History

Walter Cronkite, RIP

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cronkite
CBS

Walter Cronkite has died at age 92. My parents watched him when I was a boy, so his avuncular-grandpa image was imprinted on me early; to this day, I can't read the phrase "Dow Jones Industrial Average" without hearing it in the old anchor's baritone. I had no idea what the Dow was back then, but it was comforting when Cronkite talked about it. If the country had to have a collective father figure, he was well suited for the job.

The problem was that we didn't need a national father figure. The very phrase "the man America trusted" makes me uneasy. Surely it's good that the country has grown too skeptical to put so much faith in a single newsreader.

The Cronkite personality cult reached its strangest moment in the election of 1980, after Hugh Sidey wrote this passage in Time:

Last week a group of concerned Americans clustered around a television set in Chicago for an updating on their own state primary. Their focus was not on a local luminary but on Walter Cronkite, who had come to the provinces and set up his majestic broadcast booth. His noble gray head appeared at the bottom of the screen, a gigantic red, white and blue map of the U.S. spread out behind him. Not since George C. Scott opened the movie Patton had such a dramatic entrance been filmed. There were quiet gasps among the appreciative Chicagoans.

Cronkite for that second or two consumed everybody who watched. He was everything the real world was not. Cronkite was truth, stability and reality. "My God," one of the viewers muttered, "why don't we get it over with and elect Cronkite President?"

It was a joke, of course. But it was a wistful what-if of a joke, and it resonated. Time soon ran letters hailing the idea. "He knows more about national and international problems than any other two candidates put together," declared one reader, "and, as a duty, I think he would accept the miserable job." Four years later, the newsman was still fending off suggestions that he run for the office and "make a difference." Can you imagine anyone spouting such a fantasy about any of our anchors today? Maybe Stewart or Colbert, but not someone who delivers the news with a straight face.

And that's good. Cronkite's influence was a product of the three-network era, a time we should be happy to have put behind us. I'm sorry to see the man die, but I'm glad no one was able to fill his shoes.

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  1. Well, I’ll honor his memory with some rap lyrics, this time from Xzibit’s “X” (from the Restless album).

    “The first day of the rest of my life/
    …stand behind the mic like Walker Cronkite”

    R.I.P. Walter Cronkite.

  2. And now for an even curiouser take on the Cronkite legacy…

  3. A long life well lived. I can’t feel sad for his passing.

    Then again, he was just an icon to me. I’ll leave it to his family to deal with his passing as a real man. Condolences.

  4. Well said, highnumber.

  5. He was one of the most iconic broadcasters ever.

    However, in his retirement and as I got older, he would make philosophical comments that would grate on my nerves.

    I suppose though, naturally the man who embodied the era of news when every eye was tuned to one station– and one man– to receive their daily dose of information, it would be no surprise that he would consider that the apex of news media.

    Heck, I remember way back in the day when news media insiders considered the ” Dan Rather” era to be the beginning of the end.

  6. I remember the scene in Cold Turkey, when Walter Chronic stepped into the operating room and has a halo, and people speak his name in awe.

    The Cult of Cronkite that made that scene possible.

  7. Fun fact: Cronkite’s name is a corruption of the Dutch “Krankheyt,” which is related to the German “Krankheit,” which is the opposite of Gesundheit – i.e., it means “disease” or “illness.”

  8. Anderson mentioned Cronkite as a VP in 1980.

  9. Wasn’t he the guy who said Plutonium was the most toxic substance known to man?

    What an idiot.

  10. I would never play basketball with you*, joshua corning. You seem like a cherry-picker.

    *unless you were on my team.

  11. Cronkite on CBS and Huntley & Brinkley on NBC: That was the “Golden Age” of TV news anchors. Nobody cared who was on ABC (except ABC stockholders, I guess — even the affiliates didn’t seem to care that much about the evening news at the time). And I’m with Walker: “It was a nice place to visit” during my childhood, but not a place I’d like to live.

  12. And that’s the way it was.

    Can’t say as I ever cared what the gentleman thought about anything, then again he never called me up to tap my active brain either.

  13. Fuck him. The king of NIMBY when it came to electric windmills marring HIS view, but he sure had plenty to say about the “evil oil corporations”.

  14. The problem was that we didn’t need a national father figure. The very phrase “the man America trusted” makes me uneasy. Surely it’s good that the country has grown too skeptical to put so much faith in a single newsreader.

    Uh…

  15. He never seemed like a horrible guy. At the same time he was part of the elite-media culture, with all the bad assumptions and biases that entails.

    Condolences go out to his family and friends.

  16. he was part of the elite-media culture, with all the bad assumptions and biases that entails

    As opposed to today’s anarchic media culture, with all the misinformation, disinformation, vanity blogs and narrow-focused punditry.

  17. ‘Wasn’t he the guy who said Plutonium was the most toxic substance known to man?
    What an idiot.’

    Not sure about that, but I remember a question he asked during an Apollo flight about whether, despite being weightless, the astronauts experienced any ‘residual gravity’. Yeah, clueless.

    Peel away the avuncular exterior, and he was really kind of dumb. In his later years his ego was so inflated I think he felt weightless. Held down to Earth only due to some residual gravity.

    But, I do feel sorry for his family. I’m sure he was well loved. His passing marks the end of an era. RIP.

