Walter Cronkite

We think we know what an “anchor” is—that quaint tri-form hunk of heavy metal that vessels throw overboard when they want to stop. That action and the word promise stability and security. So “anchor” has passed into the collected metaphors of our survival: A sentence is anchored to its main verb; a country is kept steady by its constitution; Citizen Kane holds the cause of film history in place. Your family is what keeps you where you should be in the rising swell and cross-currents of life. Aaron Sorkin is a mainstay of old-fashioned adult optimism.

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David Brooks today has an important column, important not in the sense that it contains an intellectual breakthrough -- those are hard to pull off in 700 words -- but that it's a Cronkite-esque statement about the Republican Party's radicalism: A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government. It would seize the opportunity to put the country on a sound fiscal footing.

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On Wednesday, March 28, 1979, an accident occurred at the Three Mile Island nuclear facility outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. A valve that was supposed to close remained open, permitting large amounts of water—normally used to cool the plant’s core—to escape. For several hours, operators did not realize that the valve was open, and, as the containment building lost coolant, both temperatures and radiation levels rose.

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I’m struck by how quickly some of my fellow Entanglers have brought up the mother of all epistemological quandaries: How can we, the not very well informed, know what is the case in a far-off land of which we know, well, not very much? The difficulty in knowing what is true on the ground in Afghanistan, for example, is massive. And the reason is not that “the liberal media” blight the national climate with pessimism because they’re of a wimpish or Qaeda-loving disposition.

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Julian Sanchez has been writing about the right's tendency toward "epistemic closure" -- an intellectual world in which the only trustworthy sources of information are those within your movement. Sanchez is libertarian-ish, but clearly argues that this is primarily a right-wing phenomenon: I’m often tempted to pluck some instances from the left just to show how very fair-minded and above the fray I am.

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Happy is the eye that saw all this, but our souls were anguished by what our ear heard." This is the refrain of an ancient poem in the liturgy of Yom Kippur, a lament for its author's belatedness.

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The Powers That Be by David Halberstam (Knopf; $15) David Halberstam. Halberstam, that was what everybody called him (after all, it was his name). They always said what Halberstam needed was a good editor, his sentences ran on and on, he piled phrase upon phrase and clause upon clause, he used commas the way other men used periods.

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Press Against Politics

From The Editors: This week, our historical piece is “Press Against Politics,” Henry Fairlie’s 1976 call to arms for more passion and more conviction from the listless class of political journalists covering the Carter-Ford election. (He was clearly upset: “The fact is that James Reston writes now like a sports columnist on the slope of Olympus.

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Carter’s Problems

The networks tried to convey an understanding of what they were broadcasting. ABC called it a social occasion: "You get no sense of a political gathering here," cracked Harry Reasoner. Over at CBS, Walter Cronkite remarked: "The convention is in complete control of the Carter and Democratic National Committee forces and no fights are being permitted." The prevailing theme was persistent unrelieved harmony, the image of an absolutely unified gathering. Of the less fortunate, less harmonious past, there were only glimpses and allusions.

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