We’ve had a day to digest the CBS Report. Yesterday we didn’t have a chance to read any of it because it hit right before the program started, and I didn’t really get to see a copy of it until the end of the day and into last night. Folks, it’s an absolute. You know what they’ve done with this report? This report has extended the misery. It has prolonged the misery. It has extended the controversy. It hasn’t quelled anything. As I suspected yesterday, they have bent over backwards; they have bent over forwards. They bent over sideways. They pretzeled themselves here in this report attempting to say it was the fault of everybody and everything except a political agenda. There was no bias. There was no political agenda. The report does say they found some “circumstantial evidence.” What would that be? The fact that Mary Mapes is on the phone to Joe Lockhart who’s running the Kerry campaign? Is circumstantial evidence that Mary Mapes is trying to pass off Bill Burkett? But there are other things. I mean, if it wasn’t politics here, what, pray tell, is playing politics? Let’s go back, 60 Minutes trying to bail out Bill and Hillary before the ’92 elections. Remember they coached them? Don Hewitt coached them on how to behave in that interview post-Gennifer Flowers.
Richard Clarke got a sweetheart interview about his book, the 9/11 Commission hearings, of course — and all of the books. Woodward’s book came out. Clinton’s book came out. I mean, 60 Minutes turned itself over into the Bush-Bashing Book of the Month Club the past spring into the campaign season. Sixty Minutes is famous, maybe notorious, for playing politics as far back as the Kennedy-Nixon debate with Hewitt advising Kennedy to wear some makeup, choosing the camera angles that made Nixon look like a crook, made Kennedy look like a Hollywood idol, but playing politics is not necessarily planning politics. You remember that old question: How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? In this case, the question is: How many liberals can reside on a limb — way out on a limb? Chris Matthews was so exercised about this last night on his show. He’s blaming a conspiracy of right-wingers led by Roger Ailes of all people. Let me tell you what that’s all about if you happened to watch Matthews last night. We have the audio of this. We’ll share with you later in the program. This goes back to the 1988 election. Bush’s was seeking the presidency after the Reagan administration.
I’m not sure about the year on this, it has to be after ’88. At any rate, whenever it was, it was in the ’88 to ’92 year range. Rather had secured an interview with George H. W. Bush. At the time, the Iran-Contra scandal was brewing, and everybody was trying to get George H. W. Bush to admit that he knew all about it, that he was a grand schemer. Remember, the Reagan administration was saying that Bush knew nothing about it, that it was a controversy that was led by underlings like Oliver North and somebody. Whatever it was, it was brilliantly executed, I have to tell you. Take money from the Iranians and give it to the Contras? I loved it. I think the scheme was fabulous. It circumvented the Boland Amendment and all that. Well, shortly before this interview — I say shortly, some weeks or months before this interview — Dan Rather got mad at the sports division at CBS because they stuck with the U.S. Open or some tennis tournament pretty long, and the tournament bled over into coverage of what would be the CBS News that Rather was going to be anchoring that night. So Rather, in a huff, walked off the set, and when the tennis ended, Rather was nowhere to be found to anchor the news, and word got out that he had walked off the set in a tiff.
So they sit down for the interview, Rather and George H. W. Bush, and Rather starts boring in on Iran-Contra. “Don’t you think it was wrong? Don’t you think you should have fessed up? Didn’t you have a role in it?” so forth and so on, and George H. W. Bush — it was January 25th. What was the year Mr. Snerdley? Okay, 1988. January 25th, 1988. So Rather is boring down, bearing in on Bush about the Iran-Contra scandal, and George H. W. Bush fires back (paraphrased), “Dan, I don’t think any of us want to be judged by one moment in our careers, such as when you walked off the set.” Rather has never recovered from that, folks. He has never fully recovered from that. He said, “Uh, uh, uh, Mr. Vice President, this is not about me. It is not about me.” Well, Dan, I know, but we all do things in our careers that… “Just like when you walked off the set,” and Rather has blamed Roger Ailes for this since it happened. Rather believes that Roger Ailes told Bush, “Don’t let him get away with probing you on this. This guy just walked off the set. Throw it right back in his face.” I don’t know whether Ailes advised him to do it or not, but Ailes takes the heat for it just like Ailes took the heat for the <a href=”http://livingroomcandidate.movingimage.us/player/asx.php?media_id=7103″>Willie Horton</a> ad, which really wasn’t his. He’s happy to take the heat, don’t misunderstand. Ever since then, there has been an animus that Rather has had for the Bush family, and to say that there’s no politics involved in this, and to say that there was no agenda behind it? Wait till you hear some of the things we’ve culled from the report. It’s amazing they could write this report, learning what they learned.
