Thursday, January 11, 2007

Last Night, I Experienced a Walter Cronkite Moment

Walter Cronkite, the television news anchor once known as "the most trusted man in America", has been off the "CBS Evening News" for nearly a quarter-century. In 1968, Cronkite visited Vietnam during the infamous Tet offensive. After his return, he was urged by his CBS boss to briefly set aside his objectivity to give his view of the situation. Cronkite did so at the conclusion of a special broadcast and said the war was unwinnable and that the U.S. should exit.

Here are excerpts from his remarks, as I imagine Walter Cronkite would deliver them today on a return from Iraq, were he in his prime:
Tonight, back in more familiar surroundings in New York, we'd like to sum up our findings in Vietnam Iraq, an analysis that must be speculative, personal, subjective. Who won and who lost in the great . . . offensive against the cities? I'm not sure. The Vietcong insurgents did not win by a knockout, but neither did we. The referees of history may make it a draw. Another standoff may be coming in the big battles expected south around of the Demilitarized Green Zone. Khesanh could well fall we could well fail, with a terrible loss in American lives, prestige and morale, and this is a tragedy of our stubbornness there; but the bastion no longer is a key to the rest of the northern regions, and it is doubtful that the American forces can be defeated across the breadth of the DMZ Iraq with any substantial loss of ground. Another standoff. On the political front, past performance gives no confidence that the Vietnamese Iraqi government can cope with its problems, now compounded by the attack on the cities. It may not fall, it may hold on, but it probably won't show the dynamic qualities demanded of this young nation. Another standoff.

We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam Iraq and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds. . . . For it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam Iraq is to end in a stalemate. This summer's almost certain standoff will either end in real give-and-take negotiations or terrible escalation; and for every means we have to escalate, the enemy can match us, and that applies to . . . the mere commitment of one hundred, or two hundred, or three hundred thousand more American troops to the battle. And with each escalation, the world comes closer to the brink of cosmic disaster.

To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.

This is Walter Cronkite. Good night.
"Report from Vietnam," Walter Cronkite Broadcast, February 27, 1968.
After this broadcast, President Lyndon Johnson reportedly told a White House aide that,
"If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."
I've heard it often said that we need a contemporary man or woman of stature of comparable stature to Cronkite of 1968. I'm not so sure of that now; I think last night this President has, himself, lost middle America.

27 comments:

  1. For a war president, Bush is above average if you were recruiting from a pool of chimpanzees.

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  2. Once again I'm at work and having to run soon but wanted to make a quick comment. Right off the bat last night my first impression while he spoke was that Bush was scared. I thought that my bias was coloring my view but Howard Fineman wrote the same thing in is MSNBC column this morning.

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  3. I thought Bush looked scared and stiff. Just standing there, brow furrowed, looking into one lonely camera. He looked kind of small.

    They've actually got a powerpoint here on the White House website.

    Hagel, by the way, took Rice apart today.

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  4. Adam, Bush is not a chimp; he's a turkey.

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  5. What I don't understand is when are the American people going to quit cutting this incompetent mad man slack he has not EARNED? Going on 4 years we've give this jerk one 6-month 'benchmark' after another. What has he produced to reward our patience and generosity? For that matter, what has Bush done in the 6+ years he's been our Godfather that's turned out well? Now he's asking for one more chance? Dearly beloved, pass the cup of kool-aid!!!

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  6. One more thing before Pekka starts beating up on us Americans. (He's right.) How can we Americans look themselves in the mirror. They elected the asshole TWICE.

    What do we tell our soldiers coming back with one arm or one leg or one eye?

    SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO GO TO WAR WITH THE ELECTED LEADERS YOUR ELECTORATE HAS GIVEN YOU, and not the leaders you would like at a latter time?

    Is that what we are going to tell them?

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  7. How do you tell a girl friend, wife, mother father, brother that their loved one was the last soldier to be killed in a lost and pointless and unneeded war?

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  8. On C-Span, I just caught Condi Rice vs. Babs Boxer, Round III (Today). Verrrrrry one-sided, and Verrrrry satisfying.

    I never recall The Sec. of State caught in so many frowns by the camera and in so much stuttering by the microphone. As Pekka can affirm, I once admired Condoleeza [how can you imagine a sweeter name?] Rice; I once even said I was proud of her as an American. But she can't out-box a Boxer.

    What a tragedy she turned out to be a GOP-er!!!

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  9. They've actually got a powerpoint here on the White House website.

    We are so fucked. What group of twentysomething ex-College Republican morons put together that ideologically-driven piece of shit excuse for remaining at war with Iraq?

    Enough with the frigging Freedom Agenda!

