The most trusted man in America,
(from Scholastic UPDATE; March 30, 1984)
What are your expectations about what you're going to be able to do as a
citizen of this democracy once you're out of school?
I don't think I can do anything--I mean, in the sense of affecting the
world. If I were to help anywhere, it would be in teaching. The way
I see it, if you can help perhaps five or six people, then maybe
they'd make a difference. It starts to increase geometrically the
amount of people that are going to help. After a while, you do make
Why can't you be one of the five or six that you're talking
about? The five of us sitting here are enough to start something.
There are things that we can do now. There are things we can
do in 10 years. There are things we can do on our own or as part of a group.
Is there something you have in mind that teenagers could be
doing if they have conviction and want to change something?
We have to choose the means with which we're going to fight the
things that we don't believe in, and decide the things that we do believe
in. It's important to be clear on exactly what you want to accomplish.
You may not be able to live to see the change you intended, but if you
set out in that direction, you've done a great deal.
You talked about teaching as a way of influencing future
generations, and that's an admirable thing. But you seemed a little
pessimistic. Do you feel that democracy is not working?
I think it has failed in some ways. The Presidential elections
are the perfect example. I mean, a poor man cannot be President, no
matter how great he is as a candidate. You're not going to be President
if you can't afford television time. if you run for President, you
should get some sort of exposure given to you by the country if you can
We all realize there are severe limitations. But once a person
has emerged into light, I'm not sure that you're right, that they need to
have a lot of money.
Well, the less money you have, the more pandering you have to
do to special interest groups to get money.
That's the nature of the beast in a way. Democracy promotes special
I'd like to turn around the question that you put me on the hot spot
with. Don't you think if you ran for President, you could make a
Anybody who is elected President is going to make a difference
if they've got any ideas at all. But there's a very important reason why
I should not run for office. Through all my years of being a journalist,
I've tried to not express my personal opinions. The great mass of
people don't know what it is I specifically stand for in the sense of
programs. When I came out with those programs, that great trust factor
would suddenly dribble away. But the greater reason why I would not stand
for office is that I would hate to see a situation in which people who
have made their name as television journalists use that as a platform to
run for office. What then happens is that all journalist on television
would be suspect in their reporting. [People would think] they were
trying not to report the news but to build a platform for future runs for
People would think that of you?
I'm afraid they would. And if there's anything that's likely to
strike at the people's belief in the integrity of journalists, I don't
want to see it happen.
More than two years after this conversation, Cronkite put out a survey, ("not a scientific survey... this is my survey"), where he asked a thousand people from 'Who's Who in America' who they thought, aside from those thought to be running, who they thought might make a good President. I think we could take a hint: He will not run, but would do it if we ask. He is available. He likes the idea of opening up the process a bit, so that more people are considered for the office, beyond that group which would promote themselves.
Cronkite: Some years ago a political expert calculated that, when it came to choosing a candidate for President, if you narrowed down the list on the basis of non-electability, eliminating certain people because of their age or race or sex or religion, ethnic background, education, public job experience, appearance, wealth, regionality, personality, so on, that in the entire United States you'd end up with just 24 persons who might have a chance at getting elected President. Well, we're still more than two years away from electing our next President and the jockeying for nomination has begun. And indeed, it seems the same 24 names or so keep coming up.
In an effort to inject some new possibilities into public thought, I mailed a questionnaire to a thousand leading Americans whose names were taken at random from Who's Who. I asked them who they thought, other than the usually mentioned possibilities, among all of us Americans, in whatever walk of life, might make good Presidents. This was definitely not a scientific survey. It was my survey, an attempt to flush out some potential new candidates who might be unknown to the public at large. Surprisingly, there was better than a 40% response to our poll. But on the disappointing side, most of the names suggested were the familiar ones we see on the nightly news. Mario Cuomo led with 16%, George Bush had 14%, Chrysler president lee Iaococca had 11.75%, and Senator Robert Dole had 5.5%.
But we did get a lot of other suggestions of some people some other people think might make a good President....
Cronkite: And that's the way it is, when you turn Cronkite out at large.
posted by John Champagne
I wonder if anyone bothered to ask the Electors this question. I didn't. I didn't even know who the Electors are until very recently, when I found names of Electors from the 1992 and 1996 elections posted at the Electoral College Home Page. (I didn't recognize any of the names of Electors from my state.) Well, Cronkite put the question out to anyone who was listening to 'Cronkite at Large'. I wonder if any Electors were listening. (There were links to that government web site that actually gave names, but they are not working now.)
I like this question. I wish we would hear it more often. I share it with anyone who will listen while in line at the grocery store or waiting at the bus stop. (Most people do listen, and many seem to like it as much as I do.) And I tell them who I stole it from. I think we deserve the better politics, the reduction in advertiser influence, that it might promote.
I wonder how many people who voted for Bill Clinton in the election past would have voted for 'None of the Above', if that option had been available on the ballot. Did anyone survey the voters to find out? I know that some were asked if they trusted Clinton or had reservations about voting for him. More than half said that they did not trust him, and a similar number said that they had reservations about voting for him.
When an election has half or more of the people not voting, and half or more of those who do vote are voting for someone other than the winner, and half or more of those who vote for the winner are saying that they have reservations, we can hardly say it has produced a mandate for anyone. Approximately 10% of the people voted for Clinton "without reservation" after hundreds of millions of dollars were spent to tell us that the election is important and that we should go vote. I cannot believe that this corporate-sponsored campaign really serves the long-term interests of the sponsoring corporations if it is instrumental in a further erosion of public confidance in the system that they rely on for their existance. We need to re-establish a sense of trust and integrity in our public institutions.
Perhaps it is time for the Electors to break with tradition and vote their conscience.
Sign my new Guestbook and tell me what you think
John Champagne © 1996
My Letter to the Editor: Draft Walter Cronkite
Letters to Cronkite:
Who are the Electors?
Back to the center of the Gaia Brain / Walter Cronkite Draft page.
, (and many others before that).
Go to the Athens Geopage