What did no one talk much about? Whether the documents could have been written on a 1970's typewriter. (Allegations were that it could not have, particularly because of the "superscript" used in some of the words. As it turns out, that was wrong; they could - indeed - have been written on a 1970's typewriter. But CBS can't confirm that, so they have backed off.)

It goes on to note that CBS read, then showed the documents to people at the White House, including the President and no one said "Those are phony." In fact, the President's Press Office tried to spin some of the information in the President's favor, and dismissed them with "that's old news." To be fair, they had less than a day to analyze them; CBS had 5 days before it put them on the air.

(It's unfortunate but true that if you give them much more time than that, they will have the spinmeisters out trying to discredit - or scoop - your story before you even have a chance to air it. That doesn't make it right, that's just how it works.)

Burkett, who provided the documents, has a history of anti-Bush grudge stuff, on the other hand, he was in a position to have acquired some of this material. So CBS gambled and lost.

In a separate piece, Time notes that the initial "knockdown" of the story came from bloggers, in particular one known as "Buckhead." Most of Buckhead's initial comments were later disproved (such as the "superscript" font), but by then Drudge had picked up the story and hundreds of other bloggers and conservative websites were trashing the story as well. Were they right? Time will tell; for the moment it appears that the may well have been.

Buckhead, incidentally, "is Henry MacDougald, 46, a conservative, big-firm lawyer from Atlanta with a history of pugnacious activism. As an advisory-board member for the Southeastern Legal Foundation, he helped write the group's petition to disbar Bill Cliton and worked with former Clinton prosecutor Kenneth Starr to challenge a federal campaign finance law."

So CBS probably got the story wrong, even though the sentiments in the story were correct. Buckhead also got his story wrong, although the larger picture may turn out to be correct in the end.

It's a maelstrom, and surely CBS deserves to be held to a higher standard than "a pugnacious right-wing lawyer". On the other hand, I would think George Bush deserves to be held to an even higher standard than Dan Rather, don't you? If Dan screws up, I can turn the channel to Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Jim Lehrer, CNN, Fox, MSNBC or a host of other places.

If George Bush screws up, people die. And have.

As my Jon Stewart poscript for the day, does "purereason" find it strange that of everything that has happened in the past few years, only Rather gets a "gate", as in "Rathergate"? There's no Valerie Plamegate, no Abu Ghraibgate, no Uraniumgate, no WMDgate, no deficitgate, no steel tariffsgate, no My Pet Goatgate? Yes, the liberal media has managed to steer clear of every one of those - except for Dan Rather's mistake.

How does that work, again?

Anyway, CBS's faux pax is grist for this board if it impacts Viacom's financial performance, which is doubtful. The news divisions are already losers, mostly, in that department. They have some prestige (less and less as the news franchise is chipped away) but then bragging rights don't really go very far in determining a stock value anyway.
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