Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite Shuffles Off Stage

As most of you know, Walter Cronkite died late Friday after I put the site to bed.

I planned to say a few things about this, but John Podhoretz beat me to it and likely did a far better job:
Cronkite was a key figure in many ways, but foremost among them, perhaps, was the fact that he cleared the way for the mainstream media and the Establishment to join what Lionel Trilling called “the adversary culture.” Cronkite, the gravelly voice of accepted American wisdom, whose comportment suggested he kept his money in bonds and would never even have considered exceeding the speed limit, devastated President Lyndon Johnson in the wake of the 1968 Tet Offensive by declaring that the United States “was mired in stalemate” in Vietnam—when Johnson knew that Tet had been a military triumph.

This on-air editorial, spoken during the most-watched newscast in the country when that meant 30 million people were watching (as opposed to 7 million today, with the nation having added more than 100 million in population), was a transformational moment in American history.

“If I’ve lost Cronkite,” Johnson was reputed to have said, “I’ve lost middle America,” and shortly thereafter he announced he would not run for reelection. This was a mark of Johnson’s own poor political instincts—a president who thought a rich and powerful anchorman living the high life in New York city was the voice of the silent majority was a man out of touch with reality—but it was a leading indicator of how the media were changing. 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.

The reality of course was that Tet was a huge military defeat for the communists, who for the first time actually committed to an offensive against American firepower.The casualties and loss of material the Viet Cong and the NVA suffered took them months to recover from, and as General Giap, the NVA commander himself admitted in his memoirs, had the US pressed an offensive at that point North Vietnam would have had grave difficulties stopping them. The year 1968 would likely have seen a ceasefire on our terms, the saving of thousands of lives and an American victory.

What turned it into a victory for our enemies was the North Vietnamese appreciation of what was going on in America. As General Giap admitted to CBS reporter Morley Safer in a 1989 interview,, "The war was fought on many fronts. At that time the most important one was American public opinion."

The North Vietnamese monitored our media and realized that it would transform a catastrophic defeat into a victory. And the point man who helped hand them that victory? None other than Uncle Walter.Although at least he had the basic honesty to label what he was did as opinion, a distinction a lot of today's talking heads wouldn't bother with.

Cronkite, of course remained unrepentant about his disinformation on Tet, and indeed went public with exactly the same sentiments war inIraq while our troops were under fire.

As Podhoretz correctly points out in his piece, Cronkite's little spiel only worked because there was no blogosphere and no new media to challenge him. Today, he might have ended up like Dan Rather.

Because Cronkite's 'analysis' was horribly wrong - dead wrong, in fact for a lot of people. And his words that night marked the beginning of the gradual abandonment of any semblance of journalistic ethics and the accompanying loss of credibility by his descendants in today's dinosaur media.

Needless to say, those descendants and their soul mates on the Left will fall all over themselves lionizing Cronkite. That's appropriate, since he was one of them. But the legacy he left behind is hardly one most Americans should celebrate.

Sorry, but as Cronkite himself might have said, that's the way it is.


B.Poster said...

Do you think had we have won Vietnam that we might have been able to win the Cold War sooner?

Had we had beaten the North Vietnemses might the Russians have gotten more directly involved to prop up their allies?

A direct conflict with Russia might have been especially devestating for America. Throughout most of the Cold War Russia/The Soviet Union had the most powerful military on earth. The only thing keeping the peace for the American side was the nuclear arsenal. Ronald Regaen and his allies essentially beat the Soviet Union by out smarting them. It would have not been possible for America to over power them.

The questions above probably cannot be answered becuase history happened the way it did. Nevertheless I would be interested to get your thoughts on this.

louielouie said...

cronkite was the beginning of the end of journalism in the US.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi Poster,
No one can say for sure, but here are a few facts to chew on.

Everytime we forcefully confronted the Russians during the Cold War, they backed off - the Berkin Airlift, Turkey and Greece, their threat to directly intervene in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Iran...the list goes on.The Russians knew then ( as now) that a direct confrontation with the US would end in defeat.

One more have a highly distorted view of the capabilities of the Soviet military, IMO.And that applies to Russia too. Take a look at how many casualties they suffered in Chechnya and Georgia fighting against forces that were numerically inferior.

What defeated the Evil Empire was not only Reagan, Thatcher and the Pope outsmarting them but the long put off collapse of the Soviet economy. Had we not sold them grain and basic raw materials during the Cold War, it would have happened a lot sooner.

