Journalism: After the eulogies, the fact remains that "the most trusted man in America" betrayed that trust. He helped snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Vietnam and tried hard to do the same in Iraq.
President Obama on Friday praised Walter Cronkite as a journalistic icon, calling the CBS anchor the "voice of certainty in an uncertain world." More to the point, he was the father of advocacy journalism, the patron saint of media bias. He went from reporting news to recreating it in his own image.
Far from the image of the patriotic war correspondent, Cronkite was a World Federalist who couldn't wait for what was called "the American Century" to end.
In a profile by Newsday TV writer Verne Gay in the Jan. 21, 1996, issue of Los Angeles Times Magazine, Cronkite spoke of his dream for America. "We may have to find some marvelous middle ground between capitalism and communism," Gay quotes Cronkite as saying.
Let's call it socialism, and Cronkite at least lived long enough to see it unfolding before his eyes and ours.
Cronkite said that for the United States "the first priority of the new order must be a revision of the educational system to . . . guarantee that each of our citizens will have equal resources to share in the decisions of the democracy, and a fair share of the economic pie."
For him, equal opportunity was not enough; equal success must be guaranteed. And he was ahead of his time in suggesting we should spread the wealth around.
In October 1999, Cronkite accepted the Norman Cousins Global Governance Award from the World Federalist Association. In accepting the award, he said "we must strengthen the United Nations as a first step toward a world government" and that "Americans will have to yield up some of our sovereignty."
Cronkite was also bothered by American wars against oppression and tyranny. The "most trusted man in America" said Vietnam was unwinnable and helped to make it so. Then-President Johnson reportedly told an aide, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."
Except that Cronkite's analysis was almost pure fiction and dead wrong.
His report after the Tet offensive of 1968 was a total misreading of the situation on the ground, which was that Tet was an American and South Vietnamese victory and a Viet Cong defeat. His report did succeed in fueling the anti-war movement Hanoi counted on for victory