Dan Rather Returns Tomorrow Night

Dan Rather returns to television on a regular basis tomorrow night when his news show on HDNet premiers at 8:00 p.m. EST:

Headquarters for his new production company is a small high-rise suite just a block from Times Square. The paint is dry. Furniture and state- of-the-art production equipment are in place. Any further refinements can wait.

“Right now, trying to get this program off the ground, I have about all I can say grace over,” Rather says in his comfortable but no- frills new office, where his own high-def flatscreen (he points out with a chuckle) still isn’t operative.

Not only is his team – fewer than two dozen overseen by Rather and executive producer Wayne Nelson – focused on opening night, but after that: another 41 weekly hours in the coming year, plus additional documentaries.

Exactly what viewers will see Tuesday won’t be locked down until the last minute, Rather says, with portions likely to be aired live.

“I want us to be right up on the balls of our feet, able to shift in a nanosecond if we have to,” he says, listing three areas to concentrate on: investigative stories, in-depth interviews and “hard-edged field reports.” Favourite subjects are likely to include the nation’s fighting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economic squeeze on middle-income families and politics.

“I see this as a pioneering experience,” Rather says. And he could be right. Here is TV news issuing not from a huge organization, but, uniquely, from the vision of one guy.

“When I first talked to Mark Cuban, he told he that he was prepared to give me total, complete and absolute editorial and creative control,” Rather says. “Now stop and think about that for a moment: do you know any journalists past and present (with such an arrangement)?”

Yeah, but for most of his run at CBS News, wasn’t Rather the reigning presence, the 900-pound gorilla?

“I was responsible for the ‘Evening News’ and accountable for the ‘Evening News,”‘ he allows, “but I had to, and did, answer up.” He ticks off the steps of the corporate ladder that ascended even higher than his lofty perch on West 57th Street. “There are people above you.”

Not now. According to Rather, Cuban “only asked two things of me: ‘I want you to strive for excellence, and be fearless.“‘

AP’s Almost Non-Report on Hillary Clinton’s Legislative Priorities

Articles such as this illustrate what is wrong with so much political reporting. AP is running a story entitled Clinton Outlines Legislative Priorities. The bulk of the article is centered around non-news such as how she is deflecting “questions about her presumed presidential ambitions.” There’s nothing on her legislative priorities until late in the article.

Granted the possibility of her running for President is what people are interested, but from my perspective the fact that she mgiht become President makes her legislative priorites (the supposed subject of the article) even more important. If she might be President, I want to know her priorities and stands on the issues as this might give an indication of what type of President she would make.

Finally, in the last three paragraphs, we learn a little about the subject of the article:

Clinton outlined a range of challenges she said Democrats would tackle in the coming months, such as trimming the federal deficit, reducing dependence on foreign oil and improving the image of the United States abroad.

She also said Democrats would focus on improving the quality and affordability of health care–a touchy matter for the former first lady, who in 1993 led her husband’s calamitous attempt to overhaul the nation’s health care system. The failure of that effort helped Republicans win control of both the Senate and House the following year.

“Health care is coming back,” Clinton warned, adding, “It may be a bad dream for some.”

Hillary mentioning health care is no surprise. What I want to know is whether she plans on sticking to her old ideas, or if she has learned anything since 1993 when she came up with that awful plan which led the Democrats to a well-deserved thumpin’ in 1994. More than anything else, this might determine whether I could consider voting for Hillary for President. Unfortunately the media is overly concerned with the horse race and ignores discussion of substance on policy matters.

Keith Olbermann Found His Voice

While most of the news media has acted as lapdogs to the Republicans, Keith Olbermann has been speaking out, receiving increased attention lately. Olbermann fans might enjoy the article on him in the San Francisco Chronicle. An excerpt:

Keith Olbermann just needed to find his voice. He’d been a droll sportscaster, a serious news anchor and a bickering critic of Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. But none of those personas really clicked.

Then he found one. A little over a year ago, as the White House fumbled and botched the Hurricane Katrina recovery, Olbermann finally blew up.

He concluded a broadcast of his MSNBC cable news show, “Countdown,” with an indignant rant in the rat-a-tat-tat cadence of his idol, Edward R. Murrow. He called it a “Special Comment.”

And just like that, Olbermann found his voice — the angry everyman. He became a liberal counterpoint to conservative media ranters like O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, and an Internet star, too.

The result has been a cultural earthquake.

“Here’s what happened,” Olbermann said in a phone interview this week. “Five years ago (on Sept. 11), 50 percent of the country went quiet. There was this self-imposed censorship. Suddenly it became unimaginable to criticize the administration. And no one else was brave or stupid enough to say, ‘I don’t remember signing that document.’ ”

Today Olbermann is hot, in every sense of the word. He likes to say that the first step to creating one of his blistering editorials is to “get pissed off,” and that’s certainly how he sounds.

