The “60 Minutes” Bush National Guard fiasco is in the headlines again this week, and it’s difficult to recall another incident in which liberal journalists were caught quite this publicly with their pants down.
CBS’s internal investigation resulted in the dismissal of the four individuals deemed most responsible for putting the dubious report on the air last September, but the report denied any political motivation on the part of those involved – a ludicrous claim considering the zeal with which producer Mary Mapes pursued any possible allegation that would damage the president.
Mapes, it was widely reported in the immediate aftermath of the National Guard broadcast, is a passionate liberal with strong opinions; she was obsessed for years with finding something – anything – to discredit Bush’s account of his military service; and she rushed to get a clearly flawed story on the air in the midst of a hotly contested presidential campaign.
Also pink-slipped this week was Josh Howard, the executive producer of the “60 Minutes” midweek edition. Politics may have been the farthest thing from his mind when the decision was made to air the anti-Bush report, but this is hardly a fellow unacquainted with partisan politics.
Prior to his career at CBS, Howard was a staffer for two New York Democrats – former representative Stephen Solarz and Senator Charles Schumer when the latter served as a state assemblyman. And according to federal election reporting records, Howard, already at the time employed by CBS, made financial contributions to Solarz’s last two congressional campaigns in 1990 and 1992.
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The New York Times, writes Joshua Muravchik in “Why the Democrats Keep Losing” in the January issue of Commentary, has made it a habit in recent years to question the existence of a mandate for newly elected presidents – except when the winner is a Democrat.
“In 1980,” Muravchik notes, “when Ronald Reagan bested incumbent President Jimmy Carter by 10 percentage points, the paper’s editors observed that his ‘mandate,’ a word they themselves put in suspicion- arousing quotation marks, had ‘little policy content,’ a position they reiterated four years later when Reagan won reelection over Walter Mondale by a whopping 18 percentage points (a ‘lonely landslide’ and ‘a personal victory with little precise policy mandate’). Nor could the 8-point victory by Bush’s father over Michael Dukakis ‘fairly be called a mandate,’ asserted the paper in 1988.
“Whenever a Democrat has won, by contrast, the Times has perceived things differently. After Bill Clinton’s first victory (by 6 percentage points) in 1992, the editors commented: ‘The test now will be how quickly President-elect Clinton can convert his mandate into momentum.’ When he won reelection (by 8 points) in 1996, it repeated the thought – ‘There can be no question about his mandate’ – and added a little civics lesson: ‘The American people express their clearest opinion about what they want government to do through their choice of chief executive.’ “