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Taking Heat

The Distinct Smell Of A Rat


By James Donahue


That CBS News scandal involving Dan Rather’s already infamous 60 Minutes report about alleged National Guard misconduct by President Bush during the Vietnam War era looks too much like a set-up.


Because of Democrat opponent John Kerry’s Vietnam War record, the issue was becoming a problem for Bush during the crucial last weeks preceding the November presidential election.


Suddenly, because Rather took some bate that led him into what I see as a well-organized and probably high-tech-prepared trap, the focus has shifted to Rather’s blunder. Bush, although not cleared of the allegations, suddenly emerges from all the smoke looking like the victim of irresponsible journalism.


The report generated so much stink that CBS News has named an independent two-member panel of “experts” to investigate the whole affair and decide who takes the blame.


Of course, the real perpetrators of this mess will have their tracks well covered. We all know that veteran anchorman Rather’s head may be on the platter. He is news director for CBS and the one who presented the story. Thus, Rather must accept full responsibility for any errors that occurred. He will likely announce an early retirement.


If it happens, I will sorely miss him. Of all of the personalities that followed the venerable Walter Cronkite to network anchor chairs, he has been my favorite. His colorful way of phrasing things, his willingness to explore controversial sides of issues inluding such things global warming, the Iraq War and dirty politics, have brought me back nightly to CBS News.


Because I have been an active journalist all of my life, I guess I just appreciate the best of the best when I see it.


I rejoiced when I saw that 60-minutes segment and thought, at last, they nailed down what Bush was up to during those months when his National Guard record went missing.


Now I am deeply saddened by the way in which the trap was sprung on Rather's neck.


And whatever happens at CBS, it will not shed any light on the Bush National Guard cover-up. If anything, it will prevent other journalists from daring to go there.


It was all political. And I have never seen a more vicious presidential campaign than we have been witnessing this year. Shame on us all for allowing it to happen.  


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