Ah, the ironies of history. As I sit in Boston's Logan Airport watching CNN (goodness knows I would never watch CNN in the privacy of my home), I see the news anchor glumly state that CBS News has now verified that it cannot authenticate documents that supposedly prove President Bush didn't fulfill his duties in the National Guard way back in the 1970s. CBS' impeccably honest source, Bill Burkett, has admitted that he misled CBS. Apparently, Joe Lockhart of the John Kerry campaign spoke with Burkett at the behest of CBS News. And Dan Rather is somewhere in New York, high atop the CBS headquarters, zapping himself with a cattle prod.
It's more substantive than President Clinton's perjury before Congress. After all, Clinton's perjury was simply a liar doing what he did best, in front of the American people and America's elected officials. Sure, it was a crime, but then again, Clinton never claimed scrupulous honesty.
It's more substantive than the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth questioning John Kerry's medal-winning time in Vietnam. While that story has legs, it still revolves around decades-old information and discusses the problems of one soporific politician.
And it's certainly more substantive than the series of trumped-up scandals against President Bush, whether it's the Joe Wilson-Valerie Plame CIA "scandal," the missing weapons of mass destruction or the "Mission Accomplished" banner aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.
Only the Watergate scandal compares in magnitude to this CBS scandal in the pantheon of influential political events. Watergate ousted Richard Nixon, ushered in a period of distrust in the presidency and provided the culmination to a decade of irresponsibility and moral decline. But most of all, Watergate changed the face of the media forever.
During the Vietnam War, the mainstream media realized its power. During the Nixon administration, the media turned from objective observers into firebrand crusaders. As historian Paul Johnson puts it, "the electoral verdict of 1972 was overturned by what might be described as a media putsch. The 'imperial presidency' was replaced by the 'imperial press.'"