When Walter Cronkite Took a Stand on Vietnam

By Mitchell, Greg | Editor & Publisher, July 17, 2009 | Go to article overview

When Walter Cronkite Took a Stand on Vietnam


Mitchell, Greg, Editor & Publisher


I probably failed to watch the late Walter Cronkite's most important TV news moment: his landmark February 1968 CBS commentary (so out of character) after returning from Vietnam in which he cast strong doubt on our mission there and its chances for success. Yes, the JFK assassination and moon landing drew more viewers but this broadcast would help save many thousands of lives, U.S. and Vietnamese, perhaps even a million.

I may have missed it at the time because I was then leading my campus Clean for Gene McCarthy campaign. McCarthy was about to drive Lyndon Johnson out of the race with a surprisingly strong second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary. Surely, Walter had softened up LBJ for the kill.

In fact, perhaps the most famous quote ABOUT Cronkite was Johnson saying that if he'd "lost Cronkite" on Vietnam he'd lost "Middle America."

Cronkite also earned my gratitude later that year when he grew visibly upset on screen -- telegraphing his disgust -- when CBS showed images of protesters getting beaten up in streets of Chicago near the Democratic Convention gathering. I was out there, myself, though not beaten. When Dan Rather was roughed up on the floor of the convention, Cronkite denounced the "thugs" who were doing it.

Of course, the war continued for years, we even invaded Cambodia, and Vietnamese kept perishing in horrid numbers. But a U.S. "surge" in troop levels -- let alone the nuclear option -- was no longer thinkable. American troops eventually started to come home as Vietnamization and negotiation (along with much aerial bombing) eventually took center stage.

Thirty-five years later, Cronkite -- he had started as a newspaperman and now was writing a syndicated column -- opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and continued his criticism in the years the followed, making some links to Vietnam.

In my recent book on Iraq and the media, "So Wrong for So Long," I lamented that present day anchors failed to follow in his footsteps. In fact, I note there that Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw others actually defended their wretched coverage in the run-up to the Iraq war when Scott McClellan made the charge.

Anyway, I can't think of a greater tribute to Cronkite than simply reprinting the transcript of the February '68 Vietnam commentary. It follows.____

Tonight, back in more familiar surroundings in New York, we'd like to sum up our findings in Vietnam, an analysis that must be speculative, personal, subjective. Who won and who lost in the great Tet offensive against the cities? I'm not sure.

The Vietcong 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 of the Demilitarized Zone. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

When Walter Cronkite Took a Stand on Vietnam
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.