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Profile: Walter Cronkite

Walter Cronkite was a participant or observer in the following events:

A federal court, issuing a ruling in the case of New York Times Company v. United States (see June 15, 1971), refuses to order the Times to turn over its copy of the Pentagon Papers for government inspection, saying that it will not authorize a government fishing expedition into the files of any newspaper. (Herda 1994) The court’s decision is overruled the next day, but by this point it is, for all intents and purposes, too late. The Washington Post prints its second installment and releases the article to the 341 newspapers that subscribe to its national news service. Within hours, newspapers across the country are publishing the Post excerpts. Daniel Ellsberg, who originally leaked the documents to the Times (see March 1971), is secretly traveling around the country, making the documents available to other news outlets. (Ellsberg is so successful at staying hidden that he is interviewed by CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite for a June 23 news special without the FBI being able to find him. Ellsberg will eventually surrender himself to the police (see June 28, 1971).) (Reeves 2001, pp. 335-336)

CIA officer Rolf Mowatt-Larssen.CIA officer Rolf Mowatt-Larssen. [Source: Department of Energy]The CIA analyzes bin Laden’s new speech, which was released four days before the US presidential election (see October 29, 2004), and concludes that it improves George Bush’s reelection chances. According to author Ron Suskind, the CIA, which has “spent years… parsing each word of the al-Qaeda leader,” knows that “bin Laden speaks only for strategic reasons—and those reasons are debated with often startling depth inside the organization’s leadership.” The analysts conclude that “bin Laden’s message was clearly designed to assist the president’s reelection.” Deputy Director John McLaughlin says in a meeting analyzing the speech, “Bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the president.” CIA deputy associate director Jami Miscik similarly comments, “Certainly, he would want Bush to keep doing what he’s doing for a few more years.” However, the CIA does not discuss why bin Laden wants Bush to stay. Suskind will write, “But an ocean of hard truths before them—such as what did it say about US policies that bin Laden would want Bush reelected—remained untouched.” CIA officer Rolf Mowatt-Larssen will later say: “It was sad. We just sat there. We were dispirited.” Several National Security Council members have already reached the conclusion that bin Laden’s presence on the international stage helps Bush (see October 29, 2004). Both presidential candidates condemn bin Laden. John Kerry says, “As Americans, we are absolutely united in our determination to hunt down and destroy Osama bin Laden.” George Bush says, “Americans will not be intimidated or influenced by an enemy of our country.” (Suskind 2006, pp. 335-6) Several commentators believe the intervention will help Bush, for example:
bullet Veteran journalist Walter Cronkite says, “I have a feeling that it could tilt the election a bit. In fact, I’m a little inclined to think that Karl Rove, the political manager at the White House, who is a very clever man, he probably set up bin Laden to this thing.” (CNN 10/29/2004)
bullet Roger Simon of US News and World Report says, “I don’t have any trouble parsing out who this helps. I think this is an enormous boost for George Bush.” (CNN 10/29/2004)
bullet MSNBC host Chris Matthews says, “The big thing in politics, of course, is picking the right topic… This creates a terrible situation for the challenger, because it seems to me that Karl Rove has his finger on this.” (MSNBC 10/29/2004)
bullet MSNBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell says, “It makes it harder for Kerry, and it shifts the subject matter back to what George Bush is strongest on. So the Bush people may not say that they are happy about this, but I’m sure that they could not be more pleased that this is the subject of the closing days. How do you say October surprise? This is one that could benefit the president.” (MSNBC 10/29/2004)
bullet CNBC co-host Lawrence Kudlow says, “It will play into Bush’s hands.… it falls into Bush’s lap. And unlike 2000, I think it’s the kind of thing that will cause the remaining undecided voters in the next 72 hours or so to break for Bush.” (Luntz et al. 10/29/2004)
bullet Weekly Standard staff writer Stephen Hayes says, “I think that, as most people have indicated, that is likely to help President Bush.” (Luntz et al. 10/29/2004)
Other commentators from across the political spectrum who suggest the speech will help Bush include Fox News correspondent Major Garrett, Boston Herald columnist Mike Barnicle, Time magazine correspondent Karen Tumulty, former plumber G. Gordon Liddy, former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, the Cook Political Report editor and publisher Charlie Cook, Washington Post journalist Jeffery Birnhaum, and Roll Call executive editor Morton Kondracke. (Wilson et al. 10/29/2004; Wilson et al. 10/29/2004; CNN 10/29/2004; Luntz et al. 10/29/2004; Buchanan et al. 10/29/2004) Some right wing commentators suggest that the tape will help Kerry, including Fox News political commentator Dick Morris, Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes, Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz, Fox News host Sean Hannity, and author Peggy Noonan. (Gibson 10/29/2004; Wilson et al. 10/29/2004; Fox News 10/29/2004; Fox News 10/29/2004) A Newsweek poll shows that Bush’s lead increases after the tape is released and, after the election, John Kerry, the losing Democratic candidate, will attribute his failure to bin Laden’s intervention: “We were rising in the polls until the last day the tape appeared. We flat-lined the day the tape appeared, and went down on Monday.” (Sherwell 11/1/2004; MSNBC 1/30/2005) George Bush will also agree that the tape helped, saying, “I thought it was going to help. I thought it would help remind people that if bin Laden doesn’t want Bush to be the president, something must be right with Bush.” (Reuters 3/1/2006)

