Dorothy Rabinowitz is a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board who also contributes excellent reviews of television programs and series to the Journal’s coverage of the arts. This past Friday, I wondered what was up when Journal film reviewer Joe Morganstern omitted any mention of the Rathergate film Truth, which had just opened in New York. Perhaps Morganstern had given way to Ms. Rabinsowitz, for now comes Ms. Rabinowitz to do the job on Truth in “Dan Rather, still wrong after all these years.”
Alone among the reviewers, to my knowledge, Ms. Rabinowitz draws on the Thornburgh-Boccardi report to level her indictment of the film’s manifold failings. When she chances upon knaves and fools, as she has occasionally in the course of her storied journalistic career at the Journal, the quality of mercy is not strained; it is restrained. She concludes her op-ed column with her usual attention to detail:
Mary Mapes…had been thinking about Mr. Bush’s National Guard service since 1999. She had been interviewing, waiting, five long years to tell the world about her suspicions that George W. Bush received special treatment to avoid going to Vietnam.
Five years. What this says about the special zeal that drove this mission we can leave aside. Ms. Mapes would find her fateful opportunity, finally, with Mr. Burkett and his documents. To obtain them, she complied with Mr. Burkett’s special request that she connect him with the Kerry campaign so that he could provide advice on election strategy. Ms. Mapes promptly called Mr. Kerry’s top aide, Joe Lockhart, telling him about the important, unfriendly investigative story on George W. Bush that CBS was about to run, and about one of her chief sources, who could be of interest to the Kerry campaign—they might want to call him.
In the years since th[e Rathergate] affair, Mr. Rather and Ms. Mapes have held fast to their regularly repeated assertions that whatever mistakes may have been made, they had reported a true story. “Truth”—starring Cate Blanchett as Mary Mapes facing down the enemies of the good and the true—is the latest iteration of the Mapes-Rather claim that the validity of their story wasn’t compromised merely because the supporting testimony was fabricated.
It is a view evident in every aspect of “Truth,” in every sonorous speech about how freedom of inquiry and democracy itself were the real victims of the firings and resignations that ensued once the scandal broke. These recitals come with stupefying regularity, as do certain golden moments—not for the fainthearted—in which the characters of Ms. Mapes and Dan Rather profess their mutual love and trust in one another in their struggle for justice.
Despite its glamorization, this saga of a news investigation built on fabrications presented as important truth—truth that would have been accepted as such if only corrupt corporate types and conservative propagandists had not picked away at irrelevances like those lies—isn’t likely to persuade anyone with any knowledge of this history.
Throughout the speeches and hair-tearing and testaments to the undying integrity of Ms. Mapes and Mr. Rather, “Truth” reminds us at every turn of its mirror-image similarity to those documents derived from Mr. Burkett’s fabulous list of sources.
I trust that Power Line readers can translate that last sentence for themselves.
NOTE: Also worth reading from a few weeks back is Kyle Smith’s New York Post column “Wacko Dan Rather movie still insists forged Bush-National Guard documents were real.”