The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Gail Shister catches up with Dan Rather, who keeps himself busy nowadays trying to rescue 60 Minutes Wednesday and what’s left of his career. Shister finds Rather in an exceptionally good mood — so good, in fact, that The Dan can’t resist trotting out that Texas homeboy facade that he uses to disarm critics:
Rather, 73, who had an unprecedented 24-year run as anchor, was also surprised at how easy it was to relocate from the CBS Broadcast Center across 57th Street to 60 Wednesday and mother ship 60 Minutes.
“I moved from the ‘hard-news’ side of the street to what we called the ‘carpet-making, basket-weaving’ side of the street. It turns out it’s not basket-weaving at all. That was vastly overstated.”
Though he’s juggling several pieces with his usual intensity, Rather sounds almost, well, laid-back on his new voice-mail message. It begins, “Howdy, this is Dan Rather,” and ends, “For now, adios.”
“I always dreamed of having that voice mail. That’s who and what I am, the way I grew up. Now I’m able to let that side out a little more than before.”
That’s laying on the happiness just a bit too thick, methinks. Rather has to make the case for keeping his new home on the air, or else he’ll be sent to his old home on the range, and he knows it. The Shister article overflows with his glee at having this new quest, delighting in the challenge of trying to convince Les Moonves that a dying quail like 60MW and his already-dead credibility has any reason to occupy an hour of prime-time programming. In fact, his first assignment to this new, hard-edged part of his career was an interview with Jack Welch and his new wife Suzy! That promises to be relevant — to rich retirees that have recently remarried.
Rather’s new producer, Jeff Fager, has a more realistic take on why Rather has joined the crew and the motive for his too-earnest enthusiasm:
Four CBS News staffers lost their jobs because of Memogate, in which discredited documents were used in Rather’s report on 60 Wednesday about President Bush’s National Guard service.
Rather was forced to leave the anchor chair a year before he had planned.
“Having Dan here is a way for us to move on,” says Fager, also e.p. of 60 Minutes. “It’s over. It happened. It was a bad mistake, and a lot of people have paid a very high price for it.”
Give Fager some serious credit here. He at least admits that CBS blew it with their fraudulent TexANG memos. Rather hasn’t even admitted the memos were anything less than genuine. As long as he continues to push fables like that onto his shrinking audience, CBS can expect to have zero credibility, even when The Dan spends his time tossing softballs at Jack Welch. We won’t trust either Rather of CBS any more than we’d trust a desert coyote near an open-grilled side of Texas beef …. y’all.