Saturday :: Jun 12, 2004

Hyping the Hypocrite

by pessimist

Media hype is pro forma anymore. The advertising industry long ago abandoned truthfulness in their commercials, and one of the legacies of Ronald Reagan is that politics adopted that strategy. There are widespread examples of this in the media, so I won't go into quoting any of them. You can find all you want just by visiting one of the major news sites.

But to its credit, some of the media recognize this situation, and call it for what it is:

Reading Reagan: The next few weeks will be ones of cheap sentiment and overweening pathos at the expense of the historical record, much as took place following the death of Richard Nixon.

Reagan: The Great White Redeemer: Persons not enthralled at the pageantry of Reaganís sendoff wonder, what is this national display really about?

Ronald Reagan: Still the Teflon President?

The press often forgets history when notable leaders die. The death of Ronald Reagan has become yet another reminder that news organizations often turn sentimental at the death of a former leader, no matter what legacy he or she leaves behind. Reagan's death, especially following the tragedy and torture of Alzheimer's disease, likely struck editors and reporters with a responsibility to go easy on the former president. Few, after all, protested the sacking of the CBS television movie about Reagan a few months back.

Maybe it's to be expected that the press, when covering a leader's death, will take a kinder, gentler approach. But in the interests of fair, accurate journalism -- something that has become a leading issue in the media today -- no former leader should be above a frank, complete, and balanced assessment. The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz noted today that when the media, back in the 1980s, dubbed Reagan the "Teflon" president "it was not meant as a compliment." Apparently, he is still the Teflon president, even in death. Who knows that Bill Clinton had higher approval ratings than Reagan?

Paying respect is one thing, and well deserved, but the way the press is gushing over Reagan is too much to take, sparking renewed talk of putting him on the $10 bill or Mount Rushmore.


Steffy: We'll still be paying for Reagan's legacy for decades

Under Reagan, we learned that the guy who invites us to dinner doesn't pick up the check. Reagan gave us the economic equivalent of the dine and dash. He ordered us all a big meal, we ate heartily, and then he walked the check and left his vice president and the American people to pay it. At the rate we're going, by the time the bill arrives, we may reach in our pockets and find we only have a couple of dimes to rub together. And they'll have Reagan's face on them.

Stop Republicans from putting Reagan on the dollar

Ok, this has gotten out of hand much sooner than I predicted. The Republicans in the House and Senate are now talking about putting Reagan on either the $10 or $20 dollar bill, or on half of the dimes (Roosevelt would get the other half of the dimes).

I'm sorry, but this man has only just died, and while he was surely an important president historically, he was by no means recognized as a "great" president by all sides (unlike Lincoln, Washington, Roosevelt, and Jefferson who are roundly recognized by everyone as "good guys"). This is absolutely outrageous, and it's the kind of thing the Republicans will jam through just like they renamed our airport, our metro station, our international trade building, and lots of other things in DC after Reagan.

Reagan was a controversial president to say the least. This is not the kind of president you honor on your national currency, not until there's a national consensus about his place in history, and that consensus has hardly been reached.

It's time for fair-minded Americans to draw a line in the sand. Demand that Republicans stop using Reagan's death for their own partisan political gain. When Democrats held an uplifting funeral for Paul Wellstone, Republicans twisted its message and lied to the American people about it being a "election" rally. Now that the Republicans are ACTUALLY USING A man's death to benefit their party, turnabout is more than fair play.

I strongly suggest folks call and email their congressional office in Washington DC and tell them you are NOT at all pleased about how people are playing politics with Ronald Reagan's death. Demand that he NOT be put on our currency:

- Find your Senator

- Find your House member

Then copy this post and send it to your friends. And if your friends think this is an urban myth, tell them to read this [following] CNN article:

Reagan the new face of the $10 bill?
Conservatives will push for image of 40th president to grace $10 bill, $20 bill or dime.
June 8, 2004: 5:08 PM EDT

Ronald Reagan's face could one day adorn the $10 bill or half the dimes minted in the country, if fans of the late president get their way.

