I left the building late, with Roger Charles, the tenderhearted military consultant who had worked with me for years. Also on hand: Mike Smith, a dogged young researcher from Austin, Texas, who had followed the Bush-Guard story for years.
If our demeanor the night before had been triumphant, on September 9 we were downright tragic. The three of us dragged our sad selves into the hotel and plopped down in the bar like limp hankies. I was too tense to enjoy any small talk, but that has never actually stopped me from talking. So I continued to bray at Mike and Roger like a wounded wildebeest.
I was incredulous that the mainstream press -- a group I'd been a part of for nearly twenty-five years and thought I knew -- was falling for the blogs' critiques. I was shocked at the ferocity of the attack. I was terrified at CBS's lack of preparedness in defending us. I was furious at the unrelenting attacks on Dan. And I was helpless to do anything about any of it.
We vowed to work ourselves into a frenzy doing a great report on the Evening News the next night . . . and we did. We put on a strong and reasoned defense. Maybe that was the problem. The people who had begun the attack on us were not interested in reason, other than the reason behind the whole assault -- politics.
Dan ended the report by asking that the president answer the longtime questions about his service in the National Guard. No one listened. No one wanted to ask the president anything other than what he thought about the CBS report. Everyone in the media wanted to cover CBS, not the National Guard story.
Our report didn't make a whit of difference. Nothing we did mattered. We were shouting into a wind tunnel.
Copyright © 2005 by Mary Mapes