The Right Coast

November 19, 2005
Alter on Mapes
By Mike Rappaport

"We could have won the election, if Mary Mapes had not blown it." That is how Jonathan Alter's review of Mary Mapes' defense of her actions in Rathergate reads to me. Although Alter's review attempts to focus on the need for journalists to be professional, Alter's disappointment with the political effects of Mapes' reporting comes across clear:

The "60 Minutes" broadcast began with a legitimate scoop. For years, Ben Barnes, a former speaker of the House in Texas, had privately explained how a Bush family friend called him and asked that he help get young George into the Texas Air National Guard. But Rather's interview was the first time Barnes had gone on television to tell his story. If the second part of the "60 Minutes" report - on four photocopies of fresh but not particularly revealing documents from the office of Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, who died in 1984 - had been held or scrapped, there would have been no CBS scandal.
And one almost hears Alter say, "we would have won." There is much more of that in the review.

In a way, Alter is right. Kerry was not able to use what was probably his most effective weapon: the bias of the MSM. That was due in part to Rathergate, but also due to other factors such as the Swiftboat Veterans and ineptness of the Kerry campaign.