Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Partisans Together for the Donkey....
Campaign: Both the Kerry camp and its big-media arm warned of an October surprise. But they didn't say that they — and not Bush's operatives — would be behind it.
The "surprise"? The New York Times reported Monday that U.S. troops allowed 380 tons of explosives to be looted from a military site in Iraq during the first days of the war.
John Kerry immediately pounced on the news. He suggested the administration's incompetence may have led to weapons getting into "the hands of terrorists (who) can use this material to blow up our airplanes, blow up our buildings, kill American troops."
But once again, the big media have pushed a major story late in a campaign that discredits George W. Bush, only for us to discover it was made of whole cloth.
This has become a distressing pattern in recent presidential campaigns. It happened in 1992 with Iran-Contra, it happened in 2000 with drunk driving allegations and it's happening this year with the ammo dump.
Fortunately, as soon as the Times' story broke, NBC noted that its own reporters were embedded with the 101st Airborne troops who came upon the munitions site in question. And NBC's journalists said it was empty when they got there on April 10, 2003. Empty.
There's no polite way to put it: This story was a lie, apparently cooked up to serve the Times' partisan ends. It's not the first time.
Just a week and a half ago, The New York Times Magazine featured an extraordinary hit piece on President Bush's faith by Ron Suskind. It made no pretense of any sort of balance or fairness, opting instead for dark, unsubstantiated hints that Bush is driven by religious fanaticism and suffers from a near-messianic complex.
CBS, which also acts as if it were a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party, was lucky it got beat on the arms story. It had planned to run it on "60 Minutes" just two days before the election. But it bailed after the Times got the "scoop."
The once-proud Tiffany Network thus will be spared more egg on its face after being caught using phony documents for a now-discredited hit piece on Bush's Air National Guard service. What's truly distressing is CBS seems to have learned nothing from its error. Nor, for that matter, has the Times.
As it now stands, there can no longer be any question: The New York Times and CBS have both become nakedly and recklessly partisan in their search for news to hurt Bush and the Republicans.
Two months ago, after Dan Rather & Co. were caught lying, we had hopes for a housecleaning at CBS. But then, we thought the Times might change two years ago, when the Jayson Blair scandal broke, and Clinton booster and Times Editor Howell Raines was replaced with Bill Keller. No such luck.
Same old, same old, as kids like to say. Just another case of big media bias. But someday, shareholders of both companies, looking at their shriveling shares of the news business, are going to wake up.
Then they'll wonder why they let their problems go so long. And why they put their prize news properties in the hands of political hacks masquerading as journalists.