Here’s some information. It comes right from the CBS report itself. Now, the report focuses on Mary Mapes. By the way, what did I tell you yesterday? What did I tell you about Mary Mapes? I said, “Don’t worry for her. Don’t worry about her. Liberal failures rise to the top.” She is already reportedly been approached by PBS Frontline, a documentary outfit for the public broadcasting service to become a special projects consultant. Did I not tell you, “Don’t worry about Mary Mapes?” She’s done so well with this. Her star is shining brightly, folks. Frontline is rumored to be desirous of her services. This theory works every time: You fail as a liberal and you go higher and higher and higher in stature on the liberal success ladder. I know she’s blaming Moonves. She’s blaming Moonves and she’s blaming Andrew Heyward. She said, “If anybody committed a journalistic crime here it wasn’t me. It was them.” I have to tell you, there’s also a report out today, one of the early reports on the UN Oil-for-Food Scandal, and that they’re saying is “just a bunch of oversight,” that there wasn’t any purposeful malfeasance or corruption. Come on, folks! You know something, this is what sours people. This is the kind of thing that sours people on politics and on authority. There’s no question that the UN Oil-for-Food Scandal is a huge scandal. It was a purposeful scandal. We know that Saddam Hussein was paying off people; he was bribing people with oil contracts and vouchers, and we’ve seen the list of people.
But here are the powerful clearing the decks for themselves and casting aside their sins and it looks like the execs at CBS have gotten away with the same thing. I’m not exonerating Mary Mapes here, but it is curious that Andrew Heyward escapes all this. I’ll give you a football analogy. They fire the head coach when the players screw up. They fire the head coach, sometimes the general manager if the team screws up. They don’t blame it on the coordinators, although sometimes an offensive coordinator will go if you’ve got a new head coach in a long term contract. For the most part, in a lot of other businesses, the man at the top of is, you know, buck stops there. But apparently Heyward is being given a pass on this even though Dan Rather indicated he was involved in it because Rather knew how volatile it was. The report also says — and I’m not sure I believe this. It seems to me that Dan Rather is being protected here, too. The report indicates that Rather was an empty suit on this. That Dan Rather basically was reading the TelePromTer. He didn’t know anything. He didn’t report anything. He didn’t go dig deep. That was all done by underlings and producers and that they just dragged Rather in off the street when it was time to go on the air and gave him the script and said, “Here you go Dan, read this. When you go talk to these people, here are the questions to ask them,” and, you know, that doesn’t jive with what the media itself has been saying the last few months about Rather. “He’s the hardest nose in the business. He’s one of the best journalists. He’s one of the best reporters in the world out there,” and this report pretty much gives him a pass. He didn’t report on anything. He’s just an empty suit TelePromTer reader.
Now, a lot of people think that of a lot of news anchors at every level; they just show up and read the script, but they give them titles of managing editor to make us think that they’re rolling up the sleeves and getting down deep and doing all the dirty work and coming up with all the news. We know that’s not the case. So not to say the underlings are unfairly being punished here. Some of them may be. I mean, Betsy West, first time her name has surfaced in any of this, but the top dogs here, no question, have been given a pass. But the report reveals, let’s get to the substance of this report, some of this stuff is amazing. The report reveals that Mary Mapes had spent five years trying to prove that George W. Bush was AWOL from the National Guard. She began in 1999 with a memo to her boss, Dan Rather, and that memo said, “In his military career Bush was truly born on third base.” She accused Bush of having found a safe haven for children of privilege in the Texas Air National Guard because the future president got a coveted spot despite a long waiting list. But there’s a problem here.
According to the report itself, there is strong evidence there was no waiting list. The panel knows that because Mapes knew about it. It was in her files; it was in her files there was no waiting list and yet she’s got this memo to Rather saying there’s a waiting list and Bush got on it. But still she wanted the smoking gun. She wanted this story so badly she was willing to lie to people including herself about what existed and what didn’t exist at the Texas Air National Guard. Now, the panel informs us that by the summer of 2004, “Mary Mapes was determined to do a big story on Bush’s service to be aired in the fall, only weeks before the general election. There was a problem, though. There wasn’t a story.” Now, if that’s not politics right there, what is it? You time this story to impact an election. If that’s not politics, what is it? The report says, “Mapes and her team were not focused on any particular event or topic between June and late August, but instead were trying to identify a viable storyline regarding the president’s military service that they wanted to time in September right before the election. But Mapes and her team were not focused on any particular event or topic between June and August. They were just hunting.”
