As anchorman of the CBS Evening News, I signed off my nightly broadcasts for nearly two decades with a simple statement: “And that’s the way it is.”
To me, that encapsulates the newsman’s highest ideal: to report the facts as he sees them, without regard for the consequences or controversy that may ensue.
Sadly, that is not an ethic to which all politicians aspire – least of all in a time of war.
I remember. I covered the Vietnam War. I remember the lies that were told, the lives that were lost – and the shock when, twenty years after the war ended, former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara admitted he knew it was a mistake all along.
Today, our nation is fighting two wars: one abroad and one at home. While the war in Iraq is in the headlines, the other war is still being fought on our own streets. Its casualties are the wasted lives of our own citizens.
I am speaking of the war on drugs.
And I cannot help but wonder how many more lives, and how much more money, will be wasted before another Robert McNamara admits what is plain for all to see: the war on drugs is a failure.
I’m not old enough to remember Walter Cronkite as an anchorman, but the post above made me understand the kind of man he was – someone who put truth above everything, regardless of whether or not his words would be uncomfortable for people to hear. As he approached the age of 90, he never lost his willingness to question authority or his ability to see through the lies. Even today, it’s almost impossible to find a news anchor who would say the things that Cronkite wrote in that post. And even if one of them did, I’m not sure we’d be smart enough to recognize how important it was.
UPDATE: Greenwald has more.
UPDATE 2: David Borden has another Cronkite piece on the drug war from 1995.