Monday, June 07, 2004

Bereft Nation Rends Garments, Wails in Grief
I just checked a Mount Rushmore webcam, and I don't see any scaffolding up yet, which means conservatives haven't yet begun chiseling Ronald Reagan's face on it. But give 'em time. Barring another massive terrorist attack, Reagan will have the next week to himself--and we are in for public weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth the likes of which the Republic has rarely seen.

How much critical commentary on Reagan will break through into the mainstream media this week (as opposed to the lefty precincts of the Internet) remains to be seen, but don't bet on seeing much--which would not be the case if the media were as irresponsibly liberal as it's made out to be. Instead, what we'll get this week is what we got Saturday night and yesterday: misty recollections of the Gipper, the Great Communicator, the man who loved jelly beans and took Wednesday afternoons off, the nation's affable, optimistic grandfather. (Rick Perlstein examines the risks and the likelihood of this kind of thing becoming the official Reagan legacy, and the gross distortion of history it would represent, here.) Short of a mass hostage-taking at one of the networks, nothing remotely close to, for example, Phil Gasper's screed at Counterpunch will make it on the air. But Gasper is a socialist (and not an especially good writer)--even the criticisms found in more measured and better-argued pieces, like the ones by Will Saletan and Timothy Noah in Slate, will have a hard time breaking through. Not because the media are biased, mind you, but because this is not the time to be discussing such matters. It's a matter of taste, you understand. Think of the family. Show some respect.

And next week, when there is time, they'll go back to round-the-clock coverage of the Scott Peterson trial.

Were it not for Reagan, of course, there would be no George W. Bush. And in death, Reagan has done Bush a huge favor by pushing the departure of CIA director George Tenet and Bush's own hiring of a private defense attorney in the Valerie Plame case back to page 17. And we'd do well to keep an eye on what goes on in Washington this week apart from all the mourning. The Bush gang is famous for taking advantage of journalistic cover to push bad ideas--egregious rollbacks of regulations, controversial appointments, that sort of thing--while the media is preoccupied with something else.

If Reagan's death came at an opportune time for Bush, it also came at a decent time for John Kerry. Had Reagan hung on until the fall, it would have been much easier for Republicans to turn the 2004 election into a referendum on whether people liked Reagan personally or not. Because even people who disagreed with Reagan politically could be charmed by him personally (even I must confess to feeling charmed now and then), Kerry could not win that referendum. But five months from now, Reagan's death will be old news.

Quote of the Weekend: I realize this is probably pretty cheap and egotistical, but I am awarding this honor to myself. We visited some friends this weekend for their daughter's high school graduation party. It was spitting raindrops on Saturday just before the party was to begin, but my wife decided not to acknowledge them. "It's not raining," she said, even as she got wet. "Hey, it works for Bush," I said. "If we believe it is not raining, it is not raining. We will proceed as if it is not raining. And then, if we get wet, it will be Bill Clinton's fault." Well, maybe you had to be there.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?