Monday, November 21, 2005

Kurtz Goes 0 For 2

Though I often do not share his points-of-view, I usually enjoy the daily Howard Kurtz column at the Washington Post online. Not today.

What Kurtz wrote today was precisely the type of wrongheaded posturing that I find so maddening in some of these columnists at our allegedly liberal bastions of journalism.

Today's column was apparently written in response to a new book, just out by Mary Mapes. Mapes was the fired CBS Producer who was responsible for the brouhaha over the supposedly forged documents concerning the military record of George W. Bush.

In writing about Mapes, Kurtz notes:

"In challenging those who have questioned her work -- including The Washington Post and this reporter, who is cited in the book for a triple-bylined news story recounting the mess -- Mapes displays the relentless qualities that all good diggers share. But she also opens herself up to the charge that her obsession has clouded her judgment.

"Mapes is right that the purported 30-year-old memos by Bush's long-dead squadron commander have not been proven to be forgeries, but is that the standard for broadcasting a serious charge? The documents have not been proven real, either, and endless debates about superscript and proportional spacing are not likely to change that."

What has always troubled me about the Mapes saga, the true tragedy, is that it caused everyone to stop investigating the real issue....nobody can be found to support Bush's contention that he did indeed fulfill his requirements to the National Guard.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I am of the school that a Rovian dirty trick resulted in the planting of this document. How else to explain the almost immediate pouncing upon this by a cadre of right-wing bloggers? It was instantaneous, as if they knew what to look for.

And, lo and behold, as soon as this fiasco broke, the Bush record was brought off the table. What a brilliant way to call a halt to the charges that Bush evaded service. Those who had the right to challenge the service record were suddenly put on the defensive, despite the fact that there is still nobody who can say they served alongside Bush during the dates in question. It totally fits the Rovian gameplan.

Apparently, it was fine to dispute the service of a hero candidate, John Kerry, but off limits to find out if the President actually showed up for duty.

The fact that reporters no longer thought it acceptable to challenge the many holes in the Bush service record justifies Mapes' fears. Because of this, Mr. Kurtz just becomes another administration mouthpiece by assuming Mapes is only raising her voice out of greed, for her book's sake. Those questions that CBS raised have still not been answered. These questions were being raised long before the Rather piece aired. But nobody was able to broach the subject again after the GOP attack. Why does that not seem to bother anyone? It would be one thing if the question of Dubya's service had been first brought up by Rather, but it wasn't. It had been news fodder way before that telecast.

Later in the column, Kurtz even tops himself.

Judith Miller, the reporter who went to jail and eventually lost her job to defend a smear campaign, is referred to this way:

"Miller deserves credit for her willingness to go to jail rather than testify about her conversations with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Yet she continues to defend her decision to leave jail 85 days later and testify, despite criticism that this undercut her original stance."


Miller "deserves credit" for helping to facilitate a smear campaign? Since when is being a willing participant in the cover-up of political dirty tricks akin to protecting the source of say, a whistleblower? To me, not being able to differentiate between the 2 is the real travesty.

Exactly what journalistic ethics was Miller honoring when she became so cozy with the administration that she transformed herself into an extension of their agenda?

Incidentally, the title of today's Kurtz column was "Journalists Who Won't Give Up."

How interesting that Kurtz doesn't see how that applies to him as well.

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