On Tuesday Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) confirmed that he is considering sponsoring legislation in the Senate to have Reagan's image replace that of Alexander Hamilton, the nation's first treasury secretary, on the $10 bill. Meanwhile, an effort is underway in the House of Representatives, led by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), to put Reagan's face on the $20. The proposal has the support of Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, which is headed by Grover Norquist, an influential conservative activist. Democrats in Congress may not be ready to embrace the idea, though none has publicly declared opposition after Reagan's death Saturday. A change would require majority votes in both houses of Congress.

If either effort is successful, it would represent the first change of a person on U.S. currency since 1929, when the nation's paper money was standardized in size and general design. Although various anti-counterfeiting measures have altered the look of paper notes since then, the principals depicted have not changed.

One person opposed to removing Hamilton from the $10 bill is Ron Chernow, author of an acclaimed biography of the revolutionary war hero and founding father. He told USA Today that he believed even Reagan would have objected to the snub of Hamilton. "Hamilton was the prophet of the capitalist system that Ronald Reagan so admired," he was quoted as saying.

Proponents of Reaganized money, however, are proposing an alternative to paper: coins. If Reagan is not put on the $10, an alternate proposal is to have half the nation's dimes carry Reagan's face, with the other half continuing to honor Franklin D. Roosevelt. The idea of removing Roosevelt from the dime altogether in favor of Reagan had enough opposition, even from Nancy Reagan, to be dropped, USA Today reported. But the Gipper's fans think giving equal time to Reagan and FDR strikes an appropriate compromise.

Unlike decisions about notes, coins can be changed at the discretion of the Treasury Secretary.

And this would be the way it's done, knowing George Warmonger Bush's penchant for avoiding the will of the people. As later information will attest, bush needs all the help he can get lately.

Over at the Treasury Department, however, lips are tightly pursed on the notion of honoring the 40th president on money. "It's premature to get into any discussions about it, including discussions of process or timing," said Ann Womack Colton, a Treasury spokeswoman.

But GOP activist Norquist has said he has already had discussions with treasury secretary John Snow and senior White House staff about the idea, and found no opposition.

QUICK VOTE On what currency should Ronald Reagan's image be placed?
View results

[When I checked this last, 'None' was leading big.]

Jimmy Breslin - "Having said this, I now strongly endorse a suitable memorial for him. Ronald Reagan belongs on a $3-bill."

That would indeed be a fitting memorial to the man whose fiscal intemperance led to local and state governments being extremely concerned about expenses due to deep cuts in tax revenue:

Reagan Day Of Mourning Will Cost Government Big

TAMPA - Closing government offices Friday to honor former President Reagan means paying city and county employees to stay home. And some of those required to work get extra pay for working what's considered a holiday on city and county payrolls.

That's an honor Reagan, an advocate for government efficiency, wouldn't appreciate, according to the government watchdog group Florida TaxWatch. "I would think he would want our government not to shut down but to work harder," said Dominic Calabro, president of Florida TaxWatch. "We're paying for services we are not going to receive." Staying open Friday and requiring government employees to use vacation time to stay home would be a better honor for Reagan, Calabro said. "A high standard of public service would require that our government employees and managers are more, not less, accessible," Calabro said. "That's why it's called public service."

Much of that money will be paid, not earned, compliments of decisions by both governments this week to let most workers stay home. Closing local government acknowledges the significance of Reagan's passing instead of continuing with business as usual, Mayor Pam Iorio said. "It's important to do so as a sign of respect," Iorio said.

The price doesn't outweigh the need to honor Reagan's legacy, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms said. Cost wasn't a factor for Commissioner Pat Frank either. "Everybody will just have to work a little bit harder next week," Frank said.

The city pays about $680,000 a day in salaries. The county pays about $1 million a day in salaries in departments ranging from parks to public works. That doesn't include most of the agencies with independently elected leaders, such as the sheriff's office and tax collector. Emergency services such as police and fire remain open, but city and county departments that handle things such as parks and permits plan to close. City garbage trucks that usually pick up on Friday will do so Saturday.