But there’s something more to it, too. Conservatives may hate his attacks, but no one doubts that he comes across as one of the smarter guys in the room. When he laid into then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on Aug. 30, he threw in references to Neville Chamberlain and the policy of appeasement. Let’s see NBC network anchor Brian Williams pull that off.

More on Keith Olbermann

Libertarian Helped Shift Senate to Democrats

We might have a Libertarian to thank for the Democrats taking control of the Senate. The Washington Post has a profile on Stan Jones, the Libertarian Party’s candidate for Senate in Montana. Jones received 10,324 votes, substantially higher than Tester’s margin of victory of 2,565 votes. The Washingon Post says “Jones is a quirkily conservative kind of libertarian — opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage.” While I would not immediately assume Libertarian votes come from Republicans (as discussed here), trom this descripiton it does sound like he would have taken substantially more votes from Republicans than Democrats.

Reason’s Hit and Run is happy with the result:

It’s heartening to see the GOP’s neglect of its libertarian wing come back to bite the party in the ass. That the poster-boy for the LP’s unfortuanate bent toward whack-jobbery did the deed makes it all the sweeter.

While the full description of Jones is not one which makes Libertarians proud, if his spoiler status forces Republicans to look more towards libertarians than the religious right it could be a good thing.

Father Knows Best

Dubya’s humiliation, starting with last week’s thumpin’ just isn’t going to stop if this week’s cover of Newsweek is any indication.

The Democrats and The Bloggers

The New York Times looks at the role of the netroots, claiming an uneasy alliance between bloggers and Democrats:

Like the music obsessives who plunked down $500 for first-generation iPods, Web-based activists served as the party’s early adopters in 2006, just as they provided much of the early money and vigor behind Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign. This year, they coalesced around dozens of House and Senate candidates in highly unfavorable states or Congressional districts, showering them with seed donations and praise while softening up G.O.P. incumbents with amateur opposition research, campaign stunts and homemade Web advertising.

Answerable to no one in particular, they could sometimes go off-key: During the Democratic primary, a blog supporting Mr. Lamont put up an altered photograph of Mr. Lieberman showing the senator in blackface, much to Mr. Lamont’s embarrassment.

They were also sometimes poor judges of what will sell in the larger political marketplace; most of the 19 netroots-supported candidates listed on ActBlue, an online clearinghouse for donations to Democrats, lost on Tuesday. But the online activists also gave some once-underrated candidates — like the Senate candidates Jon Tester and Jim Webb, in Montana and Virginia, respectively, and the House candidates Paul Hodes in New Hampshire and Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania — a chance to be taken seriously. All ended up winning on Tuesday.

“It was the early support, the attention — the ability to create opportunities for candidates to break out with energy and passion,” said Jonah Seiger, a Democratic Internet strategist.

Thanks in part to the netroots, said Mr. Seiger, the more promising candidates got a second or third look from the mainstream news media, major donors and party officials, especially as the political environment became increasingly unfavorable to Republicans.

The problem with any article on the netroots is that we are just people with computers. There’s as much variation between us as there are between people everywhere else, and articles which attempt to lump all bloggers together become grossly over simplified. Even more than the media, the ones who really are clueless about what the liberal blogosphere is about are the conservative bloggers. (more…)

Lincoln Chafee: Bush Planned To Be a Divider From the Start

It’s a shame it was necessary to remove Lincoln Chaffee from the Senate in order for the Democrats to win control. Chaffee often seems like the kind of guy who should be there, and the Republicans would certainly be a more tolerable party if they had more like him. Writing in The New York Times, Chaffee shows that the Republicans never had any intention to work with Democrats or attempt to achieve a consensus:

Back in December 2000, after one of the closest elections in our nation’s history, Vice President-elect Dick Cheney was the guest at a weekly lunch meeting of a small group of centrist Republicans. Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and I were honored to have the opportunity to visit with him on the eve of a session of Congress in which, because of Republican defeats, the Senate would be evenly divided at 50-50.

As we sat in Senator Specter’s cozy hideaway office and discussed the coming session, I was startled to hear the vice president dismiss suggestions of compromise and instead emphasize an aggressively partisan agenda that included significant tax cuts, the abandonment of international agreements and a muscular, unilateral foreign policy.

I was incredulous. Instead of a new atmosphere of cooperation and civility which, after all, had been the promise of the Bush-Cheney campaign, we seemed ready to return to the poisonous partisanship that marked the Republican-Congress — Clinton White House years.

While no surprise, this is particularly reprehensible considering both how closely the Senate was divided and considering how close this election was (even if we put aside the fact that it took going to the Supreme Court to block a recount in order for Bush to win). So much for Bush’s claims to be a uniter, not a divider. This is something to remember should the Republicans ever complain that their views are not being heard under the Democrats.