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Walter Cronkite-The Most Misunderstood Man in America

July 20, 2009

Undoubtedly the recent death of celebrated newsman Walter Cronkite will be heavily documented by CBS and even the other "mainstream" networks with glowing tributes about what a brilliant, objective and far-sighted media figure he was. After all, to them Cronkite was the "gold standard" by which all television journalists should be measured. And it's no small irony that in the week of his death, the American public showed the same schizophrenia about soon-to-be Justice Sotomayor that they did in 1972 when they rated Cronkite the "most trusted man in America" while at the same time returning the man that was singularly responsible for bringing Cronkite's and others' liberal media bias out of the closet, Richard Nixon, to the White House in a landslide victory.

You had to be there-as I was-in the '60s and '70s to see the visceral hatred the media left had for Nixon and how that was used to justify their biased reporting (by the way, doesn't that sound familiar when we look on the last eight years before the media were star-struck with their hero Obama?). And how, in turn, the media learned with such facility to deny said bias with straight faces. To them, Nixon was so venal that any unfavorable reporting on him, no matter how factually challenged, was fully justified. The only real difference between Cronkite and today's MSNBC in-the-tank Obama hacks is that Cronkite was far more erudite, sophisticated, and subtle about delivering his biased views. Yet as he reported on the 1972 presidential campaign his thinly-veiled contempt for Nixon was there for anyone who cared to see it. However, the public picks its spots to really tune in and pay attention. So Cronkite's stealth campaign, along with an admittedly weak Democrat candidate, did not prevent Nixon's reelection. But Cronkite undoubtedly viewed this setback as only a bump in the road when the looming Watergate crisis gave the media what they always wanted-a story they could blow up far out of its true proportion in order to destroy their enemy, Nixon. After all, Cronkite was the first major television newsman to come out against the Vietnam War-another evil that justified biased reporting according to the media-and that should have tipped off the public on how objective this guy really was.

If people are not convinced of Cronkite's left-of-center (to put it charitably) views, all one needs to do is look at his activities in retirement and the ideas that excited him-ideas such as a one-world government for example. Sorry, but anyone who supports this nonsense is not pro-American in my book. Cronkite praised candidate John Kerry and probably would have taken a more active role in supporting Obama but for his recent ill health.

What Cronkite bequeathed to us, more than anything, is ambivalence among the public as well as the media about how the news should be reported. For example, after Vietnam was it ever acceptable not to question America's military actions, no matter how self-evidently justified they may be? On a broader scale, was it ever acceptable to report anything good about America without splashing the cold water of excessive doubt and skepticism on her motives?

And this skepticism has bled into the incessant polling data that tell us less and less as the pollsters grasp for more and more. The polls on Sotomayor this week sum up the national schizophrenia about politics as well as anything could. Well over 80 percent of the public believe that Sotomayor will be confirmed despite whatever has happened during her Congressional hearings. At the same time, a clear majority view her unfavorably. The real question that wasn't asked was, "Do you believe that she should be confirmed?" Unfortunately, there may have been just as inconclusive of a result. What this tells me is that the liberal template is something to which the public may be resigned, whether they agree with it or not.

There is no question that Walter Cronkite was very good at what he did and that he covered numerous momentous events in recent American history with a memorable style that endeared him to many Americans. But competence in reporting an assassination or a moon landing should not be confused with excellence in reporting the truth in as unbiased a manner as possible. By holding up Cronkite as "trusted" and "objective" over the many years since he hung up his microphone, the mainstream media have in fact used the template Cronkite provided to continue down the road of unabashed, unconfessed liberal bias that is now more in-your-face-and at the same time more emphatically denied-than ever. This is the true Cronkite legacy.

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