Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Heads to roll

A CBS News insider tells Inside the Beltway “four or five” of the network’s employees face dismissal as CBS prepares to release a “critical” internal investigative report on the use of fake documents in a pre-election story challenging President Bush’s Vietnam-era service in the Texas Air National Guard.

CBS’ Dan Rather already has announced he’s stepping down from the anchor chair on March 9 — his 24th anniversary on the job — although the network says his departure is unrelated to the fallout from the bogus claims leveled against the president. Mr. Rather will remain a network correspondent.

The anchor told TV viewers that CBS was deliberately misled about the authenticity of documents it used to impugn Mr. Bush’s Guard service.

“I want to say, personally and directly, I’m sorry,” said Mr. Rather, who has been accused of political bias on numerous occasions during his broadcasting career. “This was an error made in good faith.”

The envelopes, please

Before we say farewell to Dan Rather, let us be the first to report that he’s been crowned “worst-speaking network news anchor” by American Speaker, the comprehensive guide to successful speaking.

“I should add that the awardees — including Dan Rather as worst network news anchor — were selected over two months ago, so my suggestion that he bow out was made long before he took a powder,” American Speaker editor-in-chief Aram Bakshian Jr. tells Inside the Beltway.

“Best political speaker” honors in the annual Patrick Awards for best and worst speaking performances in 2004 go to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose recent successes are “proof that brains, practice, a good message and natural eloquence can overcome even a strong Austrian accent.”

Worst political speaker: former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean “for his memorable — if unfairly and repeatedly replayed ‘I Have a Scream’ speech — the night of the Iowa caucus.”

“Seldom has one speech done more to end the political career of a promising, major political figure,” says Mr. Bakshian, once a fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics and director of speechwriting under President Reagan.

Sen.-elect Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, gets “best national speaking debut” for his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, while Democratic vice presidential nominee North Carolina Sen. John Edwards lands the “most disappointing national debut.”

Best-spoken network news anchor is Tom Brokaw of NBC, who recently stepped down from his anchoring post. Best network news interviewer is NBC’s Tim Russert for his “consistently aggressive but civil, fair and informed interviewing style with public figures of every political stripe.”

Worst network interviewer: PBS’ Charlie Rose, who, although articulate and intelligent, “just doesn’t know when to hush.”

Blood for Kyoto?

Kyoto global-warming negotiations have resumed in Buenos Aires, where yesterday it was 85 degrees and sunny (being that the start of summer is a week away in the Southern Hemisphere).

“With what appears to be everyone consigned to drying their clothes on the rooftop here, it is curious why such an energy-impoverished country would splurge an estimated $10 million to host thousands of bureaucrats pushing a treaty premised on too much energy use,” remarks conference attendee Christopher C. Horner, senior fellow at Washington’s Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Still, the last time Buenos Aires hosted such talks in 1998, the United States signed the Kyoto Protocol. While the United States never actually rescinded that signature, its team once again finds itself in a hostile “environment.”

“Right off the bat, U.S. negotiators publicly minced no words about joining Kyoto or anything resembling its ‘targets and timetables’ of energy rationing,” notes Mr. Horner.

Treaty negotiations are nothing without intrigue, and there is a buzz over two interesting developments. First, the Times of London late last week splashed word of Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who vows a monomaniacal climate crusade to match his campaign-finance ‘reform’ victory, mediating a face-saving U.S. climate-treaty commitment for British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

“All parties denied this was the goal, but attendees here claim McCain’s visit is being quietly followed up this week by his more moderate colleague and presidential hopeful Senator Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska Republican,” reports Mr. Horner.”Blair remains under increasing pressure from neighbors such as French President Jacques Chirac to show that he has ‘gotten something’ for his cooperative relationship with President Bush over Iraq.

“If a U.S. ‘global warming’ commitment is indeed the pound of flesh that Blair seeks to shed his ‘poodle’ moniker, one wonders how replacing a claim of ‘blood for oil’ with ‘blood for Kyoto’ would sit any better with the voters he faces next year.”

Stay tuned.

• John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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