As you surely know by now, Walter Cronkite is dead. He was 92, and if you could wish a life on someone, Cronkite's would be a pretty solid choice.
The first newsmen I remember were Murrow and Huntley and Brinkley. Then, as I came into my teenage years, it was Walter Cronkite. I can't even remember who was on the other channels. There were only three to choose from and my family, along with 25 million others, chose Walter.
I remember the coverage of Kennedy's funeral and it was Cronkite's VO as the casket drew towards Arlington. I remember Cronkite's disgust as his reporters, Dan Rather in particular, were roughed up on the floor of the Democratic convention in Chicago. "Thugs," he called Daley's jackboots, on the air.
I don't recall his coverage of the moon landing 40 years ago. I was pulling 12 hour shifts of KP at Fort Monmouth at the time. That, sadly, is how I remember the first steps of a man on the moon.
But that wasn't Walter's fault.
What I do remember happened more than a year before the Eagle landed. It was when Cronkite returned from Vietnam after Tet. Uncharacteristically, he gave his editorial opinion.
"For it seems now more certain than ever," Cronkite said, "that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate." After Cronkite's broadcast, LBJ was quoted as saying. "That's it. If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America."
It would be a year later that my father, a Republican and supporter of the war, began to have doubts. He had two sons in uniform, one in Vietnam, and he began to ask why. No one could give him answers that would satisfy the sacrifice of one, or both of his sons.
I don't know how much Cronkite's opinion affected my dad, if at all. I do know that when the war lost my father's support, it was only a matter of time. And yet, all of the men I know who didn't come home were killed between 1968 and 1975. Seven more years. What a waste.
The chattering nabobs of today, the O'Reillys, the Hannitys, the Limbaughs, would give one of their testicles to have the credibility of Cronkite. Sorry, sirs, but that kind of weight is earned, not given out.
Thank you, Walter Cronkite, for your service. I find it fitting that on your final day I am deep into a Patrick O'Brian novel, a writer you loved.
Some things do live on. Patrick O'Brian. Your emotional reporting of that day in Dallas. The memories of you on the box throughout the sixties. The Most Trusted Man in America.
Clear sailing, Uncle Walter, and thank you.