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  10. As everyone who knows me know (especially my dog, Redoct) I cannot simply sit down and watch the WARBEAST without soiling the furniture. So, I must confess to just listening to this ... this ... effluvium uttered by the CIC last night from the other room. so I missed this sorry-assed confession of error which he supposedly made. Thanks to the StarSpangledHaggis - who misses nothing and has a stronger stomach - I have learned that he came across with,

    "Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility lies with me"

    Which clearly implies he still doesn't have a fucking clue where the fuck he screwed up.

    Recidivist (above) is right-on.

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  11. Bush did not just loose Middle America, a poll taken down here in what can honestly be call Redneck Heaven has support for the war below 40 percent.
    About the speech though, a major concern, worry, or fear( take your pick) was his talk about stopping Iranian support for the militias. Then hearing the next day that we had raided an Iranian consulant up in the Kurdish part of Iraq. With a new carrier group in the Gulf might Bush try and pick a fight with Iran? After seeing his speech live and then seeing repeats on the news channels he is begining to look less scared and more like someone in a panic like an animal cornered. And we all know how a cornered animal can act.

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  12. Okay, this is a rant. Vigilante, you can edit this as you see fit, but I'm so mad I can't even think.

    Can someone please research the constitutionality of impeaching him for high crimes and misdemeanors? Surely we can prove that his "broad" powers as Commander in Chief (so says Condi) do not include gross negligence, unapproved warmongering, and the second-hand killing of American soldiers? What I want him to say is that he needs us to all come together and fix this situation in Iraq because he had no business being there in the first place, but now that we've broken it we have to fix it. Then I want him to convene his usual Christian clergypeople who come to his prayer breakfast on the National Day of Prayer, and I want him-Jimmy Swaggart style--to beg on bended knee the forgiveness of God himself and every single family member of every single killed or injured servicemember for his hubris, his ignorance, his arrogance in the face of stone cold facts, and his refusal to tell his two daughters to at least stay the hell out of the news for drinking and partying while other Americans their age--but lightyears ahead of them in maturity and honor--bleed and die in a war begun by their father.

    The disrespect at every level of the Bush family is the real insult.

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  13. E., You blew out my circuits! I can't post this morning!

    And, Beach, you're right. Bush wants to start another one so he can have a trifecta of unfinished wars burning before he leaves office.

    Are we right, or are we right?

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  14. I heard about this on Stephanie Miller this morning. Here's the exchange. This is a perfect example of why I have so much respect for my Senator. I wish she were president.

    Boxer vs. Condalizard

    Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., noted Rice has no children of her own to lose overseas. "Who pays the price?" Boxer repeatedly demanded. "You're not going to pay a particular price," she told Rice, because the secretary has no "immediate family" at risk.
    ...
    Boxer made it personal.

    "I'm not going to pay a personal price," she said. "My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young. You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family."

    Boxer talked about families losing loved ones and soldiers in hospital burn units. "These are the people who pay the price."

    Rice said evenly that she understands the sacrifice of service members and families.

    "I visit them. I know what they're going through. I talk to their families. I see it. I could never and I can never do anything to replace any of those lost men and women in uniform, or the diplomats, some of whom. ..."

    Boxer cut her off.

    "Madam Secretary, please," she said. "I know you feel terrible about it. That's not the point. I was making the case as to who pays the price for your decisions."
    ...
    A great comment came from presidential hopeful, Chuck Hagle (R-NB): "The most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam."


    Absolutely correct, beachbum. Rachel Maddows on Air America expressed the same sentiment last night (Hi!) Maddows states Shrub wants to destroy as much as he can before he leaves office and then leave it all for someone else to clean up. Well, isn't that what spoiled brats usually do?

    Maddows the streaming audio from last night at Air America

    No rant, but a great post, e. If Bush is so damn pro-war, why doesn't he send his idiot daughters to Iraq to fight?

    I love this quote--it's right on-target: The disrespect at every level of the Bush family is the real insult.

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  15. One more thing about Bush maybe insanely attacking Iran. In his speech he mentioned deploying Patroit air defence missiles to the region to "reassure our friends and allies." Folks, I was in air defence and you don't deploy those units for nothing less than taking out modern jet fighters which Iran and Syria have in their air forces.

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  16. About Iran -- most of us, I would think, would consider incursions into Iranian and Syrian territory would be beyond the scope of the AUMF. But I'm curious - a copy of the text of the AUMF is here - can it be construed to encompass such actions? It kind of seems obvious to me that it doesn't, but am I missing something?

    Clearly if it doesn't, we've got a serious Constitutional crisis on our hands. Bush has already begun sending the troops, so any "debate" will be characterized as cutting our troops in the field off at the knees, right?

    So what does Congress do? Cut funding for the whole thing? Just the "surge" troops? Pass a condemning, but non binding, resolution? Haul Bush in front of the Congress to impeach him for use of his war powers? I'm serious. As recidivist said, we've elected this guy TWICE. (Well, actually.... maybe only once. But anyhoo...).

