The New York Post's largest front-page headline yesterday said "Rather Bushwhacks Veep." For many campaign veterans, however, the view of Dan Rather's vocal interview with Vice President Bush was exactly the reverse.

Bush won, at least in the short term, by attacking television's most controversial anchorman, according to several analysts from both political parties. Rather lost by appearing rude and disrespectful, according to several colleagues in the news media.

Late yesterday, the questions became: How did Rather allow himself to be used as a candidate's foil, as a media decoy replacing the Iran-contra issue with a battle between a network anchor and a politician? Why did Rather lose his cool?

"This year, the behavior of the press has cost us a lot of respect," said Christine Dolan, political director of Cable News Network. Rather's behavior "just confirmed what a lot of people felt about us. I was outraged as a colleague."

Former CBS News president Richard Salant said he "was in despair. It's terribly bad for all of us in our line of business. It just fed all {the} nasty things they say because it got so out of hand. In the public perception, it hurt Dan and CBS News much more than it hurt Bush."

CBS News, its affiliates and Bush's campaign offices reported being swamped by callers expressing outrage at Rather's heated questioning, particularly his cutting off Bush abruptly after the nine-minute encounter.

On the "CBS Evening News" last night, Rather told viewers that such interviews are sometimes uncomfortable and that such endings are sometimes more abrupt than they should be. "Last night was one of those times," he said.

Media and political analysts said yesterday that "the ghost of the Rather-Bush interview {is} hanging over this campaign," as one put it.

A more aggressive news media should expect to find itself facing increasingly aggressive politicians, they said. Part of that will involve challenging reporters face to face, they said.

"One thing their pollsters tell them is that the only group in America more hated than politicians are the press, and a great symbol of that group would be Dan Rather," a CBS reporter said.

James P. Gannon, editor of The Des Moines Register, said he thinks that "the candidates have realized there's a lot of mileage to be had in turning the tables on the press. So many people think the press is too intrusive, too abrasive, too disrespectful. Certainly in Republican circles that's good politics."

Gannon, moderator for a candidate debate in Iowa Jan. 8, drew fire from Bush when he asked about Bush's role in the Iran-contra affair. Bush angrily demanded explanation for a Register report that day detailing the arms-for-hostages deal.

"I sympathized with Dan Rather because I kind of felt I knew how he felt," Gannon said. "On the other hand, I thought Rather bcame too argumentative and seemed to lose the kind of dispassionate stance a news person has to maintain."

Gary Hart, subject of a Miami Herald stakeout and subsequent report that ultimately led him to quit the Democratic race for seven months, has promised to make the news media a key campaign issue.

Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) has added Wall Street Journal editorial writers, who criticized him, to his list of political foes.

"Using the news media as a foil is excellent because people think of the news media as manipulative and arrogant," Democratic media consultant David Sawyer said.

As a result of the Rather-Bush exchange, according to several candidates' press secretaries, their candidates will begin demanding live interviews on network news shows, instead of taped interviews that can be edited by the television news staff.

"Everybody has always asked to go on live and unedited, but the reason you don't agree to it is that the network loses control of the story," Salant said. "It's just like giving a blank page in the newspaper to somebody and telling them to write the story their way."