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Dan Rather, Stenographer to Power

CBS News Unveiled Its Compassion for Janet Reno, Fidel Castro, and Photographed INS Gunman

A long time ago in another Washington, reporters sought to scrutinize the executive branch. Today they seek to justify it. Just hours after the Saturday raid to seize Elian Gonzalez, at 9:03 a.m., CBS reporter Jim Stewart mourned Janet Reno would be remembered for the Waco raid and this raid: "It is appalling from her perspective because of the true compassion she has for children. If you've ever seen her around children, you know how much she truly cares for them, and this has got to be tearing at her." Throughout the morning, Dan Rather felt compassion for Reno, Fidel Castro, among others:

7:02 a.m. ET: Don't Bash Reno. "Janet Reno, the Attorney General who's been criticized in a lot of quarters, and depending on one's point of view perhaps justifiably so, did demonstrate patience all the way through. One wants to remember she went to Miami herself to try to negotiate something. It's hard to see how she gets criticized for the way the operation was carried out. Yes you can say well, the marshals should not have been dressed [the way] that they were dressed, they shouldn't have been armed that heavily. Put all that in quotation marks. But in the end it worked. The child was gotten out safely."

7:04: Fidel Loves His Slaves. "While Fidel Castro, and certainly justified on his record, is widely criticized for a lot of things, there is no question that Castro feels a very deep and abiding connection to those Cubans who are still in Cuba. And, I recognize this might be controversial, but there's little doubt in my mind that Fidel Castro was sincere when he said, 'listen, we really want this child back here.'"

8:02: Punished by the Press. Breaking into Reno's press conference after a question about the photo with the officer holding the huge gun: "Even if the photographer was in the house legally, which knowing the Associated Press would be very surprising if he wasn't, there is the question of the privacy, beginning with the privacy of the child. No one can look at these photographs and not think what this child is going through."

8:45: The Child Has Rights - To Sue Uncle Lazaro. Rather asked CBS News legal consultant Andrew Cohen: "What about the child's rights, does the child have a right to privacy, is it possible, is there any legal basis, for the family of the child, perhaps the father, to sue the Miami relatives for allowing the child's privacy to be, as they might say, trampled. Is this case, or is there no legal case to be made for that?" Cohen said "that's an excellent scenario."

9:24: Fairness and Balance? Over Marisleysis Gonzalez's live tour of the damaged house with pool reporter Kerry Sanders, Rather warned: "We want to pick up some more of this, I think, as it goes along, but it's important for accuracy, for fairness, and for balance to point out that so far the relatives in Miami have dominated the imagery and the sounds of this morning." Rather wasn't balanced on April 6 when he blamed the delayed reunion on "the ways of politics and the law in a free society."

9:36: Teary Over the Reunion. Rather quoted the female INS agent telling Elian, "'This may seem very scary, but it will soon be better.' She says Elian was told he was being taken to Papa, the word that he uses for his father. And then the father and son also talked by telephone later during Elian's flight to Washington." Choking up, Rather continued: "If you just pause for a second, you can kind of imagine this child [voice breaks up as he looks down shaking head], wow." Rather clearly won't be crying any tears if Elian is forced to return to Castro's "deep and abiding connection" with absolute power. - Tim Graham