    I'm interested in what others think we should do. I'll start - I'm with Russ Feingold, you've got to pull the plug on the whole damn thing. Impeachment is out of the question, I think -- guess who's in line next for the Presidency. And I realize that the answer to that is "Impeach them both". But practically, we elected these chumps, and the CIC's powers are inherently vague.

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  17. The war will expand shortly. Most people on this page are fiddling while Rome burns. This type of economy must expand , or it will collapse. America runs on the special interest groups that demand constant growth.
    War is the magic shortcut. Remember when the markets soared at the start of the Iraq war.?
    There are no Cronkite's out there anymore. Just people like kiss-ass Tom Brokaw who will fawn for happy horseshit dead politicians.
    Good morning Iran.

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  18. Hold on to your horses, resividist, I shall not stoop low enough to start dumping on you Yanks! No sirree, Dub! :)

    What I will do though, is to start holding you all as being responsible for allowing this neocon wrecking grew to start their mindless crusade that, instead when it became clear what it will do to the American interests and to that of the rest of the world's, is getting progressively worse. The time of the finger pointing at that thightly definable group such as the before mentioned neocons doesn't wash any more. More, a lot more is needed now from you.

    There are plenty of examples about leaders going mad with power, but this is the first major one that I can recall in a nation that has a democracy to combat such an unfortunate reality. When Idi Amin, Josef Stalin or Adolf Hitler blunged head first in the deep end of the pool, the people had not too much to say about it. You do, unless your much ballyhooed revolution changed nothing.

    Let's face it, the ball is in your court and there is no way that you can shirk your responsibilities to stop this nightmaris nonsense. If you don't, and here I leave it to you how to go about it, we, the rest of the world, will curse you the way we did curse the Germans and the Russians during the past half a century or so. This time, it will be even more fiery due to fact that you are a democracy.

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  19. Stella, come back! I have two requests! (For any one else, too!)

    1) I couldn't find Connie Rice's Thursday Q & A transcripts where - I swear - she blurted out that this surge idea was originally Malicki's! Can you believe that?

    2) I looked long and hard for a photo of Boxer's chart she was showing Sec. Rice. Can anyone find it? I need it for my Connie Rice Kool Aid collection.

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  20. Yeah, Pekka. You've got the drop on us Yanks. Under Bush we have become the DSA (Disunited States of America). Just as, under Blair, Great Britain has become just 'Britain'.

    What's with the holier-than-thou Canadians and Finns, BTW? How did you guys escape/avoid going through an imperialistic fling?

    Was it religion or just the cool climate? If the latter, your time will come to rule the world, what with this climate change.

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  21. Yes, Pekka. You're right. And here I am blathering about what Congress should do. (But they should). Hitler was elected, after all. But don't give up hope, we did do something. Enough of us were awake to kick out the party of Bush from power in Congress.

    The next step is to pressure our government (Congress in this case) to pull funding for the entire thing. Write to your Congressperson - www.house.gov. and www.senate.gov. You can look up your representative by ZIP code. I'm going to do it right now.

    Keep talking to your friends - e-mail them to do the same. And Pekka, please keep talking to us. We need outside eyes to help.

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  22. pekka: mea culpa and yes, keep talking :).

    A lot of times I'm too close to the problem to be certain of my own observations, outside views help.

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  23. If Bush is so damn pro-war, why doesn't he send his idiot daughters to Iraq to fight?

    Yes! If this Global War on Terror is the huge conflict Bush says it is, why is there not a draft and why are there not a million American soldiers over there stamping out this terrible threat to democracy?

    Why? Because it's bullshit. He has enough people over there to secure the oil. He will keep enough people over ther to secure oil, and Bush could care less who dies in the process. It's a permanent occupation.

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  24. Bobby Muller, paralyzed Vietnam vet, experiences deva vu:

    In 1968, shortly after Clark Clifford succeeded Robert McNamara as Secretary of Defense, Secretary Clifford met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss the war in Vietnam. He quickly learned that America’s top military leaders did not know how many troops were needed nor did they know what constituted victory.

    . . . . During March 1968, despite this discovery, President Johnson agreed to send 24,500 more troops to Vietnam on an emergency basis.

    . . . . At that time, approximately 24,000 U.S. service members had died in Vietnam. By the end of that war, more than 58,000 U.S. troops had been killed. More U.S. soldiers died winding down the war than had in starting it. In addition, by the end of the war, the United States had greatly expanded the war into Cambodia and Laos.

    . . . . As with Secretary Clifford, Secretary Gates has succeeded the architect of a U.S. military failure. Like Clifford, Gates has proven incapable of calling for a dramatic change in course . . . .

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  25. Vigil, your question about why the Canadians and the Finns never had the imperialist fling is an interesting one. I wish I could say that it is based on the nobility of our character.

    Super short answer is; the both of them shared/share the common border with a giant and in the Finland's case with the two, Russia and Sweden. There is nothing like a huge fist near one's face to prevent getting any "big ideas".

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