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Rather Goofy

The winner of the ConWeb Dan Rather Post-Mortem Sweepstakes is not NewsMax or the MRC.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/16/2005

The winner of the loopiest post-mortem on Dan Rather's tenure at CBS is, surprisingly, neither NewsMax nor the Media Research Center.

Even though NewsMax dubiously claimed that it "led the way in ousting Dan Rather" when the anchor announced his retirement last November, its gloating at the time of Rather's actual departure March 10 was subdued, replying mostly on gossipy sidelights and an interview with the author of a Rather-bashing book, Mike Walker, who also happens to be a gossip columnist with the National Enquirer (another sign NewsMax is once again tight with the tabloids). In the interview, Walker calls Rather a "wacko, weirdo guy," a "$10-million-a-year SOB" and "a crazy, weirdo, wound-tight, pugnacious, nasty, defensive, back-stabbing, self-promoting monster."

The MRC served up its usual batch of out-of-context quotes of Rather that allegedly prove that he's biased (which NewsMax’s Phil Brennan cribbed for his own article). Even Brent Bozell's description of Rather as "a Bush-loathing, Hillary-hailing, Fidel-flattering, Gorbachev-groveling, Saddam-sweet-talking insult to the ideals of objectivity and professionalism" didn't take the prize.

WorldNetDaily didn't offer much; all it was able to accomplish was present yet another bogus online poll result as news. A March 9 story reported that a CBS affiliate in Michigan yanked a poll on its web site asking if it should air the network's Rather tribute after "63 percent had voted against airing the tribute." What WND failed to tell its readers is that the folks at Free Republic were encouraging their fellow posters to vote "no."

Nope, the loopiness award goes to Accuracy in Media, which printed a long, dense, rambling piece on March 9 by Col. John H. Wambough, Jr. USAF (Ret.), purporting to debunk once and for all any questions about President Bush's National Guard service, using the questionable memos in a "60 Minutes" report as his starting point.

Wambough starts off on the wrong foot by citing as suggested reading an account by Bush defender William Campenni, who claims to have served with Bush at one time in the Texas National Guard, though he has no apparent firsthand knowledge of Bush's military record after 1971, when the real questions about Bush's Guard service take place, and has misstated facts about Guard policies.

Wambough also attacks Ben Barnes -- who said in 2004 that he "got a young man named George W. Bush into the National Guard" -- as a liar because he allegedly said in 1999 that "he had nothing to do with getting Bush into the Guard." But that's not what Barnes said; he said in 1999 that no member of the Bush family ever contacted him about getting George W. Bush into the Air National Guard. That does not contradict his 2004 statement; he has claimed that a Bush family friend, Sid Adger, asked Barnes to pull strings to get the younger Bush into the Guard.

There are, of course, many questions surrounding Bush's Guard service that remain unanswered regardless of the authenticity of the CBS memos. Wambough doesn't touch any of that, however.

In an attempted final blow, Wambough tries to present the case of the tons of explosives that went missing from an Iraqi munitions depot following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 as a "hoax" (he spares us the details, which appear in another article he wrote), but he's wrong about that, too.

Wambough claimed the memos story together with the missing-explosive story allegedly prove that for the "left-wing media," or what he handily abbreviates in his article to LWM (a good thing, given all of his references to it), "there are virtually no sacred media boundaries when it comes to getting a Left-Wing Democrat in the White House."

Given how selectively he chooses his targets and his evidence, it seems Wambough has some very sacred boundaries.

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