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Would You Trust This Man?

February 18, 1996

Walter Cronkite is no more the last trustworthy man in America than he is the first ("The Death of Trust," by Verne Gay, Jan. 21). History tells us that our government is working as well today as it ever has. Cronkite is disillusioned with the imperfections in our national life, but they have always been there. Demagogues are nothing new (remember John Brown?), and there have always been those who want to split us into antagonistic groups of hyphenated Americans.

Our strength today is, as it has always been, in the American people. They do not share the pessimism of Cronkite and his fellow journalists. They are skeptical--maybe even cynical--about government, but such skepticism helped carve out the founding principles of our country. We know that we can do for ourselves, in most respects, better than governments can do for us. It is the opportunity of moving ahead, not the guarantee, that makes America unique.

Kimbrough S. Bassett

Palos Verdes Estates


Cronkite the last trustworthy man in America? I've never thought that he was that trustworthy at all. I am 70 years old and have followed his career since the early 1950s. For me, he lost his trustworthiness during the Joe McCarthy era.

Honest, brave, trustworthy journalists report their feelings irrespective of political danger that could result. Such a man was Edward R. Murrow, who put his career on the line to expose McCarthyism for the plague it was. Cronkite, on the other hand, hid behind a neutral stance, as he has on many issues.

My journalistic heroes continue to be Murrow, Walter Lippman and Eric Severeid.

Marvin Rosenfeld

Redondo Beach


You quote Cronkite as advocating a "marvelous middle ground between capitalism and communism." That one quote captures the essence of what passed (and still passes) for his moral sense. It also explains why a significant percentage of the population went beyond the imagery of his friendly face and soulful eyes and actually listened to what he said--and regarded him as an enemy of freedom and decidedly untrustworthy.

Capitalism is the political-economic manifestation of liberty and individual rights and is what has distinguished the United States from virtually all other countries in history. Communism, on the other hand, is a system of authoritarian dictatorship with no individual rights and has led to decades of serfdom and human misery and untold millions of deaths wherever it has been inflicted upon a country.

To allege that something good could result from a mixture of capitalism and communism makes about as much sense as stating that the supply of drinking water could be increased by mixing it with raw sewage. If Cronkite really believes what you quoted him as saying, it shows that the lessons of history have been completely lost on him.

Donald Brian Ward

Los Angeles


Has no one ever explained to Cronkite that his "middle ground" already exists? It is called socialism. For someone who says piously that "education levels are so low that the public does not have a capability of making an informed judgment," he himself has a lot of catching up to do.

Cronkite says that the society-corroding cynicism and mistrust stem from a systemic lack of education, especially on the part of those who are assumed to have absorbed the most--Ivy Leaguers. He says, for example, that Harvard graduates are not educated in "the understanding of the other fellow's viewpoint" and how to moderate or mediate between two viewpoints. Well, there's no moderation in his statement that he would "take away every gun owned by everyone in America"?

Trustworthy? I'd say he is one of the most sanctimonious and hypocritical.

Nicholas Eric Spinner

Los Angeles


Cronkite's Harvard comments are gratuitous and slanderous and do not reflect credit on his judgment or discernment. I hold three degrees from Harvard, and I admit that we count among our number our share of fools and dolts. But to say that "a lot of the uneducated public carries around Harvard degrees" is simply nonsense, a statement that calls into question Cronkite's vaunted reputation for judiciousness and fairness.

Frederic E. Pamp

Santa Barbara


Informed judgment is not going to instill trust in either the presidency or any other level of office. The only thing that would accomplish that would be a complete change of morality in Washington and wherever else untrustworthy people ply their wares.

Strength of character, absolute honesty, and the assured beneficial interest in the country and its people must become the rule. Unless and until that occurs, nothing positive will be accomplished, because without trust there is no belief; without trust there is no love, no friendship, no respect for office, law or people. Without trust, there is no order to life.

Elayne T. Troute



Does Cronkite's history of supporting liberal or left-leaning causes somehow make him a political moderate? That just isn't possible. He is at the least a political liberal, and he has been one of those since he started anchoring newscasts. But Gay's article fails to say that, and that's another example of how the mainstream press is willing to label conservative groups and individuals as conservative or right wing but unwilling to properly identify liberals as such.

Thomas W. Graham


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