Begin with the long list of "60 Minutes" segments that rocked the media loaded with another-problem-for-Bush overtones. There were three weeks of Abu Ghraib reports; former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and former terrorism czar Richard Clarke attacking Bush; journalist Bob Woodward knocking the intelligence of Bush; Gen. Anthony Zinni declaring Iraq a disaster; and Michael Moore attacking Bush (complete with a 55-second "Fahrenheit 9/11" excerpt). That's all before the two segments on "fake, but accurate" Bush records.
How did "60 Minutes" dig into the Kerry record? They didn't. Kerry was interviewed twice. In January, Ed Bradley touted Kerry's Vietnam medals and then asked: "Do you see a parallel with Iraq?" In July, Lesley Stahl asked Kerry, John Edwards and their wives the toughies, like "How do you think the honeymoon is going?"
Last fall, when CBS belatedly appointed an internal panel to investigate the collapsing Dan Rather "scoop" on Bush and the Texas Air National Guard, many conservatives (including this writer) predicted failure. The CBS investigation had to answer four questions: 1. What did CBS do wrong? 2. Who's responsible? 3. Why did CBS get it so wrong? 4. How would CBS correct the problem?
Refreshingly, the reviewers did a respectable job answering the first two questions. Predictably, they completely punted on the last two. CBS would not accept a report finding egregious political bias, because that would mean CBS would have to address the possibility of correcting the problem of liberal bias. Instead, they blamed it all on "myopic zeal," as if that is altogether different from bias.
On the bias issue, reviewers Richard Thornburgh and Louis Boccardi have decided to put on their see-no-bias blinders -- and keep them on. Over the weekend, Thornburgh told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Political bias is an easy charge to make but a difficult one to prove, because you've got to get into somebody's head." Boccardi echoed that on CNN, saying they could not "prove that the intent of the people here was simply a political hatchet job."
Baloney. You don't discover CBS's primary "unimpeachable" source was a guy who likes comparing the president to Adolf Hitler on the Internet, and then find there was no anti-Bush bias in the source selection. Finding a political bias isn't just about intent, but content. This scandal didn't require the investigators to hire a psychic. It required, to borrow from Dan Rather, courage.