There are legitimate questions over whether we should have gotten involved in Vietnam, but once we were in we should have had Congress formally declare war and won the thing as soon as possible.

Goldwater in 1964 proposed exactly the course of action that Nixon used to eventually end the war on our terms, and if not for media pimps like Cronkite pushing Watergate and helping elect a far left democrat congress that repudiated our pledged word to provide military aid to Vietnam and dCambodia during Foird's term, that peace would have held and millions of innocent people would have been saved from death and commmunist slavery.

B.Poster said...

Freedom Fighter,

Thanks for the reply to my post. Perhaps I'm over estimating Russian/Soviet capabilties. The chief concern is the nuclear arsenal. It is highly advanced and has been upgraded in recent years. The US has not upgraded its nuclear arsenal in quite a while and according to some reports it is falling into disrepair.

Frankly, during the Cold War I'm not sure either side really wanted direct conflict. Noe I'm not so sure. Putin seems to be crazy. In other words, this a crazy man armed with what may be the most advanced nuclear arsenal on earth who has declared America as his country's number one enemy.

I suppose we felt like we had to sell Russia grain and raw materials. Had we not done so we probably felt they would turn their formidable nuclear arsenal on us as well as numerous proxies they had.

As for Checnya and Georgia, the Russians achieved decisive victories in both conflicts. In Georgia, this appears to have happened very quickly. In Chechnya it took some time. In contrast, the US has not had a decisive victory in quite some time. Iraq has largely been fought to a draw or perhaps even to a victory over Al Qaeda, however, what happens after we withdraw. As for Afghanistan, there seems to be no victory in sight. Perhaps, if we can continue fighting, we may yet prevail.

While I hope and pray the Soviet Union never comes back, given our current policies and those of the free world, it seems inevitable right now. While the new entity might not be called the Soviet Union, it will be the de facto Soviet Union. Russia has all but recaptured Georgia and is close to recapturing Ukraine. Also, Russia through its allies in South and Central America such as Venezuela has become the dominant force in that region.

Hopefully I'm wrong but I just don't see the United States being able to counter Russia or China right now. With its massive debt, its worn down military, and its struggling economy it lacks the capability right now. Even if had the capability, the jokes it has for leaders aren't up to the challenge. Hopefully someone else will be able to rise to the challenge.

Again, I hope you are right.

Freedom Fighter said...

A question, Poster:

Putin seems to be crazy. In other words, this a crazy man armed with what may be the most advanced nuclear arsenal on earth who has declared America as his country's number one enemy.

I don't recall Putin ever saying that.

B.Poster said...

Freedom Fighter,

This is from the Russian media. Putin essentially controls the Russian press. Those who oppose him have a way of ending up dead. I'm assuming if the Russian press demonizes America as its main enemy that this must reflect the wishes of the man who controls the Russian press, which is Vladimir Putin.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi Poster,
I'd be interested in any links if you have them. I follow TASS, Kommstat and Pravda fairly closely ( the Russian one, not Pravda-on-the- Hudson)and don't recall seeing any mention of America as Russia's main enemy.

B.Poster said...

Much of the material comes from In particular, the weekly articles by the owner of the site, Jeffrey Nyuist discuss this in detail. A great deal of his material seems to come from Russian defectors. Admitedly information from defectors may not be the most reliable of sources. Also, from observing Russian foreign policy, it seems confgured in such a way as to cause maximum pain to America and it seems designed to undermine American interests at every turn. This leads me to the conclusion that Russia does in fact view America as its number one enemy.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi Poster,
Thanks for the reply.

I'm not trying to be difficult, but I hope you can see why a few disgruntled people giving anecdotal unsourced evidence to a blogger is way different than saying:

"Putin seems to be crazy. In other words, this a crazy man armed with what may be the most advanced nuclear arsenal on earth who has declared America as his country's number one enemy."

What's going on with Russia IMO is that they are and have always been an imperialist country ( and an insecure one). This is a prodict of their history and their geography.

Losing the Soviet Empire was a severe blow to their prestige and they are not exactly friends of America because they see us as impeding them, but they are also not interested in provoking a war they could never hope to win.Among other things, it would devastate theior economy. Confront them with strength and allow for their input on items of mutual concern and things would change dramatically.

Russia has far more serious problems than the US close at hand, and they know it.

