Jewish World Review Sept. 15, 2004 / 29 Elul, 5764

Zev Chafets

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Consumer Reports

Dan's 'scoop' is as shaky as his status | In this presidential campaign, John Kerry has raised $41,200 from employees of Princeton University. President Bush has received $250.

Last week, when a reporter for The Daily Princetonian asked various faculty members about the disparity, Prof. Andrew Appel answered with a rhetorical question: "Does it surprise me that smart people should be supporting Kerry? No."

Smart people support Kerry. And in this city, so must not-so-smart people who want to be considered smart. Guys like poor Dan Rather.

I don't know Rather personally, but I've always had a soft spot for him. He strikes me as an earnest man who has succeeded by overcoming a lot of limitations. I feel for him now. He's been caught red-handed trying to help the Smart People elect Kerry by peddling what appear tobe phony documents about Bush's National Guard service.

Rather has unintentionally hurt Kerry by miring the campaign in yet another week of Vietnam debate. But he has hurt himself even more.

Rather didn't go to Princeton. He is a graduate of Sam Houston State Teachers College. He came to New York knowing what the Prof. Appels of the world think of Sam Houston State Teachers College and its alumni.

This kind of snobbery is a problem not only in the Ivy League, but in Big Time journalism. where folks with Rather's accent and background are rare. Most of the national media elite are Ivy Leaguers or reasonable facsimiles. They share prejudices, fashions - and political opinions.

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According to a recent Pew poll, national journalists are six times more likely to call themselves "liberal" than "conservative." This is not quite a Princetonian level of intellectual superiority, but it comes close.

People who talk like Rather and come from Texas arouse suspicion no matter how long they are around. The burden is always on them to prove that they are smart enough to be considered liberal, or liberal enough to be considered smart.

Rather has tried throughout his career to overcome this form of Ivy poisoning and fit in. But unlike his fellow Texan, Bill Moyers, he never really has.

He may be the man on the set of the evening news, but his more citified colleagues have never stopped seeing him as a bumpkin from Sam Houston Teachers, a goofy guy who tries too hard.

This attitude has been painfully evident in the reaction to allegations that Rather's "scoop" about Bush's National Guard service was bogus. Rather had every right to expect that his colleagues would rush to his aid. But there has been very little solidarity, practically none of the "who do you think are?" indignation with which the elite media normally greet challenges from the right. The smart people have turned away, leaving Rather huffing and puffing about his unimpeachable credibility.

Poor Rather. Nearing the end of his career, he let himself get duped on a story he thought would make him a hero in Princeton. Instead, he will very likely be remembered as a goat. A Texas goat.

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JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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