Friday, September 17, 2004

Low Esteem? Or Contempt?

It is about hatred and trying to swing an election. Danny thinks somehow he is some sort of avenging angel. Looks like he will stop at nothing to bring Bush down. - Sailor

Low Esteem? Or Contempt?

By Ralph Kinney Bennett
Published 09/17/2004

Dan Rather is hanging tough.

"We stand by our" blah, blah, blah… We all know the drill just before the anvil drops.

As in "He's the best manager this ball team's ever had and I hope he'll be around for years."

Or, "We're confident that these are indeed Adolf Hitler's lost diaries."

But there's something about this whole thing that's really sad and few people are pointing out: The state of CBS News' reputation before the fetid documents were proffered.

Think about it. Whoever dreamed this thing up could have only two views of Rather and the gang at Black Rock. To wit:

1) The House Organ View. The perps weren't perps at all. They were just intermediaries passing on information from the Democrat Party to the best available party organ for the job.

2) The "Blow it Past These Clowns" View. The perps looked around and thought to themselves, "Who would just fall all over themselves to get a story like this?" Why, CBS, of course.

Despite the fervid suspicions of some right wingers, I'm sure we can dismiss the house organ theory. Why bother trying to co-opt a distinguished broadcast news outfit. Too much money, even for George Soros. Too much secrecy. Too much trouble. Democrats figure they get mucho free milk from this cow, so why buy it.

That leaves us with the second view. The more you look at the infamous Bush National Guard documents the more you have to wonder how confident the forgers were about their work. Experts are just falling over themselves to pick the work apart.

Well, however confident they were about their work, the perps must have had a high degree of confidence about Rather & Co. They figured they would swallow it faster than you can say "60 Minutes."

That's the sad thing -- the low esteem (or was it contempt?) in which the perps held an old and venerable institution of broadcast journalism.

CBS still had at least the tattered vestiges of believability to wrap around itself before this affair blew up in its face. I mean, CBS was believable enough -- at least in the perps' eyes -- to make it a plausible conduit for this little smear campaign.

And it was a "little" campaign. This was not some new revelation. It was a rake back through old charges that have had little weight with the public whatever small grain of truth there may be in them.

This was not a hot story from a strictly news point of view. It would have been at best a "suspicions confirmed" bit of by-play to a political race.

So it is interesting that CBS would have gambled so much and lost so much on such a small thing. Does Rather hate Bush that much? Or are he and his vaunted staff just that easy?

,i>Ralph Kinney Bennett is a TCS Contributing Editor. An aging crank, he lives in Ligonier, Pa., and Delray Beach, Fla. He is an avid scholar of military history. He has a passion for automobiles, the Simpsons, English and American classic poetry and long bicycle rides. He is fascinated by technology, but particularly by what he calls "technology that counts - like the paper clip or a garage door opener." He retired from the Washington bureau of The Reader's Digest as an Assistant Managing Editor. For over 30 years he wrote on a wide variety of subjects for the magazine. Prior to joining the Digest, he was a writer for The National Observer, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The New Haven Register. He and his wife, Virginia, a retired CPA, have two children and five grandchildren.

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