What Mary Mapes Doesn't Want You to Remember: No Gore Vietnam Piece on CBS

One real moment in the Bozell-Mapes interview on C-SPAN2 was when Mapes said Al Gore's Vietnam record was "a perfectly legitimate story," so Bozell asked, did you do it? "I did not." But she thinks that sometime, somewhere at CBS, somebody did it. Bozell says mmm, no. No investigative piece. You may wonder: how did CBS cover Al Gore's mysteriously brief tenure in Vietnam as a military journalist? I covered that for National Review Online last year. Paw around in Nexis, and you get next to nothing, vague mentions for a few seconds, and never any sign of curiosity about the hows and whys of young Al's machinations:

In 2000, CBS had next to zero interest in Al Gore's mysterious history during his brief service in Vietnam, including his discussions with old CBS nemesis Gen. William Westmoreland. In 1999, Newsweek's Bill Turque found a Gore friend who said Gore "met twice that spring with the former commander of U.S. forces in South Vietnam to discuss Gore's options. Westmoreland guaranteed no cushy deals, according to Gore's friend, but left him with one sweeping assurance: 'I believe he will be watched,' the general said. 'He will be cared for.'" Later, Turque added: "The two met during the general's visit to [Fort] Rucker in 1970, and Gore has intimated over the years that the general encouraged him to go. According to Michael Zibart, a Nashville friend, Gore said that Westmoreland told him he 'would be making a grave error if he didn't serve in Vietnam.'"

CBS made an enormous deal out of Dan Quayle's connections to power in Indiana during the 1988 campaign, and is now putting its reputation on the line about George W. Bush's connections to power in Texas. How did CBS explore Al Gore's going straight to the top of the Vietnam command structure to make connections? They didn't. Put "Gore" and "Westmoreland" into the Nexis file of CBS transcripts, and you get "no documents." When 60 Minutes profiled Gore on December 5, 1999, Lesley Stahl merely mentioned in passing: "Everybody expected him to follow his father's footsteps into politics, but he rebelled. After a tour of duty in Vietnam, he worked for four years as a reporter at the Nashville Tennessean. During that time he also enrolled in Divinity School here at Vanderbilt University." She then asked him about religion.

The main reason for Vietnam mentions in CBS's Gore coverage in 2000 was speculation over whether Gore would select "decorated Vietnam veteran" John Kerry as his running mate. In a Gore biography during the Democratic convention that year, reporter Richard Schlesinger skimmed over the subject: "Gore served five months in Vietnam as a combat journalist. But those who knew him best wondered whether his true motivation was to shield his father from critics during a bitter re-election campaign... . It didn't help his father in any case. After 30 years, the senior Gore lost his coveted seat in Washington. To this day, Gore feels his father's opposition to the war led to his defeat."

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