"There is no deficit in human resources; the deficit is in human will," said Martin Luther King in his Nobel lecture -- "The Quest for Peace and Justice" -- December 11, 1964. We were struck with the contrast between pacifist MLK's fight-the-good-fight words back then and anti-Vietnam-war news "anchor" Walter Cronkite's cut-and-run, all-about-me words in a speech the other day at something called PBS's Winter TV Press Tour 2006. First the mighty civil-rights warrior's words:
Yet, in spite of these spectacular strides in science and technology, and still unlimited ones to come, something basic is missing. There is a sort of poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.
King was, of course, opposed to all wars. He could not have foreseen the kind of war we wage today against the stealth enemies of freedom when he said
There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force, but the destructive power of modern weapons eliminated even the possibility that war may serve as a negative good.
Yet his message resonates with the underlying rationale for why we fight those who would destroy our way of life:
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself. The Bible tells the thrilling story of how Moses stood in Pharaoh's court centuries ago and cried, "Let my people go."
Walter Cronkite, content to abandon the oppressed to work things out on their own, exemplifies King's poverty of spirit and deficit in human will. "What Cronkite remembers more fondly was his time anchoring 'CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite' and his famous 'we are mired in stalemate' editorial regarding the Tet Offensive, in particular":
I think it helped speed the end of that war. That I'm proudest of," he said (somewhat modestly, we should add; President Johnson announced he would not seek re-election not long after it aired.)
When asked if he would do the same thing today, the man some still know as "Uncle Walter" responded with a quick "Yes," adding that he wishes someone in television news would step up, as he did in 1968.
Modesty? Not in Walter Cronkite's vocabulary. With hindsight, historians recognize the old boy's emotionally-charged "mired in a stalemate" editorial was based upon a willful misreading of how things were going on the ground in Vietnam. Nevertheless it signaled -- as AaronVB of RedState wrote recently -- a "subtle shift in tone the debate over the war took post Tet: from winning the war to how to 'securely withdraw.'" Echoes of John "Withdraw Now" Murtha & Company's recent campaign to dampen the homefires and sap the armed forces' morale.
Fortunately, not everyone out there is buying Cronkite's tired brand of know-it-all defeatism. The Washington Post speaks truth to powerlessness:
At age 89, Walter Cronkite hasn't been the anchor of the "CBS Evening News" since 1981, but no one has ever replaced him as The Most Trusted Man in America. And so his appearance at the tour to tout PBS's July "American Masters" biography on him drew The Reporters Who Cover Television to him like Jedi trainees at the feet of Yoda, gobbling up his every word on the state of journalism, politics and the war in Iraq.