Thursday, September 16, 2004

Is This The End of Dan Rather?

Over the past year I have run many posts on Dan Rather. Each one tastefully dedicated to the proposition that horsewhipping The Anchorman publicly and "with great gusto" is, as Martha might say, "a good thing." I don't like Dan Rather, frankly, he doesn't have anything going for him in the charisma department except the bland All-American looks of someone who might conceivably have gravitas. But, of course, he doesn't. That, and his face irritates me.

He doesn't have any flavor, quite frankly, like Tom Brokaw or Peter Jennings actually do. Brokaw has flavor, you can tell he's a fun outdoorsy kind of guy, just as you can tell Peter Jennings is an internationalist, a bit formal, and a lover of the ladies who lunch. Dan Rather, by way of contrast, is a cipher, he's who you want him to be when he reads the Evening News off the Teleprompter; he is the perfect stereotype of the empty suit, the talking head, the "jive turkey."

Dan Rather makes me angry.

Although Rather is almost certainly left of center politically, he is no hero to the left. Hardly. How could he be when he appears to be so unwilling to ever go out on a limb on the issues, like Peter Jennings does. And in his current mess, Rather will need allies, someone to watch his ass, but will they be forthcoming? If anything, Dan Rather is pure Establishment -- parroting the corporate line, only against -- perhaps -- the tone, the rhetoric of the debate. His arguments are on aesthetic grounds because, quite frankly, I do not think Rather is enough of a man to have solid political beliefs either way, anything that might make him vulnerable to criticism, you see, Dan Rather is The Blameless One, the bland one.

Back in November I wrote vis a vis Dan:

Is This The End of Dan Rather? A November Drudge Report had as it's headline, "DAN RATHER MAY END ANCHOR RUN NEXT YEAR." It goes on to say, "Executives plot late '04 departure of CBS star... 'After the election, we are looking at changes,' a top network source tells DRUDGE... "

Wow. Now, The Corsair has to take this with a pinch of salt as Drudge is well known for dropping the ball on big exclusives (remember the "exclusive" that Eisner and Disney were going to buy Apple Computer? I got burned on that story back when I was Editor in Chief of MacDirectory) What a howler in bad reporting. But this could be true, as Drudge has conservative informants high up in the media Establishment, and Rather's retirement would be major news. Let The Corsair count the ways in which this is a significant development.

For one, In 1986, Dan Rather was stalked, pummeled and kicked on a Manhattan sidewalk by a well-dressed man who kept asking "Kenneth, what is the frequency?" On REM's 1994's Monster album, they viciously (deliciously) parodied the line in their single hit of the same name.

This bit of trivia, by the way, is a propos of nothing, The Corsair just wanted to find a use for that bit of odd arcana. Rather has been the most hated man in television news-- the antichrist, if you will, embodying the establishment left. His softball rebuttal-free interview with Sadaam Hussein, a tyrant, did not help reconstruct his image in my book. And Conservatives have some cause for this animus. In April 2001, Dan Rather helped raise $20,000 for the Travis County Democratic Party in Austin, Texas. Howie Kurtz of The Washington Post did a front page story, confronting Rather. The newsman replied to criticism of his journalistic objectivity (ABC's Jeff Greenfield, for example, once a Democrat, has renounced all partisan activity in the name of journalistic integrity), said he "wouldn't be surprised" if critics use the incident to call him a secret Democrat.

"I'm going to get that criticism whether I deserve it or not." If conservatives are not fans of Rather, I don't see the left coming to his defense. And lefties are very good about aiding people who are defenseless, even after a roughing up by that well dressed man. But in fact they, too, find him unpalatable. All of this begs the question: if neither the left nor the right feels comfortable with Dan Rather's purported objectivity, then why --why?-- is he a Wise Man? Where is his constituency? CBS News' ratings are nothing to brag about, from what I hear. What army of citizens would be offended if the 72 year old newsman was asked to resign? The Corsair always thought it had to be the hair ... that, or the nervous beady eyed creepy-unstable look that he pulls off so well.

UPDATE: Dan Rather, responding to the Drudge rumors, says "Hell no, I won't go!"

And I wrote this in June (Ah, how time flies when you are bashing Dan Rather):

Dan Rather IS The Anchorman. CBS News dummy Dan Rather was categorically unequipped to ask probing psychological questions of the former President mainly because his own subconscious is such a menacing, unprobed void ("What's the frequency, Kenneth," The Corsair shivers). You just know Oprah will do better on excavating Clinton's psychological subterranean cairns and all the McNugget sized secrets that lie therein.

