John Leo
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Mr. Answer Man, why is it that many people don't like the idea of Katie Couric becoming the new Dan Rather? Is it because, after all those father figures, it's jarring to get the national kid sister? If we're going to bypass Dad, why can't we have a reassuring mother figure instead of turning immediately to one of the perky kids?

You have a point. Katie is almost 50, but people think of her as a kid and douse her in childlike rhetoric. Bob Schieffer of CBS said, "We're going to love Katie." Journalist Margaret Carlson compared her to Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and someone else called her a "sweetheart." It's hard to imagine Tom Brokaw saying he adores Brian Williams, or that Brian reminds him of "Winnie the Pooh." These comments probably should have been cleared with the casting director at CBS.

You're probably going to say this isn't a good question, but what is Katie's position on castration?

It seems to vary. When a man ran out on his bride-to-be, leaving her right at the altar, Katie suggested on the "Today" show that castration might be a good idea. But when the Runaway Bride of 2005 fled from her husband-to-be, Katie failed to prescribe any genital mangling at all. In her one-hour special on this gripping tale, Katie was very sweet to the fleeing fiancee. She said Ms. Runaway "hopes that when people learn her full story, they will come to see her as she sees herself, as a real person with real problems, not as a headline."

That's touching. But tell me, why wasn't the runaway husband, also a real person with real problems, entitled to keep his real genitals?

You would have to ask Katie. My feeling is that Les Moonves, her new boss, will probably tell Katie to stop calling for people to be surgically altered.

Here's another question about double standards. When Republican senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont switched parties and became a Democrat, Katie said, "His story is a classic of American politics." He agonized, but "knew he'd made the right decision. Today, Jeffords is a man at peace with himself."

My question is this: When Colorado senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell made the opposite switch, from Democrat to Republican, was his story a classic, too, and did Katie say he was at peace with himself and knew he had made the right decision? Or did Katie not interview him because he was traveling in the wrong direction?

You got it. He wasn't on the "Today" show.

What's this about Couric arguing that people who don't approve of homosexuality were responsible for the murder of Matthew Shepard?

She deplores "a climate that some say has been established by religious zealots or Christian conservatives." Like a lot of people, Katie is fond of "climate" arguments: People who oppose hate-crime laws are responsible for the dragging murder of James Byrd in Texas; people who deride the federal government are responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing, etc. But Al Gore isn't responsible for the Unabomber, though the bomber's environmental views are almost identical to Gore's and may have come from him.

Wasn't Katie a bit miffed when the Super Bowl hoax was revealed -- you know, the one that said husbands beat up their wives when their team loses?

Yes, she did seem a bit out of sorts about that, and she wasn't even ready to concede it was a hoax. She said to author Christina Hoff Sommers: "Let's say, if one accepts your thesis, that these statistics are inflated or are used incorrectly. Aren't you worried about throwing the baby out with the bath water? So Super Bowl Sunday isn't the biggest day for men battering women, aren't you afraid that you're going to be dismissing the problem altogether if you refute that?"

This is peculiar position, but, as I said, she likes "climate" arguments. If you expose a hoax about domestic violence, you reinforce the climate that lets abuse persist.

Katie tends to go ga-ga over Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Kofi Annan, but she's snippy about Ronald Reagan, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and religious conservatives. How do you account for this?

Arguing that she shouldn't have the conventional opinions of her class and profession is like arguing that fish shouldn't have fins. In Manhattan journalism, all the fish tend to have the same fins.

But I thought the new anchor was going to be the antidote to Dan Rather. Why did they pick Katie?

CBS had no logical successor in the wings, nobody like Brian Williams. Few people think the evening network news operations have much of a future. So CBS rolled the dice and opted for a mega-celebrity to get some ratings. It's a show-biz decision. They're trying to save what's left.

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John Leo

John Leo is editor of MindingTheCampus.com and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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