The only thing surprising about the purge at CBS was that they handed out the pink slips with a straight face. Other than that the episode was sadly reminiscent of Porter Goss wielding his scimitar over at the CIA. A few quick swishing motions and the erring parties were removed. Dan Rather, of course, was spared the humiliation of getting the boot down the office stairwell and, instead, was asked to commit ritual seppuku in the privacy of his own Park Ave. penthouse. The others simply got a brisk walk to the front door.
The whole incident yielded the unpleasant odor of corporate despotism; four careers sacrificed to the god of political loyalty. But, then, that seems to be the way of things now. One’s future is strangely tied to one’s deference to the “Dear Leader” just as it is at state-run TV. Slip up on a story about Bush’s faithful service in the National Guard and it’s a quick jaunt to the unemployment line. What a joke.
Is there any doubt that the deserter-in-chief was AWOL during the time he was supposed to be with his Alabama unit? Remember, it was a small unit and, yet, not one of the men recalls the young G.W. ever showing up.
We also know that Bush didn’t ease his way into the “champagne unit” by virtue of his prodigious intellectual abilities. He was shoe-horned into the Guard by family patronage, and he skedaddled when he’d had enough. So, why all this hoopla about “forged” signatures anyway? It’s completely irrelevant. CBS nailed the bigger story even if they slipped up on a few trivial details. Big deal.
True, this is all yesterday’s news, but even the corn-fed, gun-totin’, confederate flag-waving yahoos don’t believe that Bush served his time anymore. The last true believers seem to be the boardroom bigwigs at CBS, who see it as a device for evacuating the last fetid remnants of liberal journalism.
Okay, I can live with that, but when does “political cleansing” become the theatre of the absurd?
First they dredge up Louis Boccardi, retired chief executive officer of The Associated Press, (Yes, the same Associated Press that processed all the sketchy exit polling after the 2004 election). Boccardi also belongs to the prestigious CFR (Council on Foreign Relations) the ultimate insiders club that steers the ship of state towards such worthwhile projects as deposing the democratically elected leader of Haiti and hard-charging for the Iraq war.
Boccardi was joined in the investigation by former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh. Thornburgh is a charter member of the far-right Federalist Society and a died-in-the-wool Bush loyalist. (The Federalist Society has a number of alumnae in the Bush administration. They’ve provided much of the legal rationale for the unlawful detention of aliens, the enhanced powers of the Executive, the indefinite incarceration of POW’s and the cruel and unusual treatment of prisoners.) Heading up an investigation with Thornburgh is like polling Madame DeFarge on the merits of the death penalty. It’s a slam-dunk. The Boccardi-Thornburgh combination was nothing more than a nattily clad firing squad. They were hired to dispatch the CBS infidels and to send a message that future impertinence would not be tolerated. Employees are quick to apprehend the meaning of such directives; especially when their job’s on the line.
The duo delivered their 224-page tome on the “shameful lack of journalistic standards” to the media and the station’s corporate chieftains.
“The system broke down on this one, for sure,” Boccardi moaned.
Their tedious performance was picked up and repeated on every major TV station; muttering the same stale bromides over and over again. Boccardi would whimper about the “myopic zeal” in rushing the story on air, and Thornburgh would follow up with some energetic finger wagging at the “errors of credulity and over-enthusiasm.” The sanctimoniousness of their recital almost obscured the fact that the real force behind the investigation was a White House vendetta directed at critics of the Peerless Leader.
Where were these pompous politicos when Judith Miller was pulling stories out of the ether about phantom WMDs in Iraq? No one was too concerned about “journalistic standards” back then.
And what about the penetrating news coverage of the 2-month siege of Falluja? Think that might have been worth investigating?
Or, what about the media blackout of election irregularities in Ohio?
Are exit poll discrepancies only a curiosity when they happen in Ukraine?
There are literally hundreds of stories the media either buries or mishandles every year. The only reason this one grew legs was because it zeroed in on our pretzel-choking, Mt. biking, war-president, George Bush.
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t care if they wrapped Dan Rather in an American flag and ran him through the streets of Sadr City, but all this braying about “journalistic standards”?
Puleeese! The TV executives yanked those off life-support a long time ago.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state,
and can be reached at: