Powerline's CBS Analysis is Now Up!
As I suspected, Powerline's Hindrocket read the entire CBS Rathergate report before commenting. It was worth the wait, especially the discussion of Kerry aide Chad Clanton's contacts with Mary Mapes. You can click the headline above to get to Powerline. But before you do that ...
... Just for the record, Clanton is the same guy who during the campaign said of Sinclair Broadcasting that "they better hope we don't win." So now we know that while she was preparing what can only be viewed as a vicious campaign smear, CBS's Mary Mapes was talking to the very Kerry campaign aide threatening to use the power of government to shut down a media organization perceived to be an ideological opponent.
Cozy, huh! One can only wonder how loudly Mapes would scream about the First Amendment and freedom of the press if instead of Kerry's Clanton threatening to invoke the FCC to suppress a competitor, it was Ken Melman of the Bush campaign. You can read my October 2004 column on Clanton's threat here.
Anyway, here's Powerline's summary of the significance of the Mapes-Clanton connection:
"The second issue that the report fails to address is the communication and apparent coordination between 60 Minutes staff and the Kerry campaign. We now know that there was more communication than had previously been acknowledged. In addition to Mapes's famous phone call to Joe Lockhart, asking him to talk to Bill Burkett, she had several conversations with Chad Clanton, who also worked for the Kerry campaign.
"Clanton told the panel that Mapes asked him what information the Kerry campaign had gotten from other reporters about the National Guard story, and also told him about the story she was working on for 60 Minutes. So at a minimum, we know that the Kerry campaign knew about the 60 Minutes story while it was in preparation. And it is fair to assume that Clanton put the most benign interpretation on his several conversations with Mapes.
"There is obvious circumstantial evidence for coordination as well as communication, given that the DNC launched its "Fortunate Son" ad campaign, which duplicated the themes of the 60 Minutes program, the very next morning after the program aired. The Thornburgh report raises some tantalizing questions about the timing of the 60 Minutes report, but does not try to answer them.
"First, it notes that early in the summer of 2004, Mapes wrote in an email that the program would air in September--a time usually devoted to reruns. At that time, the story had not yet coalesced; how could Mapes state with such assurance when it would run?
"Then, the program was moved at the last minute from late September to September 8. The Thornburgh panel attributes the haste with which the show was put together to this schedule change, but never asks why the change was made. An obvious possibility is that 1) the show was moved up because the information being put out by the Swift Boat Vets was killing John Kerry's candidacy, and the Kerry campaign wanted the show moved up to help stem the tide; and/or 2) the show was moved to September 8 to tie in with the DNC's "Fortunate Son" ad campaign. Unfortunately, the Thornburgh group seems not to have pursued this important question.
"The relationship between the Kerry campaign and the 60 Minutes story is a subject that badly needs to be investigated, but the Thornburgh group did not pursue the issue beyond noting the communications between 60 Minutes staff and the Kerry campaign."