Well, I don’t buy that, either. If she had been looking for this story for five years, why did she all of a sudden have no story between June and late August? Now, John Podhoretz in the New York Post has a good translation of this. He says, “Mapes was not focused on any particular event or topic.” In other words, she had nothing to go on, and yet on she went searching for a viable storyline. They had nothing. There was nothing. They’d done this story. All the media had done this story five times, six times. There was nothing there. It was done when Bush ran for governor of Texas. It was done in the 2000 presidential campaign, five times in just the 2004 election cycle. There was nothing there, and yet Mary Mapes was still looking for something. She was essentially on a fishing expedition. She was trying to hook a president hook, line and sinker, and she did so with the consent and support of her bosses. Nobody told her to shut it down. Nobody said, “Mary, give it up. There’s no story.” She proceeded. They were eager. With that in mind, this gets even better. She then partnered up with Michael Smith. Michael Smith is a Texas journalist. “Smith told her that he had ‘a tasty brisket of information,'” quote, unquote, “to share with her about Bush,” and basically he wanted to be hired by Mary Mapes to proceed down this path of getting Bush. So Mapes e-mailed Smith in July using capital letters with great urgency. “I am deadly serious about it. I have two other people working with me looking at various aspects of the story, trying to find an opening. The piece if I get it will run in early September. I need all the help I can get. Just tell me what you’ve got.”
So Mary Mapes gets hooked up with a Texas journalist named Michael Smith. Smith told her he had “a tasty brisket of information” to share with her about Bush, and she said. “Okay, that’s great. I want this story badly. I’m deadly serious about it. I have two other people working with me. I need all the help I can get. Just tell me what you’ve got.” Then she e-mailed him later in the month. This is in the 2004, summer of last year. She said, “I desperately want to talk to you, Mr. Smith. DO NOT,” in caps, “underestimate how much I want this story.” I’m just telling you what’s in the report where they were able to conclude there’s no bias here. Okay, so what was this “tasty brisket of information” that Texas journalist Michael Smith had? Where did they find the incriminating documents supposedly written by Bush’s superior officer, a man conveniently dead for 20 years? Through a website called OnlineJournal.com which is edited by a man named Paul Lukasiak. As John Podhoretz characterizes Paul Lukasiak, “He makes Michael Moore seem like William F. Buckley, Jr.” That’s how big a book this Lukasiak is. Lukasiak put them in touch with Bill Burkett, who “at first was coy and cagey with them about the smoking gun documents that he possessed.”
Now, “in order to dislodge those documents from Burkett, Michael Smith e-mailed Mapes with a plan of seduction. Maybe they could get Burkett’s complete cooperation by getting him an agent and a book deal so he could get some money out of the whole thing. Smith’s e-mail to Mapes gave it away. He told Mapes he was going to contact an editor friend to ask the following. ‘What if there was as person who might have some information that could possibly change the momentum of an election, but we needed to get an ASAP book deal to help us get the information?'” So this is the guy, Michael Smith that she tuned to, and he sends her an e-mail that he’s also copied to an editor friend of his, and that e-mail: “What if there was a person,” they’re talking about Burkett, “who might have some information that could possibly change the momentum of an election?” Folks, why do you need to read any further in this report? They were out trying to affect the outcome of an election. I’m sorry for you libs. That’s not what journalism is, and there was a day when you libs ran journalism that that’s not what it was. You have to go way, way back, but there was a day when it was a little cleaner than it is now.
You didn’t have to impact the outcome of events because your side had a monopoly and dominated everything anyway, and now that you don’t dominate and now that you’ve lost your monopoly, the panic has set in and so you have to go out now and actually soil the sacred, so-called principles of journalism in order to get the results you want because you can’t trust the voters, the American people, because they’re too stupid. They’re too stupid. In fact, they’re too smart, now. They’re too informed. They know the game that you people in the liberal media have been playing, and so just like you need judges on the courts to circumvent the will of the people. So you need journalist and kook associates to circumvent the will of the people when it comes time for an election. “Smith’s e-mail proves that, more than a week before the story aired, two of its producers were openly discussing how their story could tilt the election to John Kerry. We know Mapes liked the sound of it because she e-mailed back: ‘That looks good, hypothetically speaking, of course.’ In the end, the story’s producers did not broker a book deal. But they did bring their source into contact with a highranking official in the, you guessed it, Kerry campaign.”
