Retired journalist addresses Drew about future of U.S.
By Rob Jennings, Daily Record
MADISON - The "most trusted man in America,"
retired CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite, put
aside his journalistic impartiality Tuesday night and
issued a blistering dissent to President Bush's decision
to wage war with Iraq.
At a Drew University forum, Cronkite said he feared
the war would not go smoothly, ripped the "arrogance"
of Bush and his administration and wondered whether
the new U.S. doctrine of "pre-emptive war"
might lead to unintended, dire consequences.
"Every little country in the world that has a
border conflict with another little country
now have a great example from the United States,"
Cronkite, 86, said in response to a question from Drew's
president, former Gov. Thomas Kean.
More than 2,000 people attended the 8 p.m. forum, including
college students such as Jennifer Gross, 19, of Sparta,
who wasn't yet born when Cronkite surrendered his groundbreaking
anchor post in 1981.
Also attending was 83-year-old Debbie Langehammer of
Morristown, who recalled Cronkite's most famous broadcasting
moment - the tragic afternoon when he blinked back tears
while announcing the death of President Kennedy in 1963.
Hobbled by a torn Achilles tendon, Cronkite began by
discussing one of his journalistic high points, reviewing
the D-Day invasion with President Eisenhower in Normandy.
He then addressed the looming war with Iraq.
"I'm very disappointed that we've come to this
point," Cronkite said.
While many are confident the United States would easily
oust Saddam Hussein, Cronkite said he isn't so sure.
"The military is always more confident than circumstances
show they should be," he said.
Cronkite speculated that the refusal of many traditional
allies, such as France, to join the war effort signaled
something deeper, and more ominous, than a mere foreign
"The arrogance of our spokespeople, even the president
himself, has been exceptional, and it seems to me they
have taken great umbrage at that," Cronkite said.
"We have told them what they must do. It is a pretty
Cronkite chided Congress for not looking closely enough
at the war and attempting to ascertain a viable estimate
of its eventual cost, particularly in light of Bush's
commitment to tax cuts.
"We are going to be in such a fix when this war
is over, or before this war is over
grandchildren are going to be paying for this war,"
"I look at our future as, I'm sorry, being very,
very dark. Let's see our cards as we rise to meet the
difficulties that lie ahead," he added, in a play
on Bush's dismissive remarks about France.
But Cronkite, who spent many days and nights on battlefields
and in campgrounds with U.S. forces, also spoke of supporting
"The time has come to put all of our, perhaps
distaste, aside, and give our full support to the troops
involved. That is the duty we owe our soldiers who had
no role in deciding this course of action," Cronkite
In response to a question about media bias, Cronkite
said the press is not politically partisan but does
tilt toward liberalism. He said that the smartest president
he ever met was Jimmy Carter.
"Most news people start their early years as cub
reporters, covering the seamy side of life. They see
the poverty. They see the want" - and as a result,
Cronkite said, tend to favor the underprivileged.