Way to go, CBS.
Thanks to your rush to kick off a new season of 60 Minutes II on Sept. 8 with big ratings, your bungling of what the pro-war blogosphere has dubbed "Memogate," your hesitation to admit the error of your ways and your blinkered eye on the bottom line, you carpet-bombed the U.S. presidential race with bluster and blather about proportional spacing, nuking what little remains of serious political discourse in the U.S. and making the Kerry-Edwards campaign collateral damage.
Meanwhile, the Bush-Cheney Jedi Mind Tricksters — what consortiumnews.com called them yesterday — laugh again, as the media underplay an ever-burgeoning budget deficit, a damaging internal intelligence report warning of an Iraqi civil war, Britain's impending withdrawal of troops from the "coalition," another lie by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the state and size of Iraqi security forces and just about any story that might damage George W. Bush's run for re-election.
Does nothing stick to this guy, who has yet to come clean about his alkie, Vietnam-evading past? After all, the basics of the CBS story were true, reported five years ago by Greg Palast and other real don't-just-play-one-on-TV reporters.
It's easy to imagine what Don Hewitt, the octogenarian executive producer who launched 60 Minutes in 1968 and who helmed it until CBS pushed him out last June, must think of all this. In 1998, when the network announced that it would extend his profitable franchise to a second night, he complained to me that, if it "had a Lucille Ball or a Jerry Seinfeld," it wouldn't be seeking to plug the schedule with a low-cost spinoff.
Concerned that the under-resourced second hour would "tarnish" the reputation of the original, he said, "News divisions, which used to be charged with finding news, are now charged with filling time."
As for all-news channels, filling time is all they do. Which is why, for the past six weeks or so, TV news has focused so much on side issues such as whether Democratic nominee John Kerry bled red-white-and-blue enough during and after his service in Vietnam, or if superscripted letters existed on typewriters in the 1970s.
The joke is, CBS's biggest critics — including bloggers, who now claim victory for killing the MSM (that's mainstream media, to you reading this column on paper) — still complain that the "legacy'' old media are "liberal media," an evil cabal hell-bent on bringing Bush down.
So how come then, if the Democrats have such a huge media advantage, Americans haven't heard much about, say, Bush's big April flip-flop on attacking Fallujah or his flip-flop last month on winning the war on terror as they have about Kerry's supposed flip-flop on voting for attacking Iraq?
FACT: U.S. Marine Lt.-Gen. James T. Conway, the outgoing commander in western Iraq, told reporters on Sept. 12 that he protested what seemed to be a political decision to attack Fallujah last spring. But he followed orders, sending the troops in. Three disastrous days later, with hundreds dead, another decision, apparently originating in the White House, was made to pull out. Conroy opposed that too but to no avail.
How much did you heard about that in this "liberal media" fuss over IBM Selectrics?
FACT: Last month, Bush told NBC that the war on terror could not be won. Then he clarified himself, by saying this was an unconventional, different war. And then his spokesperson Scott McClellan clarified the clarification, explaining that, while the U.S. couldn't "win," it could "prevail" against terror.
How much have you heard about that in this "liberal media" focus on copies from Kinko's?
FACT: In 2002, Kerry voted to authorize the use of force against Saddam but only, as he said then, "To disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, if we cannot accomplish that objective through new, tough weapons inspections in joint concert with our allies."
Ask yourself if you've heard that elucidated in this "liberal media" crush to crucify CBS anchor Dan Rather who, a week after 9/11, got behind Bush on David Letterman's show, saying, "Wherever he wants me to line up, just tell me where."
Now, of course, conservative pundits and their acolytes in the cybersphere are calling for Rather's head, because he has destroyed his credibility.
Frankly, he did that long ago, even before he told BBC two years ago that fear of political reprisal "keeps (American) journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions," adding "I do not except myself from this criticism."
So thanks, Dan. You've fixed it so that even fewer journalists will stick their necks out now.
As for credibility, consider that journalists (eg. the New York Times' Judith Miller) parroted the lies of now-disgraced Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi, who sold them on victory parades with flowers and sweets. The White House — and its cyber-dupes — engineered that con job. But are they apologizing for that? Nah.
So thanks CBS. Thanks for being "liberal" and all your good investigative work. Now please don't do us any more favours.
Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Limited.