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MSNBC: Cronkite Was A Leftist, Not a "Liberal"

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Posted on July 21 2009 9:42 pm

“I suppose in all honesty, I’m a liberal,” said the late Walter Cronkite in a snippet of a 1996 interview that Chris Matthews played last night on his program Hardball. “But I would like to define liberal,” Cronkite continued. “I think that the great problem with this label is it has been seriously misused for political purposes.”

It was, to be sure, a meritorious assertion, but exactly how Cronkite meant it was not at all clear. To shed light on the matter, Matthews turned to his guest, longtime newsman and political partisan Dan Rather, who explained:

“Keep in mind that he [Cronkite] wanted to redefine liberal as it’s used in today’s political context. He meant that he was liberal in the sense that he was in favor of preserving those things worth preserving but changing those things that needed changing.”

How did Rather know this, you ask? Well, he didn’t know. In fact, he made it all up, every word of it. Cronkite’s definition of liberal bore no resemblance whatsoever to Rather’s purported summation of it. We know this because in 2004, Cronkite explained for himself, quite clearly, what he meant by “liberal” — when he criticized Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry for not confidently embracing the “liberal” label, which the newsman equated with being “progressive,” “broad-minded,” “unprejudiced,” and “beneficent.”

In other words, Cronkite saw “liberal” as a broad term meaning essentially everything good, kind, sweet, and fuzzy. And in that regard, he didn’t know what he was talking about any more than Rather did.

When the term “liberalism” (from the Latin word liberalis, meaning “pertaining to a free man”) first emerged in the early 1800s, it was guided by a four-pronged value system that embraced individual rights, the rule of law, limited government, and free markets based on private property. These would remain the defining characteristics of liberalism throughout the liberal epoch (generally identified as the period of 1815-1914).

This leads to a point where Cronkite was right on target. The term “liberal” has indeed been corrupted and misused for political purposes – by the socialist Left. Portraying themselves as the agents of enlightened commitment to “liberal” or “progressive” causes, leftists in fact stand for the antithesis of each of the foregoing liberal ideals. Contrary to their self-identification as “liberals” and “progressives,” leftists are neither “liberal” nor “progressive,” but rather reactionaries seeking to resurrect the traditions that characterized the epoch which preceded the rise of classical liberalism.

Consider these easily verifiable truths. The modern Left is the stalwart champion of:

1) group rights rather than individual rights, as exemplified by its support for collective preferences—affirmative action—based on such categories as race, ethnicity, gender, or national origin;

2) the circumvention of law rather than the rule of law, as exemplified by its support for the edicts of activist judges who legislate from the bench, and by its opposition to the enforcement of laws pertaining to immigration and nondiscrimination;

3) the expansion of government rather than its diminution (by means of ever-escalating taxes to fund a bloated welfare state, and to authorize government control over virtually every aspect of human life—education, health care, day care, energy, etc.); and

4) the redistribution of wealth (through steeply progressive taxes and mushrooming welfare programs), rather than its creation through free-market capitalism.

By calling themselves “liberals” or “progressives,” leftists have entirely redefined the terms of debate. And as noted earlier, the media and the public have largely gone along with this fraudulent self-identification, as evidenced by the fact that few people nowadays draw any distinction between liberalism in its original and authentic sense, and leftism—or socialism posing as “liberalism.” Thus we witness the travesty of the “liberal” label being routinely attached to far leftists like the anti-capitalist filmmaker/multi-millionaire Michael Moore, the anti-capitalist multi-billionaire George Soros, the Marxist historian Howard Zinn, and the America-hating linguistics professor Noam Chomsky. Yet the ideals of each of these individuals are utterly antithetical to the tenets of classical liberalism as outlined above.

So, too, were the ideals of Walter Cronkite, the late leftist who advocated a “marvelous middle ground between capitalism and communism,” and who called for a “guarantee that each of our citizens will have equal resources to share in the decisions of the democracy, and a fair share of the economic pie.”

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