Tuesday, January 11, 2005

One Last Thing.

The CBS "Panel" Report was a gem, in its lawyerly way, and well worth the wait. Since a number of you emailed to ask for Ellisblog's view, here's my ten cents:

1. Andrew Heyward must have had one good lawyer. How else to explain the apparent success of what might be called his Reverse Nuremberg defense. Or as Kaus put it: Heyward was just giving orders. Then he went to lunch. My guess is that Heyward will be "resigned" later; that the decision to keep him was tactical.

2. Dan Rather really is a pompous fool. You already knew that.

3. The blogospehere needs to get a grip. I'm not sure which was more pathetic, bloggers posting their phone numbers for "media interviews" or all the bloviating about "whitewash" and "cover-up." Memo to bloggers: (1) we don't care if you're on TV and; (2) The report is the most scathing indictment of the standards and practices of CBS News ever published, by anyone at anytime (with the possible exception of Renata Adler's work on the Westmoreland vs. CBS case). Stop preening and stop whining.

4. What did they think they were being called for, a strategy session? When the fearsome foursome was ordered to report to CBS News Headquarters at 8am on Monday morning, they were apparently surprised to learn that they were being fired. I'm told these aces of investigative journalism believed that Mapes would buy the bullet and everyone else would be spared. Hello? Out in the real world, the only question was whether Heyward would be fired on the day of the report's release or a couple of months later. Disconnected from reality is a weird place to be for people who claim to be "plugged in."

5. No evidence of political bias. This was the only major short-coming of The Panel's report, since everyone in the real world (and especially the political world) knew and knows that CBS News was gunning for President Bush big time. It was an open secret in August that the DNC and the media would re-raise the TexANG service issue immediately following the Labor Day weekend. Indeed, Ben Barnes was telling people over the summer that CBS would take the lead in that attack.

I was asked about this point blank at a pre-GOP convention election briefing that I did for a major NYC financial services firm. Specifically, I was asked: Do you think the story (amazingly similar to the one that appeared on CBS News Sixty Minutes Two) is true and do you think it will be harmful to the President's re-election hopes? To which I replied: I can't believe that CBS News would bet its credibility on Ben Barnes. (Talk about disconnected from reality!)

I think The Panel understood that there was a lot of back-channel stuff (between CBS News and the Kerry campaign and the DNC and the like) going on, but that to delve into it would have required a much larger inquiry. Which was not what they had been contracted to do. So they punted. It would have been better had they avoided the bias issue altogether. Too bad they didn't, but really, so what?

6. Colonel Hackworth. Pages 95 and 96 of the report are simply brilliant.

7. How Evil is Mary Mapes? Don't ask me. Ask her colleagues, present and former.