The week so far

Rather was right, Lieberman is (still) wrong, and when will Clinton's rivals go after her?

By Joan Walsh
Published September 26, 2007 9:12PM (UTC)
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I'm traveling this week without much time to write, but I wanted to weigh in on a few things: Media Matters' Eric Boehlert is absolutely right about the travesty of mainstream reporting on Dan Rather's lawsuit against CBS. You can debate the wisdom of Rather's using a lawsuit to settle scores with his old network, but too many reporters are, unconscionably and wrongly, insisting that Rather's story about George W. Bush's missing time in the Texas Air National Guard was invalidated by questions about the memos it used to confirm some of the details. The story itself was well grounded: Rather confirmed that Bush had political help getting a coveted TANG slot and then disappeared from his military duties for months at a time. The problem was with the memos the "60 Minutes II" segment used to "prove" higher-ups had complained about Bush's disappearing act; they were never authenticated, and they shouldn't have been used. But that doesn't mean, as the Los Angeles Times has claimed, that the Rather report was "wholly unsubstantiated."

Boehlert, who covered the CBS story for Salon at the time, isn't being a Rather shill; he writes of his own frustration with Rather, and CBS, back in 2004 for letting the controversy over the memos discredit the serious reporting the news team had done on the issue. I shared Boehlert's frustration at the time. We'd chased parts of the Bush National Guard story; just before Rather's report, Mary Jacoby did a great piece for Salon on Bush's "missing year," when he left the Guard for Alabama to work on a 1972 Senate campaign run by family friend Jimmy Allison. (Allison's widow, Linda, told Jacoby her husband gave the young Bush the job as a favor to his father, who was worried about the pilot-trainee's "young and irresponsible" ways, and that no one remembered Bush having anything to do with the Air National Guard during his year there.) There was a sense that many media outlets were getting closer to the truth about Bush's missing year -- and then the story changed to Rather's memo mystery. It's sad to watch reporters so willfully get their facts wrong in the Rather coverage, and I was glad to see Boehlert's piece laying out the truth.


In other news:

I'm in Hanover, N.H., for the Democratic debate at Dartmouth Wednesday night, and as I arrived on Tuesday I was asked to do MSNBC's "Live With Dan Abrams," talking about the various signs and signals that we're heading to war with Iran. Abrams included Harper's Ken Silverstein, who reported recently that his sources are telling him a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities is likely, as well as Pat Buchanan, who has been warning of war with Iran for months now. I found the whole segment surreal, to be honest; I was standing on Dartmouth Green on a gorgeous fall night, trying to come to terms with the fact that even though we're bogged down in an unwinnable war in Iraq, we might also be headed into Iran. My basic common sense won't let me believe that (Steve Clemons laid out the reasons war with Iran is not a done deal here on Salon last week, and I found it reassuring), but, as Clemons notes, as long as Dick Cheney is vice president, anything is possible. As usual, the Onion captures the situation best with this feature, "Bush Makes Surprise Visit to Work," about the president's rare, unexpected drop-in to visit the administration run by Cheney.

I only wish the Onion were behind Tuesday's craziest news, the "sense of the Senate" resolution pushed by Cheney's congressional abettors, Joe Lieberman and Jon Kyl, that would designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard a "terrorist organization" and back aggressive U.S. efforts, including military action, to curb its power. Sen. Jim Webb rightly stood up and called it a war authorization move on Tuesday, and Sen. Harry Reid claimed it wouldn't come up for a vote in the form Lieberman and Kyl proposed, but it's appalling nonetheless. The same folks who sold us the Iraq "cakewalk" are now claiming we can go in and surgically strike Iran's nuclear facilities and alleged terrorist training camps and not get pulled into a ground war -- and they're being taken seriously.


Finally, the Democratic debate tonight. Which candidates will aggressively go after Hillary Clinton, who continues to open up her lead on Barack Obama and John Edwards? I'll be talking about it on MSNBC's "Hardball" at 7 p.m. EDT, and then doing a debate wrap with Chris Matthews afterward. Be sure to watch!

Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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