Walter Cronkite and the national will

posted at 10:35 am on July 18, 2009 by Doctor Zero

Walter Cronkite’s death on Friday evening will doubtless fill the weekend news programs with career retrospectives and fond tributes. He was an extraordinarily accomplished newsman, and a transitional figure for the rise of television news. It is the nature of celebrities that their lives are celebrated when they pass on, so there’s nothing surprising about Cronkite receiving far more public honors than the world’s greatest baker, or neurosurgeon, could expect. There are also strong words of criticism to be spoken at Cronkite’s national funereal. He achieved much during his career, and many other print, broadcast, and Web outlets will spend the weekend recounting these achievements. His most unhealthy achievement was finding the limits of American will, ending an era of confidence that began with victory over the Axis in World War II. Some would say that confidence needed to be shattered. If you have a Ouija board, I can put you in touch with a couple of million dead Cambodians who might beg to differ.

For the conservative student of recent history, and of course for the surviving veterans of Vietnam, the nadir of Cronkite’s career was his reporting in the wake of the Tet Offensive. For the younger reader who might not be familiar with this event, the Tet Offensive was a massive, coordinated attack on all the major cities of South Vietnam, during the normally quiet Vietnamese New Year celebrations, in January and February of 1968. The U.S. Military had been making public statements of Communist weakness, so the large-scale attacks seriously undermined the military’s credibility with the American public. From a military standpoint, Tet was a disaster for the Communists, who were estimated to have suffered over 8000 casualties, severely damaging the Vietcong insurgency in South Vietnam. The operation produced no strategic gains for the North Vietnamese, who had to compensate for the decimation of the Vietcong by committing more regular army troops to subsequent combat operations. It was a huge propaganda victory, however, as Cronkite – a newsman with respect and influence far beyond any single figure in journalism today – declared the Vietnam War to be unwinnable. “We are mired in a stalemate that could only be ended by negotiation, not victory,” America’s Anchorman declared.

Cronkite’s editorial about the war represented a considerable departure from the previous journalistic ethic of reporting objective facts, and allowing the audience to make up their own minds about their meaning. It certainly wasn’t an ethic observed with unshakeable fidelity before him, but Cronkite’s stature made his reporting on Vietnam a significant moment in journalistic history. President Johnson famously declared, “if I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” The military found itself unable to sell its strategically correct assessment of Tet as a defeat for North Vietnam to the public. Consequently, their request for a troop surge, to finish the job in Vietnam, was denied by the President, who became despondent and largely stopped communicating with the media. In the wake of Cronkite’s declaration of inevitable defeat in Vietnam, public support for the war dropped fifteen to twenty points in public opinion polls… in a matter of months.

If any of this sounds familiar to you, it should. The congressional Democrats of 2006 remembered the Tet Offensive very well. You might have thought Harry Reid looked like an imbecile, desperately searching for a live al-Qaeda commander he could surrender to, and you might have considered the “General Betray Us” Moveon.org swill on the eve of the Iraq troop surge to be mindlessly stupid… but they were just trying to reproduce what Cronkite did for the North Vietnamese, the way a cargo cult hopes to bring gifts from the sky gods by building crude replicas of airports.

Cronkite’s reporting on the Tet Offensive was a signature moment in the evolution of asymmetrical warfare. The Vietcong resembled modern terrorists in many ways – they even had suicide bombers. North Vietnam realized, by the spring of 1968, that they could never defeat the American military in battle. The NVA field commander, General Giap, was said to be despondent over the failure of the Tet offensive, and felt his situation was likely to deteriorate even further. Then, as now, American soldiers were proving highly adaptable, and were developing increasing skill at countering enemy tactics, along with a naturally improved knowledge of Vietnamese terrain. The gallantry and skill of Vietnam’s soldiers paved the way for America’s astonishing battlefield victories in Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, much as tomorrow’s soldiers will study the long and painful story of the Iraqi occupation, to perfect their counterinsurgency tactics. The soldiers and commanders of 1968 were learning, too.

I will leave it to military historians to debate whether a full-scale surge of troops in the wake of Tet would have secured the defeat of North Vietnam. For myself, I think it highly likely. We’ll never know, because the age of modern terrorism – tactics designed to sap civilian will and destroy political support for a powerful military – began when Walter Cronkite took to the air on February 27, 1968, and informed the American public it should not “have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds.”

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.” (Contrary to Internet rumors that will probably start floating around again this weekend, Giap did not specifically credit Walter Cronkite with making this “victory” possible.)

