Rather: when the adversary system isn't looking for the truth

Beldar, the lawyer and blogger, has been most critical of the Rather complaint against CBS, but argues that this is a case where the adversary system is no way to get to the truth because neither side could bear that.
But there is a huge question whether CBS actually does want to take advantage of this splendid opportunity to prove in court, once and for all, that the documents Dan Rather was peddling to the American public were forgeries. It didn't press the Thornburgh-Boccardi Panel to come to a conclusion on that point - just like it didn't press the Panel to go bare-knuckled when it came to assessing Dan Rather's personal share of blame. Until now, CBS has only cared about "boardroom truth" - which often is, shall we say, a more malleable concept by its very nature.

And that's why Rather's case - as incredibly, stinkingly, appallingly, cosmically bogus as it is - nevertheless has some considerable settlement value: Not because CBS is likely to lose to Rather if the truth is confirmed in court, but because individual decision-makers within CBS may have overwhelming vested interests in ensuring that the facts are not thoroughly probed in court.

By failing to fire Rather for cause, by whitewashing his personal responsibility while only firing others, and by enabling the shattered fragments of his journalistic reputation to keep stumbling along for almost two more years before he finally staggered away from the Tiffany Network on his own two feet, CBS has put Dan Rather in a position from which he may very well be able to effectively blackmail the network into a settlement. Rather may be saying to CBS: "I'm going to show how righteous I was, and that you were wrong!" But what CBS may hear (and justly fear) is: "I'm going to make you show how corrupt I was, and that will necessarily also show that you were right there in that corrupt bed with me."
Beldar is head and shoulders above all other commentors on this case, and if it interests you, his blog is the go to place. His concerns about what might come out are well-illustrated by an article I wrote in January 2005 on the Thornburgh-Bocsardi and what it revealed.
Beldar, the lawyer and blogger, has been most critical of the Rather complaint against CBS, but argues that this is a case where the adversary system is no way to get to the truth because neither side could bear that.
But there is a huge question whether CBS actually does want to take advantage of this splendid opportunity to prove in court, once and for all, that the documents Dan Rather was peddling to the American public were forgeries. It didn't press the Thornburgh-Boccardi Panel to come to a conclusion on that point - just like it didn't press the Panel to go bare-knuckled when it came to assessing Dan Rather's personal share of blame. Until now, CBS has only cared about "boardroom truth" - which often is, shall we say, a more malleable concept by its very nature.

And that's why Rather's case - as incredibly, stinkingly, appallingly, cosmically bogus as it is - nevertheless has some considerable settlement value: Not because CBS is likely to lose to Rather if the truth is confirmed in court, but because individual decision-makers within CBS may have overwhelming vested interests in ensuring that the facts are not thoroughly probed in court.

By failing to fire Rather for cause, by whitewashing his personal responsibility while only firing others, and by enabling the shattered fragments of his journalistic reputation to keep stumbling along for almost two more years before he finally staggered away from the Tiffany Network on his own two feet, CBS has put Dan Rather in a position from which he may very well be able to effectively blackmail the network into a settlement. Rather may be saying to CBS: "I'm going to show how righteous I was, and that you were wrong!" But what CBS may hear (and justly fear) is: "I'm going to make you show how corrupt I was, and that will necessarily also show that you were right there in that corrupt bed with me."
Beldar is head and shoulders above all other commentors on this case, and if it interests you, his blog is the go to place. His concerns about what might come out are well-illustrated by an article I wrote in January 2005 on the Thornburgh-Bocsardi and what it revealed.