Dan Rather's Revenge
"This instrument [television] can teach, it can entertain - yes it can even inspire . But it can do so only to the degree that men and women are determined to use it toward those ends. Otherwise it's nothing more than lights and wires in a box."
-Edward R. Murrow, 28 October 1958
When I was a kid, in the household I grew up in anyway, whenever a major news event would break, you involuntarily went to CBS News to find out what was happening. Back in the good old days, the CBS reporters and commentators had serious gravitas - Murrow, Cronkite, Sevareid - it didn't get any better than those guys, They used to refer to the news division of CBS as "the diamond of the Tiffany Network". Of course those days are gone forever. As far as news and information is concerned, "CBS" might just as well stand for "Cowardly Bull Shit". Every bit of credibility they had left was forever destroyed in 2005, after they caved-in to the political pressure put upon them by Bush Mob and forced Dan Rather out the door.
Just in case it slipped your mind (These are crowded times, I know) on September 8, 2004 Rather reported on 60 Minutes that while he was in the the Air National Guard, George W. Bush went AWOL for at least a year - from 1972 until 1973. As Election Day of 2004 was approaching, the Bush campaign was desperate to change the subject. Using Karl Rove's tried-and-true strategy of attacking an opponent by going after his strengths, they assaulted John Kerry's military record in Viet Nam. An organization appeared overnight called the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth". They claimed that Kerry's medals for valor had been received for incidents entirely fabricated - this in spite of the fact that none of these jackasses had even served with him. Their propaganda had the desired effect. A lot of voters swallowed it whole
Whether or not this was the final nail in the coffin of Kerry's quest for the White House is anybody's guess. He ran a pretty stupid campaign - as had Al Gore four years previously. My opinion is that any person who doesn't have the wit to defeat a disgusting little piece of shit like George W. Bush doesn't deserve to be president.
George W. Bush did not want to go to Vietnam. I find no fault with the guy in this one (and only) respect. Had I been of draft-age at the time, I wouldn't have wanted to go to Vietnam either. In fact, I would not have gone. My options would have been sparse to be sure. My father wasn't an influential congressman who could pull some strings to get me assigned to the "champagne unit" of the stateside National Guard. I probably would have ended up expatriating to Canada. No problem. I used to live in Toronto. It's a really nice place.
"Bring 'em on!"
-George W. Bush, June 2003
Junior Bush was a really lucky guy. His old man was able to get him into the guard in spite of the fact that there already was a waiting list of several hundred people. The rich have a different set of rules to abide by in case you haven't noticed. Bush got in. He was supposed to serve as a flyer - and that's what he did. He flew the coop. He was ordered to report to Dannelly Field in Montgomery, Alabama in September 1972 - but no one who was stationed there at the time has any recollection of meeting or even seeing him. Did he have pangs of conscience when he sent all those kids into Iraq in 2003? My guess is that he did not. He's always been kind of funny that way. Daddy's little sociopath.
FOR THE RECORD:
Mitt Romney was a lot slicker than Bush in dodging military service during the Vietnam war. He went to France as a "Mormon missionary". Very nice.
Dan Rather chronicles the story of his departure from the Columbia Broadcasting System in his new book, Rather Outspoken. It's next on my reading list. He has always been anathema to conservatives in spite of the fact that in his long career he never once expressed a political opinion on the air. He's seen by that crowd as the personification of those evil-doing America haters. And yet ultra-conservative, Reagan-speech-writer Peggy Noonan (who used to work with Dan at CBS) said in her memoirs that he is one of the most patriotic men she has ever known. Imagine that.
My problem with Dan Rather is that I always thought he was a bit too stoic. That's the problem with the guys at CBS. As good as they were (and they were as good as it gets) they were never able to let their hair down - unlike their NBC counterparts. Tom Brokaw is a really funny guy - as is Brian Williams and David Gregory. Did you ever see Gregory's impersonation of Brokaw? Uncanny and hilarious! Back in the day David Brinkley had a sense of humor that Walter Cronkite could never hope to compete with on his best days. Those NBC people are a scream! With the exception of the late, great Don Hewitt, their colleagues over at CBS are a bit stiff. And that's the way it is.
But while Dan Rather might be guilty of taking himself and the planet earth a little too seriously, he was damned good at what he did. That is why the failure of the suits at CBS to stand by his side in the aftermath of the Bush story is inexcusable and shameful.
There was always something about Rather. The man's essential decency - and yes, patriotism - were always visible just beneath the surface. Maybe I'm deceiving myself here but I don't think I am. In the week following the attacks of September 11, 2001 he went on the David Letterman program and recited a little-known verse from America the Beautiful:
Oh beautiful, for patriot dreams
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears
In the midst of it, he broke down and wept. It was as powerful a moment as I've ever witnessed on television and I'll never forget it. It revealed so much about the man.
In March of 1954, Ed Murrow took on Joe McCarthy and exposed him as the lying demagogue he was. In spite of the attacks that were hurled back by McCarthy and his allies, CBS stood by their man. A half century later, Dan Rather exposed, for all the world to see, George W. Bush's desertion from the Air National Guard. This time, CBS folded like a decomposing burlap tent. Murrow's producer at the time of the McCarthy broadcast was a man named Friend Friendly. He once told an interviewer that the job of any good news organization is to tell the people, "not what they want to hear, but what they need to hear". Apparently CBS News has misplaced Friendly's memo. Pity. Their Sunday morning programing is still pretty good, but other than that I just can't take them seriously anymore.
Since I have yet to read Rather Outspoken, this should not be seen as a review of the book. Although every other book I've read by Dan Rather was an excellent read (and I've read 'em all) I imagine that this one will be no less enjoyable. I'm glad the book has come out - and I'm particularly happy that the nasty facts regarding Dubya's military "career" are now front and center again. This is as it should be. Every aspect of his life needs to be exposed - not for the sake of political comeuppance - but for the historical record. Like it or not, George W. Bush is a historical figure.
I'm certain that Franklin D. Roosevelt never imagined that the story of his affair with my distant cousin, Lucy Paige Mercer, would make the pages of history (I come from a long line of home-wreckers) nor did Jack Kennedy ever dream that the names of any of his mistresses would make their way into the indexes of the numerous biographies of him. Does George W. Bush seriously believe that the facts of his life will be exempt from the same kind of historical scrutiny? The arrogant little thug probably does believe it but it doesn't really matter. The biographical excavation was bound to commence sooner or later. Dan Rather's new book is a good place to start.
Git 'em, Dan!
Good Night and Good Luck
a film by George Clooney
The story of the Edward R. Murrow's March 1954 broadcast that was the beginning of the end for Joseph McCarthy. Wasn't that a time? CBS had courage back then. The film is available on DVD.
Today is the ninety-fifth anniversary of the birth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Here's to you, Jack!
That's just one of the perks of being Irish Catholic. We get to refer to the late president as "Jack". Nyah!