  18. Who?

  19. Goodbye, Walter, and thanks a lot for losing us the Vietnam War.

  20. ” product of the three-network era, a time we should be happy to have put behind us”

    Really, thank god for that. I remember when we got the first UHF channel and so didn’t have to watch the news at 6 or televangelists on Sunday morning, but could watch syndicated Incredible Hulk, Star Trek, Gilligans Island, etc.

    “thanks a lot for losing us the Vietnam War”

    Yeah, the guy who tells us the messed up things our government is doing is the messed up one.

  21. “said Plutonium was the most toxic substance known to man? What an idiot”

    Yeah, this is straight up balderdash. Plutonium is great with hashbrowns and sausage links. Tastes a lot like like tachyon particles, but with none of the clairvoyance interference.

  22. Four years later, the newsman was still fending off suggestions that he run for the office and “make a difference.” Can you imagine anyone spouting such a fantasy about any of our anchors today?

    Has not there been a flurry of that for Rush Limbaugh lately?

    Tastes a lot like like tachyon particles, but with none of the clairvoyance interference.

    Tastes more metallic to me.

  23. Surely it’s good that the country has grown too skeptical to put so much faith in a single newsreader.

    Though I’m old enough to remember most of the events that Cronkite is renowned for reporting on, his effect on my world view is minimal if anything. So much for icon.

    Still, he never made an ass of himself, never embarrassed his employers or family and retired with grace. Unlike so many who’ve tasted fame, it appears that he was quite comfortable being out of the public eye. All of that is deserving of respect.

    Heck, I remember way back in the day when news media insiders considered the “Dan Rather” era to be the beginning of the end.

    For broadcast network news, it was.

    My condolences to Walter Cronkite’s family and friends.

  24. Actually, a tribe of glue-sniffers seem to sincerely want Lou Dobbs to be the President.

  25. said Plutonium was the most toxic substance known to man? What an idiot

    Just out of curiosity, what *is* the most toxic substance known to man?

  26. Fun fact: Cronkite’s name is a corruption of the Dutch “Krankheyt,” which is related to the German “Krankheit,” which is the opposite of Gesundheit – i.e., it means “disease” or “illness.”

    As I recall, the movie “Candy” (and maybe the book, though I never read it) had a scene where James Coburn plays an incompetent surgeon named “Dr. Krankheit.” When I saw it, a little light bulb went off in my head as I realized “so *that’s* what Uncle Walter’s name means.”

  27. It is hard to grieve over a guy who’d have preferred the Soviet Union win the cold war.

  28. Seamus,

    Plutonium is way up there, at least I thought it was and never heard of WC calling it that.

    Botulinum toxin, I thought, was the most or close to the most toxic organic chemical, but how they compare I am not sure.

  29. I forgot about hydrogen hydroxide, but that just kills the greatest numbers of people, not everybody who comes in contact with it.

  30. Dihydrogen Oxide is a big killer too.

  31. 3 channels of swill for 30 minutes or dozens of channels of swill 24/7; hmmm, I think it’s tougher to call than you claim, Jesse.

  32. You don’t have to watch any of it, Slap.

    I have trouble believing anyone likes that crap, too, but apparently enough do.

  33. I was something line ten during the moon landings. My memories all involve that voice on the TV. Yes, he asked a few dumb questions, but he was asking questions a fair number of people had. That was his job, and there were not a lot of people at the time in a position to do it.

    I shudder to think what coverage would sound like if the first moon shots happened today.

  34. CoaC,

    I saw one of the annaversaries of some astronaut thing on C-SPAN a while back. None of the old astronauts seemed to like WC too much. They had a nickname for him, Fog Horn or something.

  35. Three channels and PBS. Not a good time. Then Fox came along and had TNG and Married…with Children. That was better.

  36. Cronkite covered all the space flights in the 1960s, so he had a major influence on my life. He also hosted “The Twentieth Century,” which did a lot to get me interested in history.

    Back when there were only three networks, you needed someone like Cronkite.

    There were several news anchors on ABC in the 1960s: John Cameron Swayze, Ron Cochran and Peter Jennings. Jennings is the one I remember, but from the late 1970s and the 1980s when he resumed the chair. I had to look Cochran up; Swayze’s name is familiar, but not from the nightly news.

  37. “The Twentieth Century” was sponsored by Prudential Life Insurance. Maybe that’s why I associate Walter Cronkite with the Rock of Gibraltar.

  38. “The Twentieth Century” was sponsored by Prudential Life Insurance. Maybe that’s why I associate Walter Cronkite with the Rock of Gibraltar.

    I remember that it had a catchy theme song, and that it aired on CBS Sunday nights, just before Lassie and Ed Sullivan. (Those were my parents’ preferences. In 1961 or so, I fought to be allowed to watch Bullwinkle and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color instead.) Later on, when I was in junior high school, they’d show films of some of the TV episodes, but I was always disappointed because, apparently, when CBS packaged the shows for school distribution, they altered the credits to get rid of the Rock of Gibraltar (can’t be advertising to the kiddies, don’t you know; need to provide a level playing field for Mutual of Omaha). They had the same theme song, but in a different arrangement, that lacked the measured dignity of the original.

  39. I liked to watch the ABC broadcasts when Howard K. Smith, first with Frank Reynolds, then Harry Reasoner, was the anchor.

