Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Welcome Back, Dan Rather

Some people just don't know when to stop...

Thanks to Roger L. Simon for pointing this out:
"It's been one of television news' finest moments," Rather said of the Katrina coverage. He likened it to the coverage of President Kennedy's assassination in 1963.

"They were willing to speak truth to power," Rather said of the coverage.

As one of the commenters noted on Roger's site, "speak truth to power" is a reliable channel marker -- when you hear that, know that all sanity is about to leave the discussion.

Is it really necessary to say that "speaking truth to power" sounds funny, coming from Dan Rather, of all people? He was the power, after all; he used his "bully pulpit*" to editorialize about the news every single night, but that wasn't enough for him, so he made up news to suit his own purposes.

He violated every rule of journalistic fact-checking, went public with a report that had more holes than a pound of Swiss cheese, and covered up -- with outraged indignation, no less -- when his hand was caught in the cookie jar.

And it was bloggers -- Power Line and LGF primarily, with many others helping -- that "spoke truth to power" in order to hold him accountable for his actions.

Now, I've said before that it bothers me when, for instance, people cannot mention Ted Kennedy's name without also mentioning Chappaquiddick and/or Mary Jo Kopechne. Yes, there are contexts when Kennedy makes the reminders inevitable; but speaking of it every single time, as a modern-day Carthaginem delenda est, is silly.

But Dan Rather, in my opinion, doesn't deserve that consideration. The echoes of his lies and obfuscations are still echoing -- it's been barely a year! -- and he has the gall to talk of "speaking truth to power"? To speak of it, moreover, specifically about the press using Hurricane Katrina as an opportunity to bash a Republican President, while all but ignoring the outright incompetence of Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin, both of them Democrats?

If "speaking truth to power" is so important to you, Mr. Rather, perhaps you'd like to tell us how you feel about "speaking lies to the peons"... using, oh, let's say, you as a classic example.

(By the way, please do read the whole thing. It stands as an interesting example of press bias all by itself. The report, for example, does not mention Rathergate or the falsified memos that ended Rather's career, but it does go out of its way to paint a glowing portrait of him... even to the extent of paraphrasing his quotes, instead of simply quoting him directly. I wasn't there, so I don't know exactly what was said... but more importantly, Reuters reporter Paul J. Gough, who presumably was there, doesn't want us to know exactly what was said either.)

* NOTE: I don't mean to accuse Dan Rather of being a bully, by the way -- not in that context, at any rate. That's not what "bully pulpit" means. Teddy Roosevelt first used it when he said that "the Presidency is a bully pulpit" -- "bully" then being an adjective, used the way we today might say "cool" or "awesome". Teddy was saying that the Presidency gave him a wonderful bullhorn with which to preach to the country, not that the Presidency gave him an opportunity to intimidate people.

And indeed, Dan Rather had a pretty powerful bullhorn himself. It's just a pity that he sounded his horn with a load of bull.

UPDATE: A commenter points out that the correct Latin phrase is "Carthago delenda est"; a bit of Googling convinces me of that. I stand corrected.


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