Cronkite's Old-Fashioned Liberalism
by L. Brent Bozell III
November 30, 1995
As America heads into a very incremental
conservative direction -- containing the growth of government to a few points
ahead of the rate of inflation -- our media decry an age of shrieking
extremes. But in reality, they only see one extreme. Take the following from
the nation's most trusted ex-news anchor, Walter Cronkite, as a case study in
the other "shrieking extreme."
In a recent discussion on Tim Russert's CNBC
talk show, Cronkite suggested extremists -- i.e., conservatives -- threaten
the future of the Republican Party: "I've thought all along that the
Republican challenge that they face is to get through a convention that does
not turn into a 1964 imbroglio between conservatives and moderates, driving
the moderates out of the party as they did in '64, to their own destruction in
the next elections. I still think that danger hangs out there for them, it
could even be that they now presumably, mostly conservative candidate, for
instance Dole, if he wins that nomination, could go to the convention
determined not to get so far to the right that he can't be elected and
displeasing the extreme right to the point that the convention begins to fall
apart on an attempt for an extremely right platform."
Okay, that's the boring (and incorrect)
everyday analysis we've become accustomed to from the chattering heads on the
network news. But it got interesting when Cronkite proceeded to insult
conservatives, and just for fun, everyone living outside the Eastern seaboard,
as less than enlightened on race: "We may be a little bit blinded here in
the East by our, what the conservatives have always said is our Eastern
establishment liberalism. I'm sure that it's true because I've traveled the
country that in a lot of the other sections of the country there is not as
much willingness to accept a black as I think there is around these areas. But
I have a feeling that a Powell, a man of his dignity, of his decorum, of his
approach to issues, I think could do it."
Now kissing Powell's ring is a very
establishment thing to do, but what would Cronkite do about black America's
struggle with poverty and dependency? Cronkite sounds like a 1964 Democrat:
"It seems to me that it is so clear what it takes to bring us together is
some intelligent investment in the black communities to give them a shot at
life with housing, with health care, with education, primarily child care.
These things we've got to spend some money on. We're letting them fester there
to the degree that we're inciting hatred on their part, and we are permitting
among uninformed whites a distaste for them because they think they are no
good, uninterested in work and their families and so forth. That's not so,
that's not so."
Is this man serious? Is Cronkite seriously
suggesting that we haven't been "spending some money" to solve our
social problems for thirty years now? That we've been "letting them
fester" by not spending more than a few trillion on Great Society
programs? And are supporters of welfare reform nothing more than (racist)
Keeping with his finely fermented version of
liberalism, Cronkite uncorked on Russert that the fault for black poverty is
properly assigned to society, not individuals: "You put anybody in that
kind of an economic crunch that those people are in, without any escape, and
you're going to get the kind of deterioration in society that is happening.
It's our problem, not their -- not ours alone, they've got to do a lot
themselves -- but they can't lift themselves by their own bootstraps. That
idea of you know, turn them loose and they'll somehow or other make it work,
if they've got anything in them. That's a bunch of rubbish."
Russert then asked: "What message do
you think they're hearing out of Washington right now?" Cronkite replied:
"I think they're hearing the worst possible message out of Washington
right now. I think they're hearing a message of harshness far beyond any
rationality that they can see in the figures and the numbers that are coming
out of there and the intentions that are coming out of there."
Cronkite is right: what we're hearing out of
Washington right now is devoid of rationality. Heck, it's devoid of
mathematics. "Drastic reductions in social programs"? Where are
these people's calculators? Either Cronkite is ignorant -- which he's not --
or he's being disingenuous.
At the peak of his career, Walter Cronkite
strode the world of television news like a colossus, admired and trusted by
millions of Americans. It's too bad that all Cronkite has to offer the public
in his retirement is the back of his hand, in contempt.
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