Does anyone else have mixed feelings about Walter Cronkite? He was a bit of a father figure for me in my youth, and I shared his enthusiasm for the US space program, but he should have kept his opinions to himself after the Tet Offensive in 1968.

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Comment by Jack Beckman on July 22, 2009 at 1:53pm
In his defense, he didn't want to do it, but was pushed into it by CBS:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/07/18/cronkite.thats.the.way.it.is/index.html?iref=newssearch

"In 1968, Cronkite returned from a visit to Vietnam disillusioned with America's role there. He told Salant what he thought but said he did not want to report his personal opinion on air, Socolow said. Only "after much haggling" did he agree to do so, and not on the regular newscast but on a 10 p.m. special."
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on July 20, 2009 at 11:10pm
That's definitely a saving grace!
Comment by Dave Smith on July 20, 2009 at 11:07pm
In a 1971 interview, Cronkite expressed how much he loved to play AH games, esp. Battle of the Bulge.
Comment by Chris Gammon on July 19, 2009 at 3:07pm
I'll agree with Jim in that Cronkite and subsequent editorialists set the stage for turning it into a victory for the north. Here's an excerpt from that always-perfectly-accurate icon of historical archiving, "wikipedia.org" (why isn't there an emoticon for "cynical"?):

General Tran Do, North Vietnamese commander at the battle of Hue, gave some insight into how defeat was translated into victory:

In all honesty, we didn't achieve our main objective, which was to spur uprisings throughout the South. Still, we inflicted heavy casualties on the Americans and their puppets, and this was a big gain for us. As for making an impact in the United States, it had not been our intention — but it turned out to be a fortunate result.
Comment by Kurt Weihs on July 19, 2009 at 2:38pm
Hmmm...I guess I will play the Devil's Advocate here. Cronkite's response sums up the intense public opinion of the time. Given that Cronkite's career spanned over 20 years and that this is one of three instances (Kennedy, Apollo 11, and Tet) where he actually commented personally on what he was reporting on shows that he didn't make a habit of this. He was pretty spare with his editorializing compared to the norm nowadays.

As for who won the Tet offensive, I think one can draw whatever conclusions one wants. Yeah, the US and ARVN forces fairly quickly put down most of the offensive (though Khe Sanh and Hue continued for some time afterwards). The NVA and VC forces did not achieve their primary objective, but they were able to demonstrate that they could carry out a coordinated military operation throughout the country. For some of us, it was our first inclination that our military forces were facing a capable opponent. Sometimes victory can be a subtle thing and I respectfully contest Jim's point by saying that I think the NVA scored a pretty major victory with Tet, though they paid for it with many lives.
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on July 19, 2009 at 11:37am
I agree too. As a little kid, I was enthralled by the space program, from Gemini onwards, and couldn't imagine watching anyone except Cronkite. But when it came to Tet, it's not just that he should have kept his opinions from editorializing, he was just plain wrong. The US and ARVN for that matter won that one, and he was instrumental in turning a major military victory for the Free World into a unearned political victory for the Communists.

I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he didn't know any better, but I'm pretty sure that he did.
Comment by Bob Gallavan on July 19, 2009 at 11:20am
I agree. I guess he was the first in a long progression of journalists who felt their job was to tell us what we should do, not what is happening in the world around us.

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