Cronkite’s career saw the rise of advocacy journalism in the modern sense, along with the birth of terror warfare. The two developments are not unrelated. Terrorism benefits from access to a media that sees itself as international and “open-minded,” rather than aligned with the patriotic interests of its mother country. Journalists of Edward R. Murrow’s day would have named al-Qaeda killers as vermin, without hesitation, and applauded American soldiers for exterminating them. Cronkite decided the vermin were invincible. His descendants give interviews where they proudly state they would not warn American troops of an impending terror attack, pass along terrorist propaganda and doctored photographs as news, and dispatch reporters to search for signs of defeat when victory is imminent… provided a President of the wrong party sits in the White House, of course. Say this much for Cronkite: he didn’t care that Johnson had a (D) after his name. To Keith Olbermann, nothing else would matter.

After Cronkite came the deluge. Consider the trajectory of his successor, Dan Rather, who began his career lying about schoolchildren applauding the assassination of JFK, and ended it by trying to pass off falsified documents in a partisan hit job on President Bush during the 2004 elections. Cronkite was a powerful and accomplished newsman who made a fateful decision to become the news, instead of reporting it. His replacement was a ridiculous hack. Whatever you think of Walter Cronkite, it seems clear that his profession became smaller, and less trustworthy, after he passed through it. We would be wise to remember the lesson he taught us about the limits of American will in the Age of Terror. It’s better for us to win our battles fast and hard, and let the media weep for the enemy, than give the media time to dictate our strategy, and declare victory impossible.

Update (AP): Oblivious to the travesty of Cronkite’s Tet editorializing, The One sonorously declares that the most trusted man in America “never let us down.”

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How is it the Greatest Generation who defeated Japan and Germany produced such a worthless generation. I will be glad when they are all gone.

Special K on July 18, 2009 at 12:51 PM

That’s easy… You (and really too many people) have romanticized the “Greatest Generation” and bought a mythology of unflinching support for WWII. The truth is that there were just as many treacherous scumbags in American media shilling for Hitler and the Emperor as there were treacherous scumbags shilling for Stalin, the Viet Cong, Saddam Hussein, and Dinnerjacket.

Lehosh on July 18, 2009 at 1:34 PM

It also showed however they would support the President even when it was a deadly war the 2nd deadliest in US history.

FDR simply lucked out in that Hitler and the Japanese came along. He looked good at that time.

William Amos on July 18, 2009 at 1:27 PM

The communists hadn’t taken over the education system yet either.

thomasaur on July 18, 2009 at 1:36 PM

hat’s easy… You (and really too many people) have romanticized the “Greatest Generation” and bought a mythology of unflinching support for WWII. The truth is that there were just as many treacherous scumbags in American media shilling for Hitler and the Emperor as there were treacherous scumbags shilling for Stalin, the Viet Cong, Saddam Hussein, and Dinnerjacket.

Lehosh on July 18, 2009 at 1:34 PM

Old Joe Kennedy the bootlegger supported Hitler.

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 1:36 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2br0Qj8IFw

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 1:41 PM

Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, of course, along with the right to express it. The central problem with Walter Cronkite is that because of the nature of the dissemination of information in the broadcast age, the Big Three news anchors were elevated to the status of priests, and Cronkite was the High Priest. Most wisdom in those days was received wisdom, and the priests were granted the assumption of transparency and objectivity. The idea that they had editorial and reporting biases didn’t occur to the vast majority of Americans. With the explosion of voices and viewpoints caused by the advent of cable, talk radio, and the Internet, the mournful refrain is often heard that there is no common point of reference for the polity any longer, and that everyone is free to reinforce his or her own biases. The cost, though, is surrendering the judgement of truth and common sense to a select few, rather as in a religion. The way to knowledge is to receive more information, not less, and to use the judgements and insights acquired over a lifetime to assemble the plausible, since knowledge of the true belongs only to God, if there is such a thing. If Cronkite truly felt the way that he felt, and if CBS wanted to provide him with a platform, I don’t think that any conservative worthy of the name would deny those two entities their political and commercial rights. The problem was the lack of a competing viewpoint and Cronkite’s status of High Priest. Those days are gone, and I for one am glad.

loneloc on July 18, 2009 at 1:44 PM

loneloc on July 18, 2009 at 1:44 PM

Dead on.And, killer vocabulary.

massrighty on July 18, 2009 at 1:48 PM

Oh phooey, we’re all making too much of this TV hack. And yeah, that’s what he was. He simply ran into dumb luck by getting to report on the space program and specifically the moon landings. I watched much of his so-called reporting, and he was extremely biassed, all TV journalists were/are. They come with huge egos and think that they are the ones who will tell us what is happening, not report it objectively. As I said in an earlier post, this didn’t begin with Cronkite or Murrow, but goes back to Lowell Thomas and even before him. Cronkite believed that he was more knowledgable than even the government or military and certainly knew better than the American public. Just as Rather, Cronkite would never have survived the internet. I would be willing to bet if his old broadcasts were analyzed we would find all kinds of exaggerations and bias that would not be missed by bloggers today.
Like Jimmy Carter he continued to spout his nonsense, but fortunately, since he wasn’t a former President, no one paid attention. Must have been a blow to his ego though.

