Earlier this week, Dan Rather conducted an exclusive interview with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Since then, critics from Don Imus to the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz to the Media Research Center's Brent Bozell to The Nation's Bruce Shapiro have weighed about whether, on this occasion, Rather was a bare-knuckled, hard-hitting, truth-seeking reporter — or a drooling lap puppy.
But you folks at home don't need to rely on "experts" to discover the answer. You can judge for yourself how well Mr. Rather performed, the same way good editors do when evaluating interviews by cub reporters. Below are all of Rather's questions, every single word he said during the interview (taken from the CBS News transcript). Mr. Saddam's responses, however, have been deleted. We reprint; you decide.
Rather: I want to ask questions in two categories, please. Category one would be those questions that I think many, if not most, of Americans would like to have answered about the news of right now. And in category two, more philosophical questions.
Rather: Mr. President, do you intend to destroy the Al-Samoud missiles that the United Nations prohibits? Will you destroy those missiles?
Rather: I want to make sure that I understand, Mr. President. So, you do not intend to destroy these missiles?
Rather: Mr. President, I do appreciate your agreeing to spend an hour, because I want to ask questions in two categories, please.
Rather: So, you do not intend to destroy these missiles?
Rather: B —
Rather: Yes, please.
Rather: What do you consider to be the core issues? You said that I had started - and indeed, I started with the news of the day. But what do you consider to be the core issue, the basic issue?
Rather: Mr. President, do you expect to be attacked by an American-led invasion?
Rather: Are you afraid of being killed or captured?
Rather: Mr. President, I have all night. (LAUGHTER)
Rather: Yes, no, the translation is excellent. It's superb.
Rather: I understand. Mr. President, Americans are very much concerned about anyone's connections to Osama bin Laden. Do you have, have you had, any connections to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden?
Rather: Mr. President, I believe I can report accurately that it's a major concern in the minds of the people in the United States.
Rather: Do you or do you not agree, in principle, with the attack of 9/11?
Rather: Mr. President, have you been offered asylum anywhere? And would you, under any circumstances, consider going into exile to save your people death and destruction?
Rather: Again, I have plenty of time, Mr. President.
Rather: Mr. President, you're being very patient with your time, and I want you to know I consider this a solemn moment in history, and, if I may, take time to have you speak to the American people about questions that I know are on their minds. I just want you to know that I appreciate your patience here.
Rather: You mentioned, and 'and the Gulf War.' You fought the father, George Bush the first. He and the forces he led prevailed on the battlefield. Now you face the son who has an even greater, even more modern, even more lethal military force aimed directly at your (UNINTEL). Why would you think that you could prevail this time on the battlefield? Or do you?
Rather: I understand when he calls him Mr. Bush.
Rather: I understand now.
Rather: Cease fire.
Rather: Mr. President, Vice President Cheney, Vice President Richard Cheney of the United States says that if and when an American-led Army comes into Iraq, it will be greeted with music. It will be treated as a Army of liberation. If Americans are not to believe that, why should they not believe that?
Rather: I understand. Mr. President, if it's necessary for you to forgive me, I hope that you'll forgive me. But I have a couple of - sort of clean-up questions that I'm not clear about. Number one. Will the new proposed United Nations resolution, the one that's just out this week — will this make any difference at all in your position?
Rather: So basically, no change in your position.
Rather: And — and I wanted to ask again, so I'm perfectly clear — you do not intend to destroy your Al Samoud missiles. The missiles —
Rather: Yeah. Al Samoud missiles. You do not intend to destroy those.
Rather: I mean, the missiles that Hans Blix says that he wants a commitment from you that they will be destroyed.
Rather: Mr. President, I know you've been very patient with your time. Let me go through a short list of additional things. If — if there is an invasion, will you set fire to the oil fields? Will you blow the damns? Or your reservoirs of water, to resist the invasion?
Rather: Mr. President, I hope you will take this question in the spirit in which it's asked. First of all, I regret that I do not speak Arabic. Do you speak any — any English at all?
Rather: That's (UNINTEL) This American Life story.
Rather: Well, would you speak some English for me? Anything you choose?
Rather: I understand. Mr. President, again, you've been patient with your time. What is the most important thing you want the p - American people to understand? What's the most important thing you want the American people to understand, at this important juncture of history?
Rather: Are you speaking about a debate?
Rather: This - this is new. You — you are suggesting, you are saying, that you are willing,
you are suggesting, you're urging a debate with President Bush? On television?
Rather: Well, that's an interesting (UNINTEL).
Rather: This is not a joke.
Rather: Mr. President, where would this debate take place, that you imagine — what would be the venue?
Rather: Oh. So, a satellite television debate. Live.
Rather: Would you be prepared to come to the United Nations for this debate?
Rather: Well, this surprises me. I want to make sure I understand.
Rather: A live international debate via satellite —
Rather: How did this — who — who would moderate this debate?
Rather: With respect, Mr. President, I have (UNINTEL) other problems. I've got enough problems already. But I —
Rather: Well — first of all, I want to be serious that I — I appreciate — your confidence - Mr. President. I'm pausing because I'm tempted to ask a favor of the president. [Editor's note: Rather is referring to Saddam Hussein.] He has surprised me. I wonder for my good health if he could denounce me? (LAUGHTER)
Rather: (LAUGHTER) Well, I - I think this is -
Rather: I understand. (UNINTEL) I appreciate your remembering that we met in 1990. And I interviewed you in this great building. Given the sober moment and the danger at hand, what are the chances this is the last time you and I will see each other?
Rather: Mr. President, you say that knowing that (UNINTEL) on your brother is a tremendous armada ready to deliver destruction and awe.
Rather: I have one last question, Mr. President. Not so long ago, you were clearly hailed by Arabs from Palestinians to Jordanians throughout the Arab world as the great Arab Avenger. Are you still relevant on the Arab street? Or has Osama bin Laden made you what other Arabs irrelevant? If you can understand the question. Thank you.
Rather: (UNINTEL PHRASE) not agree that Osama bin Laden is now — (BREAK IN SOUND)
Rather: He does or does not agree that Osama bin Laden is now - the champion of the Arab streets?
(BREAK IN TAPE)
Rather: So he does or does not agree that Osama bin Laden is now — the champion of the Arab streets?
Rather: This is not true?
Rather: Is — did the answer finish?
Rather: Mr. President, you've been so patient with your time. I appreciate you (UNINTEL). And I'm gonna —
Rather: I would like very much to see you in the future, Mr. President.