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Defending Dan? Rather Not


The buzzards are circling, the scent of fresh kill wafts through the newsrooms, trickles down and spreads, engulfing talk radio and sweeping through the internet. The sharks are poised and the operatives sharpen their daggers. Dan Rather, the logical successor to Walter Cronkite at the vanguard of American journalism, is down and bleeding. Move in for a close up.

Shall we rise in defense of Dan Rather? Sorry, Dan, rather not.

In truth, Dan Rather’s star fell from the sky long ago when he killed the story of an insider’s expose of the great tobacco industry lie.

Dan Rather, you are no Walter Cronkite.

When he donned the uniform of an embedded journalist (an oxymoron if ever there was one), it only confirmed what we already knew. Corruption is absolute. A once proud and honorable journalist had become a stooge for his corporate sponsors.

For those who insist that Rather was trying to make amends, trying to set the record straight, trying to stand up against the pervasive cowardice of his trade, take a step back and look at what he and his CBS brethren have accomplished: The story of George W’s cowardly evasion of military service in Vietnam is dead. Not a whimper will be heard from now until election day.

Was he duped? The obvious analogy is the Nigerian yellow cake document used by the Bush administration to paint a picture of the mushroom cloud as a pretense for war in Iraq. It was an obvious forgery, a juvenile piece of work, and one that Colin Powell refused to place on the record before the United Nations Security Council. The bogus Killian memos were so obvious they were exposed within seconds of airing. If Dan Rather was duped, he was done in by his own people for their own reasons.

Dan and CBS News were used by Karl Rove and the dirty tricks machine. Like Colin Powell at the United Nations, it could not be done without their complicity. Rather got his orders (put out the story as written) and he carried them out like a good little soldier.

It is not necessary to defend Dan Rather. He will be defended by people in high places. By the end of this ordeal, he will be the portrait of a victim and all America will cry out for mercy. If the powers have their way, he will rise again to even greater prominence. Soon enough he will be put out to pasture with all the accolades of an American hero.

Walter Cronkite will know better. Dan Rather is not alone in having betrayed his profession and his country in its hours of greatest need. Where is his apology for willingly promoting a war he knew to be immoral, illegal and unfounded? His place is in the Journalism Hall of Shame.

There are things that should not be forgiven.

The unfortunate truth is: Dan Rather is the symbol of journalism in America. He is the epitome of a once proud profession that sold its soul. And the stench of a dying rat will be his just epitaph.



Jack Random is the author of Jazzman Chronicles (Crow Dog Press) and Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press.)

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