A Rather Embarrassing Retraction

Slate magazine editor Jack Schafer wonders why it took CBS anchorman Dan Rather so long to back away from two now-discredited memos that were part of the documentation for its story about George Bush's National Guard service. Numerous commentators have pointed out that the incident marks the latest example of bloggers successfully challenging the traditional broadcast media. The irony in this case, as Salon.com's Eric Boehlert observes, is the CBS apology obscures the real story about Bush's National Guard service, which has been well-documented already: "What is also already known is that in the spring of 1972, with 770 days left of required duty, Bush unilaterally decided that he was done fulfilling his military obligation," Boehlert writes. "Also in the spring of 1972, Bush refused to take a physical and quickly cleared out of his Guard base in Houston. ... His public records paint a portrait of a Guardsman who, with the cooperation of his Texas Air National Guard superiors, simply flouted regulation after regulation (more than 30 by Salon's count) indifferent to his signed obligation to serve. ... The authenticity of the memos, which contain very few facts about Bush's actual service, is a sideshow in the effort to determine the truth about Bush's military service."