Paying one day's worth of salaries for the clerk's office costs about $100,000, but that figure goes up to $250,000 for Friday because employees will earn a full day of holiday pay plus time-and-a-half for working, said Dave Hill, the clerk's payroll director. Instead of extra pay, some city and county employees who work Friday will get an extra day off. Compensation will vary for others because they work nontraditional hours or are covered by
collective-bargaining deals. The city already gives employees 11 paid holidays, in addition to vacation and sick leave. The county gives 12 paid holidays.

Gov. Jeb Bush decided to keep state government open Friday, but he sent a directive to supervisors, advising them to try to accommodate employees' requests for leave. State and county courts will be open, as will the county clerk's office.

Giving state workers the day off in California will cost nearly $60 million. Government offices will be closed in at least 12 other states: Connecticut, Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming.

President Bush declared Friday a national day of mourning. Federal agencies as well as most financial markets are closed Friday, when a state funeral will be held for Reagan at the National Cathedral in Washington. Closing the federal government in the Washington area Friday is expected to cost about $66 million, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

- George W. Bush

Now that we've covered the coinage story, we return to our regularly scheduled coverage of the media looking at its hype Reagan.

[Received by email newsletter]
By Arianna Huffington

Since Ronald Reagan's passing, the media have been filled with a celebration of his youthful spirit, his indomitable optimism, his faith in America's greatness and in America's goodness. His words have been reverberating: "morning again in America," "springtime of hope," "a promised land," "the last best hope of man on earth."

Our kind of dictators

Almost exactly 10 years ago, I wrote this column in some dismay at the eulogies for the dead former US president (and crook), Richard Nixon. Instead of the day of mourning called for by President Clinton, I suggested a day of rejoicing. I feel very much the same about the oceans of drivel pouring out in honour of the dead former president, Ronald Reagan.

Reagan was as corrupt as Nixon, if not more so. The Iran-Contra scandal, which he and his gang orchestrated from the White House, was far worse than Watergate. It caused chaos in Central America, as Nixon's war did in south-east Asia. Reagan specialised in folksy rightwing jokes. He (or his speech writer) once cracked that the difference between democracy and people's democracy was the difference between a jacket and a straitjacket. He loved democracy, in other words, provided it has nothing to do with people.

Reading Reagan

To me the most astounding thing about Reagan was his ability to convince the many members of the media and much of the country that his fantasies mattered more than reality did. In this regard, I think we can point to his presidency as the moment the country went off the rails in terms of a willingness to address its real problems, rather than the ones we wish we had. The news is more nonsense than normatively significant national problems, and while there has always been some of this, I think with Reagan we hit a tipping point. Listening to Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts wax nostalgically about how wonderful it was that Reagan made stuff up and a bunch of silly journalists had the temerity to (briefly) call him to account, brought back an almost physical wave of nausea as I involuntarily experienced the beginning of the period when facts and truth ceased to matter to their alleged guardians.

Reagan should be on a $3 bill

This man Reagan was 93 years old and out of it with Alzheimer's for many years and I don't see how anybody can summon grief. They proclaimed it a deep religious ceremony. Which it is not. His whole weeklong funeral is cheap, utterly distasteful American publicity. You keep thinking of Harry Truman, whose code was, "Do not impose." He left an order that there were to be no eulogies at his funeral.

The great American news industry, the Pekinese of the Press with so much room and time and nothing to say, compared Reagan to Lincoln and Hamilton, they really did. This is like claiming that the maintenance man wrote the Bill of Rights. And almost all the reporters agreed that Reagan was the man who brought down Russia in the Cold War.

Just saying this is absolutely sinful.

Media: Mourning in America

It's mourning in America.

If journalism is history's first draft, the death of Ronald Reagan has caused a step-up in the mass production of falsified history. Since he passed away, American media outlets have drowned the country in nonstop veneration for Reagan as a symbol of devotion to principle. The main technique is omission. People who suffered from the Reagan presidency have no media standing today. Mainstream news outlets encourage us to mourn his passing but not to grieve a whit for his victims.

