Yet on Monday, Rather, his memos a national joke, his experts and witnesses defecting and recanting, went on air to assert once again the memos were authentic and the president must address the Guard issues. "With respect, answer the questions," Rather thundered at Bush. "The longer we go without a denial of such things -- this story is true."
This was ludicrous. It is the prosecution that must prove a man guilty, not the accused who must prove himself innocent.
Rather's conduct remains inexplicable. Why would he risk his career on the authenticity of 30-year-old memos that CBS' own experts questioned and he apparently got from an inveterate Bush-hater who was demanding anonymity for his accusations?
Of what is CBS now palpably guilty? Certainly of stupidity and gullibility of Olympian proportions. Certainly of an obduracy at odds with any reportorial temperament. Certainly of a blind bias toward the president. Can anyone believe CBS would have clung this long to so patently falsified an attack on John Kerry?
Worse, CBS appears to have been complicit in a criminal conspiracy to use forged U.S. government documents to bring down a president. The man who passes counterfeit money he knows or suspects to be counterfeit is guilty of a felony. And CBS must have suspected it was using counterfeit documents to damage President Bush.
CBS has to take Rather off the air for the duration of this campaign if it is to even begin to restore its reputation and credibility. For where President Bush is concerned, Dan Rather has no credibility left.
An investigation must be conducted into who tried to affect an election and bring down a president using forgeries of federal documents. And Rather and the CBS executives and producers must testify against the hatchers of this rotten plot to which they were an indispensable party, or they, too, must stand trial as accomplices in the scheme.
In a way, this is a tragedy. A flaw in a man's character, magnified by his position of preeminence, brings about his downfall and ruin. In Rather's case, it was pride and a blind hatred of the right that led him to commit a journalistic atrocity that will end up killing not the president's re-election, but his own reputation and career.