    I think that was partly because where I lived, we could catch the ABC feed either from New York, or 30 minutes earlier from New Haven. That meant I could see the national news AND watch Star Trek before dinner.

    Kevin

  40. Say what you will about Walter Cronkite, I loved the way he handled his famous interview with Alan Greenspan.

  41. what *is* the most toxic substance known to man?

    Tyranny. Or subservience.

    Name your poison.

  42. Actually, a tribe of glue-sniffers seem to sincerely want Lou Dobbs to be the President.

    Dobbs is more of a talk show host than an anchor, isn’t he?

    Of course, that’s true of Stewart and Colbert as well.

  43. Walter Cronkite, the man who persuaded us to lose the Vietnam War. Thanks a lot, asshole.

  44. Nooge sez Actually, a tribe of glue-sniffers seem to sincerely want Lou Dobbs to be the President.

    Dammit, I’d sooner vote for “Bob” Dobbs.

  45. Re: Plutonium…the quote is from Ralph Nadar.

    I am sure it matters what you mean, but I believe botox is the considered the winner for naturally occurring substances.

    I think, however, that it may actually be Glenn Beck’s tears.

  46. I think, however, that it may actually be Glenn Beck’s tears.

    Win.

  47. I named my bong after him – Walter Cronpipe.

  48. Say what you will about Mr. Cronkite, he was and remains an icon in my world view. He may have had his flaws, as do we all, but he only on rare occasions allowed his personal attitudes and perspectives to cloud an otherwise unbiased report. Certainly he edited “our access” to what was considered news. I am not an editor, nor am I so certain that I could distinguish between what is truly news-worthy and what simply appeals to my preferences. Cronkite’s mostly objective – and edited – view was better than any of the 24-7 raw feeds we have today which leave the viewer with the job of fitting all the pieces together. We will probably never see his like again and I, for one, feel diminished by his passing.

  49. I would never play basketball with you*, joshua corning. You seem like a cherry-picker.

    not really…the first time i heard Cronkite’s name was when i was having a discussion about nuclear power with a friend…my friend was against it and he told me that Cronkite the most trusted man in the universe or some such nonsense said that Plutonium was the most toxic substance known to man….So it is more of a personal experience and how i was first exposed to him that forever corrupted my view of him.

    Just out of curiosity, what *is* the most toxic substance known to man?

    My out of my ass guess would Botulism toxin. But plutonium doesn’t even make the top 10 or probably not even the top 100…hell radon a natural radioactive gas is far more deadly then plutonium.

  50. I’m old enough to remember the man reading the nightly news during the Vietnam war. His voice is still in my head as clear as ever. Where is the journalist today who could articulate the political truth of the Iraq and Afghanistant wars the way Cronkite did after Tet?

    RIP Uncle Walter. At least we once had someone we could trust.

  51. It’s not the poison, it’s the dose.

  52. Neu Mejican | July 18, 2009, 1:10pm | #
    Re: Plutonium…the quote is from Ralph Nadar.

    Not nice to lie Neu Mejican

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/reaction/etc/script.html

    NARRATOR: A few feet away the level drops off to

    background. Of all the materials inside the casks, the one that probably causes most fear is plutonium, a substance that remains radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. Plutonium has attained legendary status as the most toxic substance in the world.

    WALTER CRONKITE: Plutonium is the most deadliest substance known to man. A tiny amount on the skin will kill.

    NARRATOR: The truth is less dramatic. The radiation given off by plutonium can’t penetrate human skin. It can even be stopped by a thin sheet of paper. While plutonium is dangerous to ingest, it’s nowhere near the most toxic substance known to man. It is, however, a highly concentrated form of energy. There’s as much energy available in one gram of plutonium as in one ton of oil. So outside the United States, in France, Japan and many other countries, they don’t regard plutonium as waste. They recycle the plutonium and unused uranium and fabricate new fuel elements. By recycling the plutonium, they not only reduce the volume of the waste, they also get energy.

  53. I was born in 1987. If you asked me who Walter Cronkite was I could have told you he was a newscaster. I never saw him (or at least I don’t think I did) deliver the news and I couldn’t name you the network he broadcast for.

    It is a weird feeling when “everyone” is talking about someone as an avuncular and necessary fellow when you know nothing about them. He had no influence on me, ever.

    It’s good to be reminded of how young (read: ignorant if you’re as self-defacing as me) I am.

    That is all.

  54. But back on topic, for you non-ADD/ADHD fellows: the fact that there were only three network news broadcasts in Cronkite’s time served to greatly magnify the product. When they were competing with only two other networks for a hundred-million viewers, they had to get it right. There was nowhere to hide. There was no room for shoddy opinions or hair-trigger news “analysis.” Everything happening in the world had to be distilled into only the most pertinent news items. No fat, no fluff, no blond-bots, no Democrat “strategists.” Compare that with today’s “news” products.

  55. Damn you, Mad Max!!! Caught by my own snare!

  56. Does anyone else remember the SNL skit about Cronkite’s retirement? I forget who was playing him. In the skit Conkite tells the audience that it is his last show and he is now free to say and do what he likes. He then proceeds to tell the children watching to stick their fingers in light sockets. It was quite funny.

    Ultmately, Cronkite will never live down his worst moment of declaring the Vietnam war unwinnable just as the Tet offensive was in fact failing. If you want to go back and find an end to the objective media, that moment and the appalling reporting that went on in the late Vietnam war is probably the start.

