According to a story in The Los Angles Times, Cronkite was “was not just a news man.” Quite right. He was also a pop celebrity. Like Michael Jackson, he was so successful because he perfectly incarnated certain popular clichés. His success was not a matter of substance. It was a matter of tone. As that piece in the LA Times acknowledged, “The news that Cronkite reported was barely distinct from the news his colleague-competitors reported.” Indeed. He didn’t research or write the news. He read it. He emitted the same platitudes every other news reader mouthed. He did so, however, with a sort of cardigan authenticity that used car salesmen would climb naked over broken bottles to emulate. When JFK was assassinated, Cronkite wept, almost. He swooned when Neil Armstrong walked upon the moon. He was righteously indignant over the war in Vietnam, Watergate, and the war in Iraq. How he loathed President Bush, how he admired President Carter, the “smartest” president he ever met. He was a partisan news reader whose reputation for impartiality survived only because he espoused the same ideology as those in the media who determine who is awarded points for impartiality. Liberals like Cronkite suppose they are objective because they are secure in the belief that their opinions represent a neutral state of nature. It is (they believe) only those who dissent from those opinions who bring politics into the equation.
Michael Jackson was famous for inventing a dance step called the moonwalk in which the dancer seems to float backwards while walking in place. Walter Cronkite did something similar. He seemed to float above the yapping clamor of common opinion. At bottom, though, he merely reflected it. The adulation that has greeted his demise is as unearned as it is emetic.