His death is not significant other than to his family and friends. He was lucky enough to have lived to an old age, so it isn’t even tragic. …end of story.

Deanna on July 18, 2009 at 1:53 PM

The communists hadn’t taken over the education system yet either.

thomasaur on July 18, 2009 at 1:36 PM

Ain’t that the truth?! I teach 8th grade history, which here in Arizona means the Vietnam War, and even our textbooks are so blatantly biased it’s disgusting! It mentions the protests and Kent State, but fails to mention that half the country actually supported the war. It talks about the poor kids killed at Kent State but doesn’t mention that they were throwing bricks and rocks at these poor 19-year-old guardsmen, whom they outnumbered 10:1, how 11 guardsmen were injured and all were acquitted. No mention of Jane Fonda, either. This is a military town, with a lot of retirees, and many of my students have a grandparent who served in Vietnam. I had a few phone calls from some of them thanking me for teaching the truth about that era (I showed them Jane’s picture with the NVA, played Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee” and “Fightin’ Side of Me” to balance out our propagandist textbook). And , believe me, I’m not the only teacher out there trying to set the record straight. We’ve gotta fight and win this battle to get our country back!

Special K on July 18, 2009 at 1:55 PM

such a worthless generation. I will be glad when they are all gone.

Special K on July 18, 2009 at 12:51 PM

How mature of you to condemn an entire generation for the deplorable behavior of some of them. BTW, have you seen any pics or footage from any of the Tea Parties recently? I think it’s safe to say that it’s the first time many of those 50 and 60 something patriots you see there have ever protested in the streets over anything. They (we) sure as hell weren’t the ones protesting against the USA back in the day. They (we) never got or wanted any media publicity back then. They (we) worked hard, raised families, put kids through school, and some of the kids they (we) raised are in harm’s way as we speak fighting for our freedom. Fighting for you. You’re welcome.

infidel4life on July 18, 2009 at 1:57 PM

infidel4life on July 18, 2009 at 1:57 PM

Read my posting after that one . . . I didn’t mean all, but it is a large number. Maybe I focus too much on the liberal part of that generation because me parents were part of it, as was my husband’s (he was born on a commune!!

Needless to say, neither my hubby nor I get along with our parents too well . . .

Special K on July 18, 2009 at 2:01 PM

Read my posting after that one . . . I didn’t mean all, but it is a large number. Maybe I focus too much on the liberal part of that generation because me my parents were part of it, as was my husband’s (he was born on a commune!!

Needless to say, neither my hubby nor I get along with our parents too well . . .

Special K on July 18, 2009 at 2:01 PM

Special K on July 18, 2009 at 2:02 PM

How mature of you to condemn an entire generation for the deplorable behavior of some of them. BTW, have you seen any pics or footage from any of the Tea Parties recently? I think it’s safe to say that it’s the first time many of those 50 and 60 something patriots you see there have ever protested in the streets over anything. They (we) sure as hell weren’t the ones protesting against the USA back in the day. They (we) never got or wanted any media publicity back then. They (we) worked hard, raised families, put kids through school, and some of the kids they (we) raised are in harm’s way as we speak fighting for our freedom. Fighting for you. You’re welcome.

infidel4life on July 18, 2009 at 1:57 PM

Why is Special K getting all the credit for dumping obn the boomers? he’as nlot even I boomer. I’m a boomer and I say our generation, (I’ll type S L O W L Y here) in general, was, compared to any previous generation, easily the most worthless.Talk about pampered & spoiled my generation had to “protest” for everything. Protest WHAT? The Civil Rights marchers were actually the generation before boomers in most cases. Vietnam? So my generation decided that never losing a war had to change and we must, of course, support those wonderful communists.
In reality most spent their youth drugged out, running to Canada, spitting at soldiers, and “picketing” which was something to do between getting high and feeling great about yourself. I’d say we invented the SELF ESTEEM generation.

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 2:08 PM

Update (AP): Oblivious to the travesty of Cronkite’s Tet editorializing, The One sonorously declares that the most trusted man in America “never let us down.”

Birds of a feather…..sh*t on the troops.

HornetSting on July 18, 2009 at 2:09 PM

For those knuckleheads who can’t figure it out. You’re probably a conservative if your in here, so many of the things wrong about boomers probably don’t apply to you.They don’t apply to me but I can see my generation for what it is.

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 2:11 PM

He did more to make us lose in Vietnam than any other American. He was against the 2nd Amendment. He quoted Presidents out of context in order to undermine them. This Vietnam Veteran won’t miss him one bit. Why are they spending all this media time covering how great he was when there are a lot of us that don’t see it that way?

