Matthews Touts Sheehan as “Tipping Point” Analogous to Cronkite

<img vspace="0" hspace="0" border="0" align="right" src="http://newsbusters.org/media/2005-08-28-CMSViet2.jpg" /> Matching NBC and MSNBC stories from last Thursday, on the syndicated <i>Chris Matthews Show</i> over the weekend, Matthews touted Cindy Sheehan as representing a “tipping point” on Iraq analogous to Walter Cronkite’s 1968 on-air lecture about Vietnam. Matthews set up his lead topic: “Next stop, Saigon? This month a watershed moment of defeatism over Iraq. Senators are getting quiet and polls are sinking. Then a tipping point [footage of Cindy Sheehan]. An anti-war mother of a fallen soldier becomes an emblem of anger and national frustration. It reminds many of another clear tipping point from another war.&quot; Matthews then played a clip from Cronkite. On last Thursday’s <i>NBC Nightly News</i>, Carl Quintanilla trumpeted how Sheehan has “dominated headlines, mobilized protesters” and made “it safe, her supporters say, to voice doubts about the war, just as Walter Cronkite did on the <i>Evening News</i> in 1968.” <br /><br />Full <i>CyberAlert</i> item follows. For all the items in <a href="http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2005/cyb20050830.asp">today’s MRC <i>CyberAlert</i></a>.<br /><br />
<!--break--> When replayed on MSNBC's <i>Countdown</i>, fill-in host Amy Robach framed Quintanilla’s story around how “there are those who wonder if attitudes toward the war could be reaching a tipping point and whether the Gold Star mom could be the driving force.” <br /><br /> For a RealPlayer or Windows Media clip of Quintanilla’s story with a soundbite from Cronkite in 1968, go to where the August 26 <i>CyberAlert</i> item was <a href="http://newsbusters.org/node/688">posted on NewsBusters.org</a>.<br /><br /> “Next Stop, Saigon?” read the on-screen heading, at the top of the <i>Chris Matthews Show</i>, beneath video of soldiers in Vietnam. The MRC’s <a href="http://newsbusters.org/user/7/view">Geoff Dickens</a> caught how Matthews teased his first segment: “Next stop, Saigon? When did the war in Iraq start to sound like Vietnam with no light at the end of the tunnel and everyone saying we can’t just cut and run?”<br /><br /><blockquote><p> Matthews introduced the segment: “First up, next stop Saigon? This month a watershed moment of defeatism over Iraq. Senators are getting quiet and polls are sinking. Then a tipping point [footage of Cindy Sheehan]. An anti-war mother of a fallen soldier becomes an emblem of anger and national frustration. It reminds many of another clear tipping point from another war.” </p><p><br /> Clip of Walter Cronkite, from the February 27, 1968 <i>CBS Evening News</i>: “Past performance gives no confidence that the Vietnamese government can cope with its problems now compounded by the attack on the cities. It may not fall, it may hold on but it probably won’t show the dynamic qualities demanded of this young nation. Another standoff. We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders both in Vietnam and Washington to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds.”</p><p> Matthews: “You know in Chuck Hagel who’s a double Purple Heart winner from, from Vietnam who served with his brother over there said this week that it has shades of Vietnam over there in Iraq. It struck me he won’t be the last person to say that. Howard what do you think?”</p><br /> Howard Fineman of <i>Newsweek</i>: “I think that’s gonna be the ongoing debate and I think over there in Iraq there are lots of parallels: an enemy we can’t always identify; a government we can’t really stand up; few allies; no easy exit strategy. I think we have a President and an administration that sounds like they’re searching for silver linings at all times but in terms of the American public I’m not convinced we’re there yet because the country is both more divided and less. It’s more divided in the political culture which in an odd way gives George Bush some leeway. It’s been red and blue forever, this is another example of red and blue. But on a deeper level we’re not as divided as a culture as we were in the sixties. When Walter Cronkite spoke you had, had divisions over civil rights, you were about to go through a season of assassinations, you had the women’s movement, the youth movement on the campuses. I don’t quite see that yet even though George Bush’s poll numbers are now down where Lyndon Johnson’s were when Walter Cronkite spoke a generation ago.” </blockquote><p><br />
</p>

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center