10 Questions For Walter Cronkite

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COURTESY OF WALTER CRONKITE

You have basically come out and said you're a liberal. How do you respond when critics say, "Aha, I knew reporters were liberal, and this is why the media is biased"? I do not consider a liberal necessarily to be a leftist. A liberal to me is one who—and it suits some of the dictionary definitions—is unbeholden to any specific belief or party or group or person, but makes up his or her mind on the basis of the facts and the presentation of those facts at the time. That defines what I am. I have never voted a party line. I vote on the individual and the issues.

Was there ever a time when you were anchoring that it was difficult for you to hold in your feelings? Oh, yeah, that was about daily, I think. But that's not unusual or extraordinary. That's what all of us who work for the front page do. That is part of our training. We learn to put our personal feelings behind us and try to write the facts as nearly as we can come to them as honestly as we can report them.

Do you believe most reporters are liberal? I think they're on the humane side, and that would appear to many to be on the liberal side. A lot of newspaper people—and to a lesser degree today, the TV people—come up through the ranks, through the police-reporting side, and they see the problems of their fellow man, beginning with their low salaries—which newspaper people used to have anyway—and right on through their domestic quarrels, their living conditions. The meaner side of life is made visible to most young reporters. I think it affects their sentimental feeling toward their fellow man and that is interpreted by some less-sensitive people as being liberal.

How do you rate George W. Bush as president? He's been the most adventuresome and in many senses the most revolutionary President since at least Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He has shaken up our foreign policy to an almost unrecognizable state.

For good or ill? Not for good. I think the whole policy of pre-emptive war is a serious, serious mistake. It sets an example for every little nation in the world, when offended by the next-door little nation, to go to war with them. All they've got to do is point to the United States and say, "Well, the great power of the U.S. says that's what we ought to do."

You retired from the evening news in 1981, after 19 years. Now we have three anchors who have been in the job a long time, even longer than you. Have they stayed in the job too long, or did you leave too early? I left too early. I don't think there's any question about that. If I'd known my health was going to stand up as well as it has and my family was going to develop as well as it has, I would have stayed a little longer.

Where do you get your news from? I am a big newspaper reader. On TV I watch the Evening News. I bounce around. One of my favorite programs is the Jim Lehrer report on PBS.

Do you watch cable-TV talk shows? I don't watch the shouters. Those that attempt to really explain the situation of the day, I find very useful, very helpful. But not ones that are purely for entertainment, which is where I put the shouters.

What is the most underplayed story today? Congress. This is where our laws are made, where our laws are debated, and we don't cover Congress the way it ought to be. For one thing, we cover Congress only when it gets to the final vote on something, too late for the public to respond.

Have you ever had a conversation with Mike Wallace about retirement? Yeah, and Mike keeps saying he doesn't know what he'd do if he retired. I know what he'd do—he'd play tennis. That's what I'd do if my legs were better.