White House communications director Dan Bartlett had agreed to talk to “60 Minutes” […] Half an hour later, Roberts called “60 Minutes” producer Mary Mapes with word that Bartlett was not challenging the authenticity of the documents. […] At that point, said “60 Minutes” executive Josh Howard, “we completely abandoned the process of authenticating the documents. Obviously, looking back on it, that was a mistake. We stopped questioning ourselves. I suppose you could say we let our guard down.”
Two patterns of behavior leap out at me on this.
First, there’s the Evil Genius / Idiot meme. Rove is this super-villian level Evil Genius yet there’s no reason for CBS to expect that he might be setting them up in this instance. There’s not even a “trust but verify” view. If a White House spokesman simply declines to challenge the authenticity then that’s all the confirmation needed. If Rove was involved this is precisely the point at which he could intervened in a believable way. The White House doesn’t even have to lie.
Second, this is a pattern that also exemplifies the Left’s approach to the USSR, where there was an obessive fascination with words and documents. The important thing to them then was signed agreements, the idea that a totalitarian regime like the USSR would lie was simply inconceivable. It’s probably another aspect of the logo-realist worldview of so much of the Left. Other nations have long since figured this out, as for instance France’s latest international ploy. What’s astonishing is that cynical governments like the USSR and France can go to this well again and again and the pathetic trusting stream never goes dry.
UPDATE: It’s more pathetic than I thought. Josh Howard, executive producer at CBS News, says
If we had gotten back from the White House any kind of red flag, raised eyebrow, anything that said, ‘Are you sure about this stuff?’ we would have gone back to square one
Openly depending on the Bush Administration to protect them from the Bush campaign! This is truly flourescent idiocy.