Plus, Oprah's black, and so will be better able to relate to him. It's a black thing. Anyhoo: Rather stuck to the sexy but shallow questions, veering slightly, if only for a moment, into Clinton's childhood and briefly tumbling onto foreign policy initiatives, but always -- always -- returning, like a terrier in search of the perfect dog yummy, back to Lewinsky. Always Lewinsky.

There was a very funny moment, though, which Wonkette caught with her jeweler's eye, about Clinton's handshaking skillz (Complicated Handshakes? Come on, in your heart-of-hearts you know Clinton's black):

"CLINTON: Tony Lake, my National Security Adviser, has a wonderful sense of humor, says, well, I know how to do this. Well, now you be Arafat and I will be you and you try to kiss me. And I'll show you what do ...

"RATHER: I'm not sure I want to do this.

"CLINTON:So, I shook hands ... and he put his hand like this, in my elbow. And he says, 'If you've got your hand in your elbow, he can't kiss you. "

Presumably, the White House staffer who was supposed to teach this trick to interns fell down on the job (drum roll). This exchange reminded me of one between Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes and Yassir Arafat (second story from top), who, clearly, gives off some problematic homoerotic vibes to Wallace:

"Wallace: Four out of five Palestinians in a recent poll, 83 percent actually, said they believe that the Palestinian Authority is corrupt; that there is money that has been stolen consistently, that your people. I mean, look. Around here, they have money, they have jobs, they have cars. The Palestinians who live out here in Ramallah, where the unemployment is 36 percent, and down in Gaza, where it's 48 percent, they don't live the way that you do. Its a comfortable life for you and your colleagues.

"Arafat: Do you want to see my bedroom?

"Wallace: Do I wanna see your bedroom?

"Arafat: Yes.

"Wallace: I, I'm not sure that I understand the invitation."

I'm not sure that I want to understand the invitation either, or even contemplate the visual of such a tangle of wrinkly flesh *shudders*.

Channeling his inner Ron Burgundy, Dan Rather, ran through the Tina Brown gauntlet on CNBC afterwards. Tina commented rather sweetly on's Henry the Intern, who, incidentally, said of the interview:

"In a blatant attempt for a slice of '60 Minutes' viewers, Tina milked Dan Rather for a postscript to his hyped interview with Bill Clinton (Old trick: Interview the interviewer when you can't get the interviewee). 'Dan,' she began, 'It's wonderful to be visiting with you. . . How did you find that he's changed?'

"Rather: 'He's much more within himself, searching for answers about himself.'

"Tina: 'More interior?'

"Rather: 'Yes. . . [he's] trying very hard to be insightful about himself.'

"It got better. That is, if you wanted to know the dimensions of Bill's biceps. Tina said Clinton followed the South Beach Diet.

"Rather: 'He's buffed up.'

"Tina pressed: 'Does he have a gym in that house in Chappaqua?'

"Rather: 'Yes. . . It's not large, but it's quite complete. . . I counted at least 13 barbells.'

"Frankly, Tina got a more incisive interview of Clinton by torturing out editing floor clips from Dan Rather than The Anchorman did in his own sit down with the former President, especially this tidbit:

"Rather: The first person (Bill Clinton) talked to after the interview was the Senator from New York."

Oprah, Tina, anyone but Dan Rather, The Anchorman. BTW: Tina will be on vacation in London next week (not Quogue, or Venice). Arianna Huffington will take her place. According to Page Six: "... Tina Brown is taking a week off from her CNBC show (Arianna Huffington will fill in) to go to England for a week of parties in honor of her husband Harry Evans, the distinguished editor and author who is being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II." Leave it to the hardest working man in the gossip biz, the great Richard Johnson, to get a scoop while doing an appearance.


TheBlackNewYorker said...

Now, THAT was a huge bag of potato chips worthy read. Thanks!

Shaw Israel Izikson said...

I miss Cronkite.

Where are you, Walter, when we need it the most?

Ron said...

thank you blacknewyorker. I miss cronkite too, he radiated gravitas. Whenever I think of Rather I see the image of him in Little Rock with Clinton, dressed in the same way, except his navy blue slacks were up around his belly while clinton's neatly hung, fresh pressed. He looked like such a goof, not the inheritor of the Cronkite chair.