Tuesday, May 29, 2012

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 wa
s 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

er 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.


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 s
tory 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 tha
t 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!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


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 th
en. 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!


At 11:08 AM, Anonymous Sally Bowman said...

I saw Dan Rather April 23, 2012 and I would encourage you to see this man if you have the chance. This was at Butler University's "CELEBRATION of DIVERSITY" Distinguished Lecture Series.

A few hundred of us spent a couple of hours with Rather and a pair of local TV / radio personalities. His humbleness and take on history were instructive. Indicating that now is the important time in our national experiment, he stressed is is imperative to continue this experiment.

Rather said that never before or since has a country held together by the universal principles of the rule of law, egalitarianism, and personal freedom been attempted by a multi-religious, multi-racial, and multi-cultural nation.

Much of his focus was international in scope. At our inception many international friends scoffed at our chances of success.

He traces the beginning of the modern racial struggle to the 1930's. The notion of nonviolence was set in place by Gandhi, moved forward by King, and continued by Mandela. He was clear that we must continue the struggle today, as we have a lot of work yet to do. His aimed at the United States, but he was inclusive of the world.

Sprinkled throughout were delightful anecdotes filled with humor illustrative of his points. Often these concerned his life as well as that of others, such as Churchill.

The 81 year old called Medgar Evers a friend, and is still in awe of " ... the stillness inside ... " Martin Luther King, Jr. Rather said that covering King was his most impactful story. He was speaking of the impact of King on his own life and mores, in addition to the national impact.

Rather responded to Q & A:

1. How have you approached being a journalist, and has it been instructive to your life in general?
He said that he had three rules on the job, as well as in life:
a) Expect that the first things you hear of something will prove to be untrue
b) Take some time to let your own thoughts work, and to allow more information in
c) Find "Touchstones" that you trust and that have proved their reliability for you

2.How can we deal with the 'avalanche' of money in politics?
Find out who gives how much to whom for what, and have all involved declare every bit of that.

3. How would you instruct new journalism students faced with the loss of the giants of journalism?
We must provide them with an opportunity to practice their craft, as there are many aspiring to the profession currently. From there they must deal with the corporatization, commercialization, and trivialization of the news.

4.What have been the greatest stories you've covered; what has had the most impact on you?
a) M. L. King, Jr; JFK; RFK; " ... 1968 was quite a year."
b) Watergate
c) VietNam

5. What books influenced you the most?
a) The Holy Bible
b) The Iliad
c) War and Peace
d) The Great Gatsby

6. What stories are you working on at HDNet?
Education, out in a few months. Particularly, Special Education. This tends to end up being "Problem Students" which tend to be Blacks.

7. He was asked to say something about his parting from CBS.
Rather said that the things done by G.H.W. Bush, and his son, G.W. Bush, to keep "W" out of the service, were reported accurately, even if some of the documents have been alleged to be forgeries.

At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Now if Rather or any of his peers, would just look into the current Presidents educational transcripts as much as they Bush's, we would be getting some where.


At 6:00 PM, Anonymous John said...

'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 if to tell the people, "not what they want to hear, but what they need to hear". Apparently CBS News has forgotten.'

They have not forgotten. The programming is exactly what the primary owners determine 'we need to hear'. It is aimed at having us think what they would have us think (if this word really applies). This phenomenon is illustrated perfectly in Rush Limbaugh's mocking of his own listeners in referring to them as ditto-heads. He probably never told them to see the irony in the term - so they don't get it. I guess you can't expect much from people who model their thoughts on a drug addict's banter...

At 6:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes where us today's Murrow to report on Obama? MIA

At 10:55 PM, Blogger Atom Smasher said...

"An organization appeared overnight called the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth"." You know the "overnight" part isn't true, right?

At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can it be that Rather used in his report info that was made up, yet current media will not even ask for any of Obama's education history? We knew that GWB had better college test scores than his opponents, we know that part of Rather's report was true and part was made up, yet we now face a media that seems to have ZERO interest in Obama's paper trail?

What is wrong with the people who do the reporting today?

At 11:57 AM, Blogger Dave Dubya said...

As Rather said, "...they must deal with the corporatization, commercialization, and trivialization of the news."

When the public is brainwashed into believing corporate media is the "liberal media", there's not much value on real journalism anymore as it is.

At 3:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since "the public is brainwashed into believing corporate media is the "liberal media", were then is the liberal media? Is it MSNBC, CNN or you and your sources DD? Where can we find true no biased liberal media today?

At 9:15 PM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Anonymous said: "...were then is the liberal media?"

It doesn't exist. It's a figment of your imagination. In the United States, there are five major conglomerates deciding what the vast majority of Americans will view or hear. About thirty years ago there were 50. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that those five conglomerates aren't exactly the voice of liberal values.

Will I have to go over this with you, again, in another week? Or, do you think you've finally grasped the pertinent facts?

At 12:30 AM, Anonymous James said...

Where can we find true no biased liberal media today? You can find it in Liberal websites like Truthout and Alternet. They cover a much broader range of subjects compared to Conservative sites and you will even read critical articles about Democratic politicians. As far as I know Conservative websites are " My party right or wrong" and they never criticize their own.

You can type in "Obama" at Alternet and on the first search page 8 out of 9 articles are very critical of Obama, and rightly so.

It is difficult to debate with Conservatives because they are so poorly informed due to the highly partisan news sources they go to.

At 3:50 AM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

James said: "It is difficult to debate with Conservatives because they are so poorly informed..."


