Rather full of it

I will have the honor of giving the annual Patterson Lecture at Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas, next week on the evening of February 12. I’ll be speaking on “Rathergate Ten Years After.” The college has posted the announcement with the relevant information here.

I look forward to reconnecting with Lyon College President Don Weatherman, who began his academic career at St. Catherine University (St. Kate’s) in St. Paul. In his first year of teaching at St. Catherine, Don took time out to teach the Federalist Papers and The Prince to me and my friends Bruce Sanborn and Charlie Mahar. He is a scholar and a gentleman.

Preparing for the lecture, I’m getting angry all over again. The story is worth revisiting, it seems to me, to assess what if anything has changed in the intervening ten years. My conclusion is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The media and academia and the culture are saturated with the same suffocating left-wing bias that facilitated Rathergate. The animus endows Rathergate with an evergreen quality.

And now coming soon, to a theater near you: Truth, based on Mary Mapes’s insane memoir Truth and Duty. The movie stars Robert Redford as Dan Rather and Cate Blanchett as Mary Mapes. Mapes not only gets the story told from her, ah, perspective, she gets a makeover to die for. The movie, by the way, is a production of Mythology Entertainment. “Truth” is in there somewhere!

Reading Dan Rather’s 2012 memoir Rather Outspoken, published in paperback with a new 2013 afterword, I find that Rather still stands by the story. Rather Full Of It would be more like it.

He stands by the fabricated Killian documents. He has no regrets. He offers no apologies. He sees himself as a victim rather than as a perpetrator. He pleads guilty only to “putting a true story on the air” (page 239).

In the service of his defense of the Bush/Guard story, Rather peddles a farrago of defamatory innuendos and ad hominem attacks. The text seethes with the hatred of Republicans and conservatives that he uses to gun his engine. (I take it he’s none too pleased with Howard Kurtz either, for his early Washington Post story on Rathergate, or with many of his former colleagues at CBS, for abandoning him in his moments of need.)

If Rather knows what he is talking about, and it is not clear to me that either he or co-author Digby Diehl does, he is willing to say just about anything in the service of his cause. Rather devotes chapter 2 of the book — “George Bush and the Texas Air National Guard” — to his account of the underlying Bush/Guard story. (He returns to in in connection with the account of his lawsuit against CBS in chapter 10.)

Early in chapter 2 Rather associates us with birthers. According to Rather, websites that “continu[ed] their assault on President Obama’s birth certificate were in the vanguard of the efforts to invalidate our reporting on President Bush’s disappearance from the Air National Guard. The ‘proof’ they offer about the birth certificate is based on typeface and proportional spacing and has a great deal in common with their attack on our report.”

In this paragraph Rather doesn’t identify the websites “in the vanguard” of questioning his story, but later in the chapter Rather names the leaders of the attack on the story: “Bloggers on ultraconservative websites with names like Free Republic, Little Green Footballs and Power Line were vociferously attacking our report, even before it finished airing, and they were focusing in particular on the Killian documents.” (Peter Wallsten published a more scrupulous account of the chain of events in the Los Angeles Times story “No disputing it: Blogs are major players.”)

Rather to the contrary notwithstanding, I do not believe that either I or John Hinderaker or LGF’s Charles Johnson or Free Republic’s Harry MacDougald has trafficked in the birtherism that Rather imputes to us. Other of Free Republic’s numerous posters may fill the bill, but so far as I know Rather’s ad hominem is otherwise off the mark. I asked Charles, for example, what he had to say about this via Twitter yesterday morning (below).

I’ve put the question to Rather via Twitter, but I’m not holding my breath on this one.

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