Thursday, March 10, 2005
The Irony of Dan Rather
It's all over the news. Even on Fox News, anchors and correspondents wince over Rather disgrace, his faithless "friends" in the CBS pantheon, and the lost glories of his 40 year, interminable career. Much of this empathy, I believe, derives from their sense of fellowship, all members in the clubhouse of broadcast news.
The more moderate of these brothers-in-arms do not actually defend Rather, instead being content merely to express distaste for the spectacle - though by doing so, of course, they participate in it.
But there are a few who are strong Rather partisans, and as such go much further - they do not defend so much as counter-attack. Each attack seems to follow the same logic, which goes like this: Rather is a good solid guy who made a mistake - a mistake then seized upon by those who hate him, who used it to destroy him.
They are naturally appalled by such behavior.
Sadly, the irony of this defense is lost on them. At the bottom of all fuss is the question of whether or not George W. Bush showed up for work for a month or two at the end of his military career. If he didn't, it was a mistake. Not a big one - he would only have been flying a desk - and not an important one - he was honorable discharged after a successful enlistment.
Now consider this: Rather and his producer Mapes had been actively pursuing this story, trying to hang this mistake on Bush, for five years. There was no evidence, no direct testimony, nothing but second-hand rumor, but they were undeterred.
Not only that - thye had actual, hard news about the Bush serice - that he had volunteered to go to Viet Nam, but, because there were already enough experienced pilots in his squadron, he was turned down. Have you ever seen that reported? Well, check out page 140 of the Complete Independent Panel report on CBS News. CBS not only suppressed that potentially significant story, on the air they actually twisted it to imply the opposite! What could motivate such behavior if not irrational hatred?
And thus the irony: Bush is a good solid guy - even his critics admit that. He might have once made a mistake, long ago. But whether he did or not, whether the mistake mattered or not, it was seized upon by Rather et all, who hated him, and tried to use it to destroy him. Ah, irony.
One final note: there are two difference between these situations: small matters that surely won't matter to Danites, but might matter to you.
First, Rather's critics didn't bring him down - his stonewalling is what brought him down. It evaporated whatever credibility he had left like a blowtorch on a raindrop.
Second, we still don't know whether "Bush's mistake" ever happened. But there is no question about Rather's mistake. It was on TV.