  57. his worst moment of declaring the Vietnam war unwinnable

    John, you ignorant slut. The war was unwinnable the way it was being waged. Going the route of total war (the only way to win a war), given the political climate at the time, was untenable to Johnson and his advisors. They were playing it halfway, with catastrophic results.

  58. Neu Mejican, joshua corning,

    here

  59. Walter Cronkite WAS the man to watch for news during the 3-channel days. He was the most objective, reliable source for finding out what was uppermost in peoples desire to know. He didn’t clutter the news with personal political biases.

    On the other hand, listening to his newscast was just the start. If a story sparked your interest, you searched for more information in the daily newspaper that nearly everyone (well, a comparatively large percentage of people)subscribed to, and read, daily. That process kept the national news from straying too far from actual facts.

    Thirty-two years ago when I asked my first class of fourth graders who had a daily newspaper that they could bring in (after Mom and Dad were done), every hand went up. Last year when I asked the same question not one family subscribed to a daily paper.

    The internet, cable, and satellite are great for accessing nearly unlimited information, but finding even relatively objective facts is a lot more difficult today. Sometimes I miss ol’ Walter and the 3-channel days.

    My sincere condolances to Walter Conkite’s family and friends. He will be missed by many.

  60. NARRATOR: The truth is less dramatic. The radiation given off by plutonium can’t penetrate human skin. It can even be stopped by a thin sheet of paper.

    Narrator’s misleading too. Alpha rays can be stopped by paper. Gamma rays cannot.

  61. He didn’t clutter the news with personal political biases.

    Like his Vietnam comments, assisting the north in enslaving millions for decades?

    I wasn’t really around then, but have not heard much about him criticizing the victors with the boat people crisis.

  62. Scratch my last comment. I’m not sure Plutonium 239 emits gamma rays.

  63. The Vietnam War wasn’t winnable in the first place. If we’d persisted, we would have just lost tens of thousands more men for no reason.

  64. Uncle Walt was as biased as any of the anchors we have today, and the only reason he’s remembered so fondly is because there was so little competition.

    I cringe every time I hear that “most trusted man” comment.

  65. I was born in 1987. If you asked me who Walter Cronkite was I could have told you he was a newscaster. I never saw him (or at least I don’t think I did) deliver the news and I couldn’t name you the network he broadcast for.

    It is a weird feeling when “everyone” is talking about someone as an avuncular and necessary fellow when you know nothing about them. He had no influence on me, ever.

    ’83 and pretty much feel the same way. I still think that older folk’s reverence for talking heads is strange.

    Of course, when Billy Mays died I felt like the world had suffered a great loss and I would forever miss his commercials.

  66. Three channels and PBS. Not a good time. Then Fox came along and had TNG and Married…with Children. That was better.

    FWIW, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was syndicated–and many Big 3 affiliates carried it at the start. (IIRC, Boston’s WCVB pre-empted some ABC prime-time programming for it.)

  67. self-defacing = Self-effacing?

  68. Also, here’s a listing of all SCTV sketches featuring Dave Thomas as Cronkite.

  69. Like his Vietnam comments, assisting the north in enslaving millions for decades?

    Cronkite was a journalist. A private citizen. He didn’t send “advisors” to Vietnam (Eisenhower) then put those “advisors” into combat (Kennedy) then escalate the war (Johnson) then fight it halfheartedly to a stalemate (Nixon). To hold Walter Cronkite responsible for the Vietnam debacle is retarded at best. No, you weren’t there, Suki. Maybe you should read a book or two.

  70. I wasn’t really around then, but have not heard much about him criticizing the victors with the boat people crisis.

    I was around, but far too young to really know anything. That won’t stop my retroactive opinions, though.

    I don’t think we should have fought in Vietnam, but the anti-war left’s double standard vis-a-vis My Lai versus Vietcong / NVA atrocities was truly disgusting. Yes, we should hold ourselves to a high standard (and take action when it is not met), but that doesn’t mean we abdicate standards for others.

    I think part of the reaction to that has been the under-reaction to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. People don’t want to speak out as loudly as they should simply because they don’t want to be associated with the kind of “the US sucks, always and everywhere” rhetoric that the hippies used.

    As for Vietnam, in one of the most under reported and not-really-talked-about items of the day, Vietnam kicked hundreds of thousands of ethnic Chinese out of Vietnam. This was in response to Chinese antagonism over Vietnam’s Kampuchea policy. (And it actually caused a short border war between Vietnam and China). Regardless of the reasons behind it, this was definitely “ethnic cleansing”, which was something I thought about a lot when the Clinton administration was spouting moral pontifications about Serbia in the early 1990’s.

    And some of those SCTV Cronkite sketches were pretty good.

  71. I remember the scene in Cold Turkey, when Walter Chronic stepped into the operating room and has a halo, and people speak his name in awe.

    The Cult of Cronkite that made that scene possible.

    But, well…David Chetly had beams of light coming from his head too. Still, they included that shot only so Chronic wouldn’t feel lonely. That was inspired writing, though — first condensing Huntley & Brinkley into a single character and then casting that composite and Cronic as Bob & Ray. People even then knew there was a wrongness about it all. One of my favorite movies.

