October 27, 2003

The Sliming of Reagan

At NRO, Ed Morrow has a great article about the real Ronald Reagan, and the hit piece that CBS has produced to smear him. If the content and the tone of the TV movie is accurately described by those who have read the script, I fully support Morrow's suggested boycott of CBS during sweeps week. The creators freely admit their contempt for Reagan and their production, not surprisingly, sounds like a spiteful, despicable lie. Here's an excerpt from the Morrow article, but please read it all:

Brolin presents Reagan as a dim-witted actor of modest ability manipulated by a self-centered, domineering wife who is contemptuous of underlings. One suspects that Brolin had little difficulty getting "into" this role, but it is a portrait of Reagan that is unrecognizable outside of an old, lame Saturday Night Live skit. It is a caricature. Indeed, Brolin's heavily rouged, orange-haired Reagan is a caricature of the standard liberal caricature of Reagan. He is a doddering fool, stumbling around using his acting talents to pass for a statesman. His power-mad wife and a cabal of evil advisors make his decisions for him. His public affability and patriotism are just a fa├žade over sanctimonious religious bigotry. When the film's Nancy Reagan advises him that the federal government should take steps to deal with AIDS, the film quotes him as saying, "They that live in sin shall die in sin." There is no source for such a quote, and the scriptwriter admits she invented the line, but this doesn't matter to the filmmakers. It serves their purpose, sliming Reagan.

So why the spite? For starters, because Ronald Reagan is a hero to millions of Americans, and it makes these people crazy.

And because the monopoly that the dominant media used to hold on the shaping of the public perception of Reagan has slipped in recent years. Books of his writing such as Reagan In His Own Hand, have persuasively put the lie to the myth of the "amiable dunce", manipulated by calculating "handlers". The book is a collection mostly of Reagan's handwritten texts for radio talks, given between 1975 and 1979. In the words of one description of the book,

"they cover every topic imaginable: from labor policy to the nature of communism, from World War II to the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, from the future of Africa and East Asia to that of the United States and the world. They range from highly specific arguments to grand philosophy to personal stories...

... He was very much the author of his own ideas, with a single vision that he pursued relentlessly at home and abroad....These writings show that Reagan had carefully considered nearly every issue he would face as president. When he fired the striking air-traffic controllers, many thought that he was simply seizing an unexpected opportunity to strike a blow at organized labor. In fact, as he wrote in the '70s, he was opposed to public-sector unions using strikes. There has been much debate as to whether he deserves credit for the end of the cold war; here, in a 1980 campaign speech draft, he lays out a detailed vision of the grand strategy that he would pursue in order to encourage the Soviet system to collapse of its own weight, completely consistent with the policies of his presidency."

In fact, in the post-Reagan era, we have not had as thorough and detailed a statement of a Presidential candidate's positions on such a variety of issues, before having an opportunity to vote for or against him.

Another dose of historical fact that has recently rained on the Reagan-haters' parade (Streisand reference purely accidental) is the publication of Reagan: A Life in Letters. More a window to the man than to his policies, this collection of personal correspondence shows the thoughtfulness, humility and compassion of the man that (I'm guessing here) might not come through in the CBS depiction. Here is Time magazine's cover story on the book

On the personal side, the venom of the revisionists seems to have been saved mostly for Nancy, as Morrow attests. After all, it would be hard even for those who loathed Reagan's politics to portray him as anything other than affable, (hence the "amiable dunce" label). But that doesn't stop CBS from making him out to be a homophobic bigot, even though they must resort to ouright lies to do so.

Again, facts and truth keep interfering with the leftists' preferred version of history. Consider the take of superblogger Andrew Sullivan, who happens to be an HIV-positive gay man, on the sensitivity of Reagan regarding matters sexual. Responding to Reagan's stated willingness to "accept physical desire as a natural, normal appetite to be satisfied honestly and fearlessly with no surrounding aura of sin and sly whispers in the darkness . .", Sullivan replies:

He's a Californian Republican, not a Southern one. He is specifically challenging the doctrines of Saint Paul, daring to challenge the Bible itself. And he's an antidote to the cramped, fearful and narrow notions of someone like Senator Santorum who has said that love has nothing to do with marriage. He reminds me of what I once found so attractive about a certain kind of open-hearted Republicanism, something that has gotten so lost among the paranoids and puritans that now sadly dominate the party.

Sullivan reviews Reagan:A Life in Letters in more detail in this article, which I am excerpting at some length, because it's so damned good:

His image of Reagan then:

I grew up watching Spitting Image versions of Ronald Reagan. He was a senile, slobbering fool. He was basically illiterate, knew nothing and wanted to blow up the planet. At best, he was a vaguely out-of-it B-actor whose grasp of politics or economics or diplomacy or anything faintly resembling intellectual life was close to zero.

And now:

Reagan was a highly articulate, well-read and subtle man. The range of his interests, the extent of his knowledge and understanding of world events and history, his grasp of detail are all completely counter to the image we have long held. From developments in Communist China to the latest economic figures, from isolated dissidents he helped free from the Soviet Gulag to an intricate account of how the Iran-Contra affair escaped his political management, we find a man far more clued in than we had been led to believe...

...He was extraordinarily humble. Even while in office, he would take hours out of his day to hand-write detailed and earnest replies to complete no-bodies. Even the crackpots who vented at him received polite and gracious counter-arguments...

...The intelligence of the man is undeniable. There's a detailed letter setting Professor Arthur Laffer right on petrol taxes; there's a complicated analysis of spending trends in his administration to another irked correspondent; there's a long explanation of the crossed wires that led him to pay tribute to dead SS Officers at a cemetery in Bitburg, Germany. And there's sharp honesty about his strategy for defeating the Soviets as early as 1982. He tolerated the deficits, he explained, for a long-term reason: "I don't underestimate the value of a sound economy but I also don't underestimate the imperialist ambitions of the Soviet Union ... At the time, he was pilloried as a warmonger by the nuclear freeze movement. Later, critics were stunned by his apparent volte-face into peace-making. But he knew what he was up to from the beginning. And now we know for sure...

...there's an old-world civility to Reagan that has been lost in contemporary American politics, a dignity and empathy with middle America that is as rare as it is touching. His diligence in hand-writing long letters to obscure pen-pals, even while holding down the most stressful and busy job on the planet, leaves me slack-jawed.

The fact that Reagan's policies have been proven right in so many cases is no doubt another motive for those behind the slime machine. If you can't win an argument in the arena of ideas, a personal smear is Plan B.

The cruelty of this CBS hatchet job to the Reagan family seems to matter not a whit to the network or the movie's creators. They are on a mission. The made up quote on AIDS victims attributed to Reagan is another example of the Hollywood left's general contempt for people of faith. It attempts to equate Christianity with narrow-mindedness, and Christian witness with sanctimony. It's really pretty disgusting. The network needs to know that we see this movie for what it is. It would be difficult for me to boycott CBS more than I already do, but I will let the network know what I think more directly.

UPDATE 10/28: The boycott effort is in motion

Posted by dan at October 27, 2003 4:12 PM