- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 21, 2006

Walter Cronkite’s silly sermon

The perceptive editorial “Walter Cronkite’s new epiphany” (Tuesday), is yet another reminder that the patriarch of “CBS Evening News” has been a flawed political observer for a very long time. He may not meet George Bernard Shaw’s characterization of newspapers as “unable, seemingly, to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilization.”

Back in the dark days of the Cold War, his evening news program distorted the strategic balance between the United States and the Soviet Union. A study of “CBS Evening News” (1972-73) that I conducted revealed that Mr. Cronkite reported dovish critiques of U.S. defense spending far more than supporting opinion — about 4 percent to 60 percent. Confronted with this fact, Mr. Cronkite replied:

“There are always groups in Washington expressing views of alarm over the state of our defenses. We don’t carry those stories. The story is that there are those who want to cut defense spending.”

The study found that in two full years, Mr. Cronkite gave only one minute out of 196 broadcast hours to the most important military fact of that period: the American-Sovietnuclear weapons balance. In contrast, he gave 141 minutes to the shortcomings of the U.S. military — including two minutes on missing tableware in Pentagon dining rooms.

Mr. Cronkite also failed to report major stories on the Soviet arms buildup that the New York Times and The Washington Post highlighted. This was a subtle, perhaps unconscious, form of advocacy because the viewer cannot assess what he doesn’t see. Balance ended up ankle-deep on the cutting-room floor. Ignoring or downplaying the massive increase in Soviet arms legitimized the liberal assault against U.S. defense expenditures.

Mr. Cronkite’s wobbly anti-U.S. military bias, which has persisted ever since, appears to be rooted in his liberal stance. In a June 1973 Playboy interview, he said most newsmen tend to be “liberal and left of center as well … . They come to feel little allegiance to the established order. I think they’re inclined to side with humanity rather than with authority and institutions.”

Speaking of CBS, he added: “We’re big. And we’re powerful enough to thumb our nose at threats and intimidation from government. I hope it stays that way.”

Mr. Cronkite ended his “Evening News” broadcasts with the words: “And that’s the way it is.” In contrast, Harry Reasoner in his early days with CBS closed his Sunday news program with becoming modesty: “That’s the news as we imperfectly mirror it.”

As your editorial makes clear, Mr. Cronkite continues to use his bully pulpit for silly sermons on U.S. foreign policy.


Chevy Chase

Kennedy and the Owl Club

Will someone please tell Sen. Edward M. Kennedy that he does not need to resign from the all-male Owl Club at Harvard University (“Kennedy quits all-male Harvard club amid criticism,” Page 1, Wednesday)? Yes, it was wrong of him to go after Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. with a bogus smear about his membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton — but the only egg from all that is on the good senator himself.

The important issue is this: As a society, we are doing great harm to men and women by relentlessly pushing out same-sex clubs, colleges and associations of all kinds. As these groups are increasingly driven to extinction, relations between the sexes have become cruder and more crass, not less, as any survey of popular entertainment, college life or the bar scene will attest.

In fact, same-sex associations most commonly help men and women become better, more decent men and women.

Whatever one may think of his political ideas, it is sad to think of an elderly man cutting himself off from a source of fellowship that stretches back so far, all for political correctness and a headline.



On the poor-loser soapbox

Since former Vice President Al Gore lost the presidential election, he seems also to have lost a mode of rationality and common sense (“Gore accuses Bush of illegal wiretaps,” Nation, Tuesday). Apparently feeling deficient in public attention, he attempts to cast himself in the limelight by vociferously criticizing President Bush for his prudent and legal actions concerning warrantless electronic surveillance of suspected terrorists.

Mr. Gore’s contention that the president “breaks the law” and places American values “at serious risk” is outrageous. Mr. Gore does not seem to care to recognize or acknowledge that the president has the legal authority, as well as justifiable reason, to conduct necessary procedures for justifiable security reasons. Mr. Bush is not — as Mr. Gore contends — abusing his power, is not in violation of the law and is not diminishing the rights of law-abiding American citizens.

Mr. Gore seemingly is out of touch with the reality of the current world situation and the dangers our country faces in a post-September 11 era. Mr. Bush is fully cognizant of the seriousness of the consequential impact of determined factions whose goal through terrorist acts is to destroy our country and the democratic principles it embraces.

Mr. Gore needs to step off his attention-getting, partisan poor-loser soapbox and silence his vituperative mouth, which only serves to degrade him. His blatantly defiant and unjust accusations are a poor reflection on a former public servant who once held the esteemed position of vice president of the United States.



Unfit to govern

This week the Democrats trotted out their laundry list of grievances against the Bush administration. First, former Democratic Vice President Al Gore attacked President Bush for authorizing warrantless wiretaps, something the Clinton administration did, along with warrantless searches, with impunity (“Gore accuses Bush of illegal wiretaps,” Nation, Tuesday). Mr. Gore himself engaged in illegal party fundraising, using his office to make phone calls and claiming there was “no controlling legal authority” when he got caught.

Then, Hillary Clinton, the former first lady who is a Democratic senator from her adopted home state of New York, played racial politics when she spoke to a crowd in Harlem on Martin Luther King’s birthday (“‘Plantation’ remarks still echoing on Hill,” Nation, Thursday) about how bad the Bush administration is and how the economic misfortunes of black Americans are because of tax cuts for the rich. She followed up with her “culture of corruption” charge against Republicans. That’s funny. Wasn’t her husband impeached, and wasn’t she accused of engaging in corrupt activities in Whitewater, Travelgate, and futures options trading? Oh, that’s right, it was all a vast right-wing conspiracy.

Next, New Orleans Democratic Mayor Ray Nagin blamed the devastating hurricanes that hit his city on God’s wrath against the United States for invading Iraq (“God’s wrath?” Inside Politics, Tuesday). Mr. Nagin apparently believes God doesn’t like Iraqis, who are still uncovering mass graves created by the murderous dictator whom we and our coalition partners removed.

These are desperate times for Democrats, whose leadership consists of sniping at Republicans without offering any ideas on how to govern short of abandoning the mission in Iraq, redistributing the wealth via socialism and claiming Mr. Bush’s efforts to protect us against another terrorist attack are illegal. Combined with the spectacle of the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. still fresh in our memories, one can only conclude that the current Democratic Party leadership is “unfit to govern.”


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