DL13 on July 18, 2009 at 2:18 PM

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 2:11 PM

Thanks for the show of support. I can see why what I wrote got a few peoples’ knickers in a knot. About half of your generation, mainly from fly-over country, were decent, patriotic Americans, and they do get overlooked. But it was telling, what infidel4life wrote:

They (we) never got or wanted any media publicity back then.

They didn’t want media attention? Keeping quiet, complacent, while allowing a very destructive minority to get the attention is just as harmful.

Boomers did produce some good people, but even your conservatives are kinda squishy. Newt Gingrich believes in global warming and worked with Hillary to get our medical histories on computers. And even George W. Bush calls himself a “compassionate” conservative and left our borders wide open and increased spending on social programs. I’d like a little more conservative with less compassion, frankly.

In retrospect, writing “I’ll be glad when they’re gone” was over the top. But I’ll darn sure be glad when they no longer run our government or educational institutions.

Special K on July 18, 2009 at 2:21 PM

Cronkite’s career saw the rise of advocacy journalism in the modern sense, along with the birth of terror warfare.

This is contemptible nonsense. For America, this kind of journalism and terror warfare go back to our nations founding. Cronkite was a patriot who bought into the military’s lies about Vietnam. For years the coverage was controlled and always showed the US taking the initiative and casting the war in a sanitized and positive way. During the Tet offensive journalists didn’t depend on the military to get to the news or the story. The story was outside their hotels and they only had to point their cameras outside their windows. If the government and the military had been more honest with the public, Tet might have been seen as the military victory it was. Instead, the exposed lie disillusioned the public and sapped support for the war.

You morons seem to forget that this was a journalist who accompanied airmen on bombing missions, airborne troops, and troops coming ashore on D-Day. Cronkite was a patriot and a great reporter even if you disagree with his reporting on Tet.

lexhamfox on July 18, 2009 at 2:22 PM

Cronkite was a patriot and a great reporter even if you disagree with his reporting on Tet.

lexhamfox on July 18, 2009 at 2:22 PM

Opinions vary…Benedict Arnold won at Saratoga and then sold his country out to the British.

thomasaur on July 18, 2009 at 2:38 PM

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 2:08 PM

So you hate your generation. Hooray for you.

They didn’t want media attention? Keeping quiet, complacent, while allowing a very destructive minority to get the attention is just as harmful.

Special K on July 18, 2009 at 2:21 PM

Baloney. Not wanting media attention is not equal to complaceny, and suggesting the decent half of the generation should not have *allowed* the other half to do what they did is just naive. As is projecting your understandable disgust for your parents onto the entire generation. I ain’t buying it.

But I’ll darn sure be glad when they no longer run our government or educational institutions.

Special K on July 18, 2009 at 2:21 PM

As in the liberal half, I’m assuming. I’m in wholehearted agreement with you on that one.

infidel4life on July 18, 2009 at 2:40 PM

Cronkite was a patriot

lexhamfox on July 18, 2009 at 2:22 PM

Riiiight. Every patriot wants to see the USA absorbed into a one-world Socialist Utopia.

infidel4life on July 18, 2009 at 2:43 PM

I teach 8th grade history, which here in Arizona means the Vietnam War, and even our textbooks are so blatantly biased it’s disgusting!

Special K on July 18, 2009 at 1:55 PM

Remember that Bill Ayers and others like him literally are the ones who oversee what goes into many of these textbooks, especially the social science ones such as history. In fact, we’re not even sure who writes them. Seems to be a team of uncredited writers hired by the textbook company and you can see in older textbooks going back to at least the ’60s it’s basically the same stuff, just edited. The names listed in the front mean nothing. They just had some of their research/dissertations pulled in and they were cited to add validity.

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 18, 2009 at 2:54 PM

Obviously you can’t look at a generation as anything more than from your own life. If you look at the overall generation, as compared to just one generation before, and had any way possible to see things on a scale broader than you obviously can, the generational difference would appear stark, even to someone like yourself.

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 1:18 PM

LOL. That’s rich after you began posting by saying this ……….

I’m a Boomer, and America has NEVER had a more worthless selfish rotten generation than my generation.

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 12:56 PM

Congrats, you just made an @ss of yourself.

fogw on July 18, 2009 at 2:57 PM

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 18, 2009 at 2:54 PM

Well, at least there is some good news.Texas is one of the states that kind of sets the tone for textbooks as they are one of the largest purhasers, and I actually have seen some improvement. We had a textbook by McGraw-Hill called Creating America, 2000 edition, that was much worse. Our new book, Glencoe’s The American Journey actually mentions that the New Deal did not end the Depression and it actually made things worse with the Roosevelt Recession (recession within a depression) in 1938 when unemployment again rose to 20%. It also talks about the Venona papers, all of those classified documents from the McCarthy era, which prove Ethel and Julius Rosenburg were guilty. The problem is, many older teachers are so set in their ways, they aren’t willing to look at new evidence which doesn’t fit into their mold of thinking. So they think the new textbooks are incorrect!!

