Lara Logan Has it All Over Dan Rather

NEW SLAUGHTERIf there was ever an example of the quantitative difference between the rage-stoking machinery of the right and the left its in the reaction to Lara Logan’s big Benghazi blockbuster on “60 Minutes”.

Where literally within minutes of its airing nine years ago, “60 Minutes II’s” story about George W. Bush’s essentially non-existent National Guard “service” was under fire from right-wing bloggers pointing to a specific fake document, Logan’s far more amateurish blunder, in using an oddball mercenary’s story as the sole source of a startling new perspective on the Benghazi incident, is fast receding from public attention. Internally, CBS, which can not be pleased with the transparent inadequacy of  Logan’s reporting, may eventually take further action. But lacking a sustained furor, it has the luxury of doing so quietly and in a way it can manage, and … without explaining how it happened.

Lacking any serious of level of heat from outraged liberals — beyond David Brock and Eric Boehlert at Media Matters — this botch, which smells at least as politically inspired as “60 Minutes II” producer Mary Mapes’ shot at Bush — is going nowhere.

People like Kevin Drum at “Mother Jones” and Jay Rosen have already laid out the fundamental complaints with Logan’s story, and CBS has endured the inevitable round of ridicule from comics. For me though the most egregious error — the brightest flare in the sky — was Logan basing her story on a guy who was about to publish a book through CBS’s sister company, Threshold Editions, which exists solely as a distributor of (often) paranoid, fact-deprived righter-than right-wing screeds. How was that allowed to happen?

Worse, Logan didn’t disclose that illuminating little detail either in her original story or in her explanation-free apology last Sunday night. As a consequence we have an episode that walks and quacks very much like something cooked and contrived by the producer/reporter.

And that is different — and worse — than what Mapes and Dan Rather got into in 2004. The tragic irony with CBS’s Bush Air National Guard story is that the central assertion — that Bush was all but officially AWOL from a cushy stateside service slot and far from combat during Vietnam — was all but “smoking gun” provable without the tarted-up memo that persons still unknown used to intentionally deceive CBS, Rather and Mapes. (I believe Doonesbury-creator Garry Trudeau still has the $10,000 he offered to anyone who could prove they saw Bush with his National Guard unit at any time he says he was there.)

With Logan, the rapidly-evolving view is that she was the driving force of the bogus Benghazi story, and that to make her story she consciously violated a basic tenet of Journalism 101. Namely, she allowed a single source, one with obvious personal motivations, to push a startling counter narrative with rabid appeal for a specific fringe audience. A stringer for Eagan Patch couldn’t get away with that.

While the controversy will soon evaporate among the general public, media-watchers who suspect Logan pushed the story far beyond what the facts could support will continue to believe she did it to curry favor (for herself?) with a conservative audience that normally sees “60 Minutes” as a threat to their intensely partisan world view. Her now famous, gung-ho, “let’s go get the bastards speech” isn’t doing anything to refute that suspicion.

We are living in a moment where celebrity reporters are routinely carving out brands (and fatter paychecks) for themselves beyond the walls of their day jobs. And Logan, who looks much better in a low-cut dress than Morley Safer, (and did you notice how much more demure her attire was for the “apology”), has all the ingredients for full-tilt, anchor-level stardom.

But since there is a vast difference in the rage machinery of the right and left, I doubt many will notice when Ms. Logan announces a year from now that she has decided to leave CBS and pursue “new opportunities”.

Finally, you can only laugh that FoxNews, which rarely if ever has something good to say about a story produced by actual professional journalists — and rushed to hype the “60 Minutes” piece —  is pretty much alone now in “standing by” the “facts” of Logan’s botched tale.



Thank God Obama is Running the Israel-Iran Show.

About every half hour, as I remember what a colossal mess the Bushies made of everything they touched, I also remind myself that nowhere were they as dangerous as when they were screwing with foreign policy. And kids, since these are the guys who were dialing back on financial regulation as Wall Street ran wild and handing out deficit-exploding tax cuts for which they hadn’t considered even minimal budgeting, to say they were worse at negotiating and out-thinking the the bad guys in the rest of the planet is truly saying something.

