Passings: Walter Cronkite

I am sad to learn of Walter Cronkite’s passing this evening. He lived to be 92 — quite an achievement — but he seems like the last of a dying breed. When I was growing up, he was the voice of authority. Hard to imagine in these hyper-partisan days, but he was an anchorman whose outlook you didn’t question — if he said so, it was so. The assassination of President Kennedy was bad enough until Walter took off his glasses to announce his death, then you couldn’t do anything but lose it. Because it was so.

1968 probably changed everything. The riots at the Democratic Convention, then Vietnam, then Nixon, then the country tore apart. In his latter years, I read that conservatives hated Cronkite, and I couldn’t understand. He was the last honest man — I’m sorry that you disagreed with him. It just meant that you were wrong. The proper thing to do was to acknowledge this and move along. But it would never again be the kind of country that could hold two different opinions. You were right and everyone else would be wrong.

Walter Cronkite passed away in a country so unsure of itself that it was always on the attack, always tearing down the other side, condemning the other viewpoint. In the eyes of people who grew up in the broadcast of that reasonable, rational reporting of the news, he was the voice we always hoped would deliver to us the bad news, because we could handle it coming from him. Always friendly, always rational, always suffering alongside us.

RIP Mr. Cronkite.

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