This week the CBS Newsman Walter Cronkite has been remembered and hailed as the "most trusted" man of his time. Why? Because he told his listeners and watchers the news, the way it was. He told us not what we wanted to hear, but what we needed to know.
The current "news" includes memories of the 40-year-old steps onto the Moon by Armstrong and Aldrin, astronauts, along with Michael Collins, who dared to risk everything in a voyage to the future. We also just learned today that California has found a way to stop sending IOU statements to cover its obligations. State services will be cut in order to erase a $26 billion dollar deficit this year. These drastic measures were invoked to prevent any tax increases or any new taxes in the Golden State.
In 1968 Walter Cronkite came back from Viet Nam with his report on that war.
It could not be won militarily he told us, but it was time to negotiate an ending.
America - and President Johnson - listened. I am suggesting that the name Cronkite might become a "verb" for our time. "To Cronkite" - to tell the country what it needs to hear.
There are two areas where a Walter Cronkite could enlighten us today.
The first is again about a war. Today's reporter is named Seth Jones. His report is contained in the recently-published "In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan."
The fighting began over there for the United States in late 2001 and has been escalated with thousands of new troops in 2009. Three presidents prosecuted the Viet Nam War. So far there have been two U.S. presidents for Afghanistan. We are at least "waist-deep" in this war, and Generals say to push on. What is our purpose in Afghanistan? Are we searching for Bin Laden and al Qaida in nearby Pakistan?
Are we attempting to bring "democracy" to the people and wipe out the source of much of the world's opium? How many American lives is it worth? How many Arab lives?
The "American Empire" may be next for this graveyard.
The second area "to Cronkite" is all about "taxpayers" and the taxes we pay. At one time we learn there were 400,000 Americans employed in the space program to fulfill President Kennedy's pledge to beat the Russians to the Moon, inside of a decade. The cost was high, and as soon as the five or six landing missions were completed, the NASA budget was reduced sharply. But in the 1960s, with Russian cosmonauts over our skies, there was no revolt of taxpayers over the cost of going quickly to the Moon. Even this costly venture could proceed, while waging the escalating war in Southeast Asia.
Enter the governors from California, and from the entertainment industry.
Ronald Reagan came to the Presidency with a message of confidence in our country and the belief that too much government was our problem. Taxes had recently been lowered in California, and he felt they needed to come down across the nation. "It's your money and you know best how to spend it." So persuasive was President Reagan that deficits didn't matter to the Congress. They would only force spending down and end wasteful and unnecessary programs, according to his message.
It made no difference which taxes were involved, or how well off the payers were. Citizens became "Taxpayers" first, in the language of political vote gatherers. This lower-tax approach worked in the 1980s and continues its appeal, up through today. Governor Schwarzenegger just announced that the desperate conditions in California will be met with "no increases to Taxpayers."
On Capitol Hill in Washington this week we listen as healthcare reformers struggle against the those who will not tell doctors, insurance executives, drug bosses, and patients that they all will have to contribute to fix our broken health care system.
Walter, we miss you, but we can still find the truth out there.
You have shown us the way. Thank you.
That's just the way it is, right now. We can do better.