Former CBS news anchor Dan Rather says he’s “concerned” that cable news hosts were quick to praise as "presidential" a missile strike against Syria authorized by President Donald Trump.
“The role of the press is to ask hard questions,” Rather said in a Facebook post. “Perhaps it was the right thing to do. Perhaps a strong and wise policy will emerge. But that judgement is still definitely hanging in the balance.”
"War must never be considered a public relations operation. It is not a way for an Administration to gain a narrative," Rather continued. "It is a step into a dangerous unknown and its full impact is impossible to predict, especially in the immediate wake of the first strike."
Rather, who left CBS in 2006 after a disputed news report involving President George W. Bush's Vietnam-era service in the National Guard, posted his comment after several prominent cable news journalists appeared to celebrate the president's decision to authorize a missile strike on a Syrian air base following a chemical weapons attack on civilians earlier in the week.
Just weeks after saying Trump has "spent his whole life bulls———," CNN host Fareed Zakaria lauded the president’s “big moment” on Thursday night as a milestone for his brief presidency.
“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night,” Zakaria said on CNN’s New Day Friday morning. “For the first time really as president, he talked about international norms, international rules, about America’s role in enforcing justice in the world.”
— New Day (@NewDay) April 7, 2017
Zakaria was far from alone in appearing to quickly frame the airstrikes as a political victory for Trump. On Fox News, Jeanine Pirro didn’t hold back in her praise of the president’s actions.
“He took swift decisive action,” Pirro said Friday on Fox & Friends. “We finally have a man who knows the difference between right and wrong and good and evil and it makes us proud. Finally.”
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius praised Trump for launching a military strike that he said restored the “credibility” of America’s power.
"In terms of the credibility of American power, I think most traditional Washington commentators would say he’s put more oomph, more credibility back into it,” Ignatius said on Morning Joe.
One CNN analyst compared the airstrikes in Syria to college basketball.
“This is not like Kentucky basketball one-and-done,” retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James Marks told Anderson Cooper, referring to the school’s habit of recruiting players that only last a year in college before heading to the NBA. “This is the start of a series of operations.”
— Collin K (@CKhoops3) April 7, 2017
In possibly the most bizarre moment on cable news following the missile strike, Brian Williams was so in awe of footage of U.S. Naval ships in the eastern Mediterranean Sea launching missiles at Syria in the dark that the MSNBC anchor nearly broke into song.
“I am guided by the beauty of our weapons,” Williams said on Thursday, quoting late singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen’s 1988 song “First We Take Manhattan.”
“And they are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is, for them, a brief flight over this airfield,” Williams continued before asking a guest, “What did they hit?”
Rather wasn't the only media pundit upset about the glowing reactions to Trump's airstrike. Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote that “after the strikes, praise flowed like wedding champagne — especially on cable news.”
Sullivan's colleague, digital opinions editor James Downie, agreed with her assessment about the tone of much of the coverage.
"This does not mean media coverage should become as negative in the future as it is boosterish now," Downie wrote. "But it should be considerably more skeptical."