Now Cough

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Dan. Done

Me and Dan

It's a small thing, smaller than a Texas chigger buried in an armadillo's ass.

But I had one brief encounter with Dan Rather and it is something I have thought of a lot since the screwed up Bush National Guard story.

One night during the Clinton impeachment proceedings, I was hosting the chats taking place at AOL on this huge story. We had thousands of people online and I was part of a small team that booked big name commentators and guests who AOL users could query about this historic event.

Dan Rather was the expert guest that night.

He had spent the day covering the hearings in DC, anchored his nightly news show, and then was booked to do the AOL chat. Millions of guys in his perch would have blown it off. He did not.

Right on time, the phone rang next to the computer. "Hi, this is Dan Rather." He was in a limo racing to the airport, but here he was ready to answer questions as I typed the responses to thousands of AOL customers. The level of trust is enormous. He never asked for any of the responses to be read back to him. Rather was gracious, incredibly fair and even handed in his answers (it is easy to spout off--he did not), articulate and just plain---excellent.

My opinion of Rather changed that night. He might have some odd quirks and mannerisms, but this night he revealed what I think of as the real Dan: the character it takes to show up on time no matter what, do his job fairly without exploiting his position, and being a gentleman.

"Thank you. I enjoyed that. Good evening..." and, he was gone.

Let's not forget when a lot of people claim to 'speak truth to power,' Dan Rather has actually done that in the biggest pressure cooker events. Most notably to Richard Nixon's face. And, in a gutsy hard encounter with the first President Bush on live TV about the Iran Contra scandal. The gloves were off. He didn't back down. And he took a lot of crap for that.

Outside of the 60 Minutes people and Ted Koppel, you don't see any of the anchors getting into the news mosh pit like that. Katie and Matt? Please. Brian Williams, without making himself the story, nope. Peter, as much as I like him, nope.

Dan is an original. A character and a bit wacko. But he is an old school news guy. He and his producers screwed up. Big. Class act that he is, you don't hear him whining or blaming others even as colleagues trash his ass.

You tell me who has his act together.


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