IT’S PERSONAL NOW
It is now open warfare within the halls of CBS News in New York, as the network’s uberanchor, Dan Rather, attempts to salvage some modicum of respect in the wake of a growing forged documents scandal.
According to a CBS News producer operating out of the network’s 57th Street facilities, Rather and his supporters now believe the controversy surrounding the four discredited Texas National Guard memos has been engineered by the Bush campaign.
“All you have to see to understand this is the report that John Roberts did on Bush’s appearance at the National Guard convention Tuesday,” says a CBS News producer. “Rather’s guys are now going after the president of the United States in a way probably no news organization has ever done before. This is now deeply personal to them.”
On Tuesday night, Roberts, who some CBS insiders believe is in line to replace Rather in the anchor chair upon his retirement, reiterated the network’s defense, saying that CBS continues to stand by its reporting on Bush’s National Guard records.
Roberts, using a tone of voice that appeared to mock Bush’s appearance before the National Guard Association, reported that Bush “barely mentioned his service” today, and that the president was attempting to turn the controversy about his Guard service away from the questions 60 Minutes had raised to “those asking them.”
Roberts filed his report before ABC News blew the investigation wide open by reporting that at least two of the experts CBS used to verify the authenticity of the memos either could not or would not do so.
“In the end, it probably doesn’t matter,” says the CBS News producer. “We’re sunk. Our reputations have been impugned, and if we didn’t look like we were shilling for Kerry a week ago, we look like we’re trying to at least protect a source who gave us these documents who might be supportive of Kerry or at least the Democratic Party.”
WILL HE OR WON’T HE?
Sen. Hillary Clinton on Monday told reporters that her husband, Bill, who in a previous life served as president of the United States, was on track for a three-month rehabilitation, and said it was unclear whether he would be able to go on the road with the man who would like to hold the job he had, Sen. John Kerry.
But according to a former Clinton staffer, there are already plans being put into place for Clinton to join Kerry on a barnstorming trip two weeks before the election. That trip would include a number of stop in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, and Florida.
“They are looking at three two-day trips. Big rallies and television,” says the former Clinton staffer. “Some of the folks involved are calling it ‘Operation Bubba Blowout.'”
The thinking seems to be that Clinton’s emergence from his convalescence would at the least energize the Democratic base that has been growing increasingly uneasy about Kerry’s performance and standing as their candidate.
“At the very least, Clinton steals the headlines for two or three days, and creates the political buzz and excitement Kerry hasn’t been able to develop,” says a Democratic political consultant, who was unaware of the plan. “This is probably the only thing that can save Kerry’s campaign right now.”