The CBS News panel that performed the independent review of the "60 Minutes Wednesday" report on President George Bush's National Guard record destroyed almost all of the working drafts of the report that former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former Associated Press President Louis Boccardi worked on and reviewed over the past six weeks.
Those drafts would be interesting to review, if only to see the evolution of positions the pair took on the forged documents, as well as the varying stories presented by the four CBS employees identified by Thornburgh and Boccardi as the key individuals in the scandal.
In the final version of the report, Thornburgh and Boccardi allow wiggle room as to whether or not the documents on which much of the "60 Minutes Wednesday" report was based were in fact forgeries. The pair also fails to get to the bottom of the mysterious phone calls between story producer Mary Mapes and senior John Kerry campaign adviser Joe Lockhart in the days leading up to the story's broadcast.
Depending on whom one believes, Mapes was either serving as a contact conduit between anti-Bush activist, retired Texas National Guard Lt. Col. Bill Burkett, or was using Lockhart as a potential conduit for additional documents should she uphold her part of an agreement with Burkett to get him heard within the Kerry campaign.
There are those inside the Kerry campaign who had former ties with anti-Bush 527 organizations, as well as inside CBS News who insist even today that the relationship between the Kerry campaign, at least one well-financed 527, and CBS News was far closer and longer-running than Thornburgh and Boccardi detail in the report.
"All I know is that there is at least one 527 still in operation that was delving into the exact same story more than six months before we knew about the '60 Minutes' story. And senior people from that 527 ended up working for the Kerry campaign," says a former Kerry staffer now working on Capitol Hill. "These guys, the reporters and 527 guys, were looking everywhere for anything that could corroborate their story. They had to be talking to each other on some level. At least aware of each other's efforts. Coordination is too strong a word. But there were a limited number of people offering this kind of material up. It just makes sense."
For now, CBS News senior vice president Betsy West, who supervised CBS News primetime programs; "60 Minutes Wednesday" executive producer Josh Howard; and Howard's deputy, senior broadcast producer Mary Murphy, have been asked to resign. "60 Minutes" producer and Dan Rather favorite Mary Mapes, was let go.
But never fear. No sooner was Mapes' exit announced than the independent TV production community was abuzz with rumors that the PBS-funded documentary show "Frontline," which recently completed an anti-Bush screed on his religious faith and the formation of faith-based initiatives within federal agencies, was looking to bring Mapes on for special projects.
CLINTON PROTECTION RACKET
Just for old-time's sake, Clinton-era division, the networks naturally ignored a major story that broke last Friday: the indictment of David Rosen, Bill and Hillary Clinton's top fund-raiser for Hillary's 2000 New York Senate campaign.
Rosen was indicted on federal charges for filing phony campaign finance reports that lowballed the cost of an August 2000 Los Angeles fundraiser that honored outgoing President Clinton, while the proceeds were intended for Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaign coffers, as well as leadership PACs for Democratic Senators.
The Clintons were never targets or subjects in the investigation, and Clinton's Senate campaign and office cooperated fully with the investigation. Throughout the weekend, however, the Clintons expressed support that Rosen would be cleared.
According to the indictment, Rosen grossly underreported the costs of the fund-raiser, which totaled more than $1.2 million. In fact, according the indictment, an individual believed to be Internet entrepreneur and Clinton donor Peter Paul underwrote much of the event to the tune of almost $2 million, but the campaign never reported the "in kind" contribution. It is believed that Paul was cooperating with authorities in New York investigating the campaign finance scam.
At the time of his donation to the Clinton for Senate campaign, Paul was believed to be seeking a pardon from President Clinton for a previous criminal conviction.
"The Clintons' dodged a bullet with this one," says a Democratic National Committee fundraiser. "The media just hasn't been interested in these kinds of stories, at least when it comes to our side."
Former Indiana Democratic Rep. Tim Roemer is now running for chairman of the Democratic Party, and may quietly have lined up some big backers in the offing. Over the weekend, former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland was thumping for Roemer, making phone calls on his behalf to Southern DNC delegates. Cleland has been known to be backing those inside the party who are also supported by Sen. John Kerry.
Roemer, a Catholic, is not a typical Kerry candidate, however. In the past, he has taken solid pro-life positions against abortion, a Kerry and even a DNC no-no. But some inside the DNC think a Roemer candidacy may be just what the party needs. "All of a sudden we look a lot more big-tent and less bought off by organized labor and NARAL," says a DNC delegate in Florida. "He appears to be far more sensible than Howard Dean."
Roemer has geography playing in his favor as well -- a solid Midwesterner, he also has a Southern connection: his wife is the daughter of retired Senator Bennett Johnston of Louisiana.
Roemer, while not favored to win the DNC slot, is now considered one of the top tier candidates for the job.
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