Special K on July 18, 2009 at 3:08 PM

Boomers did produce some good people, but even your conservatives are kinda squishy. Newt Gingrich believes in global warming and worked with Hillary to get our medical histories on computers. And even George W. Bush calls himself a “compassionate” conservative and left our borders wide open and increased spending on social programs. I’d like a little more conservative with less compassion, frankly.

In retrospect, writing “I’ll be glad when they’re gone” was over the top. But I’ll darn sure be glad when they no longer run our government or educational institutions.

Special K on July 18, 2009 at 2:21 PM

You’re my kind of conservative. Just like I tried to raise my kids. Skip the squishy conservatism, the DEMS will eat you alive. That’s the problem with my generation. They’re too busy patting themselves on the back, rather than seeing what’s wrong.Never give up, never let your guard down, NEVER, NEVER trust a Democrat. NEVER “play” nice!

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 3:26 PM

Obviously you can’t look at a generation as anything more than from your own life. If you look at the overall generation, as compared to just one generation before, and had any way possible to see things on a scale broader than you obviously can, the generational difference would appear stark, even to someone like yourself.

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 1:18 PM

Congrats, you just made an @ss of yourself.

fogw on July 18, 2009 at 2:57 PM

Moron..the “YOUR” was meant personally for the narrow minded individual that whined about how HE wasn’t like that, not your meaning each individual persons view.
Next time try and NOT mix messages and take them out of context.

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 3:31 PM

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 3:26 PM

Ironic, isn’t it, how George W. Bush was going to be “bi-partisan” and was, in many respects, very liberal (open borders, No Child Left Behind, expanding MediCare, signing the McCain-Feingold Act which he then hoped the SCOTUS would overturn) and the Dems responded to all of his overtures with venom? The only thing he managed to do was p*** off his own base. No, I don’t think you should ever try to work with Democrats. They don’t play nice at all. Screw ‘em.

Special K on July 18, 2009 at 3:39 PM

“YOUR” was meant personally for the narrow minded individual that whined about how HE wasn’t like that, not your meaning each individual persons view.
Next time try and NOT mix messages and take them out of context.
Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009

Jeff, I learned from one of HA’s more eloquent commentors that using the pronouns ‘one’ or ‘one’s self’ instead of ‘you’ or ‘yourself’ can save unnecessary conflicts. just sayin’

thomasaur on July 18, 2009 at 3:40 PM

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 3:26 PM

Ironic, isn’t it, how George W. Bush was going to be “bi-partisan” and was, in many respects, very liberal (open borders, No Child Left Behind, expanding MediCare, signing the McCain-Feingold Act which he then hoped the SCOTUS would overturn) and the Dems responded to all of his overtures with venom? The only thing he managed to do was p*** off his own base. No, I don’t think you should ever try to work with Democrats. They don’t play nice at all. Screw ‘em.

Special K on July 18, 2009 at 3:39 PM

I never cared for Bush, the younger s ideas in general.He has that squishy quality you were talking about.

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 3:48 PM

Jeff, I learned from one of HA’s more eloquent commentors that using the pronouns ‘one’ or ‘one’s self’ instead of ‘you’ or ‘yourself’ can save unnecessary conflicts. just sayin’

thomasaur on July 18, 2009 at 3:40 PM

thank you

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 3:48 PM

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 3:31 PM

You judge an entire generation of Americans by the contributions of the hippie culture, and I’m the moron?

LOL

fogw on July 18, 2009 at 3:51 PM

this was a journalist who accompanied airmen on bombing missions, airborne troops, and troops coming ashore on D-Day.

lexhamfox on July 18, 2009 at 2:22 PM

That was the pre-Kool Aid Walter. You seem to forget that.

Del Dolemonte on July 18, 2009 at 4:22 PM

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 3:31 PM

You judge an entire generation of Americans by the contributions of the hippie culture, and I’m the moron?

LOL

fogw on July 18, 2009 at 3:51 PM

No, I judge the entire generation on the SEVERE loss of patriotism, common decency, lack of respect that started with our glorious generation. I judge them by Boomers like Clinton, (official 1st White House Stain), Letterman, comedian that makes rape jokes about 14 year old girls, or Boomers like Pelosi, Reid, Murtha, Boxer who willfully try to take down a nation. Or because we’re now supposed to be the older “responsible” generation that allowed a low life baby killing Commie to get elected President and allowed an entire industry, main stream media, to help him do it.

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 5:01 PM

and of course for the surviving veterans of Vietnam, the nadir of Cronkite’s career was his reporting in the wake of the Tet Offensive.

