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RIP, Walter Cronkite: “Most Trusted Man in America” In an Era That Should Not be Missed

July 19, 2009

I’m not one to waltz on a mans’ grave–and I’m earnestly going to try to avoid doing it this time–but the passing of the “Most Trusted Man in America” is an event that should make approximately no one nostalgic.

Walter Cronkite was a revolutionary force in television news.  The avuncular Cronkite was widely trusted by average Americans who were genuinely unaware that Cronkite was a blind ideologue who was dressing up ostensibly objective news coverage with smears, half-truths, and outright lies.  People did indeed trust Cronkite, this being before the widespread availability of the internet or talk radio, and Cronkite abused the good faith of the American public in order to feed them a nightly diet of liberal tripe.

Ronald Reagan once remarked to President Nixon that under WWII conditions, Cronkite’s Vietnam War broadcasts would have earned CBS a treason charge.  Cronkite’s broadcasts in the aftermath of the Tet Offensive did more to damage American morale and support for the war than anything the North Vietnamese or Viet Cong were capable of.  American and South Vietnamese forces inflicted enemy forces with staggering losses; to listen to Cronkite’s broadcasts, you’d have thought it was the other way around.  Cronkite remarked that American forces were “mired in a stalement”; in reality, America had crushed enemy forces and were considering a massive increase in troop strength.  Then, as liberal politicians are wont to do, President Johnson misread Cronkite’s treasonous broadcasts as a signal that the administration had lost “middle America”–which wouldn’t have been quite true, until Johnson clammed up and let Cronkite’s sleazy lies stand.

Contrary to popular internet rumors that floated around heavily in 2004, N.V. General Giap never credited Cronkite with the North Vietnamese victory in the war.  Indeed, to blame Cronkite, or even the adversary press as a whole for our withdrawal from Vietnam wouldn’t be accurate, and I’m not doing that here.  But there is no doubt that his broadcasts were pivotal in shaping and abetting anti-war sentiment.  Hot Air’s Doctor Zero points out (far better than I could, I might add):

Walter Cronkite was not an active agent of the North Vietnamese, in the sense Jane Fonda was. He spend the rest of his life steadfastly insisting his editorial judgment on Vietnam represented his honest and heartfelt opinion. When measuring an event of such enormous importance, it hardly matters what his deeply felt personal reasons were. What he did not do was simply and clearly report on the outcome of the Tet offensive, and allow his viewers to decide what they made of it. The Communists came to understand the value of their propaganda victory, with General Giap later saying “The most important result of the Ted offensive was it made you de-escalate the bombing, and it brought you to the negotiation table. It was, therefore, a victory… The war was fought on many fronts. At that time the most important one was American public opinion.”

And John Podheretz sums up Cronkite’s approach to journalism in the Vietnam era thus:

Cronkite didn’t know what he was talking about when it came to Tet, as the late Peter Braestrup demonstrated in his colossal expose of the scandalous media coverage of the battle, Big Story. But he knew that among the people who mattered to him, and who were the leading edge of ideological fashion, Tet was a failure because the war in Vietnam was bad, and he took to the airwaves to say so.

A more succinct summation of liberals’ approach to objectivity and truth can rarely be found: we feel it, therefore it is. But I digress.

Let’s not forget, over the next few days, what our withdrawal from Vietnam meant.  Let’s not forget that it was followed by the slaughter of two million people in the killing fields of Khmer Rouge Cambodia.  I hope Walter Cronkite rests in peace, but we shouldn’t recall his brand of “journalism” with anything approaching fondness.

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