|Even in Ronald Reagan's death, the liberal media can't let go of their hate.|
Virtually all of the broadcast and cable network
coverage, in the hours after the late Saturday afternoon EDT
announcement of President Ronald Reagan's passing, focused mainly
on praise for how he inspired Americans, relayed positive
anecdotes from those who worked with him, recounted the
achievements in his life and recalled the love story of Ronald and
Nancy. Alzheimers and the assassination attempt were also frequent
topics. Not so pleasant policy-related developments from his
presidency were highlighted, such as the 1983 Marine barracks
bombing in Beirut and Iran-Contra, and many reviews of his
presidency pointed out how the deficit soared during his tenure
but, with only a few notable exceptions, journalists who cited
negative events did not incorporate liberal, anti-conservative
spin to denounce Reagan's policies.
So, for instance, most reporters did not explicitly blame the
tax cuts for causing the deficit or claim Reagan's tax and budget
policies helped the rich while hurting the poor.
There were, however, several exceptions that I noticed from
scanning the channels Saturday afternoon and night. The themes of
those exceptions probably point to the flavor of media attacks on
Reagan which will inevitably grow as the hours pass since his
The exceptions in Saturday coverage:
# On-screen text on CNN at 6:53pm EDT, but repeated later:
"BY-PRODUCT OF 'REAGANOMICS'
HUGE BUDGET DEFICITS"
# ABC's Sam Donaldson blamed the big deficit on Reagan for
"stubbornly" refusing to raise taxes to pay for defense spending
and he featured a soundbite of David Stockman denouncing Reagan
for ignoring "facts."
# Barely 15 minutes after the announcement of Reagan's death,
CBS's Jerry Bowen was on the air highlighting "the nagging
perception" that in their post-White House years "the Reagans were
cashing in on their Washington years." He cited how "their
California retirement home...was a gift from twenty wealthy
friends. The Reagans paid them back, but the appearance of
impropriety lingered." He also brought up the controversy over how
much Ronald Reagan was paid for some 1989 speeches in Japan.
# CBS's Bill Plante ludicrously claimed that he "succeeded,
beyond conservatives' wildest dreams, in shrinking the size of
government," but then Plante contradicted himself by asserting
that Reagan managed the big budget cuts "by spending so much there
was no money left."
# Bitburg and the S&L scandal. In a posting on MSNBC.com,
MSNBC's Tom Curry cited three "costly miscalculations" Reagan made
in the White House. In addition to Iran-Contra, Curry brought up
the Bitburg cemetery incident and how "he signed into law the
Garn-St. Germain Act, which deregulated the savings and loan
industry and ended up costing taxpayers tens of billions of
dollars." Curry showcased how "economist Paul Krugman called it
the 'biggest single economic policy disaster of the 1980s.'" That
would be the same Krugman who is a far-left columnist for the New
# The lengthy New York Times obituary in Sunday's paper ran
through a litany of liberal spin points against Reagan: Ketchup as
a vegetable, how cutting off Social Security disability benefits
for 500,000 people "furthered the perception that the
administration was heartless," how the October of 1987 stock
market plunge "highlighted the administration's failure to deal
with the budget and trade deficits and the failure of supply-side
economics to encourage investment and productivity." On the up
side, at least from the Times' view, that meant "economists'
warnings that the administration was mortgaging the country's
future were finally heeded, and the President and Congress agreed
to a deficit-reduction package." Plus, thanks to Reagan, "more
people were living below the poverty line, and homelessness became
a national concern."
Now, more complete quotations for the instances cited above:
-- Sam Donaldson, in a taped piece reviewing Reagan's
presidency, aired during ABC's 7pm EDT hour-long special anchored
by Peter Jennings, ignored the role of soaring non-Defense
spending during the 1980s, much of it pushed by the Democratic-
"Reagan was convinced the U.S. had fallen badly behind the
Soviets through a decade of military neglect, so he initiated the
biggest military build-up in peacetime history, at a cost of more
than a trillion and a half dollars. But after pushing through the
largest tax cut in U.S. history, he was stubbornly opposed to
raising taxes to pay for the increased defense spending."