Not correct. It was the time in Cronkite’s career when he stopped drinking the Lyndon Baines Johnson/Robert Strange McNamara Kool-aid, which most Americans, including Army personnel, had already stopped drinking. He was more “bringing up the rear” than “leading the parade”. He was kind of like the little boy in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” who said “But the King doesn’t have any cloths on!” when most people already knew that.

For the younger reader who might not be familiar with this event, the Tet Offensive was a massive, coordinated attack on all the major cities of South Vietnam, during the normally quiet Vietnamese New Year celebrations, in January and February of 1968. The U.S. Military had been making public statements of Communist weakness, so the large-scale attacks seriously undermined the military’s credibility with the American public.

This is absolutely correct. The American people had been told that the enemy was almost “down and out” and could not mount more than some short minor actions. As I said yesterday in the other Cronkite thread the “picture” that Baines Johnson and Strange McNamara and the Pentagon (see “Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam.” by H.R. McMaster, now General H.R. McMaster) had painted was that what happened was impossible.

From a military standpoint, Tet was a disaster for the Communists, who were estimated to have suffered over 8000 casualties, severely damaging the Vietcong insurgency in South Vietnam. The operation produced no strategic gains for the North Vietnamese, who had to compensate for the decimation of the Vietcong by committing more regular army troops to subsequent combat operations.

As I said yesterday, “As far as the Tet offensive being portrayed as an American loss, when VC casualties were likely much greater than American causalities, well like they say, it’s all relative. There were half a million American troops in South Vietnam at the time [2 and a half times as many as we now have in Iraq and Afghanistan, combined] and from the picture that Johnson, McNamara and the military had presented to the American people the VC doing as well as they did should have been impossible. [1968, the year of the Tet Offensive, was the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War for the American military. Approximately 11,000 Americans were killed and 45,000 wounded. Or more than twice the number of American military killed in Iraq over 6+ years and Afghanistan over 8+ years, combined.] Kind of like some bum fighter staying standing up in the ring with Mohammad Ali for even a couple of rounds when it was thought that he couldn’t last a half a round if he even got in the ring. The American people do not like being lied to on big matters and if/when they find that they were lied too they tend to not be very pleased. Take note, Barack Obama.”

Actually I have since found other statistics which say that 16,000 Americans were KIA in 1968, the year of the Tet Offensive, and 11,000 Americans were KIA in 1967, the “run up” year to the year to the Tet Offensive. In any case, regardless of the exact numbers, the number of American KIA was very high and increasing and so Tet must also be viewed in that context.

It was a huge propaganda victory, however, as Cronkite – a newsman with respect and influence far beyond any single figure in journalism today – declared the Vietnam War to be unwinnable. “We are mired in a stalemate that could only be ended by negotiation, not victory,” America’s Anchorman declared.

Again, he was, for the most part anyway, just “bringing up the rear”. If he had waited much longer to stop drinking the LBJ/McNamara/Pentagon koolaid most people would probably have thought that “Uncle Walter” had gone senile.

Joe Bloggs on July 18, 2009 at 5:07 PM

For Cronkite apologists:
A little tyranny?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2br0Qj8IFw

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 5:17 PM

Going for more precission regarding the American deaths for the “run up” year to Tet and the year of the Tet Offensive:

1967
Force KIA WIA MIA CIA
US Forces 9,378 1 56,013 113 unknown
ARVN 12,716 76,299 529 unknown
NVA/VC 133,484 unknown unknown 6,065

Note 1: there were an additional 1,680 non-hostile deaths for a total of 11,058

——————————————————–

1968
Force KIA WIA MIA CIA
US Forces 14,594 1 87,388 176 unknown
ARVN 28,800 172,512 587 unknown
NVA/VC 208,254 unknown unknown 9,462

Note 1: there were an additional 1,919 non-hostile deaths for a total of 16,511

Joe Bloggs on July 18, 2009 at 5:20 PM

For Cronkite apologists:

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 5:17 PM

All things should be seen as they are without sentiment, or as BHO would not say, without empathy, one way or the other. The man’s impact should neither be played down nor exaggerated and is it ever being exaggerated by some.

Joe Bloggs on July 18, 2009 at 5:26 PM

No, I judge the entire generation on the SEVERE loss of patriotism, common decency, lack of respect that started with our glorious generation. I judge them by Boomers like Clinton, (official 1st White House Stain), Letterman, comedian that makes rape jokes about 14 year old girls, or Boomers like Pelosi, Reid, Murtha, Boxer who willfully try to take down a nation. Or because we’re now supposed to be the older “responsible” generation that allowed a low life baby killing Commie to get elected President and allowed an entire industry, main stream media, to help him do it.

Jeff from WI on July 18, 2009 at 5:01 PM

So, I get your drift now.

You judge the entire baby boomer generation by all of the a-holes that were a part of that generation, and dismiss the positive contributions of all others.

That would include a large portion of the 57,000 soldiers who died in Vietnam. I guess they all had a SEVERE loss of patriotism, huh genius? Just like the troops who served in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. Do you have any idea how many people you are offending with your childish jibberish?