    Ever hear the rumor supposedly attributed to, uh, was it David Boaz? That in a secret meeting Cronkite arranged the suppression of media att’n to Ed Clark for president because he was considered a real threat? Supposedly conservatives weren’t considered a threat to the “liberal” consensus, but libertarians might break it because of their social tolerance.

  72. I haven’t read the other comments, but Mr. Cronkite is in hell. He was a piece of shit traitor, who declared one of the biggest military victories in history with “We have lost the war”.

    Yo, fuck Walter Cronkite.

    And those who defend that sorry piece of fucking shit? Yo, fuck you!

  73. The differences between the Vietnam and Iraq wars are instructive. When Cronkite told the nation that the war was “unwinnable” while we were kicking the Viet Cong’s asses during the Tet Offensive, there was no opposition media. The people got only his side of the story. Contrast that with the Iraq war, when the decendents of Cronkite were telling us two weeks into the Iraq war that it was a “quagmire”, and we would never defeat Saddam/find Saddam/defeat the insurgency… Fortunately, thanks to the internet and conservative media, the truth could be heard if you cared to find it.

    Of course, we also had very different men leading the wars.

  74. rm2muv,

    On the other hand, listening to his newscast was just the start. If a story sparked your interest, you searched for more information in the daily newspaper that nearly everyone (well, a comparatively large percentage of people)subscribed to, and read, daily. That process kept the national news from straying too far from actual facts.

    No, it was just easier to impose a consensus about what did and did not constitute a fact. Once Conkrite spoke from on high that the Tet Offensive meant that Vietnam was a lost cause then that became a fact regardless of the fact that at the time the North Vietnamese were in an utter panic because they viewed their defeat as catastrophic. Read General Giap. We made policy based on the fact, 2 million people in Indochina died horribly and the ghost of our defeat boosted the moral of every enemy we have face since.

    When one looks at the 70’s one sees repeated instances in which a small (less than one hundred people) decided what was and what was not news and what was and was not a fact. In almost every case, they were either absolutely wrong e.g. the world is running out of oil, or they showed only one side of a complex issue.

    On the other hand, IIRC, Conkrite was a big fan of wage and price controls so maybe we owe him something for starting the libertarian movement.

  75. Plutonium toxicity:

    Despite being toxic both chemically and because of its ionising radiation, plutonium is far from being “the most toxic substance on Earth” or so hazardous that “a speck can kill”. On both counts there are substances in daily use that, per unit of mass, have equal or greater chemical toxicity (arsenic, cyanide, caffeine) and radiotoxicity (smoke detectors).

    There are three principal routes by which plutonium can get into human beings who might be exposed to it:

    * Ingestion.
    * Contamination of open wounds.
    * Inhalation.

    Ingestion is not a significant hazard, because plutonium passing through the gastro-intestinal tract is poorly absorbed and is expelled from the body before it can do harm.

    Contamination of wounds has rarely occurred although thousands of people have worked with plutonium. Their health has been protected by the use of remote handling, protective clothing and extensive health monitoring procedures.

    The main threat to humans comes from inhalation. While it is very difficult to create airborne dispersion of a heavy metal like plutonium, certain forms, including the insoluble plutonium oxide, at a particle size less than 10 microns (0.01 mm), are a hazard. If inhaled, much of the material is immediately exhaled or is expelled by mucous flow from the bronchial system into the gastro-intestinal tract, as with any particulate matter. Some however will be trapped and readily transferred, first to the blood or lymph system and later to other parts of the body, notably the liver and bones. It is here that the deposited plutonium’s alpha radiation may eventually cause cancer.

    However, the hazard from Pu-239 is similar to that from any other alpha-emitting radionuclides which might be inhaled. It is less hazardous than those which are short-lived and hence more radioactive, such as radon daughters, the decay products of radon gas, which (albeit in low concentrations) are naturally common and widespread in the environment.

    In the 1940s some 26 workers at US nuclear weapons facilities became contaminated with plutonium. Intensive health checks of these people have revealed no serious consequence and no fatalities that could be attributed to the exposure. In the 1990s plutonium was injected into and inhaled by some volunteers, without adverse effects. In the 1950s Queen Elizabeth II was visiting Harwell and was handed a lump of plutonium (presumably Pu-239) in a plastic bag and invited to feel how warm it was.

    Plutonium is one among many toxic materials that have to be handled with great care to minimise the associated but well understood risks.

  76. “I’m sorry to see the man die, but I’m glad no one was able to fill his shoes.”

    Sorry to see him die?? He was 92 years old, for Christ’s sake. And what if somebody could fill his shoes? He was a fucking news anchor. Geez, you need to get a life.

  77. Joshua Corning,

    Not nice to lie Neu Mejican

    I did not lie.

    I was not aware that WC had been one of the many to spread the meme, but I am correct that is was Nader who is mostly responsible for introducing the meme…during a debate on nuclear safety with R. Lapp in 1975 or so, iirc. The quote you give is from a piece on 3 Mile Island…1979 or so – essentially repeating Nader’s claim.

    Suki, yes, you mentioned botox first.

    Art-POG, =/;^)

  78. Once Conkrite spoke from on high that the Tet Offensive meant that Vietnam was a lost cause then that became a fact regardless of the fact that at the time the North Vietnamese were in an utter panic because they viewed their defeat as catastrophic. Read General Giap. We made policy based on the fact, 2 million people in Indochina died horribly and the ghost of our defeat boosted the moral of every enemy we have face since.

