Thursday, March 10, 2005

Rather Pitiful

So ends 24 years of broadcast worthlessness. Dan Rather took CBS from #1 to behind Comedy Central's fake news with Jon Stewart. Quite an accomplishment. But I ran into several articles today on the topic. This courtesy of RCP, which argues that Rather is nothing more than an egomaniac on a trip, this one filled with quotes from a career full of blatantly biased reporting (courtesy of Powerline).

Dan Rather, more than anything, was a man not suited to his job. Between the odd metaphors and subreferences that, while appropriate coming from Dennis Miller, were out of place coming from a network news anchor, to the truly weird displays where he walked off the set leaving 6 minutes of dead air because a tennis match preempted a few minutes of his broadcast, his bizarre refusal to take Cipro after his office was attacked by letter-borne anthrax in an odd heroic display, and articles in the Wall Street Journal before the Iraq war, lauding what he felt to be the majesty of Saddam Hussein after meeting the man later found in a spider hole, this was a character, not a reporter.

Rather was not just a biased reporter who let his leanings affect his reporting, but rather one who let it drive the entire story. He never really came across as one who could be trusted to give the facts. Instead, he came across as a myopic and egotistical figure, lacking any significant measure of introspection.

His final stand was probably the most accurate allegory for his career. He was fed a story about a president whom he disliked, and despite serious issues with the authenticity of the documents on which the story was based, Rather aired it because he so badly wanted to believe the tale the documents told. When the documents were exposed a day later as frauds, instead of admitting an error, he instead became a blustery and stubborn self-defender who aired several cover stories to protect the original story he so badly wanted to be true. He laid the truth and the facts aside in favor of politics, then questioned the motives of those who were presenting the facts which could not be ignored. Rather than being a journalist devoted to truth, he tried to fabricate a reality to fit his convoluted political world view. And in the end, despite being discredited, and ignoring the elephant in the living room, he behaved as if nothing was wrong, still defending to the end, a proven-false story. And as the cruelest cuts of all, Rather's own colleagues, Mike Wallace and Walter Cronkite indicated that they didn't bother to ever watch his newscast.

This was the most wrong person for the anchor chair. He lived in a strange fantasy world. While many said he was a nice guy, it seems to me that he was a crank. He never took fact seriously when it disagreed with his insular world view, and he lashed out at those who disagreed with him. Good night Dan, and "courage". Because if I were you, I would not be showing my face at CBS headquarters any longer. They stopped taking you seriously a while ago.

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