Path to 9/11 and The Reagans

It would seem that some of the left want ABC to pull Path to 9/11, while some on the right are accusing liberals of censorship Let’s go back three years to the furor over The Reagans when the shoe was on the other foot.
First, there was the reaction of Ed Meese:

It is typical of the far left that they cannot afford to have Ronald Reagan be seen as successful.” That success, Meese added, “refutes all of their lies about politics, economics and about people.” In fact, the former chief of staff for Gov. Reagan, top White House aide and later attorney general sees the CBS miniseries as a frantic and desperate attempt to counteract “a lot of factual material” that has come out about the 40th president, “including his letters, a recent updated biography by Lou Cannon, a book by Peter Robinson, other books that have come out [such as] the Time magazine article on his letters and all this sort of thing, which paints the true picture of Ronald Reagan.” All of this thoroughly documented material, says Meese, shows Reagan “in a light that is anathema to those on the left, and I think that’s why this is really a very cynical and very malicious plot, really, to try to darken his reputation.” Meese had seen the video trailer of the miniseries and shot down its “inflammatory” and “vicious” charges point by point … The script writer for the CBS hatchet job admits that the depiction of Reagan as having a calloused attitude toward AIDS victims was something she just made up. And Meese adds that the entire issue of AIDS did not come in through Nancy Reagan. It was Surgeon General C. Everett Koop who “brought that issue to the Cabinet” and it was handled “like a whole bunch of other issues in the Cabinet.” Contrary to the miniseries’ assertion that Nancy Reagan pleaded with the president to support giving condoms and needles to drug addicts to combat the spread of AIDS, Meese “would seriously doubt it because [in fact] she was very much against supplying needles, particularly because of her ‘Just Say No’ anti-drug activities.”

While some of us might have wanted the government to address the AIDS problem more quickly, Meese was right to criticize this movie for his slanderous claims. Next up comes a pretty good National Review piece from Ed Morrow:

Public officials can easily be slandered when they happen to be hated by the makers of popular culture … The substitution of propaganda for fact is dangerous. It’s not by accident that tyrants create “history” to justify their schemes. Hitler couldn’t have taken control of Germany without the many anti-Semitic myths that had been allowed to fester and go unchallenged. Stalin and Mao couldn’t have kept a heel on the neck of their countries without self-glorifying myths that demonized anyone who stood in their way. In this case, simple justice demands that the lies about Ronald and Nancy Reagan must not go unchallenged but, in a larger sense, truth itself must be defended. Attempts to distort our history must be resisted. Historical truth is simply too valuable to be made a plaything for biased filmmakers rewriting it to fit their politics … A boycott of the sponsors of The Reagans is a start. Don’t buy anything advertised during this broadcast. Write or e-mail the sponsors and CBS to tell them of your choice. This may help prevent such biased productions in the future. You can also write newspapers and magazines to protest the miniseries and to encourage others to boycott sponsors. A boycott of sponsors, however, doesn’t reach CBS directly. They are airing The Reagans during Sweeps, hoping controversy about it will spike their ratings. High ratings during Sweeps allows them to charge higher rates for advertising. They are willing to take heat from sponsors if their ad rates can be inflated. It can produce millions for them in the future. The only way to defeat this despicable exploitation is to try to reduce the CBS’s ratings.

The threat of a boycott worked and CBS relegated this film to Showtime. Incidentally, I would have refused to watch this silly film regardless of where it was aired. John LeBoutillier captured the right’s reaction of CBS’s decision to pull this silly movie in Total Victory:

CBS’s decision to cancel the Reagan movie is one of the greatest victories – ever – for the conservative movement over the left-wing, so-called mainstream, media. Nov. 4 is a huge day for the Reagans, for truth and for America.

To be fair, some on the left were not happy with CBS’s ultimate decision. Lawrence Grossman and Newton Minow write:

what CBS did will have serious consequences for all of television for a very long time. It reminds us of the lessons we learned from another television program that caused an even bigger firestorm than “The Reagans,” and was handled very differently. We were president and chairman, respectively, of PBS in 1980, when “Death of a Princess,” a portrayal of the public execution of a young Saudi princess who had been accused of adultery, was scheduled to run on World, the network’s news and public affairs series. The government of Saudi Arabia and Mobil Oil, PBS’s major underwriter, urged us very publicly not to broadcast the program because it reflected badly on Saudi life. The secretary of state wrote us a letter, released simultaneously to the press, urging us to reevaluate PBS’s decision to broadcast the program, given the subject’s potential damage to our relations with an important ally. Members of Congress from both parties decried “Death of a Princess,” fearing the Saudis would shut off the nation’s oil supply and cause a severe economic downturn. The protests against the program made headlines nationwide before anyone even had a chance to see it … CBS made three mistakes in its handling of “The Reagans”. Its first mistake was to produce an entertainment series that focused on President Reagan’s personal life while he is suffering from serious illness and being cared for by his wife. That’s called bad taste. Its second mistake was to succumb to outside pressure by abruptly canceling the series and putting it on Showtime, its more restricted cable network. That’s called setting a terrible precedent. CBS’s third mistake was to deny that it had caved in to outside pressure and claim it was a “moral call.” That’s called misleading. By canceling “The Reagans,” CBS set a dangerous example for dealing with the pressures that invariably arise to kill controversial programs before they can be seen. The network’s weakness will only encourage future protesters from the left and right to demand that programs they don’t like be pulled. Such programs, especially news documentaries on tough issues, are already network television’s most endangered species.

On the other hand, Path to 9/11 is not a documentary but rather something on the order of a Michael Moore film or more precisely some Sean Hannity show. The truth is that the Clinton Administration worked very hard to counter the threats from Al Qaeda. Maybe it drives the rightwing nuts that the Bush Administration during the summer of 2001 did not work nearly as hard. So they have to praise a film that gets this exactly backwards. Fine – we have seen for years how they have to distort the record in order to make their bogus claims that the Bush Administration is hard on terrorists as opposed to we Democrats who are not. I say – let them make fools of themselves with this stupid movie. I will not watch their lies.