    It can be and has been reasonably argued that if we had allowed the democratic elections of 1956 to go forward and then gotten the hell out of there and stayed out (or if we had never manipulated the government there in the first place), millions of Vietnamese and tens of thousands of American lives wouldn’t have been lost at all.

    Supporting the Viet Nam war (not to mention blaming its defeat on the media) is to believe wholeheartedly in the power of big government (as if the military is somehow immune to the failings of government run education and healthcare), while ignoring the inherent dishonesty and incompetence that goes along with the it. It couldn’t have been less of a libertarian pursuit.

  79. It can be and has been reasonably argued that if we had allowed the democratic elections of 1956 to go forward and then gotten the hell out of there and stayed out (or if we had never manipulated the government there in the first place), millions of Vietnamese and tens of thousands of American lives wouldn’t have been lost at all.

    And if we stayed out the Soviets and Chinese would have played nice and stayed out too. Right?

    Just like if we stop being nice to Israel Iran will leave them alone too, right?

  80. He didn’t clutter the news with personal political biases

    If this statement was not politically biased then i don’t know what is:

    WALTER CRONKITE: Plutonium is the most deadliest substance known to man. A tiny amount on the skin will kill.

  81. @ towed lion:

    “self-defacing=self-effacing?”

    That is what I meant. But since one can deface their reputation or feelings of self-worth, I stand by my words and indeed plan on using them in the future.

  82. It can be and has been reasonably argued that if we had allowed the democratic elections of 1956 to go forward and then gotten the hell out of there…

    We can do counter factuals all day. What if the CIA simply never whacked the Diems? What if the OSS never gave Ho Chi Minh any assistance during WWII? What if they worked to try to form a real alliance with Prince Sihanouk, instead of double dealing with Lon Nol? SE Asia could look very different today.

  83. Now cures elf out.


  84. And if we stayed out the Soviets and Chinese would have played nice and stayed out too. Right?

    Just like if we stop being nice to Israel Iran will leave them alone too, right?

    Who knows? I don’t and I don’t think you do. And I sure don’t trust the government to get it right.

    We can do counter factuals all day. What if the CIA simply never whacked the Diems? What if the OSS never gave Ho Chi Minh any assistance during WWII? What if they worked to try to form a real alliance with Prince Sihanouk, instead of double dealing with Lon Nol? SE Asia could look very different today.

    I agree. My point is that what we did in Viet Nam was the antithesis of libertarianism. It clearly represents the destructive power of statism.

  85. Qwerty, do you really think you couldn’t hear pro-war messages in the media in 1968? Cronkite’s comments about Tet reflected a rupture within the establishment consensus, not a party line being handed down from on high.

    And the idea that his editorializing lost the war is Dolchsto? nonsense.

  86. Sure, he didn’t lose us the war, but he was goddamned happy when we lost.

  87. Can you imagine anyone spouting such a fantasy about any of our anchors today?

    Not even the eternally tanned Brian Williams?!? FTW, indeed.

  88. Cronkite was a liberal socialist who twisted the news to fit the social and political world-views of both himself and his marxist bosses at CBS. Long before NBC and ABC became known for the liberal bias that characterizes their news coverage today, CBS led the way in creating news insteading reporting on it–primarily because of Cronkite. The man who made his reputation as a pristine journalist was actually a consummate fraud.

  89. Editorializing or not Jessee, he was dead wrong. As illustrated on this thread, people to this day have no idea that Tet was a diaster for the North and not a defeat. That is mostly due to Conkite’s horrible reporting.

  90. Qwerty, do you really think you couldn’t hear pro-war messages in the media in 1968? Cronkite’s comments about Tet reflected a rupture within the establishment consensus, not a party line being handed down from on high.

    I must agree with John here. Cronkite was spouting a different party line, not a factual line. He was as objective as a news writer for Ben Franklin.

  91. Cronkite was a liberal socialist who twisted the news to fit the social and political world-views of both himself and his marxist bosses at CBS.

    Yes, who can forget “The Proletariat Hour” on Thursdays at 8:00?

  92. “Yes, who can forget “The Proletariat Hour” on Thursdays at 8:00?”

    Is that real or are you just trying to kid us youngins?

  93. # Episiarch | July 18, 2009, 11:49am | #

    # Three channels and PBS. Not a good time.
    # Then Fox came along and had TNG and
    # Married…with Children. That was better.

    Actually, TNG was syndicated. I suppose some Fox affiliate had it. In the area where I lived, the Chris-Craft (later to be UPN) station had it. Married With Children was indeed a Fox flagship series.

  94. I just remembered this: In the ’80s Cronkite narrated a series of audiobooks on American history. They weren’t presented as an alternative perspective, but they were scripted by Wendy McElroy, Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, and George H. Smith, hardcore libertarians all; while I haven’t heard them, I’m told the authors’ slant sometimes shined through. Cronkite’s participation was odd, to say the least. I assume it was just a gig to him.

  95. Is that real or are you just trying to kid us youngins?

    I kid! I kid! The heads of CBS were “marxists” like the heads of Fox news are “fascists.” Reflexive ideologues like to throw these words around for some reason (maybe to let people know how serious they are). It’s kind of funny.

  96. # Syd Henderson | July 18, 2009, 11:57am | #
    # Cronkite … also hosted “The Twentieth
    # Century,” which did a lot to get me
    # interested in history.