B.Poster said...


Thanks for the reply to my posts.

"Confront them with strength and allow for their input on items of mutual concern and things would change dramatically." At least we got the last part of that right. We are allowing their input on items of mutual concern. Unfortunately they are not being confronted with strength.

A war with Russia would devestate an already hurting American economy as well. This works both ways.

Given Russia's nuclear arsenal, this would negate any edge the United States might have in conventional weapons. Also, their intellegence penetration into the United States also seems to be better than America's penetration into Russian affairs. Russia has also upgraded both its conventional and nuclear forces in recent years. The United States has not and its forces are worn down from continuing operations in the "War on Terror." If the United States has an edge over Russia, it has probably lessened over the last few years.

"Russia has far more serious problems than the US close at hand and they know it." Russia's biggest problems seem to be an ageing population that is not reproducing and a lack of economic diversification. Their economy is based primarily on oil and weapons sales.

Putin and company appear to be attempting to solve the problem of lack of reproduction by offering large tax incentives to people who have children. This appears to be a good start. As long as revenue comes in from oil sales and weapons sales, they should be able to implement this. The current decline in oil prices is likely only temporary. As the world economy recovers, demand will go up for this precious commodity and this will in turn drive up the price. As for weapons sales, these are going to go on for the foreseeable future as well.

America's problems are a massive national debt, a worn down military, a struggling economy, and a hollowed out manufacturing base. With regards to the debt even if we stopped adding to that now it would still weigh heavily on us for many, many years. Also, it hampers our ability to make the neccessary upgrades to our military that are needed to remain competitive with the major world powers and it hampers our ability to make the necessary investments in infrastructre and the manufacturing base. As such, America's problems look to be more serious than what Russia faces right now.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi Poster,
Russia's economy is much more vulnerable than ours. Aside from the diversification factor you mention, their productivity per worker is far lower, they still lack year round ice-free ports in proximity to European Russia, and the sheer transportaion problems add an enormous cost to their internal commerce. Remember, their river systems don't flow north to south like ours, but south to north to the sparsely inhabited areas of Russia.They also have an infrastructure problem inherited from the Soviets that makes ours look small by comparison.

Another problem Russia has is a brain drain of its best and brightest, who are coming to Israel, the EU and America. And lastly, the biggest problem Russia has is th ethreat of Islamization from without and within.

Russia's birthrate is indeed plummeting...except in the parts of Russia that are predominantly Islamic. The Islamification of Russia is an established fact.

Russia's overall population is dropping at a rate of 700,000 people a year, mostly because of the short life expectancy - 66.6 years - and low birth rates of ethnic Russians. Abortion is widespread - I've seen estimates that state that up to 70% of pregnancies in non-Muslim Russia are terminated by abortions.

On the other hand, since 1989, Russia's Muslim population has increased by 40 per cent to about 25 million. By 2015, Muslims could make up the majority of Russia's army and they could account for 20% of the population by 2020.

Putin has attempted to counteract this by passing legislation limiting the amount of mosques that can be constructed and encouraging birth rates among ethnic Russians, and his agreement with Iran was partially designed to cut off the flow of arms and fighters to insurgent Chechnya. It remains to be seen how successful his efforts to curb Islam will be.

And we haven't even discussed China, which has historical grievences against Russia.

As for military forces, I can't imagine where you keep getting the idea our military is 'worn down.'
In fact, in terms of morale, equipment and logistics it's the best in the world. And when it comes to nukes, once you have the ability to destroy the world several times over with the push of a button as we have, even an idiot like our current president would have difficulty blowing it.

Russia is a developing nation desperatly trying to survive. The last thing they would want is a war with America.


B.Poster said...

Actually I think it would be quite easy to mess it up. All one has to do is: 1.)not upgrade the nuclear arsenal and allow the weapons we have to deteroiate, 2.)agree to make drastic cuts to the current arsenal, 3.)take the weapons we have off of "hair trigger alert." and 4.)drasticlly reduce the number of delivery vehicles for the weapons.

This is exactly what has been done or is being proposed. Meanwhile the Russians are busily upgrading their arsenal. The kinds of boneheaded policies mentioned above leave us vunerable to a first strike by the Russians from which we may be unable to respond to.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi Poster,
Google 'second strike capacity' or 'doomsday option.'


B.Poster said...

I will. Thanks for the information. It's always a pleasure discussing these issues with you.:)