October 30, 2004

WELCOME BACK, GLENN. Thanks for letting us hang out over here while you were away, and for saying don’t go away yet. This is a bit like having your parents come back from vacation, after you’ve had the run of the house all week. Do you go to your room or stay downstairs? I have the first thing I want to say this morning, and I’m torn about where to put it, but I’ll go ahead and put it here. It’s about Walter Cronkite on “Larry King Live” last night:

KING: Now, bin Laden, of course, could help Bush in that it reminds people of a terror issue in which he runs strong. It also could hurt Bush in that reminds people he’s still alive. So this could be a double edged sword, right?

CRONKITE: Indeed. Indeed. And the thing that in bringing this threat to us, there is almost, in the fact that he dressed well, that he looked well, he was clean shaven, nearly clean shaven as those folks get. It seemed almost, to me, that he wanted to enter into negotiations, that he was really up — he wants to move into a leadership role in international affairs instead of the role of a brigand. And he spoke calmly about this thing. The threat was there, no question about it. He’s delivering a warning to us, no question about that. And certainly, I don’t think there’s any reason to feel that we can take him to our bosom just because this speech at all. He’s perfectly capable of blowing us up.

Yes, we’ll need some more calm talk from the well-groomed — for him! — old rogue before we clasp him in our arms, won’t we? Thanks, Walter. And considering that OBL has a full beard down to his chest, am I to assume you were cracking an ethnic joke when you said “clean shaven, nearly clean shaven as those folks get”?

UPDATE: Several people have emailed me about this part of the Cronkite interview:

So now the question is basically right now, how will this affect the election? And I have a feeling that it could tilt the election a bit. In fact, I’m a little inclined to think that Karl Rove, the political manager at the White House, who is a very clever man, he probably set up bin Laden to this thing. The advantage to the Republican side is to get rid of, as a principal subject of the campaigns right now, get rid of the whole problem of the al Qaqaa explosive dump. Right now, that, the last couple of days, has, I think, upset the Republican campaign.

I disagree with people who are saying Cronkite is nuts. I think he was joking. The point is, the bin Laden tape is so helpful to Bush that it is as if Bush partisans are behind it.