Today’s best commentary on the Rathergate Report is Jonathan Last’s at the Standard Online: “Whitewash.” Last identifies the agnosticism of the report on the documents’ authenticity, the failure of the report to investigate the origin of the documents, and the utter credulity of the report on the 60 Minutes story’s motivation as key elements of the report that cannot withstand scrutiny.
The blatant fraudulence of the Burkett documents should have been the conclusion that was the predicate for a serious investigation of the key issues raised by the 60 Minutes story. The report’s failure to draw a conclustion regarding the authenticity of the documents disqualifies it from consideration as a serious document. It is in my view a failure that discredits the report as an exercise in damage control for CBS.
In critical respects the report severs its narrative of the 60 Minutes story from the context of the presidential campaign that was its impetus. It fails to follow up on or draw inferences from the producers’ email correspondence (noted by Rocket Man here) hypothetically marketing the story’s “information that could change the momentum of an election[.]”
The report leaves the question of political motivation and bias with the ipse dixit of Dan Rather (who, me?) and Mary Mapes (“proximity, not politics”…how about relocating her to Massachusetts?). Is this some kind of a joke? Did Thornburgh or Boccari think to ask whether Rather and Mapes opposed the reelection of President Bush, or any other follow-up question that might have shed some light on the issue? Apparently not, at least so far as is apparent on the face of the report.
Anyone who reads the report with care, cognizant of the context of the 60 Minutes story in the presidential campaign, will find the elements of the report identified by Last to be howlers.
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