Dan Rather in Panic Mode: Move Inauguration to December 1
Appearing on Friday's "Morning Joe," former CBS anchor Dan Rather chided President Bush for not doing enough during his lame duck period and argued for moving Inauguration Day up to December 1. And although Rather didn't explain specifically what Bush wasn't doing enough about (The financial crisis? The terrorist incident in India?), he did hyperbolically fret, "But, we're in possibly, possibly the biggest crisis we've been in since December 7, 1941 and maybe since the time of the Civil War." (As big a calamity as slavery and the dissolution of the Union?)
Addressing the past practice of inaugurating presidents in March, Rather lobbied "Thank heaven, we now swear them in, new presidents, in January. I'd be in favor of moving it up to December 1st." (The former network anchor didn't explain how he would then deal with situations like the protracted 2000 post-election battle.) [Audio available here.]
Clearly speaking of President Bush, he complained, "And this business of being a lame duck president and saying, you know, 'Adios. I'm going to the ranch. I'm just not going to do very much during this period.' We can't afford it." Of Barack Obama, Rather enthused, "Yes, President-elect Obama is doing the best he can by getting out and raising people's spirits without over-raising their expectations."
The ex-CBS News host's comments aren't as over-the-top as ones made by Gail Collins, the editorial page editor of the New York Times. In a November 22 op-ed, she suggested, "Thanksgiving is next week, and President Bush could make it a really special holiday by resigning."
A transcript of the December 5 comments by Rather and the exchange that prompted it, follow:
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Gene, speaking of revisionism though, you said a lot people said that Iraq didn't have WMDs. My God, the U.N. Security Council voted 15-0 that Saddam Hussein had WMDs and the burden was on him to prove that they didn't. The Russians, the Chinese, the British, you name it. The Germans, I mean, George Tenet, the CIA director waving his arms saying, 'Mr. President, it's a slam dunk.' So-
EUGENE ROBINSON (The Washington Post): Mmm. He said it was-
SCARBOROUGH: The overwhelming majority of intelligence operations across the globe, did they not say Saddam has weapons of mass destruction?
EUGENE ROBINSON: Well- Well- Yes, but to what extent and what degree, did, in fact, he have WMD to the extent that it justified a U.N. invasion of a sovereign country by the United States preemptively? Did- Did it justify that? Indeed, those other countries that did think he had some WMD didn't think it justified a U.S. invasion or certainly most of them didn't think that. But, you know, George Bush made a decision and most people think it didn't work out that well. So, why doesn't he just own up to it?
SCARBOROUGH: Of course, Dan, at the time it was a year after 9/11, CIA director's waving his arms in the Oval Office, saying, 'Mr. President, it's a slam dunk.'
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Slam dunk.
SCARBOROUGH: What does a president of the United States do? Point to the CIA director and 'Say, sit down. You're wrong, I don't trust you'?
DAN RATHER: Well, if that's what he believes. But, by problem with all of this- and I think that good points were raised on either side here- is that's behind us, that's yesterday. Frankly, rather than see the President apologize which I think you're more likely to see Fidel Castro come riding through this room on a giraffe than you are to see George Bush apologize-
SCARBOROUGH: Write that down.
BRZEZINSKI: [Laughing] Did you get that? This is why we invited Dan today.
RATHER: -is get busy- is get busy- What we need out of the President is focus on the job at hand. We can't afford to waste an hour, much less a day or a week or a month. And this business of being a lame duck president and saying, you know, 'Adios. I'm going to the ranch. I'm just not going to do very much during this period.' We can't afford it. It used to be, of course, we didn't swear in presidents until March. Thank heaven, we now swear them in, new presidents, in January. I'd be in favor of moving it up to December 1st. Get the election over. Get a new president in December 1st. But, we're in a very dangerous period. And particularly this early in the morning, I would rather talk about football.BRZEZINSKI: Serious times. Serious times.
RATHER: But, we're in possibly, possibly the biggest crisis we've been in since December 7, 1941 and maybe since the time of the Civil War. So, we can't afford to have this interregnum. The old order is gone. The new order is not yet in place. You need an active president right now. Yes, President-elect Obama is doing the best he can by getting out and raising people's spirits without over-raising their expectations. But, this business of, the having the interregnum in which the president says, 'Okay, the election is over and I'll leave it to the next guy.' We just can't afford that. So, rather, than arguing about whether we should or shouldn't have gone into Iraq, we did and we're now paying the consequences of it. But, I don't think you're going to see the President apologize, I would hope that in the coming days and weeks before the inauguration that the President takes charge. That's what ought to be expected of a strong executive.