When they couldn’t get the book deal done, they put Burkett in touch with Joe Lockhart of the Kerry campaign. Now, “We knew about this before. What we didn’t know was that Mapes got the phone number she needed through her own husband. Mapes wanted the story on the air. She wanted it desperately. The authors of the report say she was bewitched by competitive pressures (because other news organizations were on the story, too).” They were all on the story. Every other media outlet had given this Texas National Guard story the best they had, and none of them had come up with anything. The New York Times was prepared to run it. They were going to partner with CBS on this, and for some reason — and, you know, CBS had to go early to try to circumvent the New York Times on it. But as Podhoretz writes here, “It doesn’t matter whether CBS executives met in a room, twirled moustaches and gave each other high-fives about getting George Bush. What matters is that they turned their airwaves over to someone who was clearly in the grip of an obsession,” and using website kook bloggers as intermediaries trying to broker book deals and when that didn’t work out, Mapes gets Lockhart’s number from her husband and then feeds Burkett that number. Now, why were they able to do such a thing? Why did they not see the obsession?
You know, I have said to you countless times: If you would take me, if some liberal, if you liberals in journalism really interested — and I know this is pie-in-the-sky; I’m just going to repeat this for the sake of example. If you’re really interested in finding out where you’re going wrong with some of the American people, let me sit in in a news hour production meeting, just pick your hour of news that you’re going to do, half hour of news, let me sit in the production meeting and with story selection alone I will tell you, and by watching the attitudes and listening to the words of the people in the meeting, I will tell you exactly where you’re headed, who you are, why you’re planning on doing it, and will all add up to liberal bias. The fact that other liberal executives were watching this obsession of Mary Mapes’ proves they had the same obsession, when they didn’t see it. They’re all of the same religion. They’re all of the same cloth. They’re all members of the same tribe, if you will. So the execs didn’t see this because they all had the same agenda, and that is: Get Bush. They wanted the story. They all wanted the story. Dan Rather wanted the story. Andrew Heyward wanted the story. Everybody wanted the story. The one guy, there is one guy in all of CBS, ladies and gentlemen, who understood what was going on at the time, and that was a public relations vice president.
The only executive at CBS who pushed Mary Mapes to substantiate her reporting, seems to have been the vice president of PR, Gil Schwartz. The report quotes liberally from e-mails celebrity by Gil Schwartz. He’s the executive vice president for communications, and included is this e-mail to Andrew Heyward five days after the piece aired. The subject line of Mr. Schwartz’s e-mail is: “Total Red Alert.” Quote: “Our entire reputation as a news division now rests in our fielding a couple of experts on our side TODAY,” in caps. The question is: What is a vice president of PR doing writing that e-mail? Why isn’t the president of CBS writing it? This is five days after the story ran when all hell has broken loose, and everybody knows, this time they’re suspecting and the evidence is pretty clear that forged documents have been used. Where is the CBS News president? Where is he demanding some experts to validate this story? Why is it up to a PR guy? Not to put down PR guys, but let’s face it: The news president, that’s where the buck stops. The reason Andrew Heyward was not there is because he probably believed Mapes and Rather when he says, “I don’t care if these are forged. They’re accurate.” Remember that storyline? “Well, they may not be authentic, but they’re accurate,” meaning they believe what’s in these memos, even though they were created out of whole cloth. They wanted the story. Back to what I was talking about yesterday, motivation.
Why are they doing this? Why are they taking all these risks? Because they wanted the story, and it’s not just competitive juices. There’s some people advancing the theory today that Dan Rather had to do something to save himself. His newscast has been in the basement for the longest time. It’s been in third place behind Brokaw and Peter Jennings, NBC and ABC, had to do something. Folks, if they were worried about Dan Rather’s ratings, he would have been relieved of his duties years ago. He’s been in third place longer than I have been shaving. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, because I started shaving a little bit longer than 12 years ago, but the fact of the matter is, he’s been in third place long enough. The reason why they haven’t moved him out of there — I’ve got this story in the stack — they haven’t lost any advertising revenue, and I told you that, too, during this whole scandal. I had people calling me, “Well, I’ll tell you what’s going to happen here. When this all breaks, we’re going to lose some advertising revenue and that’s going to make…” And I said, “They’re not going to lose advertising revenue.” The people that buy the nightly news, buy all three of them and they buy the combined audience.
You have some individual advertisers from NBC and some on ABC, some on CBS, but for the most part if you look at the ads it’s hemorrhoid replacement surgery. Well, hemorrhoid creams, whatever. Look at the people that advertise and you’ll see the age-group of the people that watch the news, and that’s a demographic that advertisers don’t often seek but that’s one place where you can get ’em. The people that still watch the nightly news are pretty much middle-aged seasoned citizens. They’re not Internet savvy. They don’t watch a lot of cable so a lot of the people watching the nightly news that’s the first time in the day they’re hearing the news because that’s what they’ve done their whole lives, that’s their pattern, people don’t change. Advertisers have been there. That’s one reason why Rather hasn’t been blown out already because the show has not been losing money, despite where the numbers are, and that’s the case even today. So don’t give me this competitive pressure. Don’t give me this business that they were losing numbers and they wanted to do something to send them back up to the mighty lofts of #1 and #2. This is pure politics, pure and simple — and the fact that they’re going so far out of their way to make themselves look silly in denying that is why they’ve extended the controversy and prolonged it and focused even more attention on their practices and who they are rather than what this report was supposed to do, which was put an end to all that.
