Television journalist Dan Rather is patriotic, optimistic and eloquent.
His new book, “What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism,” is easy to read. It consists of 15 essays that chronicle his more than 60 years as a journalist. The essays are part memoir and part American history.
Rather’s love for America is evident in most of the essays. He writes that America at its best is a wonderful, diverse and spirited chorus infused with the joy of our glories and the pain of our failures.
While conceding there has always been friction between politicians and journalists, he believes that the free press is in a state of crisis, which is a test for journalists and the nation.
Presidents usually believe they are being treated unfairly by the press. George Washington complained about the press, and Rather speculates that each president since has echoed the complaint.
He calls President Donald Trump’s repeated anti-press phrase “fake news” a “ludicrous mantra.”
Rather’s opinion of the 45th president is clear.
“Mr. Trump will be seen as a loser, and so will his new cheerleader Speaker of the House Paul Ryan,” he recently posted on Facebook.
The iconic journalist, who is speaking at the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center on Nov. 19, writes that every journalist he has ever met is patriotic and wishes fellow Americans well. “We hope our government leads with moral clarity and wisdom,” and, as a group, journalists’ “goal is to make America more peaceful, prosperous and just.”
Rather writes that his biggest journalistic failure was not revealing that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and no links to Al-Qaeda while President George W. Bush was running a “brilliant marketing campaign of subtle propaganda” leading to war in 2003.
Rather, who grew up in Texas as the son of an oil worker, was born in 1936. It was 26 years before he first met a Jew after he moved to New York to work for CBS.
“I had never heard of kosher food,” he writes, but his first Jewish friend took him to the Carnegie Deli for Jewish food.
Rather’s essays deal with freedom, character, exploration and other topics he believes make America what is.
Freedom of expression, in the press and in the arts, is central to democracy, he writes. He cites the Broadway hit “Hamilton,” which “echoes the narrative of the founders of our nation. It is the ultimate story of freedom, a vital part of what unites us.”
Although Rather writes that our nation is in an existential crisis, his optimism is clear: “I marvel at the resilience of the human spirit.”