John McCaslin

A CBS News insider tells The Beltway Beat that "four or five" of the network's employees face dismissal as CBS prepares to release a "critical" internal investigative report on the use of fake documents in a pre-election story challenging President Bush's Vietnam-era service in the Texas Air National Guard.

Dan Rather already has announced he's stepping down from the anchor chair on March 9 - his 24th anniversary on the job - although the network says his departure is unrelated to the fallout from the bogus claims leveled against the president. Rather will remain a network correspondent.

The anchor told TV viewers that CBS was deliberately misled about the authenticity of documents it used to impugn Bush's Guard service.

"I want to say, personally and directly, I'm sorry," said Mr. Rather, who has been accused of political bias on numerous occasions during his broadcasting career. "This was an error made in good faith."

THE ENVELOPES, PLEASE

Before we say farewell to Dan Rather, let us be the first to report that he's been crowned "worst-speaking network news anchor" by American Speaker, the comprehensive guide to successful speaking.

"I should add that the awardees - including Dan Rather as worst network news anchor - were selected over two months ago, so my suggestion that he bow out was made long before he took a powder," American Speaker editor-in-chief Aram Bakshian Jr. tells The Beltway Beat.

"Best political speaker" honors in the annual Patrick Awards for best and worst speaking performances in 2004 go to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose recent successes are "proof that brains, practice, a good message and natural eloquence can overcome even a strong Austrian accent."

Worst political speaker: former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean "for his memorable - if unfairly and repeatedly replayed 'I Have a Scream' speech - the night of the Iowa caucus."

"Seldom has one speech done more to end the political career of a promising, major political figure," says Bakshian, once a fellow at Harvard's Institute of Politics and director of speechwriting under President Reagan.

Sen.-elect Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, gets "best national speaking debut" for his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, while Democratic vice presidential nominee North Carolina Sen. John Edwards lands the "most disappointing national debut."

Best-spoken network news anchor is Tom Brokaw of NBC, who recently stepped down from his anchoring post. Best network news interviewer is NBC's Tim Russert for his "consistently aggressive but civil, fair and informed interviewing style with public figures of every political stripe."


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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