On Monday's Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann suggested that the recent decision by NBC News to label violence in Iraq as a "civil war" was comparable to the 1968 decision by Walter Cronkite to declare the Vietnam War a "stalemate," as the former CBS News anchor lost confidence in America's ability to win the war. Olbermann led the show quoting from Cronkite's 1968 statement, including the proclamation that "the only rational way out would be to negotiate," as the Countdown host contended that Cronkite had "truly matched his signoff 'And that's the way it is.'" Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the November 27 Countdown show:
Keith Olbermann, in opening teaser: "Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? It is civil war in Iraq. Not says the State Department. Not says the Iraqi government. But after long and painful consideration, it meets the technical standards for civil war, and we must call it that, says NBC News. Is this the 'Walter Cronkite moment' of the Iraq War? Retired Colonel Jack Jacobs on the why and how the sectarian violence in Iraq qualifies for this fearful phrase. Craig Crawford predicts the impact, its relative position on the Cronkite scale, and the backlash. Dana Milbank on the impact on the President on the latest leaks about the Baker commission report and Mr. Bush's impending summit meeting with Nouri al-Maliki. Mr. Bush thinks it is not civil war in Iraq, but it is too dangerous to meet Iraq's prime minister in Iraq."
Olbermann, introducing show: "Good evening from Los Angeles. '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,' the observer began exactly 38 years and nine months ago tonight. 'To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists, who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we're on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.' And the observer's conclusion: 'It is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out would be to negotiate -- not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy and did the best they could.' Our fifth story on the Countdown, after years of erring on the side of caution about Vietnam, Walter Cronkite, on February 27, 1968, truly matched his signoff 'And that's the way it is,' and America never saw that war the same way. Wishing neither to make an undue analogy nor be too introspective, but on the advice of a panel of experts, NBC News and MSNBC have today decided to call it in Iraq, the way it is, 'civil war.'"