Skip to comments.My Own Dad and Uncle Walter
Posted on 07/17/2009 8:57:32 PM PDT by nathanbedford
My Own Dad and Uncle Walter
I have no doubt that eventually some of the reactions to the passing of Walter Cronkite on the boards of Free Republic will be held up as examples of right wing "hate." And some of the replies, I have no doubt, will be pretty rough. The left will seize on them to further its own purposes but in doing so it will misunderstand the real source of our sense of betrayal arising out of our experience with Walter Cronkite.
We do not hate Walter Cronkite because he is a leftist, we are outraged at him because he was an impostor. He seduced us and he subtly betrayed us.
It is difficult to explain to people under 50 the special relationship between Middle America and Walter Cronkite who, himself, was a product of Middle America. He served honorably as a war correspondent, flying missions over Germany and landing in a glider in operation Market Garden. I treasure memories of watching Walter Cronkite specials with my dad. It is difficult to portray in today's age of 500 television stations with HDTV and TiVo and God knows what new technology the intimate relationship which grew with Walter Cronkite as we watched him on the old black-and-white program, You Are There. It is not an exaggeration to say that a whole generation of Americans got a basic understanding of the visual history of the 20th century from Walter Cronkite's, The 20th Century. Television in those days was still very special, something one planned all week to see with one's family. The truth is, as we bonded with our dads, we bonded with Walter Cronkite.
That is how he became known as "Uncle Walter" because he really did have an avuncular manner. He trained himself to have a deliberate cadence in his speech. He was the picture of trustworthy rectitude with his graying hair and reserved demeanor. He was our "anchor" in every sense. When he closed his newscast announcing, "that's the way it is" we believed him, we accepted that if Uncle Walter put his name to it, it must be so.
When the space age came, he was there at the launches to explain it to us. When Kennedy was assassinated, he was there with a tear in his eye to make the awful news official. So, when the bona fide World War II correspondent went to Vietnam in the wake of the Tet offensive and donned his fatigue jacket, looked into the camera and told us that the war in Vietnam was, in effect, unwinnable, Lyndon Johnson instantly reacted, "if we have lost Walter Cronkite we have middle America."
Walter Cronkite was politically correct on all the issues but not offensively so. While political correctness was certainly very much a part of the fabric of our country, there were no competitive outlets to expose the worst excrescences of the phenomenon. In other words we did not know what political correctness was because we had no alternative reality. Walter Cronkite was not politically correct he was simply correct.
My dad had grown up on a hardscrabble farm in a depression which started for the South long before the Wall Street crash of 1929. He was a Southern conservative and a believing Protestant. He carried these values all his life and all his life he was skeptical of Yankee values as much as he admired Yankee success. I grew up exposed to all of the politically correct dogma of the age and I was often frankly taken aback when I heard my father express skepticism about the received wisdom which I was learning from my professors.
Walter Cronkite's political correctness is best understood in the context of civil rights. But it is even more revealing to look at Walter Cronkite in the context of civil rights from the other end of the telescope because it reveals how Walter Cronkite saw himself. Without question, concerning civil rights, Cronkite saw himself morally responsible to conduct a crusade on behalf of virtue. There was good and there was evil plain to see and, as America's anchor, it was Cronkite's role to make clear to America which was which.
There is a danger for a reporter in such circumstances. The temptations of hubris are seductive and as opportunistic as a virus. If you are right about civil rights, the temptation is to be right about Vietnam. If you are right about civil rights and Vietnam, the temptation is to be right about Watergate. If your experience in civil rights convinces you that you were right about Watergate and Vietnam, and is very tempting also to be right about one world government. If you operate in a world without talk radio or the Internet, there is no antiviral drug to arrest your hubristic virus.
If crusading on behalf of civil rights, against Vietnam, and Nixonian corruption introduced advocacy into your reporting and also made history and changed America so why stop there? After all, you were at CBS, walking in the very footsteps of Edward R. Murrow.
Cronkite finished his career at CBS in bitterness, much as Edward R. Murrow finished his. Walter Cronkite retired to the fringes of post-pioneer television and to his sailboat and to the salons of Manhattan and Georgetown to speak out from time to time on issues of the day with, revealing it seemed, an increasingly discernible leftward bent to his positions.
I have no doubt that Walter Cronkite finished his days secure in the conviction that he was a reporter who never lost sight of his duty to report who, what, where, why, and when. If he were to admit to any degree that he indulged an opportunity to shape the news and to shape American as well, I have no doubt he would be comfortable about his role and not particularly distressed that I am exercised about it.
Judged by today's standards of talk radio and strident partisanship of MSNBC, Walter Cronkite was a comparatively benign, moderately left of center, but otherwise down the middle, reporter. But judged by the path he opened for television journalism, he was particularly dangerous because he put a respectable face on a "news" media that was to become treacherous, detached from the middle of America from which Walter Cronkite came and which he personified. He seduced America into trusting an alien not just in our midst but in our homes. He made us defenseless to the traducers to come, to the Olbermanns and Matthews, the Daniel Schorr's and the Nina Totenberg's and, ultimately, to the Alinskys and Obamas.
It is harsh to say that, finally, Walter Cronkite was a deceiver, but it is the truth. It is necessary for the next-generation to know this history. Walter Cronkite was not what he presented himself to be. He was a leftist and he exploited a medium and a persona to advance his leftist views. He was as effective as he was stealthy. Most of us for most of the years he was doing it to us had not the slightest suspicion that we were being shaped as we were being informed.
Cronkite outlived my dad by two decades though he was only born five years after my father. They both endured the Great Depression and fought in World War II in their own way. From my desk I can see a picture of my father and his World War II Navy uniform. They both were exponents of middle America. They lived the values of their time and place. They both prospered through the diligent application of the traditional moral values America had given them. My father bequeathed them to me, Walter Cronkite leaves a more ambivalent legacy.
Thanks, very interesting
Excellent, EXCELLENT piece, nathanbedford.
BRAVO. I got it exactly, and feel the same way.
This should get wider readership. I suggest you offer this to American Thinker and Newsbusters.
Walter Cronkite lied to the American people for 25 years. He hurt us during the Vietnam war, and encouraged other news anchors to join him. In the early 90’s he was pulled off the air by saying”That f’n Reagan”. CBS cut to a commercial and when they returned he was gone. This is how I will remember that(sneaky) traitorous venomous SOB.
“We had men over there dieing and he sympathized with those killing them. He was a POS.”
What an appropriate first name. The same as Walter Duranty and just as reliable and accurate in his reporting. If he had held on for a few more hours, he could have made it to the 40th anniversary of Chappaquiddick.
Great post. I’m 43. Your memories of Cronkite took me back to the same America you describe. I can’t imagine Cronkite ever saying he got a thrill up his leg. It would have been unseemly. Look at how far this nation has been steered away from it’s foundation.
Walter Kronkite: POS; That about sums it up. RIP you POS.
I second that suggestion.
Over 50 bump.
Thanks Nathan. I remember Cronkite well. He was good at what he did, and as a Vietnam veteran I’ll never forgive him for it.
Gotta read later.
Good analysis, and good summary.
Nathan. Thanks for writing this excellent piece and posting it on FR. You’re right, the liberal kiddies who never knew Cronkite will be whining and crying about some of the posts here about Cronkite. This pre-emptive strike is a good idea. Maybe they will spend a little time between all of their childish huffin’ and puffin’ to read this article and see where many of the posters are coming from. Most of them don’t believe that war exists so they wouldn’t understand where most Vietnam vets are coming from.
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