Jewish World Review Sept. 20, 2004 / 5 Tishrei, 5765

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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Thank Heaven for CBS News


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | In Tom Clancy's novel, "The Hunt for Red October," a Soviet submarine is sunk by its own torpedo when its overly aggressive skipper miscalculates.


CBS's Dan Rather fired a salvo at President Bush on "Sixty Minutes II" Sep. 8th. His "torpedoes" were four memoranda allegedly written by LtCol. Jerry Killian, commander of the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron of the Texas Air National Guard, to which then Lt. George W. Bush was assigned.


The memos indicate Bush was given favored treatment, and that he disobeyed a direct order to take a flight physical.


It took less than a day for the memoranda to be exposed as clumsy forgeries.


"When in a hole, stop digging" is always good advice. CBS could have limited the damage to its reputation if it had promptly acknowledged it had been hoaxed; fired Mary Mapes, the producer responsible for the story, and identified the source of the forgeries. But Rather rented a backhoe instead.


A week of stonewalling has hugely increased the damage to CBS. When ABC News disclosed that two of the document experts CBS consulted had warned Rather & co. before the broadcast that the memos likely were forgeries, CBS seemed less like the victim of a hoax and more like a collaborator in it.


"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad." This was said by the ancient Greek playwright Euripedes. The gods must really have it in for CBS, John Kerry, and the Democratic party. All are stuck in a Vietnam quagmire largely of their own making.


Kerry had a bad August. He and his friends in the news media blame this on the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. I suspect the real reason is because Kerry has failed to offer Americans a reason to vote for him other than his alleged heroism in Vietnam.


If Kerry is to revive his faltering campaign, he has to change the subject, fast. He must give Americans positive reasons for voting for him. But he, the Democratic National Committee, and CBS have plunged deeper into the swamp.

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The Democratic National Committee had an ad campaign all set to go after Rather's "scoop." This has come a cropper as both NBC and even CBS have protested the use of footage from their broadcasts in ads criticizing Bush's service.


The ad campaign would have been foolish even if Rather's documents hadn't been exposed as forgeries. Voters are even less interested in what Bush did or did not do in the Texas Air National Guard more than 30 years ago than in what John Kerry did or did not do in Vietnam more than 30 years ago. The president is being judged, for good or ill, on the basis of how he has conducted the War on Terror since Sept. 11th, 2001.


"Get off the National Guard and all that bull," a Democratic strategist told the New York Post's Deborah Orin. "Every day we talk about the National Guard and Vietnam, George Bush wins."


CBS's stonewalling keeps front and center a story that is unhelpful to Kerry. It's only a question of time before the source of the forged documents is identified. Kerry has to hope against hope that when the forger is identified, he (or she) will be a loon affiliated with one of the anti-Bush 527 committees, with no direct ties to the Kerry campaign or the DNC. If the forgeries are tied directly to the Democrats, "this campaign is over," said Democratic pollster Pat Caddell.


So it is madness for Democrats to keep beating on Bush's National Guard service. Why create in the public mind a connection to the forgeries which may not exist in reality?


Another negative consequence for Kerry of keeping the Guard controversy alive is that it will be harder for his buddies in the news media to ignore the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth when they throw their next punch.


I'm not a fan of journalists psychoanalyzing candidates from a distance. But Kerry seems to believe the Swifties have impugned his manhood, and he wants revenge, no matter what. When emotion overrides reason, bad things usually happen.


The Swifties say that Veterans Day this year comes on Nov. 2. For CBS, Judgment Day will come sooner.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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