I am embarrassed to have you as part of my generation.

BTW, Harry Reid is not a baby boomer, born in 1939. John Murtha is not a baby boomer, born in 1932. Nancy Pelosi is not a baby boomer, born in 1940. Babara Boxer is not a babay boomer, born in 1940. Guess you forgot to do your homework. These clowns were part of the so-called Gretest Generation.

I bet you feel pretty stupid now.

fogw on July 18, 2009 at 5:28 PM

But there was that one moment when Cronkite made a choice, made a decision, reached a conclusion that the war in South Vietnam was no longer worth fighting.

Skandia Recluse on July 18, 2009 at 10:54 AM

Well there are at least some who would say that he was about 14 years late.

Indochina is devoid of decisive military objectives and the allocation of more than token US armed forces in Indochina would be a serious diversion of limited US capabilities.
(Joint Chiefs of Staff, 26 May 1954)

Joe Bloggs on July 18, 2009 at 5:39 PM

So, I get your drift now.

You judge the entire baby boomer generation by all of the a-holes that were a part of that generation, and dismiss the positive contributions of all others.

fogw on July 18, 2009 at 5:28 PM

Far more men of the “baby boomer generation” joined the Army (or Marines) than have the men of whatever one calls the current generation and far more died in that service. The number of Medal of Honor holders from Vietnam/”Baby Boom generation” dwarfs that from Iraq/Afghanistan/Current Generation.

Joe Bloggs on July 18, 2009 at 5:45 PM

Bob Tyrrell summed it up accurately back in the day when he dubbed Walter an “oval shaped vacuum”. And the vacuum was filled by the liberal elites.

wraithby on July 18, 2009 at 6:04 PM

No sympathy from this Vietnam Veteran.

Cronkite, hope you’re now face to face, answering to each and every one of the 58,000 American heros you sold down the river.

Good riddance.

StimulateTHIS on July 18, 2009 at 6:58 PM

Far more men of the “baby boomer generation” joined the Army (or Marines) than have the men of whatever one calls the current generation and far more died in that service. The number of Medal of Honor holders from Vietnam/”Baby Boom generation” dwarfs that from Iraq/Afghanistan/Current Generation.

Joe Bloggs on July 18, 2009 at 5:45 PM

True, but there was a draft then and there isn’t now. Today’s generation, my children’s generation, is called Generation Y. My son is serving, but you’re right, there aren’t many. Bush kind of dropped the ball when he was standing on the rubble of the WTC and telling us all to go shopping and live life like normal. He should have asked for people to enlist; I think there would have been a high turn-out.

I was born in 1965 and served in the AF while my husband, born in 1967, served 22 years in the Army. We’re GenXers, and I’d be curious to know how many of us served. We were part of the huge military build-up of the 1980s, when it became cool again to serve voluntarily–we both enlisted under Reagan. Bush 41 dropped the ball after the Persian Gulf War, where we deployed over half a million, by cutting our military so much. Depresses me to go through Fort Ord, which was a huge post back in the Cold War era, and is now a ghost town.

Special K on July 18, 2009 at 9:39 PM

Thank you, Doctor Zero, for the enlightening post.

While it is sad to speak ill of the dead, it would even be sadder if the living will deliberately overlook such a deed that undermined the US military, eroded the public confidence and resolve, and eventually led to the death of so many patriotic Americans.

mz.josephine on July 18, 2009 at 10:04 PM

I, for one, will celebrate Cronkite’s unbridled enthusiam for the space program, and our race to the moon. It’s a shame he did not see the 40th anniversary of the moon landing.

I believe that is his karma for his treason after the Tet offensive.

Ain’t no fool like an old fool.

I don’t think he was evil, just stupid.

SicSemperTyrannus on July 18, 2009 at 10:58 PM

Cronkite lied. Americans died. Cambodians died. South Vietnamese died.

faraway on July 19, 2009 at 12:59 AM

“Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam” by H. R. McMaster exposes and chronicles the true criminal level villains of the Vietnam war: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, General Maxwell Taylor, McGeorge Bundy and some others [Walter Cronkite not among them] who deliberately lied to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the U.S. Congress and the American public with tens of thousand of Americans dieing as a result.

Joe Bloggs on July 19, 2009 at 1:47 AM

General Võ Nguyên Giáp wrote as much, that Tet was a disaster and effectively wiped out the VC. In Giáp’s writings he described his surprise at how fickle and useful the American public was.

