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Dan Rather: Born Too Late?

Exclusive commentary by Greg Lewis / WashingtonDispatch.com
March 11, 2003

Given the current political atmosphere, "interest groups" can skew the terms of public debate in such a way as to cause even large and powerful entities (including major corporations and governments) to lose sight of the greater good. It is a widely practiced tactic of such interest groups to focus on subjects so perverse and at a level of detail so fine as to obscure larger and more important concerns. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), for example, recently complained that a donkey was killed when Palestinians strapped explosives to the beast and detonated them in a homicide bombing against Israelis. PETA failed even to acknowledge that humans died in the incident.

Among the reasons such intransigent and obfuscatory politics meet with success is this: When public opinion is aroused by, for instance, anti-war groups which assert in their opposition to the U.S. position vis a vis Iraq that George W. Bush is "Hitlerian" in his approach to international relations, U.S. and foreign "mainstream" media go, almost literally, berserk in their attempts to give airtime to such slander.

The dominant news media have themselves become one of the very interest groups that skew the public debate. The liberal media are so blinded by the hatred on which their political agendas are founded that somehow, in the dust kicked up in the current melee, they've managed to characterize Saddam Hussein as innocuous and the United States as the purveyor of evil in the world. In fact, no less a spokesperson for the Left than Harry Belafonte recently used the word "evil" (which is normally greeted by the Left with derision when uttered by a Republican or a conservative) in describing the Bush administration. It was a telling gaffe and a sign of the desperation that has begun to set in on the left.

With regard to Dan Rather's much ballyhooed interview with Saddam Hussein — which is to date the crowning perversity of the trend I'm referring to — one of the first questions that comes to mind is, "Why didn't Rather just let Anne Rice take the Saddam interview and be done with it?" What did Rather have to gain? It's understandable that Barbra Streisand and Janeane Garofolo and George Clooney say and do stupid things, but the fact that Rather would opt to lob softballs to one of the most murderous despots in recent memory indicates the degree to which his judgment has been compromised by his being one of the standard-bearers of the champagne-socialist agenda currently marketed by Left/Liberals around the world.

Among the key issues that Dan Rather and others have managed to obscure in this matter is that human rights is one of the governing principles at the foundation of U.S. policy. The impending U.S. military action against Iraq has been billed as an intervention to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Nothing wrong with that. All you have to do is listen to Kim Jong Il's threats to unleash nuclear war on the world to know that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a madman are a serious threat to civilization. Saddam Hussein is a madman, and he has weapons of mass destruction. Nor is there any question that control of Iraq's oil fields is another component in the mix, although not in quite the way the Left would have us believe. Saddam is leveraging oil development deals with the Germans, French, and Russians for all he is worth in the effort to prevent his own demise.

But 24 million Iraqis who daily live in fear of the retaliatory power of their government in case they should make a misstep or utter a wrong word are going to be the real winners in this conflict. And it is precisely those people to whom Dan Rather's giving Saddam Hussein a venue for the perpetuation of lies and misinformation is the most heinous disservice. (The decision by Saddam Hussein's "people" — one can picture a breathless Ramsey Clark on the phone to Rather: "Dan, have your people call Saddam's people . . . " — to air the Rather interview on Iraqi television should be an indicator of the positive PR the piece is perceived to have generated by those who manage the tyrant's image.) By ignoring the true voice of the Iraqi people, Rather has tacitly allied himself with one of the most brutal regimes in recent memory.

The good news is that nothing Rather does to try to imperil America's success in the war against terrorism is likely to work. Iraqi soldiers, whose valor and bravery the Dan Rathers and Gore Vidals of the world have trumpeted, are going to surrender in a way that will make the hearts of Frenchmen everywhere sing. And Rather will be at a loss to spin the jubilation of the "Iraqi street" after Saddam is gone and freedom is at hand.

The question becomes: In the face of the probable American ouster of Saddam Hussein, will Rather perhaps begin to regret that Saddam was the baddest despot he managed to bag during his career as successor to Walter Cronkite? Will he regret that he never had the opportunity to interview the true butchers of the twentieth century so that he could present them in the "fairest" possible terms to a CBS viewership over whose reduction to seriously diminished significance he has presided? Imagine what Rather could have done in an interview with Mao! Can't you just see the Dan encouraging China's dictator to explain how the Great Leap Forward, in which upwards of 30 million Chinese people, mostly peasants, died of starvation and political execution, was really a good thing?

America is at a cusp of history. Freedom and democracy are directly threatened as they have not been in the past half-century, and our responses to the threats against our way of life will set the world's course for the forseeable future. This is no time for commentators such as Dan Rather — whose influence, though waning, is still significant — to be giving aid and succor to the enemy in the name of an agenda built on blind and perverse hatred of our President and of the positive things America stands for.

Perhaps Rather, having been born too late to do his part for the cause of tyranny in the twentieth century, fears being relegated to the dustheap of television history in the wake of the pending American liberation of Iraq. Again, there's good news. If he was born too late to do the kind of damage to the cause of freedom and democracy that he seems to want to do, Rather wasn't born too late to be the last of a generation of aging newscasters who hitched their wagons to the diminishing star of a leftist agenda. And because the American people rejected the leftist agenda underwritten by the current "dean" of TV newsmen and elected the President we did in 2000, Rather and his ilk will not have what would be for them the satisfaction of reporting economic news that includes a dramatic upsurge in handbasket sales.

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