Radio listeners vent anger, fears about Gulf crisis


January 16, 1991|By Randi Henderson

On the airwaves yesterday the talk was of war -- and not just during the news broadcasts.

"I floated a couple of other topics," said WCBM radio talk show moderator Rudy Miller, "but all anyone wanted to talk about was the war."

Allan Prell, John Lofton, Ron Smith and other talk show hosts throughout the area and country encountered the same phenomenon. The prospect of war in the Persian Gulf was on everyone's minds and everyone's lips. The "war watch" was what WBAL's Ron Smith called the situation several times during his broadcast.

Whatever their personal feelings, most callers seemed to accept the inevitability of a war.

"I believe Saddam Hussein is a violent man . . . and I'd rather take him out when he's less powerful than wait for him to get more powerful," Steve from Towson told Mr. Smith. Steve added an opinion common to many callers: "I believe Bush has exhausted all his political options."

Margaret from Dundalk took a different slant, comparing war fever to violence in America's cities. "The sentiment 'why don't we just bomb 'em?' -- doesn't that express the sickness that's alive and well in America today?" she wondered. "If George Bush starts this war, God help him. I'm feeling very angry, and believe me, there are a lot of angry people behind me."

Callers to Mr. Smith's show were about 3 to 1 in favor of the U.S. taking military action, he said. Ms. Miller found more of a 50-50 split, but Mr. Lofton, who hosted an afternoon call-in on WCBM, was assailed by callers disagreeing with his view, which is staunchly opposed to the U.S. military presence in the Gulf.

Laird from East Baltimore, for example, was combative with his opinion that "we can't allow one diabolically insane strongman to consolidate his power in one strategically important part of the world."

Speaking somewhat more calmly, Ken from Howard County voiced a similar sentiment. "I believe we should go to war," he said. "We've examined a lot of options. . . . He [Saddam Hussein] will hurt other countries. He will keep on growing."

Underlying the feeling of inevitability was a strong strain of worry. "It's a real scary sort of day," said Dr. Jim Dasinger, who provides the psychologist's point of view on WBAL's noon show on Tuesdays. "There's a lot of anticipatory anxiety out there."

"Everybody's nervous," Ms. Miller agreed. "It's not really what you'd call gung-ho, let's-go-to-war sentiment."

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