James Taranto reports (WSJ, Opinion, Best of the Web Today - September 27, 2004) on the story about CBS affair. It seems to me something similar to a 19th-century french roman feuilleton. Do you remember Ponson du Terrail and his saga of Rocambole, "Les Drames de Paris", a series of novels published between 1857 and 1870? Then "rocambolesque" has become common in French and other languages to label any kind of fantastic adventure.
OK, Taranto is not du Terrail. Dan Rather is not precisely Rocambole. But the CBS News and the "phony memos" situation is quite a rocambolesque case study. If not a kafkaesque one.
The Associated Press reports that "CBS News has shelved a '60 Minutes' report on the rationale for war in Iraq because it would be 'inappropriate' to air it so close to the presidential election, the network said on Saturday." The report, originally set to air Sept. 8, got bumped in favor of Dan Rather's piece that used fraudulent documents to make some now-forgotten claim about President Bush's National Guard service.
It seems clear that CBS is being less than forthright about its reasons for nixing the segment. The AP dispatch is vague about the nature of the suppressed report, but an online Newsweek piece describes it as "a half-hour segment about how the U.S. government was snookered by forged documents purporting to show Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium from Niger." Running this story so soon after either perpetrating or falling for a hoax based on fraudulent documents would make CBS even more of a laughingstock than it already is. From Newsweek:
That CBS and "60 Minutes" are "collaborating" with Josh Marshall speaks volumes in itself. Marshall is not an impartial reporter. Rather, he is, according to a New York Times profile of left-wing bloggers, "an irate spitter of well-crafted vitriol aimed at the president, whom he compared, one day, to Tony Soprano torching his friend's sporting-goods store for the sake of a little extra cash." Would CBS collaborate with someone from, say, The American Spectator on a story about the Clinton scandals?
Marshall's ties to "60 Minutes" may also explain how he knew about the fake National Guard story before CBS aired it. Marshall's prebroadcast hyping of the story ("Feel the buzz") is detailed in articles for The Weekly Standard and The American Thinker. In fairness, we should note that Marshall was much quicker than CBS to acknowledge the story was phony.