David Stockman, former OMB Director: "His convictions on
certain matters are so powerful and so deeply rooted that it just
blanks out his willingness to consider facts."
Donaldson: "The fact is, that the man who sold himself as an
enemy of big government -- and big government spending -- ran up
what was then the largest debt in the nation's history: $2.6
trillion. It took $2 billion a week just to pay the interest."
As Donaldson spoke, an on-screen graphic, labeled "National
Debt," showed a red line rising from $1 trillion in 1980 to 2.6
trillion in 1988.
-- CBS News, just past 5pm EDT, barely 15 minutes after CBS
News broke into golf coverage, reporter Jerry Bowen in Los Angeles
narrated a look at Reagan's post-White House years. Referring to
the Reagans returning to California, Bowen reminded viewers:
"The homecoming would prove bittersweet. There was a problem
that first year back: The nagging perception the Reagans were
cashing in on their Washington years. Their California retirement
home, a two-and-a-half million dollar hilltop ranch house in
exclusive Bel Air, was a gift from twenty wealthy friends. The
Reagans paid them back, but the appearance of impropriety
Reagan in a broadcast booth with Vin Scully: "I've been out of
work for six months and maybe there's a future here."
Bowen: "As the former sportscaster joked about his job
prospects at the 1989 All Star Game, he was already well into a
lucrative public speaking career -- $50,000 per appearance. But it
was a trip to Japan in October of 1989 that provoked the most
stinging comments. For two 20-minute speeches, and a few public
appearances, Mr. Reagan was paid $2 million by a Japanese
-- A few minutes after Bowen's piece, at about 5:15pm EDT,
anchor Dan Rather went to Bill Plante, live in Paris. Plante
covered the White House for CBS during the Reagan years. Though
Reagan only managed to slow the growth rate of non-Defense
spending, not cut it, Plante asserted:
"Ronald Reagan was a guy who came to government to shrink it.
He wanted less government. But the face that he presented to the
public didn't appear to be that of a cost-cutter or a radical
conservative, it was a friendly face. And he succeeded beyond
conservatives' wildest dreams in shrinking the size of government,
partly by spending so much there was no money left."
So conservatives aren't "friendly"?
-- "Ronald Reagan, 1911-2004: An indefatigable optimist who
set America on a conservative course," read the innocuous headline
over MSNBC.com's obituary, by national affair writer Tom Curry,
posted at 5:02pm EDT on June 5. Curry had a lot positive to say
about Reagan, but he blamed Reagan for the S&L scandal and raised
the trumped-up controversy over Bitburg, as if deserves prominence
in an initial obituary posted less than an hour after Reagan died.
Bitburg, S&L mishaps
During his eight years in the White House, Reagan made some costly
* In 1982, he signed into law the Garn-St. Germain Act, which
deregulated the savings and loan industry and ended up costing
taxpayers tens of billions of dollars as S&L owners plunged into
speculative investments. Economist Paul Krugman called it the
"biggest single economic policy disaster of the 1980s."
* Reagan drew criticism from Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and others
in 1985 when he attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Bitburg
cemetery in West Germany, gravesite of 2,000 German soldiers,
including 49 Nazi members of Hitler's SS.
* According to a panel of investigators headed by Sen. John Tower,
R-Texas, Reagan allowed Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North and others to
operate an extra-constitutional shadow government that diverted
Iranian arms sales profits to Nicaraguan rebels.
In the last two years of his presidency Reagan was hobbled both by
the Iran-Contra fiasco and by the Republicans' loss of the Senate
in the 1986 elections, before Iran-Contra was revealed.
This in turn led to the Senate's rejection of the nomination of
Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987, which was Reagan's
most stinging ideological defeat - and the one with perhaps the
most lasting consequences.
But to many conservatives Reagan was -- and remains -- a heroic
inspiration, as much for what he said as for what he accomplished.