CBS tries to cop a plea

CBS News is undoubtedly hoping that release of the Thornburgh/Boccardi Report, with its embarrassing admissions, will satisfy critics enough that the Rathergate scandal will be allowed to disappear into dim memory. They are wrong.

Many observers, our own Clarice Feldman included,  have been impressed by the extent of the incompetence (and worse) CBS has admitted with this internal report. Some, like Jim Geraghty, of National review Online, are concerned  that critics of CBS should appear reasonable, and praise what is praiseworthy, while asking for more information, as a matter of political strategy.

Already, Washington Post writers Howard Kurtz and Dana Milbank are portraying  the Report as a victory for conservatives and Republicans, and mentioning no further investigation in prospect, essentially taking as a given that the case is closed.

Others dismiss the report as an insult to the intelligence of the American public, intended to evade discussion of the most serious issued. Author, talk show host, blogger, and law professor Hugh Hewitt is leading the pack declaring the Report a whitewash

Long before the internet was invented, John Ehrlichman, Richard Nixon's advisor, coined  the memorable phrase 'modified limited hangout' to describe the strategy of telling some of the truth, in the hope that tossing a few bones to the baying dogs (as the powerful always perceive their critics) would suffice to divert attention from the bigger underlying crimes. But the press corps of the day, mostly hostile to Nixon, would have none of it, and slowly, slowly, Watergate unraveled in the press, and in Capitol hearing rooms and federal courtrooms.

Today, in the age of the blog, the unraveling will happen much faster. CBS has learned nothing from its experience last September, when it experienced the ability of thousands of minds, independently analyzing data and instantaneously communicating with each other via internet blogs, to raise further questions, compare different versions of events, and tear apart phony or incomplete stories more completely than the most expensive courtroom lawyer could ever do on cross examination.

There are plenty of further questions to address. The Report's inability to find political bias at work in CBS News, and the contention that journalistic zealousness to get the story out is where the fault lies, does not pass the giggle test for a large segment of the public.

The Report adopted a standard of evidence to prove bias that would have exonerated Scott Peterson. In the absence of a memorandum urging an effort to defeat Bush and elect Kerry, there is only circumstantial evidence of bias. Dan Rather, it should be noted, attended a Democrat fund raising event in Texas, something that the Report ignored. But the Report did use circumstantial evidence to note that in the past CBS News had pursued stories injurious to some Democrats.

Yeah. And I'll bet that Scott Peterson sometimes bought flowers for Laci, too.

The Report and its appendices do not contain the complete texts of emails, although excerpts are presented. In effect, the authors of the report are saying 'trust me' to CBS News's critics. Ahem... isn't that essentially what Dan Rather said for ten days after the memos were first exposed?

No, the bloggers are not going to be quieted. And they are not going to look unreasonable when they point out the many inadequacies of the modified limited hangout supplied to them, any more than Woodward and Bernstein did when pursuing the first '—gate' of them all, Watergate.

CBS News is once again the victim of its own mistaken assumptions about the nature of information distribution. In the old days, when hierarchical institutions managed by elite leaders controlled the asking of questions, it would have been possible to, in effect cop a plea. Admit to some indiscretions, accept your public humiliation, fire a few people below the highest levels, and take your punishment. The other members of the club of information barons would accept that as enough.

Today, there is no chance to plead guilty to a lesser charge and escape further accountability. CBS News has not yet learned the nature of the era in which it operates.

Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker.

CBS News is undoubtedly hoping that release of the Thornburgh/Boccardi Report, with its embarrassing admissions, will satisfy critics enough that the Rathergate scandal will be allowed to disappear into dim memory. They are wrong.

Many observers, our own Clarice Feldman included,  have been impressed by the extent of the incompetence (and worse) CBS has admitted with this internal report. Some, like Jim Geraghty, of National review Online, are concerned  that critics of CBS should appear reasonable, and praise what is praiseworthy, while asking for more information, as a matter of political strategy.

Already, Washington Post writers Howard Kurtz and Dana Milbank are portraying  the Report as a victory for conservatives and Republicans, and mentioning no further investigation in prospect, essentially taking as a given that the case is closed.

Others dismiss the report as an insult to the intelligence of the American public, intended to evade discussion of the most serious issued. Author, talk show host, blogger, and law professor Hugh Hewitt is leading the pack declaring the Report a whitewash

Long before the internet was invented, John Ehrlichman, Richard Nixon's advisor, coined  the memorable phrase 'modified limited hangout' to describe the strategy of telling some of the truth, in the hope that tossing a few bones to the baying dogs (as the powerful always perceive their critics) would suffice to divert attention from the bigger underlying crimes. But the press corps of the day, mostly hostile to Nixon, would have none of it, and slowly, slowly, Watergate unraveled in the press, and in Capitol hearing rooms and federal courtrooms.

Today, in the age of the blog, the unraveling will happen much faster. CBS has learned nothing from its experience last September, when it experienced the ability of thousands of minds, independently analyzing data and instantaneously communicating with each other via internet blogs, to raise further questions, compare different versions of events, and tear apart phony or incomplete stories more completely than the most expensive courtroom lawyer could ever do on cross examination.

There are plenty of further questions to address. The Report's inability to find political bias at work in CBS News, and the contention that journalistic zealousness to get the story out is where the fault lies, does not pass the giggle test for a large segment of the public.

The Report adopted a standard of evidence to prove bias that would have exonerated Scott Peterson. In the absence of a memorandum urging an effort to defeat Bush and elect Kerry, there is only circumstantial evidence of bias. Dan Rather, it should be noted, attended a Democrat fund raising event in Texas, something that the Report ignored. But the Report did use circumstantial evidence to note that in the past CBS News had pursued stories injurious to some Democrats.

Yeah. And I'll bet that Scott Peterson sometimes bought flowers for Laci, too.

The Report and its appendices do not contain the complete texts of emails, although excerpts are presented. In effect, the authors of the report are saying 'trust me' to CBS News's critics. Ahem... isn't that essentially what Dan Rather said for ten days after the memos were first exposed?

No, the bloggers are not going to be quieted. And they are not going to look unreasonable when they point out the many inadequacies of the modified limited hangout supplied to them, any more than Woodward and Bernstein did when pursuing the first '—gate' of them all, Watergate.

CBS News is once again the victim of its own mistaken assumptions about the nature of information distribution. In the old days, when hierarchical institutions managed by elite leaders controlled the asking of questions, it would have been possible to, in effect cop a plea. Admit to some indiscretions, accept your public humiliation, fire a few people below the highest levels, and take your punishment. The other members of the club of information barons would accept that as enough.

Today, there is no chance to plead guilty to a lesser charge and escape further accountability. CBS News has not yet learned the nature of the era in which it operates.

Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker.