Original article here...
CBS Does It Again
Network Uses Phony Documents to Promote Draft Conspiracy
September 29, 2004 09:03:12 EDT
For months now, left-leaning interest groups have been trying to scare America's young people into believing that the Bush Administration is eager to bring back the draft if President Bush is reelected. For the most part, this story has been spread by word-of-mouth and through the internet--rumors in other words. Up until this month, CBS News has shown no interest in a story that has basically no basis in fact.
That changed last week after Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was asked about the rumors. He seemed to give them little credence, but refused to outright disown them, saying only "Is it possible? I can't tell you."
Once again, it seems that the Democratic Party has proven itself more intelligent than its media arm, CBS. Just as it earlier refused to run with Bill Burkett's third-rate forgeries, the Democrats have mostly stayed away from draft speculation. But last night, CBS News once again let its ideological blinders cause it massive embarrassment.
You'd think that in the midst of the terrible publicity he is getting for working closely with a partisan Democrat--bent on bringing down President Bush--that Dan Rather would have the good sense to lay off the liberal bias for a while, especially since just three weeks ago, the 72-year-old CBSer denounced the internet as "filled with rumors."
In a story that was a textbook example of shoddy and biased reporting, CBS reporter Richard Schlesinger used:
Debunked internet hoax emails
Michael Moore-esque editing
An unlabeled interest group member
to scare elderly "Evening" viewers into believing that the U.S. government is poised to resume the draft.
The Stuff of (Urban) Legend
With not a single political figure willing to stake his credibility on the idea that conscription is returning, Schlesinger (and his associates producer Linda Karas and editor Tom McEneny) had to invent his case out of whole cloth, basing it on a fraudulent internet chain letter and a woman who says she believes it.
Before delving into the reports numerous other flaws, let's take a look at the exact message which CBS showed on-screen. Here are some selected paragraphs, interspersed with commentary:
Someone I know forwarded this to me, it was forwarded to them from someone they know who has a friend that works in the dept of defense, I thought that you all would appreciate knowing about this also -
(start of copy)
My friend who works for the Dept of Defense sent this to me. Please read.
Classic urban legend characteristic. Quoting Snopes.com:
"Despite our being heartily mistrustful of anything found in the newspaper, the vast majority of us tend to unquestioningly believe urban legends. Why? Because invariably it's either a dear friend or someone we look up to doing the telling. Furthermore, that person swears a friend of hers knows the actual person it happened to. As such, this isn't just news, it's practically first-hand news. Because it rides in on the back of someone we trust, it skirts past our usual skepticism."
From: "(name removed for privacy)@usdoj.gov"
Subject: Military Draft expected to start July 15, 2005
Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2004
Once again, the "original source" is anonymous. Also, note that the alleged author has an email address ending in usdoj.gov, or the Department of Justice. The Selective Service System is a unit of the Department of Defense.
There is pending legislation in the House and Senate (twin bills: S 89 and HR 163) which will time the program's initiation so the draft can begin at early as Spring 2005 -- just after the 2004 presidential election. The administration is quietly trying to get these bills passed now, while the public's attention is on the elections, so our action on this is needed immediately. Details and links follow.
This is absolutely incorrect. Both bills, S-89 and HR-163 do not have a single majority Republican member as a sponsor or co-sponsor. The House bill was introduced by Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) and has 14 co-sponsors, all of them LIBERAL Democrats. The Senate bill has no co-sponsors--a sure sign of its unpopularity--and was introduced by Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) The non-partisan group FactCheck.org notes that Rangel is not even pushing for his own bill.
The draft $28 million has been added to the 2004 selective service system (sss) budget to prepare for a military draft that could start as early as June 15, 2005. Selective Service must report to Bush on March 31, 2005 that the system, which has lain dormant for decades, is ready for activation.
FactCheck rebuts this charge:
"The scare story also gets it wrong when it claims the budget for the Selective Service is being increased by $28 million in 2004. In fact, the Selective Service System's budget is flat. Its total operating budget was $26 million in fiscal year 2003 (which ended last Sept. 30), and is $26 million for fiscal 2004 as well. Furthermore, the President is asking for $26 million again for fiscal year 2005, and the Office of Management and Budget actually projects that the agency will shrink in size from 161 employees to 156 next year. That's hardly gearing up for a draft."
There are many other factual problems with the email. If you're not on Viacom's payroll and still don't believe it's phony, read the rest of the FactCheck article.
Softball at CBS
The person at the center of Schlesinger's piece is a woman named Beverly Cocco, a Philadelphia crossing guard who is "sick to my stomach" that her two sons might be drafted. In his report, Schlesinger portrayed her as an apolitical (and even Republican) mom worried about the safety of her children.
"Beverly Cocco has spent most of her life protecting children in Philadelphia," Schlesinger cooed as he introduced his subject. "But as Election Day approaches, it's her own two grown sons who Beverly is most worried about."
Next the viewer hears an almost perfect soundbite from the "average" mother, carefully selected by Karas.
"I go to bed every night and I pray, and I actually get sick to my stomach. I'm very worried. I'm scared. I'm absolutely scared. I'm petrified."
At this point, an honest reporter would have seen fit to disclose Cocco's political connections. But Schlesinger refuses, leaving his profilee for the moment to cite an anonymous chain letter (more on that later) and then talk about what both President Bush and John Kerry think about the draft.
After that brief excursion into factdom, Schlesinger returns to his innuendo. Back on camera with Cocco in her living room, the CBSer coaches her as she expresses doubts about one of the candidates' positions. By pure coincidence, it isn't John Kerry, which is odd since the only conscription bills in either house of congress are both (S-89 and HR-163) sponsored exclusively by Democrats.
Such minor details don't faze our brave correspondent. He pushes past the pain, eager to return to his softball diamond.
"Beverly's not buying it," Schlesinger intones. "She's a Republican, but she's also a single issue voter." Then the the pitch. It's a low outside curve:
"Would you vote for a Democrat?"
She swings, easily hitting the softball.
"Absolutely. I would vote for Howdie Doody if I thought it would keep my boys home and safe."
With his woman on base, Schlesinger moves into the next room to set up a tee for her sons. They need it.
"Are you guys worried about being drafted?" he asks incredulously.
Both nod on cue but senior left-fielder Nick is the first to take a swing. He bunts.
"Yeah. It's the talk. The talk's there. Though people aren't actually coming out and saying it, it's, it's there."
Beverly Cocco seems nice enough on camera, but she is hardly the "Pennsylvania voter" that CBS News wants you to believe she is. In fact, the apolitical mother of two is a chapter president of an advocacy group called People Against the Draft (PAD) which, in addition to opposing any federal conscription, seeks to establish a "peaceful, rational foreign policy" by bringing all U.S. troops out of Iraq. Like Schlesinger's Cocco, the group portrays itself as "nonpartisan"although its leadership seems to be entirely bereft of any Republicans.
The group's domain is registered to a man named Jacob Levich, a left-wing activist who in a 2001 essay compared the Bush Administration to the totalitarian government portrayed in George Orwell's 1984.
PAD also lists Anita Dutt, a Green Party activist who is also a member of an anti-war group called Bronx Action for Justice and Peace. In a March 3, 2003 New York Times profile of the group reprinted on the organization's web site, Heidi Hynes, one of its leaders, said of her fellow members that "none of us are Republicans."
Normally, we are willing to give some benefit of the doubt that the CBS producers were just too overwhelmed or lazy to bother with revealing their sources' political backgrounds. After all, trying to produce a daily news broadcast which attempts to distill the entire day's news into 22 minutes is a very demanding job.
In this case, however, laziness was not to blame. The fact that CBS showed the very same contact page listing Cocco as one of PAD's leaders during its report proves, at the very least, that producer Linda Karas knew of Cocco's connections with the group.
This is not the first time that CBS has knowingly put liberal activists on the air without disclosing their political backgrounds. Covering the "Million Mom March" in 2000, Dan Rather and his colleagues twice featured march organizer Donna Dees-Thomases, a former aide to two Democratic senators, sister of Hillary Clinton's top political adviser, and former publicist for Dan Rather without ever once mentioning her background.
Three years later, RatherBiased.com caught CBS News doing it again with a number of women on the subject of prescription drugs. We even managed to get the network to admit it had done wrong. The Cocco and Bill Burkett incidents show that Dan Rather and his associates have not learned from their mistakes.
Channelling Michael Moore
At this point, Schlesinger ought to have called it quits. He had presented no evidence supporting his case and everyone he's talked to on-camera so far has been in no position of authority and certainly cannot be classified as an objective observer. Ever resourceful, he and his production team decide to simply twist the facts.
"The machinery for a draft is already in place and the acting director of Selective Service believes he could start drafting people quickly," Schlesinger says in his best Michael Moore voice.
Now it is true that the agency does think it could mobilize a system fairly soon, but what else does the Selective Service System think about the subject of reinstituting the draft? Nothing much according to Schlesinger. And certainly nothing that would contradict his case.
"I think we could do it in less than six months if we got the call," he quotes Jack Martin, the agency's director as saying.
But that wasn't all that Martin said. Almost certainly he repeated some variation of a "notice" prominently displayed on his agency's home page:
Notwithstanding recent stories in the news media and on the Internet, Selective Service is not getting ready to conduct a draft for the U.S. Armed Forces -- either with a special skills or regular draft. Rather, the Agency remains prepared to manage a draft if and when the President and the Congress so direct. This responsibility has been ongoing since 1980 and is nothing new. Further, both the President and the Secretary of Defense have stated on more than one occasion that there is no need for a draft for the War on Terrorism or any likely contingency, such as Iraq. Additionally, the Congress has not acted on any proposed legislation to reinstate a draft. Therefore, Selective Service continues to refine its plans to be prepared as is required by law, and to register young men who are ages 18 through 25.
For some reason, Schlesinger also left out this Sept. 24 statement from Martin's boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld:
"I'm not supposed to get in politics, but it is absolutely false that anyone in this administration is considering reinstating the draft. That is nonsense."
Satisfied that he had successfully distorted the truth, Schlesinger went for the close, raising the specter of two bills destined for nowhere, one of which has not even been considered by the relevant committee.
"This time there would be no long deferments for college students and a lot more people could be eligible for the draft than ever before. Men and women aged 18 to 26 could be called up.
"Of course, there hasn't been a draft since 1973. But that's not much comfort to Beverly Cocco. So she is keeping a sharp eye on the political traffic. She's a Bush supporter today, but if she doesn't like what she hears between now and November, Beverly could easily cross over. In Philadelphia, I'm Richard Schlesinger for Eye on America."
DAN RATHER: It's no secret: The all- volunteer U.S. Military, especially the Army, Marines and many reserve units, are stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan. So what about bringing back the draft? A lot of Americans are worried about that. Where do the presidential candidates stand? CBS's Richard Schlesinger tells you in the "Eye on America" election series, "What does it mean to you?"
SCHLESINGER: Beverly Cocco has spent most of her life protecting children in Philadelphia.
(Footage of Cocco in job as crossing guard)
SCHLESINGER: She usually worries about other people's kids.
(Footage of Cocco in job as crossing guard)
SCHLESINGER: But as Election Day approaches, it's her own two grown sons who Beverly is most worried about.
BEVERLY COCCO ("Pennsylvania Voter"): I go to bed every night and I pray, and I actually get sick to my stomach. I'm very worried. I'm scared. I'm absolutely scared. I'm petrified.
SCHLESINGER: Beverly is petrified about a military draft, and she's not alone. Mass e-mails are circulating among worried parents.
(Footage of bogus emails previously debunked by FactCheck.org)
But neither President Bush nor John Kerry has said he will re- institute the draft. In fact, they both say they will not.
Sen. JOHN KERRY (Democratic presidential candidate): I will give us a foreign policy that absolutely makes it unnecessary to have a draft for this country.
SCHLESINGER: Kerry says he'll try to get allies of the U.S. to send troops that could relieve American soldiers in Iraq. The Bush Administration says that is pure fantasy. The president wants to train more Iraqi troops to take over for the Americans.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: The war on terror will continue. It's going to take a while and no, we don't need a draft.
SCHLESINGER (voiceover): But Beverly's not buying it. She's a Republican, but she's also a single issue voter.
(on-camera) Would you vote for a Democrat?
COCCO: Absolutely. I would vote for Howdie Doody if I thought it would keep my boys home and safe.
SCHLESINGER (voiceover): In fact, there are at least three votes in this house riding on the draft: Beverly's and her sons,' Carmen [sic] and Nick.
(on-camera) Are you guys worried about being drafted?
NICK COCCO (College senior): Yeah. It's the talk. The talk's there. Though people aren't actually coming out and saying it, it's, it's there.
SCHLESINGER: The machinery for a draft is already in place and the acting director of Selective Service believes he could start drafting people quickly.
JACK MARTIN (Selective Service System): I think we could do it in less than six months if we got the call.
SCHLESINGER: This time there would be no long deferments for college students and a lot more people could be eligible for the draft than ever before. Men and women aged 18 to 26 could be called up.
Of course, there hasn't been a draft since 1973. But that's not much comfort to Beverly Cocco. So she is keeping a sharp eye on the political traffic. She's a Bush supporter today, but if she doesn't like what she hears between now and November, Beverly could easily cross over. In Philadelphia, I'm Richard Schlesinger for Eye on America.
Makes you wonder if the dupes out there in sheeple-land will see through this hogwash.