: Last week the pundits had a field day over
‘s $70 million suit against CBS. Rather claims that CBS violated his contract when it cut back his airtime on 60 Minutes, forced him to step down as evening news anchor and otherwise tried to make him a “scapegoat” for CBS’s bungling, after his report questioning Bush’s Vietnam-era Air National Guard service. CBS claims that the suit is without merit and that “these complaints are old news.” CBS is half right. The issue of whether one of the documents shown on-air was or wasn’t authentic is old news. Either way, it seems clear that Rather was right and that Bush avoided the draft by joining the National Guard. Then, proving he was shrewder than his critics give him credit for, Bush finagled his way out of Guard service.
But the real news is something the pundits have by and large ignored. As Rather’s complaint states, it was “on November 3, 2004, the day after
George W. Bush
was re-elected as President,” that “CBS informed Mr. Rather that he was being terminated.” Suppose the election had gone the other way: Would CBS have taken the same action? It is more than a century since Mr. Dooley famously declared that “the Soopreme Court follows th’ iliction returns.” With Rather’s decision to sue CBS, we are reminded that the television networks do, too–or at least, so does CBS. VICTOR NAVASKY
With Congress unwilling to pull funding for the Iraq War, antiwar activism has never been more crucial. Four new campaigns caught our eye. September 21 marked the launch of the
–a DIY pastiche of rallies, screenings, vigils, singalongs and strikes that encourages Americans to break “daily routine” and “take some action” on the third Friday of every month. Endorsed by
Gael García Bernal
and FBI whistleblower
, among others, the
has inspired actions from New York City to Provo, Utah. We say: TGIF! In a more Zen mode, religious leaders–calling on the spirit of Ramadan, Jesus, Yom Kippur and Gandhi–have planned an Interfaith Fast to end the war on Monday, October 8, when participants will abstain from food from dawn to dusk.
The American Friends Service Committee
, an endorser of the
, has created a series of banners that highlight the cost of the Iraq War. Using figures from Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, AFSC points out that one day of the war costs $720 million, or the equivalent of 34,904 four-year college scholarships, 12,478 teachers’ salaries, 95,364 Head Start places or 6,482 new homes. Finally, in a twist on Rovian strategy,
aims to put antiwar initiatives on ballots in the 2008 election in the swing states of Michigan, Missouri, Colorado, Arizona and Oregon. Anti-gay marriage initiatives turned out masses of values voters for Bush in 2004– or so legend goes. Could antiwar initiatives “boost antiwar turnout on Election Day, providing a true antiwar mandate to the next President”?
At the controversial talk by
at Columbia University’s World Leaders Forum on September 24, president
broke with tradition when he took the Iranian president to task before turning over the podium. Ahmadinejad is nothing more than a “petty and cruel dictator,” scolded Bollinger, whose as yet unspoken remarks would serve as a window into “the mind of evil.” Whatever one makes of Bollinger’s bluster, one has to wonder: Why now? Why Ahmadinejad? When Pakistan’s President
spoke at Columbia in the fall of 2005, Bollinger delicately avoided calling him a “military dictator” and made no reference to Musharraf’s 1999 coup or his country’s previous support for the Taliban. Did Bollinger take the time, in 2005, to grill President Paul Kagame on Rwanda’s role in the second Congo War? In 2003, when then-Indian Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee addressed the World Leaders Forum, one wonders if he was admonished for the state-sponsored anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat in 2002. But perhaps Bollinger’s abandonment of white-glove diplomacy marks a welcome new turn. If President George W. Bush ever addresses the campus, will Bollinger, a noted advocate of free speech, upbraid him for the Patriot Act? JAYATI VORA
Speaking at the National Press Club,
Gen. David Petraeus
made a brief but startling literary turn. When asked about MoveOn.org’s “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?” ads, the general answered that he “took some strength” from
‘s poem “If.” A disturbingly apt selection, “If” is dominated by hollow aphorisms that lionize macho stubbornness. It lauds the unblinking willingness to lump “heart and nerve and sinew” together with a “heap of all your winnings,” risk the whole heap “on one turn of pitch-and-toss,” lose and “never breathe a word about your loss.”
This is middling poetry and dismal inspiration for military policy. Kipling wrote “If” about his friend Leander Jameson, the territorial administrator of
‘s British South Africa Company. In 1895 Jameson led a raid meant to depose the South African Republic’s elected Boer government and install a regime more hospitable to British interests. Poorly planned and undermanned, Jameson’s incursion was quickly stymied, but the ill will it produced was a major factor in the outbreak of the second Boer War. Later investigations suggested that Jameson was acting on the highest state orders and stayed quiet out of loyalty to crown and country. At the time, however, the British government publicly denounced the raid and even jailed Jameson for fifteen months. Nationalist sentiments ran high, and many (including imperial apologist Kipling) saw him as a stoic hero. Now we have a hint that Petraeus sees himself the same way–as a beleaguered patriot who, despite being doubted, “lied about,” and “hated” (Kipling’s words), keeps his upper lip admirably stiff.
Perhaps Petraeus should have taken guidance from
instead. In a classic episode, Grampa Simpson quotes “If” to justify gambling his inheritance on a single roulette spin. If you act as Kipling prescribes, he argues, “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it. And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!” “You’ll be a bonehead!” Homer retorts. PETER C. BAKER