Carol Platt Liebau: Dan Rather Is Norma Desmond

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Dan Rather Is Norma Desmond

Reading about Dan Rather's interview with Marvin Kalb (transcript at Radioblogger) -- as he continues to defend his discredited report on President Bush's National Guard service -- conjures up nothing so much as the image of pathetic, megalomaniacal former film star Norma Desmond. She's the main character in Sunset Boulevard (originally a film with Gloria Swanson and then an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical) -- the story of a has-been unable to grasp the sad fact that her career has been destroyed by the advent of the talkies, as time has passed her by.

Here are lyrics from Norma's big number, "With One Look":

No words can tell the stories my eyes tell
Watch me when I frown, you can't write that down
You know I'm right, it's there in black and white
When I look your way, you'll hear what I say

Yes, with one look I put words to shame
Just one look sets the screen aflame
Silent music starts to play
One tear in my eye makes the whole world cry

Is that Dan Rather in a nutshell, or what? He's almost as deluded as Norma Desmond.

Read his defense of his shoddy -- and inaccurate -- reporting. Here's the best he can do:

(1) The independent panel concluded "that what we did, whatever anybody thought about it was not born of political bias." (2) "[T]hey could not and did not determine whether the documents in question were what they purported to be or not." (3) "[T]he main reason that a panel had to be appointed and what they were most critical about is how we defended the story after the story had run."

Yes, well, as Tony Blankley noted at the time, there are some significant reasons to believe that the report was carefully constructed for legal reasons to avoid any conclusions that would suggest political bias or serious culpability on the part of the network. Even as Rather resorts to the kind of double talk that he wouldn't have accepted from George H.W. Bush about Iran-Contra, he conveniently overlooks the firing of four of his colleagues that resulted from the Thornburgh report, as well as its finding that Mary Mapes' contacts with Kerry operative Joe Lockhart constituted "a clear conflict of interest that created the appearance of political bias.”

But perhaps the most pathetic and Norma-Desmondish part of the entire interview manifests itself in Rather's total ignorance of and contempt for the blogs that revealed his biased reporting for what it was.

Norma didn't realize that the talkies spelled doom for her film career -- as she didn't have what it took to compete in the new environment.

What the talkies were to Normal Desmond, the blogs were to Dan Rather. Seeing his pitiful efforts at self-justification, it's "as if he never said goodbye."


Anonymous Anonymous said...


6:32 AM  
Blogger HouseOfSin said...

Dan who? A cautionary note for Rather:

I would never have heard of Norma Desmond but that Webber made a musical of it. Even then, I needed Carol's original post to refresh my memory. My point? But for a musical, Desmond would be all but forgotten. She still isn't known, I would bet by most Americans.

This is the fate that awaits Rather: "Dan who?" It has been well-earned by him.

7:23 AM  
Blogger Draino said...

If Rather is Norma Desmond does that make you Cruella DeVille?

1:08 PM  
Blogger Pat said...

Check out the first chapter from Mary Mapes' new book, now readable on Amazon. It's a masterpiece of delusion and rather artful dodging.

4:06 PM  

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