Skip to comments.Anchor Away?? ( Mark Steyn's Humorous Take on Dan Rather )
Posted on 09/13/2004 7:55:39 AM PDT by finnigan2
Will this be the week Dan Rather "retires"? I was ready to cut him some slack over the bogus documents - a full apology and an internal investigation would have sufficed. But Dan's feeble blustery defense on Friday night must be one of the most shameful episodes in the history of network news. To fight allegations that the documents weren't typewritten but were produced by Microsoft Word, he brought on a handwriting expert to verify the signature. Then he slyly slipped in that he and CBS only had photocopies, which makes the handwriting expert's opinion worthless. You can't verify a photocopied signature. This is a disgraceful performance and Dan must have a low opinion of his dwindling audience to try to pull such feeble flim-flam.
Pre-Rathergate, I always had a soft spot for Dan as the most eccentric and ridiculous of the network anchors. This profile comes from The Sunday Telegraph of October 21st 2001:
AT the first whiff of anthrax in the House of Representatives, Speaker Denny Hastert and the rest of the leadership rushed outside, announced they were shutting the place down for the week and scrammed out of town. The one-word headline on The New York Post was to the point: "WIMPS!"
Dan Rather, the CBS TV news anchor, knew better. When a young lady on his staff - like all network anchormen, Dan has a personal staff slightly larger than your average medieval court - contracted skin anthrax, the longtime newsman reacted the way he always does in a crisis: he took off his jacket. At Thursday's press conference, Dan was in his suspenders (braces) with his tie loosened, his shirt button undone, and his sleeves rolled up. It's the look that says you're a grizzled working reporter either that or you're appearing in a cheesy dinner-theatre revival of The Front Page.
But, compared to the Congressional wimps, Rather turned in a magnificent performance. He was Rooseveltian: he said the biggest danger was not the disease itself, but fear of it. He was Churchillian: when asked whether he'd had the now familiar nose-swab test for anthrax, he said that no he hadn't and he had no plans to. Anthrax? Ha! Bring it on. Dan Rather has survived Vietnam, Nixon, Mayor Daley's cops in Chicago, hurricanes, crazed attackers, an ill-fated boy-girl team-up on air, lousy ratings, and his own career-destabilising idiosyncracies. And nothing's managed to get rid of him yet.
Dan Rather will be 70 on October 31. Hes been hosting the CBS Evening News five nights a week for 20 years. Received wisdom in the British media has it that American TV is a cut-throat business where if you're not Number One by the second week you'll be kicked off air and replaced by someone younger and cuter. In fact, it's the Brits who are the novelty junkies.
In the US, you can stay on air forever. Indeed, at 70 Dan represents the youth wing of CBS News. At 60 Minutes, on which he also appears, Mike Wallace, the senior anchor, is 83, Andy Rooney, its commentator, is 82, and Don Hewitt, the producer, is 78. It's whippersnappers like Dan and his Washington sidekick, the 65-year-old Bob Schieffer, who help keep the News Division's average age in the mid-70s. Dan joined CBS 40 years ago, made his name in Dallas with the Kennedy assassination, and figures he's good for another two or three Presidencies. It's as if Robert Dougall and Jack DeManio were still holding down all the top gigs at the BBC, while frustrated youngsters Kenneth Kendall and David Jacobs champ at the bit waiting to succeed.
However, unlike your average BBC newsreader, Dan gets more than $7 million per year as a base salary plus other incentives. His main competitors are NBC's Tom Brokaw, who has a distinctive way of swallowing his words and has cornered the market in sentimental Second World War books about "The Greatest Generation", and ABC's Peter Jennings, the exquisitely condescending Canadian whose air of amused detachment has come under some criticism since September 11.
But Rather remains the quintessential network anchor, unsurpassed at hitting exactly the right note of sonorous self-inflation. He's wont to refer to himself in the third person: "This reporter notes a tendency to . . ." In contrast to the bald formulations of BBC intros - "Kate Adie reports from Kabul" - Dan prefers to provide his own running commentary on his colleagues: "Bob Schieffer, one of the best hard-nosed reporters in the business, has been working his sources. What have you managed to uncover, Bob?" Bob then reads out a Congressional press release.
Dan has been on television for almost half a century, but without ever getting the hang of it. When Viagra began running commercials featuring an elderly couple dancing, there was much comment on how the man looked amazingly like Rather. But if Dan's popping Viagra he's taken too many: he's stiff from head to toe. Going into a commercial break or reading a scripted introduction, he's developed a unique kind of elaborate, stylised woodenness. No one is as solemn about his profession as "this reporter".
