Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Krazy Glue Strategy

In an interview on Monday, Mr. Rather said that on learning that Ms. Mapes had obtained the documents, he called Mr. Heyward.

"This is not verbatim," Mr. Rather recalled. "But I said: 'Andrew, if true, it's breakthrough stuff. But I need to do something unusual. It may even be unique. I have to ask you to oversee, in a hands-on way, the handling of this story, because this is potentially the kind of thing that will cause great controversy.'

"He got it. He immediately agreed.
'' -- from today's New York Times

Let's summarize Mr. Rather's position: if I go down, (CBS News President Andrew) Heyward goes down with me. Krazy-glued at the hip. as it were. This must have been unwelcome news at the Heyward household this morning; a hostage-taking over Cheerios.

The weird thing about this story is what might be called the "everyone knows factor." Everyone knew that the documents were not, to use CBS's terminology, "authentic." Everyone knew that the position of CBS News was therefore untenable. And now everyone knows that the person most responsible for this debacle is none other than Dan Rather himself. He pushed the story onto the air. He defended it long after it was revealed to be indefensible. He hijacked a great news organization and drove it off a cliff.

Mapes and Howard will be terminated soon -- and for good reason -- but they are minor players. CBS can't get healthy until Rather is gone. He's both an embarrassment and a disgrace.