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It's been the big mystery for a few months now: Why is Katie Couric tanking with the "Evening News" when she owned the world in the mornings?

Dan Rather, who got bounced from the job for botching the story about Bush's military service, has weighed in on Katie, saying that it's always tough to switch networks, and worse, the Katie team tried to transplant "Today" show thinking from NBC to CBS and its flagship "Evening News."

Rather put it this way, describing what the Katie people are doing to the "CBS Evening News." He said they are "dumbing it down, tarting it up, going to celebrity coverage rather than war coverage."

Ouch. Was Dan being as mean as that sounds?

Les Moonves, president of CBS, seems to think he was. He said what Rather said about Katie was sexist and the description of what is happening to the "CBS Evening News" was a "cheap shot."

So who's right? Has the Katie team been dumbing it down and tarting it up? What is usually meant by that is covering stuff that some stuffed shirts don't think actually warrants coverage. That's the dumbing down part. Paris Hilton going to jail and everything that followed, Rosie O'Donnell spouting weird stuff on network TV, Alec Baldwin chewing out his daughter, all that falls into the dumbing down category as far as Rather is concerned.

Tarting it up usually refers to putting pretty people on the air. If you have a choice of a blond 35-year-old female former federal prosecutor or a 65-year-old balding and paunchy male former federal prosecutor, which do you go for? If you chose the blonde you are tarting it up, in Rather's world.

And you wouldn't expect that, would you? After all, by that measure, 70-something-year-old gray and paunchy Rather is on the sidelines, and perky Katie is in his spot. No wonder he's mad.

Look, this is the death rattle of the pre-boomer generation, and the boomers are going to start making the same noises soon. People like to see younger people on television, and the older people have to get used to it.

When I was part of a youth movement 30 years ago, lots of older people didn't like it. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, I think it would be wrong to complain.

Youth must be served, Dan. You show your age when you call it tarting it up or dumbing it down.

That's My Word.

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