At 10:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So if I understand what you and JG are saying, the news media did not dig into Obama's back ground like they did with GWB because they are really conservatives and in the pocket of the corporations?
Would mean that corporations are behind Obama and want him reelected? If so the Supreme Court ruling on fund raising should be helping Obama?

At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stop bashing Bush. It's like playing the race card. it has no effect.

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Anonymous: "...because they are really conservatives and in the pocket of the corporations?"

You make the supposition. I stated the facts; it's up to you to make the inference.

"Would [that] mean that corporations are behind Obama and want him reelected?"

It depends. They obviously wanted him elected the first go-around. He's certainly done their bidding up 'til now. But they may, instead, want to go with Romney -- depending upon their motives, their agenda, and most importantly, their timetable.

"If so the Supreme Court ruling on fund raising should be helping Obama?"

Sure! The one with the biggest pot of gold wins! Democrats are fond of corporate money, too, but Republicans covet it.

At 11:42 AM, Blogger Mack Lyons said...

Stop bashing Bush. It's like playing the race card. it has no effect.


At 3:32 PM, Blogger charles moore said...

Hi Tom,
Murrow, Cronkite, Sevareid, Rather - they were the best and we will probably never see their like again. It is sad how many younger people will never know good reporting like theirs.

At 9:07 PM, Blogger Dearest Friend said...

Love the rant, Tom - and yes, you reminded me - Dino Paul Crocetti and my favorite Uncle, John Fluck, would also have been 95 this year - a good year for good people...some of my all-time favorite people at that!


At 11:22 PM, Blogger diane offineer said...

I watch Dan on HD Net T.V. Dan Rather Reports. He is the last of a dying breed.

At 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

diane offineer Is Dan on his show vetting Obama, like asking for Obama's school transcripts,etc?

At 12:18 PM, Anonymous Smokey Lagumski said...

President Bill Clinton veered sharply off message Thursday, telling CNN that Mitt Romney's business record at Bain Capital was "sterling."

"I don't think that we ought to get into the position where we say 'This is bad work. This is good work,'" Clinton said. "The man who has been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold."

This is big of Clinton especially since Obama had NO QUALIFICATIONS what-so-ever before becoming President!

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0512/76922_Page2.html#ixzz1wYiqEEcq

At 6:15 PM, Blogger Suzan said...

Congrats on your being highlighted at Salon, Tom.



At 7:33 PM, Blogger Dave Dubya said...

Here's your "liberal media'


Fox News Made One Hell of an Anti-Obama Ad.

How fair and balanced can ya get?

At 10:31 PM, Anonymous James said...

Hey Dave, I saw the video and every fact and figure they presented was accurate and not even exaggerated. The president has historically been given the blame or the credit for the economy weather it is right or wrong.

The ad was certainly not Swift Boating Obama because no political candidate has ever bullshitted the American public as much as Obama. 100 Liberal promises and he failed to deliver 97 times.

We are witnessing some high political theater when the Conservative candidate for the U.S. Presidency has to worry about losing because of election fraud being committed against him by his own party!

Obama is just too effective for the Conservative agenda. He gutted the extremely popular Consumer Protection agency and threw Elizabeth Warren to the curb. He is successfully underfunding the Social Security program with a diabolical tax cut, Karl Rove must be quite jealous and impressed with Obama

At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

HEARYE, HEARYE, Democratic Hypocrisy in Full Force!

In recent years, Democrats have argued that requiring voters to show photo IDs prior to voting is an egregious act of voter suppression. Ben Jealous, of the NAACP, has gone so far as to argue that such requirements are tantamount to modern-day Jim Crow laws. In the world they inhabit, lots of voters don't have access to photo IDs, so requiring voters to provide this will "disenfranchise" them and leave them out of the democratic process. Funny they don't feel that way for their own party conventions.

On Saturday, Massachusetts delegates will meet in their state's Democrat party convention. The votes of these delegates will determine whether there are primary elections for their party nominations. With so much at state, Democrats have decided to implement Voter ID requirements:


Wait, what? Democrats tell us that photo ID requirements disenfranchise minority voters, who, inexplicably, have limited access to photo IDs. Yet, at their own convention, they insist that all delegates provide a photo ID to even have access to the convention floor. When their own party is at state, it seems their priorities are somewhat different that their rhetoric suggests.

If the Democrats actually believe the rhetoric from people like Ben Jealous, then they have disenfranchised scores of potential delegates with this photo ID requirement. If, on the other hand, they instituted the photo ID requirement to ensure the integrity of the votes of the party delegates, they should repudiate the NAACP and work to ensure that their own rules carry through election day.

Voter ID is good for me, but not thee is not a winning campaign slogan.

At 1:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has Dan Rather, Alternet or Truthout investigated how Elizabeth Warren made her money flipping real estate or the truth of her claim to be part Native American?


At 4:31 PM, Blogger Steven said...

Always enjoy your posts. Great food for thought...but I'm wondering why you allow 'Anonymous' comments? They really waste a lot of bandwidth with their conspiracy theories...

At 1:08 PM, Blogger David Starkey - Dallas said...

He was my LOCAL anchorman when I lived in Houston in 1961. I was only 4 years old, when his coverage of Hurricaine Carla won him the attention of the CBS Network, and his path was set. He covered Nasa when my dad worked there, Vietnam when I worried about going there, the White House when I wanted Nixon OUT OF THERE. When Walter Cronkite retired, I wasn't all that upset, because he was being replaced with the second greatest newsman in the nation. When Dan Rather left CBS, he took with him a piece of me. That happens when you are used to seeing someone 5 times a week for about 45 years. I miss you Dan.


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