March 9, 2005

Goodbye to the Dans: On Fat Ladies and Singing

I'VE PACKED UP MY SHARE OF OFFICES and had the good-bye cake and gone out for the adios dinner. Once I was even asked to give a speech and I did. But I certainly wish I'd been able to crib this howler from Tom Shales' "Bring out the crying towels" hummer in the Washington Post on the Last Day of Dan Rather:

"First of all, from where I sit, I am leaving on a high note," Rather says, "and a higher note than I deserve and certainly a higher note than I ever thought possible when I walked into this job. " -- Dan Rather, Leaving By the High Road

That is, no matter how you feel about Rather, a soundbite of sheer genius. It elevates that moment into song, it brings to mind so many magical moments from Broadway musicals from "If I Loved You" to "Memories" to "Brigadoon."

I know many are spending these last fading moments of the Rather Regency either preening over their hand in the fall, or lambasting Dan for continuing to insist -- "past all reason" -- that mistakes were made but the mistakes were true.

This is uncharitable and lacks insight.

Uncharitable because it is foolish to insist Dan stand up, wave his bloody shirt, and proclaim: "ALL RIGHT! THEY WERE PHONY. I KNOW IT, YOU KNOW IT, WE ALL KNOW IT, BUT SO WHAT? THAT SMARMY SQUIB IS STILL PRESIDENT SO WHAT HARM DID IT DO? HAPPY NOW? HAPPY NOW, KENNETH!?"

Gentles, the man is simply not going to cop a plea and confess on this one. Not now and not in his forthcoming autobiography "Shoot Low, Boys. They're Riding Blogs." It cannot be done. It would be the final treason to the class he has spent his whole life clawing his way into. They would not forgive him. Gone would be the easy invites to Davos, gone would be the hope of redemption found in a Nixonian decade of good works or, even better, a Democratic Restoration and a turn as Hillary's Press Secretary. All that would be gone with the winds of admission. Do not expect this, this final humiliation, from this man. It is simply not in him, and, more to the point, it is not in his best interests.

In addition, the expectations for Dan to cop to it lack insight into this: the deeper meaning of the Dans for the future of Network News. I know there has been a lot of blather to the right and the left about "What that damn stupid CBS should do about the next anchor, an anchor for the new-media future," but it all misses the point. Dan Rather is the very model of the news anchors of the future.

I say "news anchors" of the future deliberately. The present Rather model is not broken, but is simply not manifest. The future "anchors" must always be plural in the manner of the best news shows of the past. Huntley-Brinkley, McNeil-Leherer: were the best the medium ever had to offer because, and solely because, they were multiple. Fox has attempted to replicate this with Hannity and Colmes, but since Alan Colmes only adds up to half a person this one never quite gets off the ground.

But put multiple anchors on the air in network prime time and you have a formula that brings us the best of the past and the future at once.

Which is why Dan Rather is actually ahead of his time. With Dan you always got, but usually did not see (except in times of stress) more than one anchor. In Dan bipolarity reached its apotheosis and, if you were lucky and the story and the time was right, you could see the multiples manifest themselves on your screen. And when this happened another telling thing always happened: his ratings went up.

Yes, it was not as if there were two Dans -- that would be boring -- but that there were many, many Dans inside this one humble Texan. And when all of his multiple personalities were invited to his newscast -- as they were in days and months right after the Fake But True documents, you knew you were in for a party.

So via con Dios, Dans. We won't see that many people inside one newscaster again in our age.

Note to CBS News: The Crossfire Team's operators are standing by.

Posted by Vanderleun at March 9, 2005 7:43 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Geeeez, Gerard... TOO funny. I'm still laughing. You don't have to crib anyone's howlers - you're too good at making your own. Ha ha... "Shoot Low Boys - They're Riding Blogs"; when the multiples manifest on your screen; via con dios... darn it, I can't get back to your article to find all the other hilarious wordsmithing you did for this lovely tribute to The Dans. All I know is next time I see him on my screen, I'll be seeing a five-headed manly Medusa spouting off pithy southern idioms and searching his pockets for his lithium.

Posted by: Amy at March 9, 2005 2:34 PM

If Dan Rather is a liberal I am 1 inch tall and weigh 2 ounces.

Posted by: Edward at March 9, 2005 6:56 PM

I normally despam penis-enlargement come ons, but I'll let this one stand.

Posted by: Gerard Van Der Leun at March 9, 2005 9:24 PM

Ha ha ha ha ha..... oh I spilled my coffee on my keyboard..... hahaha... "despam penis-enlargement come ons" ???? Oh. Make. My. Day. I'm dying here...........

Posted by: Amy at March 10, 2005 8:10 AM

The pleasure is to serve.

Posted by: Gerard Van Der Leun at March 10, 2005 9:04 AM