All right, let’s go to the CBS Evening News last night, their own report on their own scandal. They turned to the newest and purest anchorman of America, me: The leader of the new media, Rush Limbaugh, America’s anchorman. You know, that’s what I am. I’m America’s anchorman. We do a three hour newscast of this program except I’m very honest with you about it. I talk about things I’m interested in and I tell you what I think about it, and there’s no question. You can say it’s biased, but you can’t say it critically because it’s not a secret. I’m not pretending to be objective. I am America’s true anchorman doing play-by-play of the news, the leader of the new media, and that’s where CBS went last night to put the criticism of their Report in Focus, Bob Schieffer filling in. Here is a portion of Jim Axlerod’s report on the Dan Rather story.
AXLEROD: On talk TV and radio political bias was item #1.
RUSH ARCHIVE: They wanted the story to be true, and, why? Because they had an axe to grind with George W. Bush.
RUSH: Next up, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Reports, a portion of correspondent Mary Snow’s report on the CBS controversy. They, too, again turned to the leader of the new media, America’s anchorman, me.
SNOW: Rush Limbaugh criticized the CBS report as poorly written, and charged that CBS wanted the story to be true because it had an axe to grind with President Bush. But others say the competitive pressures of campaign coverage played a more pivotal role.
RUSH: Why don’t you name those others? You name me but you don’t name any others. What others? They have no credibility, that’s why. Just pick a name. You thought it yourself, maybe. Competitive pressures? I just dealt with that. They don’t worry about competitive pressures because they’re not losing money on this show. If they were unhappy with Rather being #3, folks, trust me: I have worked in places where my numbers have not been good and that doesn’t help. Believe me, it does not help, and if your numbers are not good and you still survive, you either have a picture or a series of pictures of a boss in a compromising situation or two, or your show is still making money and they don’t care what your numbers are. Or you’re on PBS and winning awards and nobody is watching anyway and it’s a good thing there aren’t any numbers, producing documentaries that nobody ever sees and winning awards for it. Those are the three options. Now let’s go to Chris Matthews and his Hard Boiled show last night. Matthews said this about talk radio and the Dan Rather controversy, very, very condescending. In this bite from Matthews we get a little window here into the true anger and angst felt by those who were formerly the dominant media.
MATTHEWS: When you get up tomorrow morning and listen to talk radio — Limbaugh or any of those folks of the right all day long — you know, we can predict right now they’re gonna be blasting this report as inadequately banging Dan Rather. They have an audience, and the reason there are highly paid conservative pundits is there’s a huge market for such punditry. They’re out driving trucks and driving cars across the United States, across Route 70, rather, Route 95 going south. All those highways are filled with cars, all filled with the noise from the right saying, “You’re right. They’re wrong. The big east liberals are all dead. Look at this guy Rather, he proves it.”
RUSH: (Laughing.) Man, oh, man, are these people steeped in it! They are irritated. So you people that listen to me and others, are in trucks and cars driving south on I-95. You’re not driving north on I-95, and you’re in trucks driving across Route 70, Interstate 70. That goes through the Midwest. It intersects, it bisects Missouri, which is my home state. This is very condescending and, of course, once again, it insults this audience as being mind-numbed robots and lame-brains and so forth — and I should also point out that we’re really not focusing so much on Rather today but rather on what the report says, Chris. You know, why don’t you read the report and tell me how you conclude the facts of this case to be? You know, I mean, you read this, it’s inescapable what was going on. There was an agenda to get a president. There was an agenda to affect the outcome of an election. The producer of the piece, which is who we focused on today, used a crackpot kook and his website as a link to Bill Burkett, who himself is dubious as a source, and they tried to get a book deal arranged for this guy so there would be some money in it for him, release his forged, fake documents. They couldn’t get the book deal so they arrange a contact for him at Joe Lockhart’s office at the Kerry campaign. What are innocent bystanders supposed to conclude with all this? Is the fact that Mary Mapes can put somebody, a source of hers, in contact with Joe Lockhart irrelevant? Does the fact that she puts in an e-mail the opportunity to affect an election irrelevant?