MarkT on July 19, 2009 at 10:51 AM

I don’t remember exactly when it was that I first learned how Uncle Walter had skewed his coverage of the Vietnam War, but I do remember the feeling I felt in my gut, like that of being kicked by a mule. It was at that moment that my faith in everything coming at me in the name of reporting and journalism was forever shattered.
I guess the only difference today is that most journalists are out of the closet, so to speak, and put their biases right out there for us to see. What is now less clear is where the line from commentators like Hannity and Madddow starts and news reporting stops.
While I will take the time to investigate stories that interest me, I don’t have time to check everything that is fed to me from the newspapers and tv, and that is where the vast majority of Americans are. We know that what is being fed to us is probably only about 50% correct but we have to accept it and move on.
Until those in the journalism profession can regain some sort of credibility and regain some shred of integrity they will continue to be viewed as well dressed, well coiffed and made up teleprompter readers hired for their photogenic appeal rather then their ability to report the news.

Just A Grunt on July 19, 2009 at 11:47 AM

The most over-rated blow hole in the history of journalism.

revolution on July 19, 2009 at 3:29 PM

Joe Bloggs on July 19, 2009 at 1:47 AM

Are you suggesting that, because there were some in power who lied, that it makes the mis-reporting OK?

It sounds like “two wrongs” here – and we know how that aphorism goes, don’t we?

massrighty on July 19, 2009 at 7:46 PM

Like I commented on the other blog about Cronkite: “HA HA Walter, I made it through Vietnam alive and I out lived you, you old traitor.”

jarhead0311 on July 19, 2009 at 10:52 PM

Are you suggesting that, because there were some in power who lied

Some in power? Just the President and the SecDef for starts. Not my idea of just “some”.

that it makes the mis-reporting OK?

What did he so egregiously misreport? Tet? From what Johnson, McNamara and others had said even a short medium scale offensive should have been impossible.

It sounds like “two wrongs” here – and we know how that aphorism goes, don’t we?

massrighty on July 19, 2009 at 7:46 PM

Johnson, McNamara, Bundy, etc. sent tens of thousands of American’s to their deaths in the process of trying to cover their lies. I see no moral equivalence here. Cronkite was very much a bit player who actually implicitly went along with their lies for half the war and then just said what most Americans, including most in the Army, already knew or soon would know. He just mostly brought up the rear.

Joe Bloggs on July 19, 2009 at 11:38 PM

The most over-rated blow hole in the history of journalism.

revolution on July 19, 2009 at 3:29 PM

And one might add, around these parts anyway, the most overblown scapegoat in the history of the Vietnam war.

Joe Bloggs on July 19, 2009 at 11:42 PM

Yes indeed, ole Uncle Walter. You know there are always potential problems just waiting to erupt when you have an uncle with a liberal-leftist background & bias.

As he became older & feebler he let his liberal asswipe background shine through for all to see.

Do you really think this liberal asshole would have had one negative syllable to say about JFK and the ongoing & escalating Vietnam War if JFK had not been assassinated? Of course not. He would have just Obamaified the results just like the sycophant media does today.

He covered Johnson’s liberal ass for as long as he could endure. Johnson was just a dumb southern hick Texan after all ….. not one of those bright east coast ivy league types in government.

One of his most obvious sins (history will surely & boldly prove this) was his declaration that the Vietnam War was indeed lost.

Such a walk-on-water jerkliist was he, that he only required several hours on the ground and he was an instantaneous expert on the Vietnam War! Such gravitas.

Gag me.

Let me tell you …. I was in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive with the 1/7th Cav, 1st Cavalry Division, at Quang Tri, Hue and Da Nang. This jackass was clueless. When I returned home around February-March 1969 the Vietnam War was all but over except in the USA.

His legacy is just as spotty. Dan Rather’s career began by reporting the yet unknown & unconfirmed death of JFK to good ole Uncle Walter. And Uncle Walter had no problem reporting hearsay. Such a fine reporter.

Insofar as his ongoing network news reporter legacy, his characteristics do indeed shine through. The ongoing, daily high-mindedness, arrogance, disdain, and absolute cluelessness does indeed continue via the major network newsreader hacks that currently “report” the “news”. The “news” they deem important, of course. Just like Uncle Walter did.

After all, that is how he signed off. “That’s the way it is”, he self-importantly reported. He just did not finish the sentence with “according to liberal-leftist Uncle Walter.”

Good ole Uncle Walter appeared to be a reasonable sort of fellow on the surface …. but he ranks right up there with Hanoi Jane Fonda in my opinion.

D.T. Miller
Vietnam 1968-1969
1st Air Cavalry (Airmobile)
Company B, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry (1st\7th Cav)
An Khe, Tet, Quang Tri, Hue, Da Nang, Camp Evans, China beaches, Khe Sanh, A Shau Valley, Tay Ninh, Black Virgin Mountain, Cambodian border and endless places between.
Garryowen.

jaaakemm on July 20, 2009 at 3:48 AM

Cronkite was a treasonous globalist and a CIA puppet … and that’s the way it was.

ex-Democrat on July 20, 2009 at 12:19 PM

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