LESSONS LEARNED #7: “High on the endangered species list is the objective journalist.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 1st, 2010

WHEN YOU HEAR the words ‘Tet Offensive’, what do you think of?  The Battle of Hue?  The Siege of Khe Sanh?  Dead American soldiers in the U.S. Embassy compound?  The biggest American victory to date in Vietnam?  I’m guessing you’re probably thinking yes, yes, yes and no.  Or you’re asking yourself, “Vietnam?”

Tet was an all out gamble by the communists to end the war.  The war by 1967 had grown into a military stalemate with the communists unable to win any significant battlefield wins.  The bombing of North Vietnam was taking its toll.  They needed a new plan.  What plan, though, was a matter for debate.

Without going into specifics (unless you want to – I don’t mind), there was no unity of opinion in the North.  Three groups had three different plans raging from large-scale military action to negotiated peace.  The Soviet Union favored a negotiated peace.  The Chinese said screw that.  So after much discussion, debate and arrests, they adopted the Tet plan.

Briefly, Tet called for attacks on cities throughout South Vietnam to encourage the people to rise in rebellion and join the communists.  Once they did the war would be over.  Or so went the plan.  Which failed miserably.  There were no rebellions.  There were no military victories.  Just huge communist losses.  The leaders would later vow never to undertake such a plan again.  As they licked their wounds they pondered what to do in the wake of the catastrophe known as the Tet Offensive.  Then something happened.  In the United States.

Walter Cronkite gave his opinion on the air.  There is some debate whether this turned public opinion on the war.  When he said we couldn’t win the war, though, it stunned President Johnson.  He said if he lost Cronkite he lost the American people. 

The anti-war movement spread following Tet.  The communists saw this.  And they learned something.  They didn’t need to defeat the Americans in a decisive battle (which they couldn’t).  All they had to do was to wait.  And wait they did.  For 7 years.

The opinion of the most trusted man in America may have not influenced public opinion.  But when you are the most trusted man in America, your opinion probably does influence people.  A shame, really.  The world changed in 1968. 

Tet was a glorious opportunity.  The North was reeling.  If the response to Tet was an all out, no holds bar, counterattack, the U.S. could have been negotiating from a position of strength.  Great strength.  Vietnam may have ended like the Korean War.  Maybe we could have avoided another 7 years or so of war.  And, if the war did end earlier, the currency inflation (to pay for both the Great Society and the war) may not have been so bad.  Maybe Nixon wouldn’t have decoupled the dollar from gold, igniting double-digit inflation and interest rates.  Maybe Carter wouldn’t have given us malaise and stagflation.  Perhaps a group of radical students wouldn’t have stormed our embassy and taken hostages because they saw us as a ‘paper tiger’. 

Would’ve, should’ve, could’ve, yes, but you have to ask yourself.  What would have happened if the most trusted man in America didn’t say we couldn’t win the war in Vietnam?

EARLY VIETNAM STRATEGY revolved around the body count.  You counted the enemy dead.  You killed more of theirs than they killed of yours, you won the battle.  Kill enough of them and they can’t fight anymore.  And then you win the war.  Or so went the strategy. 

Counting dead bodies is kinda cold and callous.  People didn’t like it.  Among the changes in policy following Tet, the military stopped the big search and destroy operations and counting the dead for ledger columns.  But the body count lived on.

Flash-forward to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  During the Bush (Republican) administration, the mainstream media (MSM) included body counts in their broadcasts – of American dead.  They didn’t just give numbers, they identified them by name.  They wanted to film returning coffins at Andrews Air Force Base.  Remember that?  Maybe not.  It’s hard to remember something that isn’t happening anymore.  During the Obama (Democrat) administration, the MSM appears to have suspended the body count policy.  Once the Republican was gone, apparently it was no longer fashionable to politicize dead soldiers.

