February 28, 2003

James Lileks on the Saddam Interview
Okay, so I went on a rant about Dan Rather's interview with Saddam. I blasted CBS pretty hard, but I think they deserve it. James Lileks (who has a great blog) is a little softer, but makes basically the same key points - maybe lack of subtlety is why I don't get paid to write for a major newspaper like he does.

Some excerpts from Lileks' Bleat today:
"The tyrants of the 20th century have become iconic, and as such they seem to exist divorced from human nature. Men that evil are so rare it's almost comforting to watch them - oh, we'd know their kind if they came again. But we don't. The lesson is lost. Hitlers and Stalins and Maos and Kim Il Jungs aren't the anomalies, really; there are millions of people like them. They're just the ones who had what it took."

"What made Rather's trip such a waste was the water-kneed obsequiousness of it all. He was more interested in three full hours of bland conversation than 20 minutes of sharp discussion that ended with Saddam leaving the room. What was there to fear? Anyone think Saddam would have him shot? Stand up in the middle of the interview, put a round through Rather's skull and yell at his dead body for five minutes? Since the Iraqis controlled the production facilities, CBS apparently feared they wouldn't get the tape if Rather didn't gargle with Meek Juice before each question. Fine. As long as you realize that Rather would have been tougher on the Pope."

"Not so with the Saddam interview. The deference was pathetic, the questions toothless, the answers predictable. Sometimes history is farce the first time."

Lileks points out that CBS gave Saddam an opportunity to appear like just a normal, nice guy, and that Hitler would have appeared no different given the chance. How many psychopathic murderers have we seen on trial in our own country - people that neighbors and friends would never have suspected of mass murder or gruesome atrocities? Yet, I truly believe there were many people who fell for the 'nice guy' Saddam image CBS presented in all its prime-time glory. Proof: check out news sites and count the number of editorials discounting the interview versus the number of stories reporting Saddam's desire for a debate with Bush or his refusal to disarm. Most media outlets took this interview straight on, hook, line and sinker.

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