I saw Truth yesterday, the movie about the 60 Minutes report in 2004 that George W. Bush did not fullfill his National Guard commitment and actually went AWOL back in the early 1970s. The 60 Minutes report caused a big stir, which resulted in Dan Rather being forced to apologize on air and take early retirement. Mary Mapes, the producer of the show, was fired as were a number of others associated with putting that program together.
Whether one believes the allegations against Bush or not, I thought it was an excellent movie. Cate Blanchett has a very good shot at a Best Actress oscar for her portrayal of Mary Mapes. The whole cast was quite good. And, the story is truly riveting.
There are too many aspects of the movie to go into all of them here. However, here’s just a few that really stood out. First, one gets an inside glimpse of the intensity of investigative reporting. Good investigative reporters take a lot of risks to uncover their stories and inform the public.
Second, the movie demonstrates how much the news can be and, in many instances, is compromised or worse. With the 2004 election looming, the 60 Minutes story threatened Bush’s re-election. According to the movie, a deal was made between Viacom, CBS’s parent company, and the Bush administration for CBS to recant the story and for Dan Rather to apologize on the air, since CBS News never 100% authenticated the documents that supported the allegations against Bush.
In fact, in doing some research on the incident, I found that some people believe that the documents were false and actually planted by Karl Rove, Bush’s primary political operator, to detract attention from the primary issues of what was Bush’s service record and did he fulfill his 6-year commitment.
Finally, the movie once again exposes the corruption of our political system. The Bush administration apparently did pressure Viacom to recant the story. Clearly, the Bush campaign had the ability to deny the CBS account of Bush’s National Guard record, and give its own version of what happened. But, it went much further than that in forcing Dan Rather to publicly apologize and take early retirement.
That rasies the question of whether we still have a free press in our country. When corporate America and our political leaders are so intertwined, we, the people, are the big losers. My book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, addresses this issue and what we can do about it. The book will be available early next month.