IF YOU WANT to hear evidence of talking points in the MSM, you can tune into the Rush Limbaugh program on almost any day.  Limbaugh edits sound bites together and plays them on his program.  It’s a lot easier to hear the pattern in a montage than if you’re only watching one or two of the MSM’s outlets.  Even if you don’t like Limbaugh, give a listen.  They’re pretty interesting.  And entertaining.

Here’s an old montage featuring an unusual word: gravitas.  A portion of the transcript copied from his website follows.

Begin transcript.

RUSH:  This goes back to the year 2000. It’s one of the all-time great montages, this happened within a day of President Bush selecting Dick Cheney to be his vice presidential running mate.  You’re going to hear Al Hunt, Juan Williams, Claire Shipman, Steve Roberts, Vic Fazio, Jeff Greenfield, Jonathan Alter, former Senator Bob Kerrey, Margaret Carlson, Mike McCurry, Sam Donaldson, Eleanor Clift, Walter Isaacson, Mark Shields, Judy Woodruff, and Sam Donaldson — and none of these are repeated.

HUNT:  He is a man who meets all George W.’s weaknesses: lack of foreign policy experience, lack of gravitas.  I think now when Gore is trying to make the case of lack of gravitas against George W….

WILLIAMS:  Now we look and we see the son, who is seeking some gravitas, to say to people that he is an intelligent man…

SHIPMAN:  There is a lot talk they are looking at older candidates, candidates with gravitas.

ROBERTS:  He’s had health problems, uh, he’s worked for a Big Oil company, but he has the gravitas.  You can sum it up in one word: stature.

FAZIO:  I really believe that George W. Bush needed that perhaps more than anyone in recent memory because, if there is a rap about him, it may go to the gravitas issue.

GREENFIELD:  If the question about Governor Bush was one of the weight, or to use the favorite phrase of the moment, “gravitas”…

ALTER:  What he gets here is grav-i-tas, a sense of weight, competence, and administrative ability.

KERREY:  I’ve gotta strengthen it in some fashion. I’ve gotta bring gravitas to the ticket.

KERREY:  He does not need anybody to give him gravitas!

CARLSON:  It means that Bush, you know, Gore has experience and gravitas.

McCURRY:  I think he also needs to demonstrate some gravitas, too.

DONALDSON:  …that he was put on the ticket, but by former President Bush, to give gravitas to the ticket.

CLIFT:  Well, Dick Cheney brings congeniality and he brings gravitas.

ISAACSON:  He does seem to bring some vigor as well as gravitas and stature to the ticket.

HUNT:  It’s called “gravitas.”

NOVAK: Right.

SHIELDS A little gravitas!

WOODRUFF:  You certainly have gravitas tonight.

DONALDSON:  Displayed tonight a certain gravitas.

RUSH:  Now, I don’t care. I don’t care how it happens. I don’t care whether they all got together and decided, or one person used it and they all decided to mimic. They are who they are, and that montage is a good illustration.  

End transcript.

George W. Bush has a B.A. in history from Yale.  An MBA from Harvard.  Military experience (though no combat experience).  He was a businessman.  He worked in the energy industry.  Owned part of the Texas Rangers.  Was governor of Texas.  And won reelection to a second 4-year term. 

Obama has a law degree.  Was a community organizer.  State senator for 7 years.  U.S. senator for 3 years.  No executive experience.  No business experience.  No military experience. 

Perhaps both candidates needed to add ‘gravitas’ to their ticket.  In comparing the experience, though, one appears to be lighter than the other.  But when they talked about Joe Biden adding gravitas to the ticket, they didn’t make it sound like Obama was an incompetent boob.  Why?  Probably because it wasn’t in the talking points.

A BLIND MAN can see it.  There’s bias.  Opinion and political activism is taking over objective journalism in the MSM.  It’s been a gradual process.  It started in the 60s.  And continues to grow.  When will it stop?  Hard to say.  Until it does, there is one objective voice left in the crowd.  FOX News.  Which is why the political Left (and the MSM) attacks it so vehemently.

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