Bob Inglis.Bob Inglis. [Source: The Political Elite]Representative Bob Inglis (R-SC) is booed and jeered by a crowd of rowdy anti-health care protesters when he chides them for listening to Fox News host Glenn Beck and being part of what he calls Beck’s “fear-mongering.” Inglis speaks to a crowd of some 350 people at the Upstate Family Resource Center in Boiling Springs, South Carolina. Reporter Jason Spencer writes: “The loudest part of the crowd seemed to have its mind made up before Inglis even began talking, scolding him and applauding anyone who referenced the Constitution or denounced socialism.” One speaker gains a standing ovation by standing up, identifying himself as a “mainstream conservative,” and saying: “I look at the government, and they’re so far outside the Constitution and there’s not a week that goes by that I don’t hear talk about revolution in our country. The only one I know in Congress who abides by our Constitution is Ron Paul.” Though Inglis wins applause for advocating medical liability reform and stating his opposition to the Obama health care plan, the crowd is audibly opposed to his reminders that poor people should have access to health care regardless of their ability to pay. But the crowd launches into high-volume vilification when Inglis, responding to shouts and imprecations from the audience, tells the audience to “turn off Glenn Beck” and stop the “fear-mongering.” Spencer is unable to quote Inglis directly for the screams and shouts that his remarks engender, but speaking with Inglis after the meeting, Inglis confirms what he told the crowd. Asked if he used the term “fear-mongering,” Inglis says: “Probably. That’s what he does. That’s what Glenn Beck is all about. And Lou Dobbs. I’ve had the misfortune of listening to those shows a couple of times.… I don’t listen often to Glenn Beck, but when I have, I’ve come away just so disappointed with the negativity… the ‘We’ve just gone to pot as a country,’ and ‘All is lost’ and ‘There is no hope.’ It’s not consistent with the America that I know.… The America that Glenn Beck seems to see is a place where we all should be fearful, thinking that our best days are behind us. It sure does sell soap, but it sure does a disservice to America.… If Walter Cronkite said something like Glenn Beck said recently on the air, about the president being a racist (see July 28-29, 2009), Cronkite would’ve been fired on the spot. But I guess the executives of these cable news shows are more enamored with the profits that come from selling this negative message than they are with undermining the faith of people in this wonderful constitutional republic.… There is every reason to oppose President Obama’s health care package. It’s the wrong prescription. It needs to be stopped. But that doesn’t mean we need to abandon hope in America, and say the end is near, and people are going to force us to have immunizations. There’s no reason to go to that extreme.” Inglis goes on to say that most of the fear and violent opposition he encounters is centered in people who identify themselves with the Libertarian and Constitutional parties: “The conservative Republicans there realize that the Constitution is stronger than any president. We have every reason to have faith in the institutions that hold the country together. But when fear takes over and people start thinking the Constitution is not strong enough to meet the challenge of a president they don’t like, you end up with some fairly hysterical reactions.… This is a constitutional republic that can withstand any president I disagree with. It withstood Bill Clinton. And if you were a George Bush-hater, it withstood George Bush. And it will withstand Barack Obama. And that’s just because there’s such confidence in the Constitution and the framers, who set up such an incredible system of checks and balances.… It’s inspiring to me to think about that. What you saw tonight was people who had been convinced of this negativism, and are detaching from the communities and institutions that hold us together. And I believe in the importance of strong institutions. I’m not an anarchist. And I’m not a Libertarian. I believe in a strong, smart federal government that is able to meet challenges like 9/11, and figure out how to correct its mistakes from Katrina.… I hope to convince people that there’s every reason to be optimistic and there is a way forward. And I hope to help position the Republican Party as the party that presents a message that America can fall in love with, rather than a message that would drive fear in order to win votes.” (Spencer 8/7/2009; Spencer 8/7/2009; Terkel 8/7/2009) In 2010, Inglis will lose a contentious primary battle to a “tea party” candidate who will denounce Inglis’s criticisms of Beck. (Fang 9/24/2010)


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