Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Tim Knight


Watching the Watchdog: What Happens if Obama Loses?

Posted: 11/05/2012 5:47 pm

Barack Obama

Tim Knight writes the regular media column, Watching the Watchdog, for HuffPost Canada.

"Every important decision [the U.S. president] makes on the economy ... or environmental or social issues ... foreign affairs ... war and peace ... has a profound effect on Canada."

That's one of Canada's finest journalists, Patrick Watson, musing on a previous American election.

He wonders, perceptive as always, if the president back then " ... knew he'd become the head of two countries when he finally made it into the White House?"

Now, I know you're waiting, even tingling with anticipation, for my definitive column answering Watson's question. And my forecast on the result of this, our Canadian election.

Who will be the next Canadian president? Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?

What will the result mean for Canada?

And would Michelle or Ann have been better choices?

Trouble is, I don't really have much of value to add to the bezillions of stories already cluttering the landscape.

A few things are obvious.

Obama is a decent, caring, honourable, highly intelligent, rapidly aging human being who inherited a godawful mess and never had a home until he found Michelle. Eighty-four percent of Canadians love him.

Romney is a dyed-hair, savage capitalist with no known principles, who inherited millions, and has always lived locked in the eerie cocoon of his strange religion (all religions are strange to me) and Stepford-like family. Canadians have no time for him.

Of course, even though one of them will be our next de facto president, we can't actually vote.

So if we're not involved, I haven't a clue who will be our next president.

Nor what it will mean for Canada.

But I certainly believe Michelle would make a better Canadian president than Mitt.

With your permission, I'll leave it at that.


If he hadn't died three years ago, Walter Cronkite would have been 96 this week.

He anchored the CBS Evening News and reported on most of the major events of his time -- World War ll, the Nuremberg trials, the Vietnam war, Watergate, the Iran hostage crisis and the murders of John Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

He held the unofficial title "most trusted man in America."

People in our craft admired -- even revered -- Walter Cronkite as a paragon of journalistic integrity. He was also a brave and decent human being.

Back in the early 70s when I worked as a producer/reporter for ABC in New York and the world was young and well worth fighting for, I was co-Chairperson of a four-union Joint Equality Committee.

The committee had worked for years to try to change the pale face of American TV. To get people of colour into mainstream broadcasting.

We had this dream. That if we worked long enough and hard enough we'd be able to walk into broadcast newsrooms in a few years and see a rainbow of women and men -- black faces and brown faces and white faces and yellow faces.

It would be a rainbow bringing different viewpoints, different knowledge, different backgrounds, different experiences and different understanding to our journalism. It would give the view from non-males and non-whites exactly the same importance as the conventional white male view. No more. But certainly no less.

We dreamed that out of such diversity, such differences, would come a broader, purer, more honest and more truthful journalism. That we could help open a genuine Free Marketplace of Ideas.

So on behalf of the four unions I wrote a petition to the three big TV networks. Petitions need names. Big names. Nobody in the nation was bigger than Walter Cronkite.

Here's the story.


The CBS corridors are endless. Pictures of CBS stars looking important and portentous hang on the walls. An aging black page leads me up one corridor and down another. We walk past studios and offices. Past an enormous newsroom, TV monitors everywhere. To Cronkite's office behind a glass wall.

Cronkite is charming. He wants to know where I'm from, what I'm doing in the States and how I get along at ABC. I tell him I'm English, I want to be where it's happening and I like ABC a lot.

I hand him the petition. I tell him our committee needs his support.

Cronkite gets me a cup of coffee from a machine in the corner of his office. And reads the statement. It says, in part:

" ... we deplore the fact that the faces seen on television news programs, the voices heard on radio news programs and the minds producing those programs do not adequately reflect the multi-racial makeup of our society."

"As members of the Joint Equality Committee together with working newsmen and women at the network news divisions, we urge the networks to redress the balance; to keep the promise we have made so often that news reporting truly reflect the views and events of all the people, and that employment opportunities in network news are open to every section of our nation."

Cronkite looks at me quizzically. "And what do you want me to do, Tim?"

"We would appreciate your signing it and supporting it, sir."

Walter Cronkite takes his pen and signs the statement.

After Cronkite, it's easy. Twenty-six top TV network journalists sign. Including Dan Rather (CBS News), Edwin Newman and Barbara Walters (NBC News) and Jules Bergman, Tom Jarriel and Frank Reynolds (ABC News).

Co-signer is the Full Opportunity Committee of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences -- the people who give out the Emmys.

We're on our way.

We're going to change the pale male face of American journalism.


That was a very long time ago.

Since then, large numbers of women have broken through the barriers in both the United States and Canada. And our journalism's much the better for it.

But journalism in both countries is still largely managed and reported by whites.

Which brings me all the way back to the race being run down South.

When it came to colour and discrimination on account of colour, Obama's election four years ago was a much-needed opportunity to heal the soul of his troubled nation.

With a black man in the White House, old scars left by slavery could finally mend. The racists and haters and the bitter millionaires who finance racism and hatred would understand that they've lost their evil crusade and give up.

That hasn't quite happened yet. Seems it needs a bit more time.

So I'll make my prediction. Based on hope rather than polls.

Obama will win.

And the world will be a better place.

The Cronkite story is adapted from my book Storytelling and the Anima Factor, now in its second edition.

