Following his death last week, various network news tributes replayed footage of Cronkite’s influential ’68 on-air editorial. Yet scrubbed from the memorializing were similar instances of Cronkite’s journalistic candor regarding Iraq, such as his 2006 call for withdrawal from a war he went on to describe as “illegal from the start,” initiated on “false pretenses” and a “terrible disaster” serving “no purpose” that has “probably made us less safe.”
But the most revealing omission from these tributes–especially in context to the pageant of eulogies extolling Cronkite’s journalistic integrity–may be his response to a reporter’s question during a 2006 news conference.
As reported in the Independent UK at the time:
When a reporter asked [Cronkite] whether, given the chance, he would offer similar advice on Iraq [as he had on Vietnam], he did not even wait until the end of the question. “Yes,” he said flatly. “It’s my belief that we should get out now.”
In the fact that, “for Cronkite, the question was simple, his answer emphatic,” Jacobson perceives some journalistic ideals distinctly unfashionable nowadays: “No need to chew it over, to seek a mealy-mouthed moderate reaction to address the Bush administration’s unprecedented extremism, brutality and lawlessness. Doing so would mean that he was operating within their narrative, not his.”