    In my early grade-school days, I rarely watched the evening news. I knew that Cronkite, Huntley & Brinkley were the anchors, but that was about it. But a local station ran “The Twentieth Century” on the weekends, and I watched that often. That was how I learned to recognize Walter Cronkite’s voice before I was old enough to care about the news. Then there was the Kennedy thing, which knocked out Saturday morning cartoon shows, in favor of live coverage of the funeral procession, narrated on CBS by none other than Uncle Walter, I believe.

    # There were several news anchors on ABC in
    # the 1960s: John Cameron … Swayze’s name is
    # familiar, but not from the nightly news.

    I don’t remember him on the news at all, though I eventually got to see some documentaries he did. People who were kids in the 1960s and early 1970s probably remember Swayze best from the watch commercials: “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” Quick, name the brand!

  97. Then there was the Kennedy thing, which knocked out Saturday morning cartoon shows, in favor of live coverage of the funeral procession, narrated on CBS by none other than Uncle Walter, I believe.

    Those must have been awful times. I still got to watch cartoons during the first Gulf war.

  98. Cronkite gave a speech, subject was how responsible media was being devalued in society. He gave it at my school in the early nineties, and I did not bother to attend. Since my best friend and my girlfriend at the time did, I felt an obligation to at least read it when it was transcribed in the newspaper. Very cringe worthy. The kind of stuff that Matt Welch shoots down on a regular basis.

    There is a lot of revisiting of old culture wars of the sixties being replayed with the same sides somehow still intact in these discussions of Cronkite’s passing. There is something that libertarians need to understand. Cronkite wasn’t a radical Marxist extremist attempting to undermine traditional America.

    He was America of the post war bent. He was America that could watch the Checkers Speech without batting a sceptical eye. America was a Social Democrat who believed in the protean state, and that didn’t change until the hippies took to the streets giving birth to left libertarianism for which even old right libertertarians owe much of our heritage, and when Nixon was caught up in a few big lies.

    As much grief as he got for his coverage of the Tet Offensive, deserved or not, just you try watching how he covered the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, a gray flannel man of the system to the core. He never really veered far from that in his long career, and his supposed bravery will be over played in honor of his passing.

    Kind of funny though, those who recall his Tet reporting with vehemence are playing a roll in making his accolades seem all the more plausible to those who are keen on spreading the myth of the ‘responsible media.’

    RIP, Mr. Cronkite. You don’t deserve the same disdain of Robert McNamara who just preceded you in death, but much scepticism of your roll in our society is warranted.

  99. Timex. They couldn’t keep any worse time after knocking around than fresh from the factory.

  100. Those must have been awful times. I still got to watch cartoons during the first Gulf war.

    Kids these days, I tell ya!

    Fondly remembering Dad talking about cartoons where you had to make up your own dialogue…

  101. “I just remembered this: In the ’80s Cronkite narrated a series of audiobooks on American history…”

    Five Hummel titles with audio samples. One narrated by Cronkite with the rest narrated by George C. Scott. The opening to Civil War, The: Part 1 describing Lincoln sounds a bit familiar…

  102. That is what I meant. But since one can deface their reputation or feelings of self-worth, I stand by my words and indeed plan on using them in the future.

    Self-defacing like a building that graffitis itself.

  103. FWIW, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was syndicated–and many Big 3 affiliates carried it at the start. (IIRC, Boston’s WCVB pre-empted some ABC prime-time programming for it.)

    I remember that…like 4 channels had ran Next Generation all with different seasons running so you could watch 4 different story lines over a 4 hour period every weekday.

  104. Self-defaecing.

  105. Self-addressed envelope like an envelope that addresses itself.

  106. Or like an envelope that talks to itself.

  107. You addressin’ me?

  108. Travis Bickle had perhaps the best cinematic intrapersonal communication scene ever. If not him, then Buffalo Bill.

  109. Or some here who, forgetting to replace their default handles, have been caught out generating heated dialogue with their own posts.

  110. = Cleaner, more efficient, and you meet a better class of people.

  111. Alpha rays can be stopped by paper. Gamma rays cannot.

    That should be Alpha particles, not alpha rays if my radiation damage control training memory too many years ago is remembered correctly.

    But, the stopping of alpha radiation can be stopped by paper – or your skin – and is primarily a respitory problem as long as one is washed down after contamination. Alpha is not a problem with nuke weapons until after there has been a “nuclear event”. Gamma, at least from weapons, is not too big a problem and time (limiting the amount of)/distant/shielding deal with the problem fine.

  112. So, anyone bring up Tet yet?

  113. lol, well I guess some people found Cronkite’s remarks about Tet offensive.

  114. In a January 2006 news conference before the PBS broadcast of an “American Masters” episode honoring him, the newsman said the moment “that I’m proudest of was the editorializing that I did on the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. I think (that) helped speed the end of that war. That, I’m proudest of.”
    Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009: Legendary journalist

  115. I think the North Vietnamese were pretty happy with that editorializing. The South? Not so much.

    If only they had stamped OPINION, NOT FACT on the screen as he made the remarks. But alas, that technology is years off still today.

  116. That should be Alpha particles, not alpha rays if my radiation damage control training memory too many years ago is remembered correctly.