Loading Slideshow...
  • 2012 -- Barack Obama

    U.S. President Barack Obama waves to supporters following his victory speech on election night in Chicago, Illinois on November 6, 2012. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 2008 -- Barack Obama

    Nov. 4, 2008: U.S. president-elect Barack Obama waves at his supporters during his election night victory rally at Grant Park in Chicago. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 2004 -- George W. Bush

    In this Nov. 3, 2004 file photo, President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush salute and wave during an election victory rally at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

  • 2000 -- George W. Bush

    U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Texas Governor George W. Bush casts his vote in Austin, Texas on November 7, 2000. (PAUL RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1996 -- Bill Clinton

    President Bill Clinton, wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea wave to supporters in front of the Old State House during an election night celebration in Little Rock, Ark. on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 1996. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)

  • 1992 -- Bill Clinton

    Bill Clinton and Al Gore celebrate in Little Rock, Arkansas after winning in a landslide election on November 3, 1992. (AP Photo)

  • 1988 -- George H. W. Bush

    President-elect George Bush and his family celebrate his victory on November 8,1988 at the Brown Convention Center in Houston. (WALT FRERCK/AFP/Getty Images) <em><strong>CORRECTION:</strong> An earlier version of this slide was titled "George W. Bush." It has been fixed.</em>

  • 1984 -- Ronald Reagan

    President Ronald Reagan gives a thumbs-up to supporters at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles as he celebrates his re-election, Nov. 6, 1984, with first lady Nancy Reagan at his side. (AP Photo/File)

  • 1980 -- Ronald Reagan

    President-elect Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy wave to well-wishers on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 1980 at Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles after his election victory. (AP Photo)

  • 1976 -- Jimmy Carter

    Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Carter embraces his wife Rosalynn after receiving the final news of his victory in the national general election on November 2, 1976. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

  • 1972 -- Richard Nixon

    U.S. President Richard M. Nixon meets at Camp David, Maryland, on November 13, 1972 to discuss the Vietnam situation with Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger (L) and Maj. Gen. Alexander M. Haig Jr.(R), Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. (Photo by AFP PHOTO/NATIONAL ARCHIVE/Getty Images)

  • 1968 -- Richard Nixon

    President-elect Richard M. Nixon and his wife, Pat, were a picture of joy at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, Nov. 6, 1968, as he thanked campaign workers. At left are David Eisenhower, Julie Nixon's fiance, Julie and her sister Tricia at center. (AP Photo)

  • 1964 -- Lyndon Johnson

    President Lyndon Johnson proves he's a pretty good cowhand as he puts his horse, Lady B, through the paces of rounding up a Hereford yearling on his LBJ Ranch near Stonewall, Texas, on November 4, 1964. (AP Photo/Bill Hudson)

  • 1960 -- John F. Kennedy

    Caroline Kennedy peeps over the shoulder of her father, Senator John F. Kennedy, as he gave her a piggy-back ride November 9, 1960 at the Kennedy residence in Hyannis Port, Mass. It was the first chance president-elect Kennedy had to relax with his daughter in weeks. (AP Photo)

  • 1956 -- Dwight D. Eisenhower

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Vice President Richard Nixon salute cheering workers and Republicans at GOP election headquarters in Washington, November 7, 1956, after Adlai Stevenson conceded. (AP Photo)

  • 1952 -- Dwight D. Eisenhower

    President-elect Dwight Eisenhower and first lady-elect Mamie Eisenhower wave to the cheering, singing crowd in the Grand Ballroom of the Hotel Commodore in New York City on Nov. 5, 1952 after Gov. Adlai Stevenson conceded defeat. (AP Photo/Matty Zimmerman)

  • 1948 -- Harry S. Truman

    U.S. President Harry S. Truman holds up an Election Day edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune, which, based on early results, mistakenly announced "Dewey Defeats Truman" on November 4, 1948. The president told well-wishers at St. Louis' Union Station, "That is one for the books!" (AP Photo/Byron Rollins)

  • 1944 -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

    President Franklin Roosevelt greets a young admirer as he sits outside his home in Hyde Park, N.Y., on election night, November 7, 1944. Behind him stands his daughter, Mrs. Anna Roosevelt Boettinger and the first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. (AP Photo)

  • 1940 -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

    American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882 - 1945) speaking to a crowd of 25,000 at Madison Square Garden in New York on Nov. 8, 1940, before his sweeping re-election for a third term. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

  • 1936 -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

    The Republican Governor of Kansas and presidential candidate, Alfred Landon (1887 - 1987) greeting the American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882 - 1945) (seated) prior to the presidential elections. Future United States President Harry S. Truman can been seen in the background. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • 1932 -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

    Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York at his Hyde Park, N.Y. home November 6, 1932, seen at the conclusion of the arduous months of campaigning following his presidential nomination in Chicago. (AP Photo)

  • 1928 -- Herbert Hoover

    President-elect Herbert Hoover is seated at a table with wife, Lou, and joined by other family members on Nov. 9, 1928. Standing from left: Allan Hoover; son; Margaret Hoover, with husband, Herbert Hoover, Jr.,at right. Peggy Ann Hoover, daughter of Herbert Hoover Jr., sits with her grandmother. (AP Photo)

  • 1924 -- Calvin Coolidge

    U.S. President Calvin Coolidge and first lady Grace Coolidge are shown with their dog at the White House portico in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 5, 1924. (AP Photo)

  • 1920 -- Warren Harding

    Senator Warren Harding, with wife Florence and his father George, shown on Aug. 27, 1920. (AP Photo)

  • 1916 -- Woodrow Wilson

    Surrounded by crowds, President Woodrow Wilson throws out the first ball at a baseball game in Washington in this 1916 photo. (AP Photo)

  • 1912 -- Woodrow Wilson

    Woodrow Wilson (1856 - 1924), the future American president, casts his vote while Governor of New Jersey, on Nov. 14, 1912. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)


Follow Tim Knight on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TimKnight6