08/08/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT
It may not be fair or even accurate but it certainly is tempting to call Dan Rather the dumbest anchor alive. He did get on my nerves at the Democratic convention, constantly winking at the viewers as if his mere proximity to Walter Cronkite had made him instantly avuncular. Down on the floor, the band would start up God Bless America, and Dan would wink and say, "Walter, they're singing one of our favorite songs." He noted with more than his usual hyperbole that Jesse Jackson's speech could be a moment in history, and he shared this insight with you in case "you want to start gathering the children around the television set and get Grandmother in from the next room." And he broke this big news: "You know, one of the things that conventions do is create a pep-rally atmosphere." Oh, stuff it, Dan. Why do you make so much money anyway? But there was good news from this convention: Dan Rather is not running for President. And neither is anyone like him. In fact, this year we could be witnessing the death of the TV candidate. How else can one explain the mortal tedium of this convention and the continuing duel of dullness that faces us until November? Perhaps Americans nominated the aggressively unexciting Michael Dukakis and George Bush because they were tired of hearing that they vote only for people who looked good on TV (this could be the true legacy of the Reagan era). Or perhaps the convention and the campaign are so yawnable simply because they—like so much in life today—are engineered by PR people, leached of all spontaneity and life and made predictable, favorable, safe and so very boring. No matter the cause, the result is the same. Ratings for network convention coverage are down almost 20 percent from 1984. So once again, we hear network bosses vowing to reduce coverage. Judging by the Democrats' show, I'm not so sure that would be a bad thing. Now politicians are covered on TV simply because they are there. Imagine instead a world in which politicians are covered on TV only when they say something worth covering. Suddenly the politicians would have things to say. Then there would be real news to cover. And Dan Rather wouldn't have time to make a fool of himself.