Tuesday, March 30, 2010

DAN RATHER


I wish we had Dan Rather commenting on the news every night.

Right now, I'm hearing passionate opinions, distortions, attacks, loud, logical-sounding threats about lawsuits and repeal that are frightening even though they're probably not going to be able to kill Health Care Reform.

This is a time when the older-wiser Dan Rather could maybe calm the older-wiser angry Republicans down.

He's one of the most famous journalists in the world. He has covered every major event in the world in the past 50 years. His resume reads like a history book, from his early local reporting in Texas on Hurricane Carla, to his covering the assassination of President John F. Kennedy; the civil rights movement; the White House and national politics; wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, Yugoslavia and Iraq.

He's interviewed every United States president from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush and just about every major international leader, including Saddam Hussein. In 2004, as a correspondent for "60 Minutes II," Dan Rather broke the story of the abuse of prisoners at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.

In addition to his anchoring CBS nightly news, he appeared regularly on "60 minutes II" which aired on Wednesdays.

He quit CBS because there was a bruhaha over George W. Bush's military background. Dan Rather recorded a show about documents from a Lt. Colonel who said he'd been asked to "sugar coat" an annual officer rating for Bush when Bush was a 1st Lieutenant in the Air National Guard.

It was election time. The show was never shown. The Lt. Colonel's documents were alleged to be fakes. Main-stream news blared it into a huge scandal. CBS and Dan Rather defended the documents, but shortly before Election Day, CBS did an about-face and claimed they had been "misled." ( CBS fired Dan Rather's producer and three assistants.)

Rather quit "60 Minutes II" and sued CBS (and co-producer Viacom) for $70 million, claiming that he had been made a "scapegoat." In September 2009, the court dismissed Dan Rather's case.

There's much more to this story, and what it cost Dan Rather financially and professionally. He's not on the news every night any more. Since 2006, he has been the anchor and managing editor of "Dan Rather Reports" on "HDNet," continuing to land interviews with the world’s most important and compelling figures -- famous and infamous. He's on every Tuesday at 5 and 11 p.m.

I miss hearing him every night. Whenever I see him or hear him, I'm delighted. His news is NEWS ... not gossip ... it's who, what, when, where, and why it's important.

Recently on Chris Matthews' "Hardball," on MSNBC, while chatting about Obama and Health Care, Dan Rather used the analogy of selling watermelons by the side of the road.

Bad words, wrong word scandals are big nowadays, maybe bigger than sex scandals.

Here's some of Rather's explanation (not an apology), that was published in the Huffington Post: "... It's an expression that stretches to my boyhood roots in Southeast Texas, when country highways were lined with stands manned by sellers of all races. Now, of course, watermelons have become a stereotype for African Americans and so my analogy entered a charged environment. I'm sorry people took offense." Later in the article, he made this telling remark: "...What has caused this comment to 'go viral' is the trumpeting of an online and cable echo chamber that claims the banner of news but trades in gossip, gotcha, and innuendo."

Will Dan Rather be pushed to say more? I don't think he can be pushed. Anyhow, it's echoing, but fading. And I keep hoping Mr. Rather will speak about the Health Care war.

Meanwhile, with the Health Care attacks getting louder every day, I've tried to listen to Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer. Both are brilliant, but somehow too dressed-up, too beautified, too charming -- each has a smooth, poised, feminine style of delivery that distracts me from the news, and makes me click the remote.

Andrea Mitchell, Nora O'Donnell, Campbell Brown are okay but the only female I bend over backwards to listen to is Rachel Maddow -- she keeps me interested -- I love her fresh, clear, perspective on political news, though it's painful, sad, frightening -- what's happening to my beloved county. (It is my beloved country -- when my plane is landing, after I've been in one of those not free, not democratic other countries, I want to kiss the ground.)

Gosh, if I could listen to Rachel at 10, and at 11 ......

Okay, I'll admit it. I need an older-wiser, objectively truthful person, at the end of the day, enlarging my perspective, telling me what's important, steering my mind.

Right now, we need a nightly dose of Dan Rather.

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