The Dan Rather era may be over at the "CBS Evening News," complete with the self-congratulatory special segments. At least Rather's critics could enjoy Donald Trump being cued up on "Fox News Sunday" to say "Dan, you're fired." They know, as does everyone else, that it's only a matter of time before Rather's last journalistic assignment, the low-rated "60 Minutes Wednesday," is canceled, and he'll be gone for good.
Rather has been brought so low that his retirement from the anchor chair is accompanied by a new book from the gossip editor of the National Enquirer called "Rather Dumb" that purports to instruct him in "How To Do News." In The New Yorker magazine, Ken Auletta quotes his longtime CBS colleagues Walter Cronkite and Mike Wallace as saying they don't watch Rather's newscast, and they find ABC or NBC easier to tolerate.
What remains is the fight over the Dan Rather legacy. The best bet is to say that train has left the station, his legacy clinched by the incredibly shoddy Bush-bashing phony-memo weeks on "60 Minutes" last September.
But some liberal media types have come out with their dukes up for Dan. CNN's Mark Shields complained that "the lynch mob won." Alex Jones, an author and former New York Times reporter, proclaimed it would be a "gross disservice" to remember only the career-ending fraud. "It doesn't diminish his decades-long career of distinguished broadcast journalism." He hoped "Over time, this is something that will be put in better perspective, especially if he has another chapter in his career."
Rather himself is counting on a reversal of public opinion in the future, hoping to rehabilitate himself, just like his old nemesis, Richard Nixon. "I've learned to trust the audience," he told the Los Angeles Times. "The harshest critic could not be nearly as hard on me as I am on myself."
And that's absurd. If Rather were the slightest bit hard on himself, he would have resigned the minute the forgery fiasco unraveled. He would not have let his supporting cast get thrown out on the street while he was still drawing a paycheck with so many zeroes it would give liberal tax-hikers the vapors. Someone who was the slightest bit hard on himself wouldn't have blamed the entire thing on conservative partisans trying to "check him out of existence." He would have apologized for his recklessness.
But Rather created his own legacy with his stonewalling arrogance.