Say 'Good night,' Dan

Like millions of other Americans, I will be tuning—in tonight to the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather for the first time in well over a decade. I don't really expect Dan Rather to own—up to any of his egregious sins as a newsman, or even show the merest hint of self—reflection as he marks the end of his career as anchorman for what was long ago known as the Tiffany Network. Today his newscast is known as the chronic cellar—dweller, and outsiders remain puzzled as to the mechanism by which CBS has been persuaded to stick with its losing formula all these years.

Nevertheless, a sense is abroad that something important is happening tonight: the ending of an era is being symbolically marked.

In fact, the end of several eras are encompassed in tonight's farewell.

The era of network newscasts as important molders of national opinion is over. Their viewership continues to trend downward, in the face of the availability of intenet and cable news content 24 hours a day. Nobody needs to come home in the evening and see the day's news condensed into 22 minutes. The few who remain tend to be elderly, technologically challenged, and creatures of habit. Not exactly the opinion—molders. Water cooler chat at the office is far more likely to come the previous day's from something on the previous day's O'Reilly Factor than from the CBS, NBC, or ABC  newscast.

The era of an assumed liberal consensus in the media is also being marked symbolically. Rather assumed the anchorman role of Walter Cronkite at a time when Cronkite was widely known as 'the most trusted man in America.' Dan never grew into the role, for personal reasons, but also because times were a changin'. A quarter of a century ago, the commanding heights of the American media world, from CBS and the other networks to the New York Times, the newsweeklies, and most major metropolitan dailies, spoke with unchallenged authority. The liberal line they peddled was accepted, or at least not actively disputed, by the vast majority of Americans who paid attention to current affairs. To dissent from the party line was to define yourself as a crank, or at least an ideologue.

That era is long—gone. In fact, thanks in no small part to Dan Rather, the adherents of the current—day version of that liberalism are viewed by a large number of Americans as cranks themselves. Dan's ongoing refusal to admit that he was hoodwinked by Microsoft Word documents posing as the product of the pre—computer era nicely captures the refusal of liberals to admit all kinds of realities obvious to people in the real world: that welfare entitlements can trap people into trans—generational dependence; that high taxes smother incentives to hard work and stifle economic growth; that communism was an evil system; and that Islamofascist terrorists must be addressed with force, not understanding and sympathy for the 'wrongs' they have endured at our hands. The list could go on.

The era of Dan Rather as above criticism from his CBS colleagues started ending a few weeks ago. Walter Cronkite, Andy Rooney, Don Hewitt, and Mike Wallace have launched critical remarks.  One can only speculate on what sort of fear or other restraint caused them and the CBS brass to hold their tongues (and keep Dan employed) all these years. But given the cascade of repressed anger we have seen so far, it is not unreasonable to expect more information in the near future. Dan's night of the long knives is upon us.

It is not yet clear whether—or—not the era Dan Rather's broadcasting career is over. He and CBS are claiming that he will appear on other network programming. But the longevity of low—rated 60 Minutes 2 is open to question, and the willingness of the Sunday original version of 60 Minutes to accept Dan as a jolly member of the crew may not be relied upon, either. Time will tell.

Frankly, I won't miss Dan one bit. Except as a symbol of much that was wrong with big American media institutions in the era that has thankfully ended. Good night, Dan.

Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker

Like millions of other Americans, I will be tuning—in tonight to the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather for the first time in well over a decade. I don't really expect Dan Rather to own—up to any of his egregious sins as a newsman, or even show the merest hint of self—reflection as he marks the end of his career as anchorman for what was long ago known as the Tiffany Network. Today his newscast is known as the chronic cellar—dweller, and outsiders remain puzzled as to the mechanism by which CBS has been persuaded to stick with its losing formula all these years.

Nevertheless, a sense is abroad that something important is happening tonight: the ending of an era is being symbolically marked.

In fact, the end of several eras are encompassed in tonight's farewell.

The era of network newscasts as important molders of national opinion is over. Their viewership continues to trend downward, in the face of the availability of intenet and cable news content 24 hours a day. Nobody needs to come home in the evening and see the day's news condensed into 22 minutes. The few who remain tend to be elderly, technologically challenged, and creatures of habit. Not exactly the opinion—molders. Water cooler chat at the office is far more likely to come the previous day's from something on the previous day's O'Reilly Factor than from the CBS, NBC, or ABC  newscast.

The era of an assumed liberal consensus in the media is also being marked symbolically. Rather assumed the anchorman role of Walter Cronkite at a time when Cronkite was widely known as 'the most trusted man in America.' Dan never grew into the role, for personal reasons, but also because times were a changin'. A quarter of a century ago, the commanding heights of the American media world, from CBS and the other networks to the New York Times, the newsweeklies, and most major metropolitan dailies, spoke with unchallenged authority. The liberal line they peddled was accepted, or at least not actively disputed, by the vast majority of Americans who paid attention to current affairs. To dissent from the party line was to define yourself as a crank, or at least an ideologue.

That era is long—gone. In fact, thanks in no small part to Dan Rather, the adherents of the current—day version of that liberalism are viewed by a large number of Americans as cranks themselves. Dan's ongoing refusal to admit that he was hoodwinked by Microsoft Word documents posing as the product of the pre—computer era nicely captures the refusal of liberals to admit all kinds of realities obvious to people in the real world: that welfare entitlements can trap people into trans—generational dependence; that high taxes smother incentives to hard work and stifle economic growth; that communism was an evil system; and that Islamofascist terrorists must be addressed with force, not understanding and sympathy for the 'wrongs' they have endured at our hands. The list could go on.

The era of Dan Rather as above criticism from his CBS colleagues started ending a few weeks ago. Walter Cronkite, Andy Rooney, Don Hewitt, and Mike Wallace have launched critical remarks.  One can only speculate on what sort of fear or other restraint caused them and the CBS brass to hold their tongues (and keep Dan employed) all these years. But given the cascade of repressed anger we have seen so far, it is not unreasonable to expect more information in the near future. Dan's night of the long knives is upon us.

It is not yet clear whether—or—not the era Dan Rather's broadcasting career is over. He and CBS are claiming that he will appear on other network programming. But the longevity of low—rated 60 Minutes 2 is open to question, and the willingness of the Sunday original version of 60 Minutes to accept Dan as a jolly member of the crew may not be relied upon, either. Time will tell.

Frankly, I won't miss Dan one bit. Except as a symbol of much that was wrong with big American media institutions in the era that has thankfully ended. Good night, Dan.

Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker