Flashback

That, and other news, in today’s Political Panorama.

It still feels like 2004. The Democrats are still flummoxed on Iraq, as the Republicans continue to press the patriotism card. In the midst of the Senate’s haggling over the resolution to condemn MoveOn for its “General Betray Us” ad — inspiring a debate that some may feel ranks up there with Terry Shaivo and flag burning — came an amendment to also condemn Swift Boat ads. Heck, even John Kerry is enjoying a new burst of attention, thanks to a little bit of campus-enforced shock therapy. And  Dan Rather is vowing to reopen the entire merits of his  2004 story on President Bush’s National Guard service, telling Larry King last night that his $70 million suit against CBS is designed to no less than save journalism from big government influence.

“Somebody, sometime has got to take a stand and say democracy cannot
survive, much less thrive with the level of big corporate and big
government interference and intimidation in news,” he told King.

And in an interview with the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz, Rather says that he still believes in the accuracy of the story. Rather also said that he believes he is fighting for the “red, beating heart of our democracy.”

Kurtz points out that one wrinkle in Rather’s case is what he said before about the story — like his apology in 2004.

“I didn’t want to apologize,” Rather says. “I never apologized for what was in the story, the record of President Bush.”

Another detail: Although Rather had insisted that he was stepping down voluntarily when his resignation was announced in late November, 2004, he says that in fact CBS News chief Andy Heyward and CBS chairman Les Moonves had called his agent on the morning after Bush’s re-election to tell him that Rather was out. Rather also says CBS ignored supportive evidence that was dug up by a private investigator it hired.

On the HuffingtonPost, Mary Mapes, the producer who was fired over the National Guard story, defends Rather and his decision to file the lawsuit.

She writes, “I know that filing a suit had to be a tough
decision for Dan to make. But I’m not sure he had a
choice. This episode deserves to be examined again and
this may be the only way to accomplish that. Besides,
a lawsuit also gives him that delicious power of
discovery. Who knows what might shake loose?”

MoveOn or Move On?: All of the attention (President Bush called its ad “disgusting”) may end up helping MoveOn — even as some Democrats express wariness over the groups’ tactics. It’s executive director, Eli Pariser, told supporters, “MoveOn is going to be as strong as ever.” He added, “We definitely will be putting pressure on Democrats, and especially those who voted against us, in the near future, and we are currently working on the best way to do that.”

Hollywood Democrats reflect the divisions that party faithful have nationwide over the group. The Los Angeles Times’ Tina Daunt reports that as one of the industry’s favorite anti-war groups, MoveOn has drawn support from directors Oliver Stone and Ron Reiner, who even helmed ads for the org. But there are worries that its efforts could incite a backlash in the same way that Jan Fonda did during the Vietnam War.

“Most people saw it as a mistake that really hurt progressive candidates,” said one Hollywood insider, who asked not to be named because he continues to be involved in fundraising efforts. “We just handed the Republicans a gift. It’s like MoveOn has become tone-deaf. I think people will be more cautious and careful about what they do with MoveOn in the future.”

Gore Says More: Al Gore tells Ron Grover of Business Week that his Current TV will relaunch its website on Oct. 15 that he says will “change the way folks use the Net.” He and partner Joel Hyatt don’t provide details, but Gore also indicated that he would make an appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

Grover writes, “Is he finally going to announce he’s in the race, I ask the politician, who joked on stage with Leonardo DiCaprio during the February Oscar telecast that he was using that televised event to announce his candidacy. ‘Well, I am intending to make an announcement,’ he says, dragging out each syllable for effect. Then, he smiles, jumps up from his seat, and offers a firm handshake that looks less like a candidate on the make than a Hollywood power player looking for his next big project.”

Oprah Overblown?: A new study from the Pew Research Center for People and the Press showed that Oprah’s endorsement will have little effect on how people will vote. From B&C: “According to the survey, 15% said Oprah’s endorsement would make them more likely to vote for Obama, while the same 15% said it would make them less likely and 69% said it would make no difference. That is down from a 2000 poll that found that 14% said her endorsement would make them more likely to vote for a candidate and 11% less likely.”

Obama No Show: Where was Barack Obama on Thursday instead of at the AARP-hosted  candidates forum in Iowa? He was appearing with Usher in Atlanta as part of his “Countdown for Change” tour, appealing to the youth demo.

Dodd Dollars: Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward host a fund-raiser in Connecticut on Sunday for Chris Dodd.

Clinton Comedy: Bill Clinton on how he will handle being First Husband? “I may slit my throat.” That was a joke, be assured, as he appeared on Thursday’s “Daily Show with Jon Stewart.



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