Thursday, September 27, 2007

Is Dan Rather on the Discovery Channel?

It's my contention that war is the oldest and of course most extreme form of business travel. My first international business trip, then, was to Saigon in early 1968, courtesy of Uncle Sam.

It's always stuck in my craw that George Bush, the "Bring it on" warrior, managed to dodge Vietnam service thanks to the intervention of Daddy's pals -- and then even managed to be AWOL from a portion of his cushy stateside duty in the National Guard.

The fact that he did so without evident consequence, and now struts around posing as some sort of military patriot, is as irksome to me as the fact that his vice president, the deputy great warrior, got himself five draft deferments during the Vietnam era (saying he had "other priorities"), when other men of the generation were either doing their duty or taking principled stands against the war.

Bush and Cheney did neither. But man, do they flash those cheap flag pins as if someone had pinned Bronze Stars on their lapels.

And man, do they like to return salutes. Ever notice how Bush has the snappy salute down just right?

Can you imagine what Eisenhower would have thought of those two birds?

Anyway, now comes the matter of Dan Rather, suing his former employers at CBS News over the ruination of his career that followed the partially botched but nevertheless essentially accurate report on Bush's time being AWOL.

As a reporter, I've always liked old Dan. He's just tough and screwy enough to remind me of the days when the business was a barrel of laughs, but when its practitioners also believed they served an honest purpose other than making the numbers for Viacom's (or Gannett's) next quarterly report.

Some journalistic sad sacks clinging to their pathetic peerages within the ancien regime are having a good hoot at Rather's supposed folly and self-delusion.

But I doubt the suits are yukking it up all that much in the dark warrens of Viacom and CBS News. Dan Rather, who's pretty rich himself, says this isn't about the money, it's about the principle of the thing. (Incidentally, reversing the recent stand by the gene-pool-deleted Bancroft family of Dow Jones, who showed that it wasn't about the principle of the thing, it was about the money).

My guess is, Dan isn't looking to settle for a tidy sum and with a promise to keep his mouth shut while the papers get sealed and filed away.

If that's the case, the complaint moves into the pre-trial process, when the word they fear most at CBS News and its master Viacom will be: Discovery -- and it has nothing to do with the television network of the same name.

I think Sydney Blumenthal has it just right in Salon today. And the weekly New York Observer also has been seeing this clearly. Cue the orchestra for a little travelin' music. If the Rather complaint isn't summarily dismissed by a judge, and that's unlikely, CBS News is going for a ride.


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