The American left can be happy that Ted Kavanau is enjoying retirement from the television news business. Ted is rabid. Obviously Ted is not rabidly left. Neither is he rabidly right. Ted Kavanau is rabidly fair.
Ted put CNN on the air for Ted Turner at the very outset. There's one page in Ted's scrapbook I'd love to rip out and claim for my own. Not once, but three times TV news operations in countries that had been dictatorships and were now freshly-freed begged Kavanau to come over and show them how TV news works in a democracy.
America would be better off if TV news were done here the way Ted taught them how to do it in Ukraine, Armenia, and Georgia; the one whose capital is Tiflis and not Atlanta.
Ted is likewise rabidly principled. We started a Language Club in New York in the mid-1980s. Ted was studying Russian. He was running a major TV news operation at the time and asked if he might drop in to the restaurant where we met over dinner and practice some Russian. Before he left he asked how much he owed us. I told him he was the guest of the Language Club.
Don't pull that kind of stuff with Ted Kavanau. You know the mix: TV news producer who wields powerful cameras, a club that always hungers for a little publicity, no charge for dinner! Conventional, with the rest of the world. Combustible, with Ted Kavanau. To avoid violence (He's a karate master!) I accepted his check for, I think, ten dollars. I never cashed it and so far he hasn't threatened me, so I think I succeeded in putting one over on him.
Another time Ted uprooted himself from his New York-area home to take a job with a TV station in San Diego. He was back in New York within an unseemly short period of time. Why? Well, the station owner expected Ted to go along with giving sponsors a little extra red meat disguised as "programming." We all know everybody's doing it, but that everybody doesn't include Kavanau.
You'd have an easier time getting all the ACLU board members to show up in work clothes personally to tear down the wall separating church and state.
Ted came up with what I consider a great idea. When he told me about it I suddenly remembered being asked what answer to what question I recalled most clearly after all the thousands of guests I'd interviewed on radio since 1960. The honest answer seems shamefully unimportant. I once asked a famous tennis player how he and his fellow champions always seem to know where the next ball is headed at them across the net even before it's hit. He was polite, but I could tell he thought it was a stupid question.
"You look at your opponent's racket," he explained, "and that tells you exactly where the ball is headed."
Ted's idea elevated that question and answer from "shamefully unimportant" all the way up to a matter vital to America's security.
We who care about the country and follow every jot and tittle of the election campaigns wonder, "Gee, if Hillary or Obama win, will they do things that jeopardize national security." Ted, in effect, points out we don't have to wait and see. One glance at their "racket" is enough to give you a resounding "yes" to that all-important question.
Perception is big, real big, in politics. Ted teaches us that, whatever either Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama might intend to do after inauguration is meaningless.
They could both be harboring grand plans to strengthen the military, enlarge the military, increase funding for the military, whatever. They could both be new Billy Mitchell's or Charles de Gaulles with innovative concepts to make America's military better than ever before; sorry! Too late. The American public's perception of the way their "racket" is tilted would deal the military a catastrophic blow.
Would jugglers rush to join the circus if the new owners were widely and deeply perceived as anti-juggling? If either Democrat is elected enlistments would likely dry up, re-enlistments would do the same and early retirement would savage the best of the officer corps.
The value of Ted's insight in clear. Before Ted, I would have thought in the wake of a Democratic win in November, "Let's wait and see what early moves he/she makes regarding the military." Post-Ted I realize, "Why wait? The racket is slanted against the military and those in or considering a career in the military understand that instinctively.
So, it may sound and seem rabid, like an election-year cheap shot, but here's the conclusion: A vote for the Democrats this year is a vote against the military.
Ted Kavanau is also rabidly one step ahead.
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