"Afghanistan tough?" asked CNN's Larry King.
"Yes, and Vietnam. But I never have any complaints," said Dan. "Danger is my business."
It's impossible to imagine any other anchor being able to say that line with a straight face. But Rather always gives the impression that hes not a reporter so much as a guy playing a reporter. Twenty years ago, he was in the Hindu Kush, bearded and robed and doing as passable a copy of a swarthy Pashtun goatherd and Mujahideen guerilla as a Texas multimillionaire can manage. For his pains, he was derided back home as "Gunga Dan".
He was born dirt poor in Wharton, Texas, the son of a ditch digger. As a young man, he "worked in the Texas sun, stripped to the waist, soaked in my own sweat for minimum wage". Jean, his wife of 44 years, has stayed with him through a rise to a position of wealth and influence his family could never have imagined. But he still insists he's just a downhome Texas boy at heart: he chews 'baccy, his chauffeur is obliged to play tapes of Lubbock country singer Jimmie Dale Gilmore on the way to work, and he is famously full of folksy aphorisms. Election night 2000 was especially rich in what connoisseurs call "Rather blather": Bush's lead was "shakier than cafeteria Jell-O"; Democrats were "cross as a snapping turtle"; the election was "hotter than a Laredo parking lot", not to mention "as tight as a too-small bathing suit on a too-hot car ride back from the beach".
His most famous line is just one word, "Courage!", as in his nightly sign-off - "For the CBS Evening News, I'm Dan Rather. Courage!" - which he introduced in 1986 either as a general response to the vicissitudes of the Reagan era or more particularly to the show's ratings slump. He used it every evening for some months until the network bosses decided it sounded too nutty. His second most famous line isn't really his. In October 1986, a deranged assailant approached him on Park Avenue, demanded to know "What's the frequency, Kenneth?", then knocked him to the pavement and beat him up, all the while repeating his mysterious question. The rock band REM subsequently had a hit single with What's The Frequency, Kenneth?, which is now Dan's walk-on music whenever he guests on "The David Letterman Show".
Decades go by without anything happening to disturb his rivals' bland personae. But CBS coverage of US Open tennis overruns and Dan has a fit of pique, refusing to come out of his dressing room and leaving the network's screens blank for a whole six minutes. He takes a cab in Chicago and half an hour later he's hanging out the window screaming at pedestrians that the driver's kidnapped him. A man who insists he's "Mister Hard News" has become famous for a string of self-starring bizarro stories.
But then, these days, who needs "hard news"? Dan joined CBS in the age of Edward R Murrow; he inherited the anchor's chair from the revered iconic bore Walter Cronkite, and he's seen the news division shrivel in inverse proportion to his salary. Nowadays, the bulletin always begins with the words, "Reporting now from CBS World News Headquarters in New York, Dan Rather". But CBS World News Headquarters is all headquarters and no world news: they have just eight foreign correspondents, three of whom are based in London, from where they're expected to cover not just the British Isles, but Europe, most of Africa and the Indian sub-continent. It may be that, when his contract's up in 2002, Dan gets renewed for another 20 years. Or it may be that this strange new world war is his swansong, one grand finale for Mister Hard News.
CBS viewers should enjoy it while they can. Dan's likely successor is John Roberts, a male mannequin who was previously a video-jock at a rock-music channel in Toronto. As Dan would say: Courage.
Bump for a read later! :-)
Rather exposed in all his ridiculousness.
I've never heard about this. Does anyone know the details?
Dan Blather & See B.S. were "punked"...
and I wouldn't be surprised if somebody from the GOP dropped them off!
Blather bought those bogus docs quicker than a drunken sailor in front of a $5 ho house!!!
And now the senile ol' fool and See B.S. have less credibility than a screen door on a submarine!!!
Evidently for some reason he refused to pay the cab driver the $10 or so for the fare, and the cabbie refused to stop, in an effort, I suppose, to get him to pay.
Murrow: Fair, Balanced, and Unafraid.
Its a typica Steyn riot.. thanks for the ping, darling..
HUH? Isn't it 2004 now?
He sounds like he should have Jack Klugman as a roommate and an ex-wife named Gloria.
There is no question about it, feeble is the most appropriate word one can use in describing Rather.
That was written in 2001.
Notice how the media has to go to Canada to find newscasters who are liberal enough?
The DNC should be ashamed of themselves for pushing this noble man out in front in the twilight of his career, and make him say things he doesn't really understand.
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