Thursday, March 8, 2018

Walter Cronkite Calls Vietnam a Stalemate

Walter Cronkite | Photo: TV Guide
Nineteen sixty-eight was a year of war, protest and national trauma. The bloodiest year of the
Vietnam War was fifty years ago. There were 16,899 U.S. military casualties out of a total 58,220 deaths. More than 536,000 troops were in country, also the war’s largest troop commitment.

Walter Cronkite’s February 27, 1968 CBS Evening News broadcast report was one of the key media moments in the war’s history, with powerful political effect. After a tour of Vietnam in February 1968, shortly after the launch of Tet Offensive, Walter Cronkite offered his famous editorial report in which he labeled Vietnam a “stalemate” and that the only solution was a negotiated end.

The last paragraph of his commentary summed up a sense of where informed opinion in the country was:
To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.
President Johnson reportedly said: “If I have lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” The rest of the month was equally troubling for Johnson, and on March 31, he withdrew from re-election.

1 comment:

Dave Barnes said...

I was in college.
Did not watch Cronkite.
But, I do remember watching Johnson and being stunned.