Tag Archives: Dan Rather

They’re ‘joint appearances’

Dan Rather had it right years ago when he was a CBS News anchor.

He refused to call these political encounters featuring two or more candidates for public office “debates.” He referred to them — and perhaps he still does — as “joint appearances.”

So it is tonight when 10 Democrats stand shoulder-to-shoulder on a stage in Houston. They’ll field questions from ABC News broadcast journalists.

They aren’t participating in what we learned in high school and college as debates.

All of these events, and those that occurred for election cycles dating back to the dawn of the Television Age, have been simply “joint appearances.”

I concede that I have lapsed into using the term “debate” to describe these events. It’s easier to type than “joint appearances.” That’s my bad. It’s an excuse, not a reason to misidentify what we’ve been watching since 1960.

This might seem trivial. I’m just going to refrain from this moment forward from referring to these televised events as debates … when they’re merely joint appearances.

POTUS fails to perform this simple task

Donald J. Trump’s supporters don’t ever seem to hail the president’s empathy, his compassion, his sensitivity to others.

Have you noticed that?

Consider what a veteran broadcast journalist, Dan Rather, has tweeted about the president.

There are many difficult things for presidents to do. Finding space in your schedule (and soul) to speak empathetically about Americans suffering from natural disasters (wildfires, hurricanes) shouldn’t be one of them. And yet Pres. Trump routinely fails in this human instinct.

The president cannot seem to bring himself to express any support for these victims. Instead, he has chosen to blast environmental laws in a nonsensical attack on the wrong culprit.

Donald Trump has failed to perform one of those tasks that we all expect of our president. Ronald Reagan rose to the occasion, as did George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. All of them had reason to speak to the nation about the suffering our fellow Americans experienced. They comforted the heartbroken. They fulfilled the role of Comforter in Chief.

The current president cannot bring himself to do what is expected of him? Shameful.

Stick to things that really matter, Mr. POTUS

Dan Rather has it right when he lambastes the president of the United States over a ridiculous message sent out via Twitter regarding — and this is rich! — comments from the world’s greatest professional basketball player, LeBron James.

Rather, the one-time CBS News anchor, said this, also via Twitter: This is apparently what the President of the United States feels the need to share with the world at what should be long past his bedtime? It’s a disgrace. It’s racist. And it’s the product of petty but dangerous hatreds. I repeat this is the PRESIDENT??!?

Trump had posted this message: Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!

Yep, the commander in chief, the leader of the free world, the head of state of the world’s most indispensable nation is concerning himself with some comments that LeBron James has made about the president.

Read The Hill story here

Did I mention that James has just opened a new school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, giving at-risk kids a chance to achieve greatness? There. I just did.

Or the fact that James is married to his high school sweetheart, has been faithful to her over many years of marital bliss? That, too.

Yes, James — as well as CNN news commentator Don Lemon — happen to be African-American. So that means that POTUS, the liar in chief, feels compelled to question their intelligence. Is it just a coincidence, too, that Trump has singled out African-American football players for their decision to “take a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem at the start of football games? I, um, think not.


Who you callin’ a ‘Texan’?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — My wife and I were waiting to enter The Hermitage, the home of President (and Gen.) Andrew Jackson.

One of the guides walked down the line chatting up visitors, asking where we live. He got to us and asked where we are from: “Texas,” I told him. Then he launched into a semi-tirade about the state, about Amarillo; he then offered an unkind word about Odessa. I guess he didn’t like it there.

We walked toward the door and entered The Hermitage. “We’ve got a Texan here at the rear of the line,” the gentleman said.

And that brings me to the point of this essay. The term “Texan” doesn’t quit fit me. It seems a bit strange to acknowledge it, given that my wife, sons and I have spent 33 years in Texas. We moved there in 1984 so I could pursue a career in journalism.

We settled in Beaumont. Eleven years later, we gravitated to Amarillo.

We have carved out great lives — individually and collectively — in Texas. There’s plenty about Texas I find appealing. I like the sheer size of the state; I like the absence of a state income tax; I enjoy Texas barbecue; the state parks are second to none; I enjoy the vast differences in topography throughout the state.

Texas isn’t perfect. I don’t like, um, the political leanings of the state’s leadership. I’ll leave it at that.

But do I feel like a “Texan”? No. But understand, it’s not of my choosing. I lost count long ago of the number of times I’ve heard “real Texans” tell me that merely moving to the state — of my own volition — doesn’t make me an actual Texan.

I suppose the term “Texan” is a birth right. You must be born in Texas to be considered the real thing. Is there another state in America where one sees bumper stickers that declare one to be a “Native” of that particular state as frequently as we see them in Texas?

I’ve wrestled with this whole notion for the more than three decades we have lived in Texas. The state is likely to be our forever home. They’ll likely plant me in Texas when the time comes.

The nice gentleman at The Hermitage likely thought he was paying me a compliment. Well, I didn’t take it precisely that way. Don’t misconstrue me; I took no offense at it, either.

