Low-definitional, take 3

Jim Ragsdale of the St. Paul Pioneer Press attended our March 9 presentation at the Center of the American Experiment event marking the retirement of Dan Rather as the anchor of the CBS Evening News. His story on the event adds some details to Matt McKinney’s Star Tribune account. Ragsdale’s story is “Rather’s critics celebrate sign-off” (registration required).
UPDATE: My colleague Peter Swanson is a veteran Army JAG officer and has written Ragsdale to comment on his article:

What is the Pioneer Press position on the authenticity of the National Guard memos in the 60 Minutes story? I wonder if your readers know the basis for the conclusion that the documents were fakes.
Also, your article (3/10) has the tone of a typical George Stephanopoulos piece. The ex-Clinton staffer is unable to keep his exasperation in check when interviewing conservatives. Invariably, his tone and body language scream, “How can you SAY that?” You were obviously incredulous that conservatives could criticize Senator Kerry’s war record on the one hand, while criticizing Dan Rather’s treatment of President Bush’s war record on the other hand. Let me help you on the difference between the two:
–The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were a 527 Group with an admitted agenda, while 60 Minutes is a news program, which is not supposed to have an agenda. It is different for a 527 to take shots at a candidate than for a network news program to do so, even if the documents were authentic.
–The Kerry campaign highlighted Kerry’s military career, even inviting us to listen to those who “served with” the senator.
–Senator Kerry told some whoppers after his service about Christmas Eve in Cambodia and widespread war crimes.
–Although this was not brought out by the SwiftVets, Kerry suggested that Lt. Calley should not be punished harshly for My Lai because everyone was committing war crimes.
–The media are generally inconsistent whether military service is a campaign issue. For Bob Dole, Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush, military service doesn’t matter. For Max Cleland and John Kerry, military service makes them qualified for the office they are seeking.
–John O’Neill started the campaign after donating a kidney to his wife, which was a continuation of his efforts to set the record straight more than 30 years ago. He is a Texas Democrat, which may qualify as a moderate Republican in other parts of the country, but he has consistently maintained the same position since he returned from Vietnam. So this is not an election year allegation for John O’Neill.
–Senator Kerry still has not signed an SF 180, as President Bush has and as he promised to do.


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