Since last we met, the race has tightened considerably. Dan Rather was riding high, only to fall behind, one debate later, to American holy warrior Mr. Tom Brokaw. The two met on stage at a New Yorker festival last weekend, along with third party candidate Peter Jennings, who was a relative voice of reason, no doubt because not every friend of his falls under the category Park Avenue Lib.
But first you may wonder what in the world the tony New Yorker was doing hosting something as hoe down as a "festival." What next, a barn raising? Funny you ask. Our informants tell us the event has a distinct purpose: to celebrate the continuing nonpresence at the magazine of its Clinton-era editress and temptress, tiny Tina Brown, who on that occasion is burned at the stake -- symbolically, of course, given that no one at the weekly carries matches or a lighter anymore. Tina always appreciates the gesture, regardless. One of her many complexes can be traced back to Joan of Arc. As for her remaining ones, we can't help her here. Perhaps there's still an analyst in session who might explain her preoccupation during the Swift boat season earlier this year with what she could only describe as Sen. Bob Dole's "detumescence." Was it simple jealousy that she didn't land the Viagra contract?
Despite the distractions, Dan and Tom put on a memorable show. Not even Solomon could rule which of the two is the kindest journalist of his era. Ostensibly the anchors had gathered to pay tribute to the victimized Rather. Rather was happy not to monopolize the encomiums, heartfelt as his were to his own independence, courage, and iconic status. No matter how things turn out, Day may have the brightest future on Wall Street since Charlie Sheen. "What I'm trying to be is an honest broker of information," he said, scout's honor. By the time Brokaw defended him, Dan was close to tears, as salty as the flow from a cut cactus. Tom attacked the work of Internet's sleuths who had caught Dan red-handed as "highly inappropriate" and accused the White House of trying to "demonize" Dan, all of it as part of a "political jihad." (Who writes his stuff, Al Gore?) We suspect if we're nice Tom might delay his pending retirement. Our country cannot afford to lose both Tom and Dan in one fell swoop. It would leave us with only nine of the first ten amendments.
Not losing any time, Dan's intellectual rival at CBS, fellow puny Texan Bob Schieffer, has published a thick thin book entitled Face the Nation. It may not be a forgery, but the title is pure plagiarism. As we Washington insiders know, CBS's Sunday show is called "Face the Nation." Schieffer is its host. The revived Columbia Journalism School will need to organize a seminar to unravel the many conflicts at play here. Should Schieffer be recused as an author or as a host? What's more, is it fair that an author hoping for bestsellerdom be allowed to moderate a debate between the two presidential candidates? Who will be the star that night? No one had to raise such questions when Messrs. Lehrer and Gibson and Ms. Ifill volunteered to perform their recent bit of public service.
We'd like to spend more time with the moderators, but in this age of Republican dominance there are important Republicans to honor. Let's start with a victim of Ron Reagan disease, which can affect even an octogenarian who hasn't been in the spotlight in some three or four or maybe eight decades. So what could have inspired John Eisenhower to announce on the eve of the first presidential debate that he has decided to vote for John Kerry and as such emerge as the only friend John Kerry has on this green earth? We suspect Dwight Eisenhower instilled an early version of compassionate conservatism in his boy. If so, we'll hold back on our plans to confiscate the Gettysburg farm.
Moving on, we have the example of another wayward son who contracted Ron Reagan disease before Ron himself did. Silly us thought this case had gone into remission. But instead we have Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who inherited his father's seat much like Kim Jong Il did Kim Il Sung's, announce that he will vote Republican except not for George W. Bush. What besides his first name keeps Chafee Republican? He has our blessing to change it to Cadillac.
John Edwards tried to divert our attention the other night by singling out Sens. McCain, Hagel, and Lugar. We weren't buying, not until he can prove he's met those men on the premises of the United States Senate.
In any event, we've had enough diversions for one night. We knew coming in Tom Brokaw was our choice for EOW. No undecideds here. Remember us to Dan, Tom.