President Reagan was in the habit of telling whoppers. His tales ranged far and wide: to deny environmental degradation, or blithely pretend that widespread human rights violations by U.S.-backed regimes didn't exist, or denigrate low-income people in the United States. Yet now, more than ever, he's being hailed as the Great Communicator.

The mourning in America is overwhelming. But the country is starved for honesty.

Rating Reagan: A Bogus Legacy

Arguably, too, another troubling part of Ronald Reaganís legacy is the press corpsís stultifying version of recent American history, a superficiality richly on display in the media paeans to Reagan following his death. The U.S. news mediaís reaction to Ronald Reaganís death is putting on display what has happened to American public debate in the years since Reaganís political rise in the late 1970s: a near-total collapse of serious analytical thinking at the national level. Across the U.S. television dial and in major American newspapers, the commentary is fawning almost in a Pravda-like way, far beyond the normal reticence against speaking ill of the dead. So, instead of a soul-searching examination of the unnecessary loss of blood and treasure, the nation got a feel-good history.

Planet Reagan

Ronald Reagan is dead now, and everyone is being nice to him. In every aspect, this is appropriate. He was a husband and a father, a beloved member of a family, and he will be missed by those he was close to. His death was long, slow and agonizing because of the Alzheimer's Disease which ruined him, one drop of lucidity at a time.

In this mourning space, however, there must be room made for the truth. The truth is straightforward: Virtually every significant problem facing the American people today can be traced back to the policies and people that came from the Reagan administration. It is a laundry list of ills, woes and disasters that has all of us, once again, staring apocalypse in the eye.

The television says Ronald Reagan was one of the most beloved Presidents of the 20th century. How can a man so universally respected have played a hand in the evils which corrupt our days?

Our corruption is the absolute triumph of image over reality, of flash over substance, of the pervasive need within most Americans to believe in a happy-face version of the nation they call home, and to spurn the reality of our estate as unpatriotic. Mainstream media journalism today is a shameful joke because of Reagan's deregulation policies. Once upon a time, the Fairness Doctrine ensured that the information we receive - information vital to the ability of the people to govern in the manner intended - came from a wide variety of sources and perspectives. Reagan's policies annihilated the Fairness Doctrine, opening the door for a few mega-corporations to gather journalism unto themselves. Today, Reagan's old bosses at General Electric own three of the most-watched news channels.

We are a badly damaged state, ruled today by a man who subsists off Reagan's most corrosive final gift to us all: It is the image that matters, and be damned to the truth.

Remembering The 1980s: - The Press Slept While Reagan Rambled

Some Americans may not remember the era when Teflon news coverage was afforded to a president who fell asleep at White House meetings and didn't recognize members of his Cabinet. Untethered by cue cards or teleprompter, he could ramble off into dark fogs of gibberish. When it came to watchdogging Reagan's economic and foreign policies, mainstream media were as disconnected and dozy as the President was.

Beginning 13 months ago [this article was written February 7, 1999 - ed], the President's [Clinton] personal sexual predilections became the country's top news story; 13 years ago [1986], a matter as important to the public as the President's mental competence was deemed off-limits. The national press corps spent years either ignoring the issue or euphemizing it as "inattentiveness" or "the age issue" or his lax "management style."

A top White House official privately marveled to the Los Angeles Times about "how easy the press was on him" and said that reporters treat Reagan "almost reverentially." This view of a timid, almost reverential press corps was shared by others in Reagan's PR team - notwithstanding their often disingenuous complaints at the time about liberal bias.

In On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency, author Mark Hertsgaard quotes former Reagan Communications director David Gergen as saying: "A lot of the Teflon came from the press. They didn't want to go after him that toughly." Back then, establishment news outlets were in the habit of burying embarrassing personal facts about Reagan in stories adorned by misleadingly cheery headlines.

With Reagan, relevant questions about his mental competence weren't even raised-- and a President being asleep at the wheel should be as newsworthy as a President sleeping around.

And the media political whores would certainly know something about THAT topic!

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pessimist :: 11:18 AM :: Comments (10) :: Digg It!