Jonah Goldberg

This doesn't mean that CBS wasn't rushing for big ratings. I'm sure it was. But it was rushing for big ratings on an anti-Bush story. It is flatly inconceivable that "60 Minutes" would throw out its usual safeguards for an anti-Kerry story brought to it by, say, the Swift Boat Vets, let alone a guy as sketchy as the anti-Bush activist Bill Burkett - a source Dan Rather insisted was (snort, chortle) "unimpeachable." And you have to be higher than a moonbat to believe that producers from "60 Minutes" would do anything that even faintly smacked of collusion with the Bush campaign.

But here's the real reason the effort to make this about the BANG story will bust. No one cares anymore. Oh sure, anti-Bush liberals think the story is hugely important - which should tip you off to why Dan Rather thinks it's hugely important - but not because they care so much. It's because they think it will hurt Bush. No one else cares. We heard about it in 2000 - when Mapes was already a year into her sleuthing - and we heard about it endlessly this summer. And we're hearing about it again now. And - ta da! - no one cares.

There's this false parallelism which the anti-Bush media and Kerry campaign are desperate to make real. Because Kerry claims that what he did 30 years ago is hugely relevant to his candidacy, he's made what he did 30 years ago fair game. Now, whether the Swift Boat assaults on Kerry's medals were fair or not is a debate for another day. But criticizing what Kerry did upon his return - meeting with the enemy, throwing away his ribbons and/or medals, etc. - is certainly fair game.

Regardless, none of this makes Bush's Vietnam era service particularly relevant. Bush isn't running on what he did three decades ago, he's running on what he's done over the last three years. If Michael Jordan were running for president and touting his basketball career as a qualification, would that mean the press should devote itself to Bush's experience as basketball player?

So, sure, maybe Bush did coast a bit at the end of his six year service. Maybe he went into the Guard to avoid Vietnam. Maybe not. The story's murky in parts, with fair and unfair charges blurred together. But whatever the facts are, CBS doesn't have a free pass to skip the facts. That it thought otherwise is the only relevant scandal. CBS ran a false story that wouldn't have been relevant if it were true. In other words, it wasn't even wrong.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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