So last week President Obama holds a news conference and gets a flurry of questions on what to do about Iran. “His critics”, which is to say every Republican running for office, have been accusing him of being “feckless” and “dangerous” and worse … for not revving up the B2s. With that in mind, it was reassuring to hear him remind the moths-to-confrontation press corps that gas-bagging campaign bluster is one (silly) thing, and it’s a whole other matter when you actually have to send “the troops” — who conservatives make such a big show about loving and pridefully swelling over — into lethal battle. His tacit encouragement to the press was to get your Mitt Romneys, Newt Gingrichs and Rick Santorums on record explaining not just how soon they’d flatten Tehran but what they’d imagine the blowback to be — as regards, you know, pesky peripheral issues like American standing in a Middle East undergoing dramatic self-generated transformation, oil prices and the world economy.

It isn’t something I expect the corps to follow-up on. I mean, why go there when you can always ask, “Is [insert name of next state] a make or break primary for you?” and call it a day.

But as this Iranian thing simmers, and after reading Ronen Bergman’s sobering Sunday Times Magazine piece “Will Israel Attack Iran?” a few weeks back, I am deeply thankful that foreign policy is the one facet of American government policy that today’s manifestly dysfunctional, obstructionist and counterproductive Republican party can’t screw with … much. In fact, history is already noting the startling qualitative difference between Obama’s foreign policy and domestic policy in the age of Republican pandering to populist Know-Nothingism. Where the former, foreign affairs, is a series of either remarkable successes, (hunting down Osama bin Laden, attacking a long series of other top terrorists, deftly maneuvering through the “Arab spring”) or paying full attention to morass management of coherent if unpopular policies (exiting Iraq and giving the Afghanis one serious last shot at controlling their own security), the latter, the home front, is a constant grinding misery fueled by rhetorical buffoonery, shrill and nonsensical demagoguery and ceaseless Republican obstruction.

What other reaction can you have to Mittens and Newt and Rick, (none of them exactly of the proud, uniformed warrior tradition) trying to out-Curtis LeMay each other over who would drop The Big One first? As I keep saying, there is nothing serious about this crowd, other than, like a heart attack, they have the ability to get a lot of people killed.

Simultaneous with Republicans laughably over-playing their righteous super-hero chops was a “60 Minutes” piece about the mysterious Stuxnet computer virus that wormed its way in to Iranian centrifuges. The story, and numerous newspaper accounts leaves little doubt that the virus was a largely U.S. concocted plot — with Israeli complicity — to slow down and frustrate Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. It was an example of some very clever, 21st century war room thinking, with a negligible repercussion factor. The sort of think smart operators kind of want to try first.

The “60 Minutes” piece is also a cautionary tale about a dawning era of warfare by computer hacking. But, short-term, it represents a level of sophisticated thinking far … far … beyond Bushie, or GOP circa-2012 “shock and awe”, where the only viable pressure ever is full-scale, brute-force military action. Thundering Goliath stuff of the kind that invariably pisses off a whole range of peripheral players and roils international markets in the dreaded “uncertainty” that conservatives love to accuse Obama of fomenting. As with his failure to resolve the debt ceiling crisis, his failure to resolve the home mortgage modification process and his failure to stifle Iranian belligerency.

Based on their tragic record with Saddam Hussein, a far less wily and wealthy despot than the Iranian mullahs, there is no reason (that I have ever read) to believe the Bushie-era neo-cons ever considered anything like a sophisticated cyber-attack on him rather than all out warfare … after of course, first cooking the intelligence through Rummy’s DIA.

So I say again, thank God the adults are in charge. The Stuxnet virus was “outed” after doing its damage for many months. But it is the type of program that gives (good) reason to believe that companion programs are at play.

Moreover, as Obama was talking about nitwits “popping off” and getting all uber-manly — in front of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee  — about moving the fleet in to position, his reference to political/campaign posturing could and should be taken as a fresh reminder of what is really going on in the three countries most immediately involved. Boiled to its essence all three, Iran, Israell and the U.S., are in campaign season. And in each one, the usual radical, religious-baiting conservatives are thundering about apocalypse and Armageddon. The hyper-conservative mullahs and their religious zealot base in Iran. Benjamin Netanyahu and his Jewish arch-conservative base in Israel and … well, our guys here in the states.

So I repeat, be thankful every day for respite from The Clan of Chaotic Misadventures.