State pride means something quite profound to “real Texans.”

I remember that TV journalist Dan Rather — who was born and educated in Texas — once said that he isn’t merely “from Texas; I am of Texas.” I guess that’s the average Texan’s benchmark.

Not feeling good about potential for Trump trouble

My proverbial trick knee has been quiet of late. I haven’t felt it throbbing in some time.

It’s beginning to send me some signals. I don’t like the message the throbs are sending.

They’re telling me that Donald J. Trump’s troubles are just beginning, that all this Russia chatter has the potential of blowing up badly. There well might be a good bit of collateral damage if it does.

Dan Rather, the former CBS News correspondent/news anchor, thinks the “fuse has been lit” and it’s likely to explode.

Yes, I know that CBS essentially fired Rather after that bogus report he delivered about former President George W. Bush’s National Guard service. But Rather has covered more than his share of political scandals in his lengthy career as a broadcast journalist and he doesn’t like what he’s seeing develop with regard to the president and his possible relationship with Russian government officials.

There have been meetings with Russian envoys, allegedly during the 2016 election. The Russians reportedly tried to influence the election outcome. The Obama administration leveled sanctions against the Russians. The meetings involving Trump campaign officials well might have related to those sanctions.

The national security adviser has been fired. The attorney general has just recused himself from any investigations involving the president and Russia. There are questions swirling all over the nation’s capital about who knew about the Russian contacts and when they knew it.

There seems to be no end — none! — to the inquiries that might swallow up the new president’s administration.

That ol’ trick knee of mine is throbbing. I hate it when it throbs like that. It’s beginning to give me the heebie-jeebies about what might lie ahead for our brand new government.

As Rather wrote on his Facebook page: “We are well past the time for any political niceties or benefits of the doubt. We need an independent and thorough investigation of Russia’s meddling in our democracy and its ties to the president and his allies. We don’t know what we don’t know.”

It’s the temperament, man … the temperamant

I’ve been trying to determine when I’ve ever seen a president of the United States treat the media in the manner being displayed by the current one.

I cannot remember a single time. Not even during President Richard Nixon’s time in the White House.

Donald Trump has shown utter contempt and disrespect for the men and women assigned to cover the White House for their various news organizations.

It manifests itself when he gets a question he dislikes. He tells reporters to “sit down, that’s enough” when they seek to elaborate on their question, to fill in a blank or two. No, the president will have none of it.

Forget for a moment that he calls them “dishonest” out loud, in public, to their face … and then expects these fellow human beings to treat him with kid gloves.

The disrespect — as I’ve witnessed it — is unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed, even from afar.

If we march back through time — starting from Barack Obama and going backward — I cannot remember a president acting the way this one does in front of the media.

There was one memorable, testy exchange in the 1970s between then-CBS News correspondent Dan Rather and President Nixon. The president was getting entangled in the Watergate scandal and Rather asked him a pointed question. Some members of the press gallery chuckled, some even clapped. Nixon asked Rather, “Are you running for something?” Rather responded, “No, Mr. President, are you?”

Presidents usually have strained relations with the media. They dislike negative coverage, as does any politician — no matter what they might say. As I’ve watched presidential/media relationships from a distance over the years, I have noticed a sometimes cool cordiality between the Big Man and the media that cover him.

What we’re getting now is open hostility and an exhibition of extremely bad manners from the guy who needs the media as least as much as they need him.

I’m trying to imagine what will occur if and/or when the crap really hits the fan at the White House. I fear the president will go berserk.

Didn’t someone mention temperament as a quality we look for in a president of the United States of America?

Of course the question was intended to offend

Major Garrett, CBS News’s chief White House correspondent, and I have something in common.

We both worked for the same person, although at different times.

How’s that for name-dropping?

Garrett went to work for the Amarillo Globe-News back in the old days. The then-editor of the paper, Garet von Netzer, hired him; von Netzer later would become publisher of the paper and then he hired yours truly, although long after Garrett had moved on.

Having laid down that useless predicate, let me now say that Major Garrett asked a patently offensive question of President Obama, to which the president responded appropriately.

The question involved four Americans held captive in Iran and Garrett wondered how the president could be “content” that they’re still being held on trumped-up charges while he is “celebrating” the nuclear deal worked out with the Islamic Republic.


Obama took offense at the tone of the question. He scolded Garrett, saying he “should know better” than to ask a question that contained “nonsense.”

The president said he isn’t “content” over the Americans’ continued captivity and said he and his team are “working diligently” to secure freedom for the individuals.

What irks me about the question and its aftermath is how Major Garrett insisted it wasn’t intended to ruffle the president. He didn’t apologize and he said it was not asked to call attention to himself.

May I be blunt? That’s pure baloney.

That’s how it goes among the White House press corps. It’s always about getting in a question intended to call attention to the inquiry and to the person making it. Such gamesmanship has been going on for, oh, since the beginning of these televised events dating back to the days when President Kennedy introduced them to the public and turned them into some form of entertainment.

