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Time's Slanted First Draft of History

Dancing a familiar side-step on a recent edition of "Fox News Sunday," Time magazine's Managing Editor, Walter Isaacson, denied a liberal bias seeped into the glossy pages of his news weekly: "I don't think there's a bias in the media now the way there used to be....I know that at Time, we're pretty careful to make sure everybody's open-minded, that you're not bringing a political bias to this...I think that our newsroom at Time and the people who write there are open-minded and not Democrats and liberals as the popular perception is."

But if the weekly documentation of Time's liberal bias isn't enough (for example, almost 30 demands in the last decade for a dramatically increased gas tax - in "news" stories), try their special products. Whenever Time tries to provide a sweeping view of history, expect a classic liberal rebuke of conservative heroes, like Ronald Reagan.

In 1990, as the United States celebrated almost a decade of prosperity and communist regimes had fallen over much of the world, Time's "Man of the Decade" award went to...Mikhail Gorbachev. Reagan didn't merit any mention, as writers like Michael Kramer piled encomiums on the Soviet ruler: "As an international leader, Gorbachev is a world-class leader - with no one else in his class." Writer Bruce Nelan concluded on a treaclier note: "Gorbachev is a visionary enacting a range of complex and sometimes contradictory roles. He is simultaneously the Communist Pope and the Soviet Martin Luther, the apparatchik as Magellan and McLuhan. The Man of the Decade is a global navigator."

In 1991, Time produced a television advertisement offering "The Most Important People of the 20th Century" video as a subscription premium. The commercial began: "Who would you choose? A President, a Prime Minister, a national hero, or a maniacal villain?" At the word "President," the ad showed John Kennedy; at Prime Minister, a picture of Winston Churchill; for "national hero," a clip of John Wayne; and under "maniacal villain," Adolf Hitler - followed by a smiling Reagan.

So you'd have to wince when you saw a paperback volume titled "Time's Great Events of the 20th Century" on the news stands this month. If you dared to peel back the pages, you'd find not a single picture of Ronald Reagan. What about the economic renewal of America in the 1980s, the biggest peacetime expansion in history? Oh, you'd find it at the end of a page on the Great Depression and the stock market crash. "The second crash paralleled the first: like the roaring '20s under Calvin Coolidge, the '80s were boom years under Ronald Reagan, a time when fortunes were conjured out of thin air by fresh-faced traders who created nothing more than paper - gilded castles in the sky held aloft by red suspenders." Time recycled its bias by quoting itself from 1987: "What crashed was more than just the market. It was the Reagan Illusion: the idea that there could be a defense buildup and tax cuts without a price, that the country could live beyond its means indefinitely."

Then what about victory in the Cold War, the decline and fall of the Soviet empire, the arrival of democracy in most countries in the Western hemisphere? Well, communism's fall in Europe was more attributable to the "beaming, birth-marked visage" of Gorbachev, and Time summarized the fall of communism in Central America exactly the same Reagan-bashing way it did in the 1980s:

"When corrupt dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle, a U.S. client, was driven from Nicaragua after a long civil war, the rebel Sandinistas took over the government - and the war intensified, as Somoza supporters and other Sandinista foes formed a right-wing guerrilla army, the contras. When the Sandinista regime turned to Moscow for aid, U.S. President Ronald Reagan began funding and arming the contras. Though Reagan called the contras 'freedom fighters,' their terror tactics and documented human-rights abuses led Congress to cut off aid to their cause. The White House turned to covert action, and in 1986 its 'Iran-Contra' scheme was revealed: under Lt. Colonel Oliver North, a National Security Council aide, money from illegal sales of U.S. missiles to terrorist state Iran has in turn been illegally channeled to the contras. In 1990 moderate Violeta Barrios de Chamorro was elected President of Nicaragua in a vote for normality."

By contrast with illegally covert Republican regimes, Democratic Presidents were peacemakers: along with a small picture of Jimmy Carter heralding the Camp David accords with Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, they ran a huge picture of Clinton with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat on the White House Lawn in 1993 with the headline "History in a Handshake." Once again, Time's record proves Isaacson wrong, and the "popular perception" right: Time is surely not "open-minded" and surely is chock full of liberals and Democrats.