When Walter Cronkite died, I wrote about the old fantasy that the CBS anchor would run for president. What I didn't know until this weekend was that there once was a serious attempt to enlist him as a vice presidential candidate. Here's Frank Mankiewicz recalling the heady days of 1972 in yesterday's Washington Post:
That July, just as a rather chaotic Democratic National Convention in Miami agreed to make McGovern the party's nominee, I convened a group of top campaign officials to come up with some options for the candidate to consider as his running mate. Armed with a poll showing Walter Cronkite to be the most trusted man in America, I proposed that the senator put forward Walter Cronkite for vice president.
My idea met with instant, and unanimous, disapproval. He'd never accept, and we'd look bad, colleagues said….
Decades later, at a meeting of a corporate board on which they both served, George McGovern mentioned to Walter Cronkite that his name had been proposed as the vice presidential nominee at that stage of the campaign but was rejected because we were certain he would have turned us down. "On the contrary, George," the senator told me Cronkite replied, "I'd have accepted in a minute; anything to help end that dreadful war." At a later board meeting, Cronkite told a larger group that he would gladly have accepted the invitation to run with McGovern.
Despite what Cronkite said in retirement, I'm not sure I believe that he would have given up his newsreading career for a political campaign, no matter how sympathetic he was to its platform. Either way, it's interesting that a major McGovern advisor wanted to ask him in the first place.
Bonus reading: a Norman Solomon column reminding us that in the early years of the Vietnam conflict, before it opened up a rift within the establishment, Cronkite was one of the war's loyal cheerleaders.