This brings us to a little-asked question about Rathergate: Why was CBS so determined to broadcast its alleged scoop about George Bush's National Guard service before the story was properly checked out? Four of the six documents involved had been in the possession of 60 Minutes for only two or three days, and three of the four experts consulted by the network said they couldn't authenticate them. Why didn't CBS just wait a week and do some elementary checking? A halfway decent high school paper would have done as much. One explanation is that the Democrats and much of the Democrat-friendly media were about to reopen the subject of Bush's Guard service as a payback for the August damage done to John Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Maybe CBS feared losing its big scoop. More likely it was just reluctant to come in behind the new wave of retaliatory Bush-bashing instead of leading it.I think a lot of us suspect why they were so eager to run the story and it was only partly to score the big scoop. We cynics tend to doubt that they would have been so eager to run a story bashing Kerry. It just doesn't seem to work that way, particularly at 60 Minutes. There were lots of stories based on allegations from the Swift Boat Veterans that 60 Minutes didn't see fit to follow up on.
Bob Zelnick seems to have figured it out.
Unconscionably, Rather vouched for the documents' authenticity and attacked critics as "partisan." Even after acknowledging he could no longer defend the papers, he offered no retraction of the story, instead claiming that the "heart" of the report attacking the president was unchallenged.
Unchallenged indeed! Without the documents there was no heart of the report, only 30-year-old hearsay. Without them the report would never have made "60 Minutes," or the "Evening News," or for that matter, the Podunk Press. What was on display at CBS appears to have been a "get George Bush" mentality -- colleagues said Mapes had been working the story for five years -- compounded by the abdication of editorial responsibility by those who turn meek in the presence of Rather.
UPDATE: Oops. This is John Leo, not Michael Barone. I was reading their editorials together. Sorry.