CBS’s Dan Rather famously sought to get under President Nixon’s skin during the Watergate scandal; ABC’s Sam Donaldson did the same thing to President Reagan over the course of many years; Fox’s Ed Henry does the same thing today with President Obama.

Well, now Henry and others have company in the “gotcha” hall of fame.

Major Garrett asked an appropriate question. He just inserted a certain word — “content” — that framed it in a way that got Barack Obama’s dander up.

I would bet that was his intent all along.


When Brokaw says it's bad … it's bad

Overstatement isn’t my thing, so I say this with great care.

Tom Brokaw has become sort of today’s version of E.F. Hutton. Whenever he speaks of things relating to broadcast journalism, people tend to listen intently.

He’s been fairly quiet about the Brian Williams matter … you know, the NBC anchor who’s been suspended from his job without pay for embellishing his wartime experience in Iraq.

Brokaw, whom Williams replaced as anchor of NBC Nightly News, has weighed in. For my money, it doesn’t look good at all for Williams’s future.

Brokaw has acknowledged “this is a really, really serious case, obviously.”

Do you think?

Brokaw and Williams aren’t the best of friends. Brokaw said the two men have had a “cordial” relationship, which is more or less a diplomatic way of saying they smile when they see each other but in reality can’t stand to be around the other guy. We’ve all relationships like that, haven’t we?

It’s been reported of late that Williams might have hated succeeding Brokaw on the anchor desk because of the very high standard of excellence Brokaw set during his lengthy tenure. It reminds me a bit of the tension that existed between Walter Cronkite and his successor at CBS, Dan Rather, when Cronkite retired from the anchor job and was succeeded by Rather — who never quite measured up to Uncle Walter’s iconic stature.

Brokaw made his remarks recently in a talk at the University of Chicago. Check it out on this You Tube link. It’s at the 54-minute mark. Quite interesting, indeed.




O'Reilly getting a taste of his own brew

The Bill O’Reilly story isn’t going away any time soon.

It might not ever disappear. Why is that? Well, look at it as payback from other media organizations that have been on the receiving end of O’Reilly’s sanctimony over many years.


The left-leaning media watchdog groups around the country are taking a serious look at the allegations of embellishment and falsification that have piled up around O’Reilly. The Falklands War story still is resonating in some circles. O’Reilly has implied that he was in serious danger while covering the 1982 Falklands War between Great Britain and Argentina. He didn’t show up on the battlefield, but was in Buenos Aires covering riots and other disturbances during the Falklands conflict.

Was he in the danger he says he was? His former CBS colleagues dispute it.

Now comes another allegation of falsehood, that he was present during the suicide of a principal in the John F. Kennedy assassination. That, too, has come under challenge.

This story will have legs for some time for one simple reason: Bill O’Reilly has made considerable hay over the years criticizing other media outlets and reporters for their own transgressions. He’s held himself and his employer, Fox News, as the twin paragons of virtue and truth-telling. The “No Spin Zone,” which he calls his Fox TV show, has every bit as much “spin” as any other TV news talk show. O’Reilly just chooses to “spin” his stories his way.

Another reality, though, is that O’Reilly isn’t getting any more of a media vetting than Brian Williams got when it was revealed that he really wasn’t shot down in Iraq in 2003 as he has suggested. Nor is he being hammered any harder than former CBS News anchor Dan Rather was when he reported erroneously about President George W. Bush’s Air National Guard duty in the 1970s.

However, O’Reilly’s penchant for sticking it to other media means this story will continue for a good while longer.

This kind of scrutiny goes with the territory. O’Reilly knows it better than most.


Williams story taking on life of its own

A wise person once said that you know you’re toast when the late-night comics start making fun of you.

Welcome to the world of wee-hour funny stuff, Brian Williams.

His story about “misremembering” a shoot-down in Iraq and now his reporting from Hurricane Katrina is taking on a life of its own. It’s turning into a monster that, if it’s left still kicking, is going to knock down the walls of credibility that formerly surrounded the NBC Nightly News anchorman.


This is not a pretty sight to watch.

It well might be that the Katrina story inflicts an even deeper wound in Williams’s reputation.

He reported during the storm in 2005 about seeing “dead bodies” floating in the French Quarter — despite the reported fact at the time that the Quarter suffered hardly any flooding. He told viewers about ingesting floodwater, causing dysentery. Others on the scene have doubted that as well.

What in the world is happening to this individual’s once-stellar journalism career? He’s always been thought of as one of the more thoughtful, everyman, honest newsmen in the business. Williams has exhibited none of the erratic behavior that Dan Rather did when he took over from Walter Cronkite at CBS. He’s been rock solid, steady — and at times self-effacing, such as when he makes appearances on late-night shows to talk about stories he’s covered and the foibles he’s endured.

The so-called misremembering being shot down in Iraq by itself stretches credulity.

Add to that now the reporting of deep flaws in his Hurricane Katrina coverage and you start drawing the picture of a broadcst journalist who’s found himself in some deep doo-doo.

This is not fun to watch.