- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 1, 2006

The way it is

In one of the lengthiest farewells-that-wasn’t in television history, a teary-eyed Katie Couric departed NBC’s “Today” show yesterday, only to begin anchoring the evening newscast on CBS.

The one remaining question: Will she sit or stand?

James Lileks, a contributing writer for the American Enterprise magazine of politics and culture, acknowledges that Miss Couric brings a new excitement to the world of evening anchoring, however — and it’s a big however — “for many, the evening news is an ossified relic of the dim misty days before the information age.”

Sure, baby boomer TV executives have “tried to shake up the formula — co-anchors, anchors who stand, anchors who stalk off the set, everything but anchors lowered from above on invisible wires.” (Actually, Miss Couric did once fly onto the set dressed as Peter Pan.)

But the alarming truth is that today’s “Internet generation,” as Mr. Lileks refers to it, “gets its news from Jon Stewart, and its editorials from South Park.”

So what about Miss Couric?

“She’s like a nice friend of mom’s,” he writes. “The kids will be polite if they see her on the way out of the house. But sit down for a half-hour and chat? Sorry, gotta run. And that’s the way it is.”

Cold Warriors

That was retired wartime pilot and author Charles O. “CharlieDavis sipping a Singha beer at a sidewalk table outside Thai Old Town in Alexandria on Tuesday evening.

He explained that he was awaiting the arrival of some of his fellow “old Cold Warriors,” as he called them. And one can only imagine the memories, covert and otherwise, they would have shared around the table.

Mr. Davis, author of “Across the Mekong: The True Story of an Air America Helicopter Pilot,” is host of a reunion this week of the little-known but certainly heroic group of airmen. Air America was the CIA’s clandestine airline, operating in many parts of Asia from the close of World War II until the Vietnam pullout in 1975.

“We have a common thread that holds us together,” Mr. Davis told Inside the Beltway. “We were young and thought we were indestructible. I was in my 20s and fresh out of flying helicopters for the Marine Corps when I joined Air America in 1965. It was by far the most exciting time in my life.”

And obviously the most dangerous?

“I look back at those years with amazement that so many of us survived,” he said. “I flew an old single-engine helicopter over the rugged mountains of Laos, with very few navigational aids, in marginal weather, and people occasionally shooting at me. I was at that stage in life where I needed to prove to myself that I could overcome the fears and uncertainties of combat.”

Or overcome it enough, Mr. Davis added, to accomplish the mission, whether it was transporting troops and supplies or rescuing downed pilots.

“It was a very exhilarating time for me — something that cannot be repeated,” he said.

More than 300 Cold Warriors and their family members are expected for the reunion.

Return of Dixie

Just when it appeared that Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery were behind us for another year, we opened an invitation to the Confederate Memorial Day services at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Confederate Monument.

Conducted every year by the Confederate Memorial Committee of the District of Columbia, the well-attended ceremony is held the first Sunday in June close to Jefferson Davis‘ birthday, celebrated June 3.

By our math, this year commemorates the 198th birth anniversary of the Confederacy’s only president, as well as the 199th anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s birth. Arlington National Cemetery is carved out of land once owned by Lee, and organizers think it appropriate that more than 450 Confederate soldiers should be buried in Jackson Circle on Lee’s former estate.

The speaker this Sunday is Virginia Tech professor William C. Davis, a biographer of the Confederate president (no relation) and director of programs at the school’s Virginia Center for Civil War Studies. His topic: “A Professor Grades the President.”

Spectators this year will be serenaded throughout the ceremony by a period band, pipe and drum corps, cannon crew and five verses of “Dixie.”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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