    Actually He++ is both particle and wave…

  117. Actually He++ is both particle and wave…

    Only until it whacks into something. Under most circumstances, alpha emissions act like ballistic projectiles; it takes a fairly unusual circumstance for something as large as a helium nucleus to exhibit serious quantum effects.

  118. lol, well I guess some people found Cronkite’s remarks about Tet offensive.

    Noun/verb equivocation FTW!

  119. I was more upset when Bo Diddley died.

  120. Cronkite was an NWO/Illuminati hack. A quote from him accepting the 1999 Norman Cousins Global Governance Award at the ceremony at the United Nations:

    “It seems to many of us that if we are to avoid the eventual catastrophic world conflict we must strengthen the United Nations as a first step toward a world government patterned after our own government with a legislature, executive and judiciary, and police to enforce its international laws and keep the peace. To do that, of course, we Americans will have to yield up some of our sovereignty. That would be a bitter pill. It would take a lot of courage, a lot of faith in the new order. But the American colonies did it once and brought forth one of the most nearly perfect unions the world has ever seen.”

  121. Does anyone else remember the SNL skit about Cronkite’s retirement? I forget who was playing him. In the skit Conkite tells the audience that it is his last show and he is now free to say and do what he likes. He then proceeds to tell the children watching to stick their fingers in light sockets. It was quite funny.

    It was Johnny Carson, I think. And yeah, it was pretty damn funny…

  122. If only they had stamped OPINION, NOT FACT on the screen as he made the remarks. But alas, that technology is years off still today.

    Sure, because starting his remarks by calling them “this reporter’s opinion” made it too hard to tell otherwise.

    Cronkite was a Cold Warrior through and through, but he concluded we couldn’t win Vietnam at a price we were willing to pay – or with methods we were willing the use. He may have been right or wrong, but he was no commie.

    Of course, what really got him off on the wrong foot with a lot of people was his willingness to report on and show footage of civil rights demonstrations in the early ’60’s when the issue was still in play. A lot of the CBS affiliates in the Deep South wouldn’t carry the broadcast in those days.

  123. Of course, what really got him off on the wrong foot with a lot of people was his willingness to report on and show footage of civil rights demonstrations in the early ’60’s when the issue was still in play. A lot of the CBS affiliates in the Deep South wouldn’t carry the broadcast in those days.

    Good for him.

  124. Cronkite was a Cold Warrior through and through, but he concluded we couldn’t win Vietnam at a price we were willing to pay – or with methods we were willing the use.

    Using the destruction of the Viet Cong in the Tet Offensive as the platform for saying we couldn’t win the Vietnam War seems a little odd, to me.

  125. Cronkite’s views on the LP candidate, Ed Clark, in 1980 were – if true – enough to destroy any good wishes one may have for the man. As I remember it, Bill Burt (Clark’s campaign bag-carrier) cornered Cronkite one day and asked why he refused to cover the Libertarians. Cronkite snapped: “Because they are evil.” Clark ran a Jeffersonian-type (libertarian lite) campaign so for a seasoned journalist like Cronkite to feel this way shows, not ignorance of the LPs views, but strong disapproval for individual liberty.

  126. Clark ran a Jeffersonian-type (libertarian lite) campaign so for a seasoned journalist like Cronkite to feel this way shows, not ignorance of the LPs views, but strong disapproval for individual liberty.

    It’s possible to like individual liberty a great deal and still think that libertarians are not the best salesmen for it.

  127. True, but I think I’d say something like “they aren’t competent spokesmen for the values they seem to believe” not “they are evil.”

  128. Using the destruction of the Viet Cong in the Tet Offensive as the platform for saying we couldn’t win the Vietnam War seems a little odd, to me.

    The way to interpret it that way is to conclude it showed they were willing to be slaughtered and US allies weren’t.

    So it was Bill Burt, not Dave Boaz. Easy for me to mix those up — each a pair of 4 letter names. But now I’m thinking maybe Cronkite was kidding. He had a deadpan and was quite the kidder. A few yrs. ago he went on Art Bell’s program and said, “You know that wind-up radio? [a sponsor] It doesn’t work.” Dave Thos. could do him so well as a comedic figure because that’s how he would do himself.

    Now I’m wondering whether everything he ever said on the news was a joke.

  129. The way to interpret it that way is to conclude it showed they were willing to be slaughtered and US allies weren’t.

    Note also that before then Cronkite had been a pretty reliable cheerleader for the war.

  130. The thing is, the other side doesn’t have to surrender for you to win the war. If your opponent is “willing to be slaughtered” and you are willing and able to do the slaughtering, then that unfortunate Plan B (or A, depending how much hawk is in your blood) can net you a win.

    Of course, in the “willing” part lies the rub.

  131. …which doesn’t address the core issue, which is that Cronkite was stating opinion as fact. Viewers were too naive to know the difference and the newsman would certainly have to be self-aware enough to know that.

    All of which means that I agree with the thrust of Walker’s article. So there.

  132. It is true that all mortals must die sometime but to be a person immortalized means that he or she will live on in the minds and memories of individuals forever. Walter Cronkite was such a person. He had prestige, honour, and a code of ethics unsurpassed by this day and age. He will be genuinely missed as a father, a friend and a colleague. If you were honoured to have known Walter Cronkite, you were honoured. Laura A. Humes

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  134. hi,
    everybody, take your time and a little bit.dghgk

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