Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Avoiding Conclusions

I guess Dick Thornburg could have easily reached his unreasonable conclusions in the CBS/Rathergate controversy considering the following 24 major problems with the story and CBS’s and Rather’s subsequent behavior.

Issues with the Aired Story

Authentication of the documents never occured
Lied about the degree of authentication
Failure to scrutinize source
Failure to find original source
Failed to prove documents came from LtCol Killian’s files
Failure to provided adequate corroboration to support statements and to carefully compare documents
Failure to interview a range of Guardsmen with different perspectives
Misleading statements about authenticity
Failed vetting process to match speed and accuracy
Made telephone call to Kerry campaign

Post Airing Issues

Out of hand dismissal of new information
Same producers prepared follow up segments
Inaccurate info calling materials “unimpeachable”
Defended on CBS Evening News
Myopic search for document experts to authenticate vice seeking the best experts
Preparing associated stories to bolster the original

Failed Vetting

Was a major investigative piece that was produced in a very short period of time
Was pursued intermittently for over five years, which could cause the correspondent and producer to become too personally invested in the story;
Was to be released in the middle of a presidential campaign and was highly negative to one candidate (President Bush);
Involved a source who did not want his identity disclosed;
Involved a second source who had never been located by 60 Minutes Wednesday
Relied on documents that could not be verified by their purported author because he was deceased
Relied on documents that were not originals
Was the first original story aired under the direction of the new 60 Minutes
Wednesday management team.

A couple of thoughts popped into this 1130 combined SAT head that I am sure were lost on the more brilliant mind of Dick Thornburg.

How could rush to air, because of competition, be the least bit justified in this case?

At air time there were at least ten major issues with this story. Who in their right mind would be competing to get this Swiss cheese on the air? After five years of floundering due to lack of evidence, I seriously doubt that there was any competitive pressure that necessitated airing this “story” in September. Without legitimate evidence there was no story, so there would be no competition. Who else would be trying to push this rope uphill? Nobody. So rush to air, due to competition is a conclusion not supported in logic. Hmmmm, why else would CBS try to push this story in September? Sweeps week? Avoid Summer Olympics? Leverage Back to School advertising? Disrupt Presidential election?

On page 28, The Panel rejects the notion of CBS of trying to influence the election, but offers no logic stream for this rejection. In the absence of fully explaining why, we are encouraged by default to draw our own logical conclusions. Mine is…this recognized, left leaning organization, was trying to influence the election. Not by logic and credible argument, but by giving free air time to a story that had about zero merit.

In today’s spin/headline MSM environment, airing of this story has as much chance as a legitimate story of carrying the day, and having a negative influence on an election. Heck, CBS was still pushing the original story two weeks later, in spite of an OVERWHELMING amount of evidence proving its falseness. I am a bit surprised Dick wasn’t able to grasp that the story might stick as a negative in voters’ minds regardless of its veracity.

Fairness in Parallel Universes

If CBS’s motives throughout the campaign were truly to provide fair treatment to each candidate, then why were they not publicly and aggressively pursuing the Kerry campaign to release the COMPLETE military records of John Kerry. The release of his records should have included from the start: John Kerry’s complete Naval Medical Records, including all documents concerning all of his wounds; all of the correspondence between Senator Kerry and DOD regarding the characterizations of ALL of his discharges; and all of the other loose ends adequately pointed out by SwiftVets and others.

If CBS’s focus was on fairness and Vietnam era documents, they could have pursued each story with equal vigor. This would have demonstrated a drive to fairness and it would have been a major factor in deflecting charges of bias and attempts to influence. No such vigorous search for Kerry documents was pursued by CBS. In a fair game each team gets to play offense and defense. Apparently at CBS, the Dems only have to play offense. CBS’s narrow focus on the Bush documents while they ignored an enticing, parallel story that was in play in the Kerry campaign can only be judged as biased. This bias, combined with the timing, again smacks strongly of attempting to influence the election. I am pretty sure Dick’s own “myopic focus” failed to reveal this to him.

Circumstantial Conclusions

Lastly and most simply, how could Thornburg conclude that bias was not an issue, when a “well respected, and credible” news organization commits over twenty-four MAJOR errors in the airing and subsequent follow-up on this story? The “perfect storm” theory is perfect hogwash. These errors of omission and commission could not have occurred WITHOUT the left leaning bias that oozes from the MSM, and especially DR and CBS, everyday. Lottery winning odds could not get the stars lined up again without the will of the participants. Period.

Well threaded circumstantial cases have been pursued by prosecutors throughout history. While not as easy to win as “smoking guns” cases, they are prosecutable and winnable, e.g. the Scott Peterson case. Dick Thornburg has left his work undone by not making the logical conclusion that is available to him…CBS and Dan Rather aired an intentionally biased story that was aimed to influence the election against President Bush. Dick needs to look for other work.

Got logic?

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