It's a sad fact of American life that crime pays — it really does.
Lets look at two people who took a big fall: one went to jail and one did not.
First, Martha Stewart (search) — she gets out of jail at the end of the week. Newsweek has her on the cover. Prison has been very good to her. She's lost weight. She looks better. Her company is doing fabulous. She's making more money than ever, and she's going to have a TV show that will catapult her into the heights of media stardom just like Donald Trump (search).
Then there is Dan Rather (search). He leaves CBS next week. But since there's no jail time for him, he has had no chance for a therapeutic rehab. He's just wandering down 57th Street somewhere, and before he's even really out the door his old colleagues — emphasize old — like Walter Cronkite (search) and Mike Wallace (search), are ripping him up.
Wallace said Rather is a great reporter but, "uptight and occasionally contrived." Ouch.
Then Cronkite — in a New Yorker magazine piece out this week — said that to viewers Rather seemed, "to be playing the role of a newsman." Ouch again.
Now there's no question that Rather committed something of a news business crime. He got caught seeming to be too anxious to slime President Bush at a crucial moment in a re-election campaign with what turned out to be phony documents on a phony story about Bush's military record.
But sadly for Dan there was no jail time involved. His crime was one of those which is punished by being fired, or replaced, or retired, but not actually sent off to the clink.
He can only look longingly at Martha. She was disgraced by an agonizing trial and took it out on the Bon-Bon shop. She ballooned up like a zeppelin — had a haggard look on her face — and the jury convicted her.
But voila — a few short months in stony lonesome and she's back — slimmed down, rested, revitalized and hotter than ever.
As old Dan leaves the anchor chair, the redemption of Martha is enough to make him wish for some jail time.
That's My Word.
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