Using and Abusing Reagan's Memory, Part I - June 8, 2004 -

Times Watch for June 8, 2004

Using and Abusing Reagan's Memory, Part I

The Times editorial page puts Reagan's memory to use Tuesday to push stem-cell research in "A Fitting Tribute to Mr. Reagan," a procedure favored by Nancy Reagan but opposed by social conservatives and pro-lifers (a group to which Reagan belonged).

"We hope that when the tributes are done and the former president is laid to rest on Friday, she will renew her efforts to eliminate restraints on embryonic stem cell research, perhaps the most promising route toward cures for Alzheimer's and other devastating ailments. It would be a fine tribute to her husband's memory. Mrs. Reagan has become, over the last two years, one of a growing cadre of conservative Republicans who have pressed for the Bush administration to lift its ill-considered restrictions on federal financing for embryonic stem cell research."

Actually, a tax cut would probably be a better tribute to Reagan-but Times Watch doesn't anticipate the Times signing on to that kind of tribute anytime soon. And one wonders how the anti-abortion Reagan would truly feel about embryonic stem cell research, which involves destruction of human embryos. It's more than a little presumptuous for an editorial page that was never kind to Reagan to call anything a fitting tribute, much less an issue that touches on one of the late president's core beliefs.

For the rest of the editorial on Reagan, click here.

" Abortion | Editorial | Ronald Reagan

Using and Abusing Reagan's Memory, Part II

Paul Krugman on Tuesday finds something nice to say about Ronald Reagan in "The Great Taxer." Just as Tuesday's editorial hooks the idea of stem-cell research to Reagan, Krugman uses his memory to blast Bush for cutting taxes.

You see, Krugman admires Reagan for his tax hikes: "I did not and do not approve of President Reagan's economic policies, which saddled the nation with trillions of dollars in debt. And as others will surely point out, some of the foreign policy shenanigans that took place on his watch, notably the Iran-contra scandal, foreshadowed the current debacle in Iraq (which, not coincidentally, involves some of the same actors). Still, on both foreign and domestic policy Mr. Reagan showed both some pragmatism and some sense of responsibility. These are attributes sorely lacking in the man who claims to be his political successor."

For the rest of Krugman on Reagan the tax-hiker, click here.

" Columnists | Paul Krugman | Ronald Reagan | Taxes

How Reagan Made "Denial of Compassion" Respectable

Clyde Haberman, who served 13 years as a foreign correspondent, now pens the "NYC" column for the front page of the Times Metro Section. His columns are reliably liberal outlooks on the city, but on Tuesday he offers a "reality check" on Ronald Reagan. In "Reality Check During a Time Of Mourning," he opens: "Although flags are at half-staff and heads are bowed in mourning, it does Ronald Reagan no dishonor to look back at his presidency with a clear eye."

For Haberman, "looking back with a clear eye" means rehashing quotes from liberal Democrats like Mario Cuomo and Ed Koch lambasting Reagan's cuts in aid to the city: "In that spirit, it seems reasonable, and more than polite, to say that Mr. Reagan will not land on any list of New Yorkers' all-time best friends in the White House. His administration's policies on public housing, job training, welfare, mass transit, AIDS treatment-nearly all dealt severe blows not only to New York but also to cities across the country".New Yorkers' federal tax bill in the same two-year period declined by $699 million. Then as now, the main beneficiaries were the wealthy."

There's no hint the city was mired in a financial ruin of its own making before Reagan-after all, the city was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1975, five years before Reagan took office.

Haberman finishes by quoting another liberal official, and then giving Cuomo "the last word."

The column concludes: "'Reagan changed the distribution a little,' said William B. Eimicke, an official in both the Cuomo and Koch administrations who now teaches public administration at Columbia University. 'The burden was shifted to those on the lower end of the scale.' On the Reagan legacy, Mr. Cuomo gets the last word here. 'I don't believe the man had any personal harshness,' he said. 'Regrettably, many of his programs-his denial of support for programs-had a harsh effect. 'The results made the denial of compassion respectable.'"

"Denial of compassion." If that's Haberman's idea of "more than polite," Times Watch would hate to read him when he's being rude.

For the rest of Haberman's jaundiced look back at Reagan, click here.

" Columnists | Mario Cuomo | Clyde Haberman | New York City | Ronald Reagan

Reagan's Devolving Idea of Missile Defense

The passing of Ronald Reagan is the apparent hook for Carl Hulse and William Broad's Tuesday update on missile defense systems, "The Great-Grandson of Star Wars, Now Ground-Based, Is Back on the Agenda."

They note: "Ronald Reagan's signature vision of a space shield to protect the nation from a barrage of nuclear missiles has devolved from its original Star Wars concept to a more rudimentary system of ground-based rockets that the Bush administration hopes to put in place this year."

Typically for the Times, they impart an eye-rolling tone to Reagan's idea: "In a frantic hunt for ways to bring Mr. Reagan's dream to life, a gargantuan research effort lurched through a blur of possible weapons over the years, including X-ray lasers, chemical lasers, free-electron lasers, particle beams and space-based kinetic kill vehicles".But Mr. Reed and others say the testing so far has not been realistic. And Dr. Philip E. Coyle III, a former head of weapons testing at the Pentagon, called the system 'no more than a scarecrow, not a real defense.'"

The Times could have identified Coyle as the director of the liberal Center for Defense Information. Oddly, the Times then goes on to quote in the very next paragraph Theresa Hitchens, who they identify as vice president of the Center. So, the Times two outside experts turn out to be unlabeled liberals from the same defense group.

For the rest of the Times on missile defense, click here.

" William Broad | Carl Hulse | Labeling Bias | Missile Defense | Ronald Reagan

The Iraq War: Definitely Not Like D-Day, Could Be Vietnam

Sunday's lead editorial, "June 6, 1944," is a ham-handed attempt to suggest that no matter what that Bush guy may say, the war in Iraq has no parallels with D-Day, 60 years ago: "It's tempting to politicize the memory of a day so full of personal and national honor, too easy to allude to the wars of our times as if they naturally mirrored World War II. The iconic starkness of the forces that met on the beaches of Normandy makes that temptation all the greater. But beyond the resemblance of young soldiers dying in wars 60 years apart, there is no analogy, and that is something we must remember today as well."

The editorial lays out why World War II was most definitely not like Iraq: "D-Day was the result of broad international accord. By D-Day, Europe had been at war-total war-for nearly five years, at profound cost to its civilian population." (This is the same page which rarely misses a chance to compare Iraq to Vietnam.)

If the Times wants to play that game, Times Watch would point out that most of the troops who landed on the beaches on D-Day were from America, Great Britain and Canada (including forces from Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland). The Allied forces in Iraq are mostly American and Great Britain, but also include troops from 33 other countries.

The Times ends by complaining Americans haven't been asked to sacrifice enough: "American civilians, in turn, had willingly made enormous material sacrifices to sustain the war effort. There was no pretense that ordinary life would go on uninterrupted and no assumption that America could go it alone. We may find the heroics of D-Day stirring in the extreme. We may struggle to imagine the special hell of those beaches, the almost despairing lurch of the landing craft as they motored toward France. Those were brave times. But it was a bravery of shared sacrifice, a willingness to rise to an occasion that everyone prayed would never need to come again. This is a day to respect the memory of 60 years ago and, perhaps, to wonder what we might rise to if only we asked it of ourselves."

For the rest of the Times editorial on D-Day, click here.

" D-Day | Editorial | Iraq War