Wednesday, January 12, 2005

High standards for some, low for others

Commentary by Pat Murphy


Pat Murphy

No matter that longtime CBS news anchorman Dan Rather and his network have distinguished records in broadcast journalism that have served the nation well.

And no matter that questions still remain about the mysterious gap in George W. Bush's actual whereabouts while on leave from an Air National Guard squadron composed of the privileged.

Rather, his producers and CBS committed the unpardonable for news professionals—failing to absolutely confirm beyond any doubt the legitimacy and authenticity of documents alleging favoritism to Bush before broadcasting them.

These top-notch professionals now will pay with their jobs for falling short of the higher standards to which journalists are ruthlessly held.

(How amusing that Rather's and CBS' humiliation is being exploited with relish and disdaining tut-tuts by broadcasting's premiere patronizing demagogue, Rush Limbaugh, whose idea of professionalism is to titillate with flippantly mangled "facts.")

The most compelling irony in all this is the high standards that Rather & Company should've honored in their "60 Minutes Wednesday" report on Bush are standards that President Bush wasn't held to before going to war in Iraq.

Compare the curious parallels:

· Rather and CBS misled millions of viewers by using bogus documents to make their case against Bush.

· To justify war by misleading Congress and the public, President Bush used bogus information about doomsday weapons of mass destruction that he told the nation and the world posed an "imminent" threat to the safety of the United States.

At worst, Rather's television report might well have groundlessly accused Bush of something yet to be confirmed and invited public scorn of CBS News.

But President Bush's false report to the nation and Congress is catastrophically worse—more than 1,300 American troops killed, 15,000 wounded or injured, $4 billion per month in war costs to U.S. taxpayers, other thousands of Iraqi nationals dead and wounded, billions of dollars in U.S. aid to rebuild whole cities turned to rubble by shelling, millions of Muslims agitated about U.S. intentions in the Islamic world and traditional admiration lost for the U.S. abroad.

For some, such as journalists, higher standards are a code of honor.

For others, who abuse trust and truth for political self-interests, standards are low or non-existent.

Which brings us to memories of a recent president whose lies about sexual philandering led to such partisan political outrage and moralizing he was impeached (but later acquitted) as a menace to the national good.

We also now know that declaring a war leading to thousands of deaths and mountainous debt is without penalty because of a new politically preferential code that is neither honorable nor of high standards.

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