President Donald Trump recently declared, “our system is designed right now that everybody should hate each other.” But in “What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism,” former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather argues those divisions are only skin-deep.
“The common ground is that, overwhelmingly, Americans in general, whatever their party, whatever their ideology, agree with the basic American tradition of taking in people from other places,” Rather told Jim Braude on Greater Boston. He added that, despite the divide between Republicans and Democrats in Washington over immigration issues, most Americans are coming from the same place. Without naming names, Rather blamed “certain politicians and political parties” for stoking tensions to fuel their own political gain.
“They try to put off to the side the fundamental agreement that we have about such things as integration, public schooling, education and a long list of other things,” Rather said. “It’s very easy to listen and think that, gosh darn, the whole country is falling apart at the seams, that we can’t agree on anything. That’s not true.”
Rather explained that he wrote “What Unites Us” to counter that narrative of supposed irreconcilable differences.
“We have a lot of faults, we Americans, but one of the things that the people of this country are good at, they’re pretty good at separating brass tacks from bull shine,” Rather said. “I think when someone says, ‘facts don’t matter,’ and ‘there’s no such thing as facts,’ people understand that two plus two equals four, it doesn’t equal five.”
“There's been a renewal of deep-digging investigative reporting with the press doing exactly what they're supposed to do, which is to be a check on power ... including presidential power,” said Rather, who now hosts "The Big Interview" on AXS TV. “If you stick to the facts, and analysis of the facts based on, sort of, connecting the dots, that’s fine. But the idea of shouting at one another and not being open to any other point of view ... that just doesn’t work in our system.”
Rather also discussed the idea of mandatory civil or military service, which, he argued, could help assuage the nation’s stark political divisions.
“I certainly would agree and strongly favor some form of mandatory public service — to have everybody invested in the country by doing some form public service. Do I think it ought to be mandatory? Yes. Do I think that’s going to happen? Not anytime soon.”
In his book, Rather noted one Massachusetts congressman, who he sees as exemplifying that notion of service to the country: Seth Moulton — a man often mentioned in discussions about possible Democratic candidates for president in 2020.
“I don’t endorse candidates, but I am a fan of Seth Moulton’s and I’ll tell you why. Here’s a young man who went to Harvard, majored in physics, by the way, didn’t take the easy way .... He was not just a United States Marine, he was a fighting Marine for at least three tours of duty, never bragged about it,” Rather said. “And I do think he is the kind of person — Republican Party, Democratic Party, mugwumps — who should be running [for public office] and, on a personal basis, I admire him tremendously."
To watch the full interview with Dan Rather, click on the video link above. This article has been updated with more details.