Most reporting and commentary about this debacle focuses on the 60 Minutes segment rather than on the book. The CBS apology is the perfect bookend for an earlier mistake by the network and the program. On Sept. 8, 2004, the program aired a report by Dan Rather about President George W. Bush’s 1972-73 service in the Texas Air National Guard. The report relied heavily on six documents showing that Bush failed to completely fulfill his duties as a Guardsman and F-102A Delta Dagger fighter pilot. Typography experts and most of the media immediately concluded that the documents, seemingly written in a font that was wrong for their era, were fakes.
CBS and Rather initially defended the broadcast, but within a fortnight the network acknowledged flaws in its preparation and said it had made a mistake. Rather resigned the following year, continued to defend the broadcast, and later said he was a “scapegoat.”
The failings of the broadcast world in the Bush TV segment gave fuel to the political right just weeks before the 2004 presidential election, while the failings in the Benghazi segment aroused the political left at a time when President Obama is under fire for flaws in his health care plan. Because of the Bush segment, CBS dropped plans to air a segment critical of the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq. Moreover, no major media outlet has ever tried since to conduct ethical scrutiny of Bush’s Guard service.
Block Over Benghazi
The discrediting of the Benghazi TV segment and book have not deterred Graham, who is using his Senate prerogative to block two key Obama cabinet level nominations – Janet Yellen to be Federal Reserve chairman and Jeh Johnson to be Homeland Security Secretary. Although one Benghazi survivor has already testified in closed session and three more are scheduled to testify, Graham says he wants to question all five Benghazi survivors. Davies was never on the roster of survivors and is not included in Graham’s “wants” list.
Graham’s predicament on the home front is a familiar one: In order to be conservative enough to win his party’s nomination, he must be too conservative to win a general election. Graham was considered moderate until recent years, when he gradually shifted into the conservative camp.
So with so much focus on television, what about the book The Embassy House by Jones (Davies) with help from veteran author Lewis? In 2001, a biography of George W. Bush was pulled when it was found to contain unsubstantiated allegations of drug use. In 2010, a book about the bombing of Japan during World War II (also covered in my book Mission to Tokyo) was withdrawn when questions arose about its accuracy.
Rarely, however, has a book vanished from sight so abruptly. There is a lesson here about what our technology is capable of. Like some of Big Brother’s speeches in George Orwell’s 1984, it’s as if The Embassy House never existed.
So, why, you might ask, did I pass on an opportunity to buy The Embassy House one day and rush so eagerly to pick it up the next?
In my opinion, it is time to leave Benghazi behind. And perhaps it’s time for some folks at CBS and Simon & Schuster to be taken to the woodshed for trying to prolong the Benghazi debate.
It’s simple. When I learned the book was a fake, I wanted to read it.
In my opinion, it is time to leave Benghazi behind. And perhaps it’s time for some folks at CBS and Simon & Schuster to be taken to the woodshed for trying to prolong the Benghazi debate. The book continues to arouse my curiosity precisely because I can’t have it.
But never say never. A different publisher reprised the questionable biography of Bush a year after it was quashed – only to enjoy minuscule sales. The Embassy House may be dead, but in the world of publishing being dead can be a temporary state.