Monday, August 20, 2007
Personal Asides: Mike Deaver in Retrospect The Decline of Sun-Times Editorial-Writing.
Mike Deaver, Ronald Reagans public relations guru who died yesterday, was a guest at my DePaul University class a decade ago and in connection with that class we spent a lot of time together talking about Reagan. When my wife Lillian picked him up at OHare to drive him to DePaul and my class, he no sooner got in the car when he told her that he had been sober for seven years, four months, three weeks and five days. I dont know whether thats de rigeur for AAs on not, but he certainly got that off his chest early.
Of course the news media glories in proclaiming that Ronald Reagan was exclusively a media creation, a kind of tinsel tin god who was created and sold to the public like a loaf of breadhence Mike Deaver is used by them as a kind of movie director, staging all kinds of events that made Reagan look good. To that extent, he didbut to imagine that (a) no one else could have done what Deaver did; (b) choosing advantageous sites for cameras made Reagan the most effective president in a generation and a half; or (c) other presidents ala JFK and FDR didnt do this is sophomoric. But sophomoric when directed at the contemporary news media is to flatter them. There is more to them than that. Sophomoric usually goes with the word callow which means shallow. Callow and sophomoric the media are but they are not just balefully ignorant: they understand full well that Reagan amounted to far more than pyrotechnics and they duplicitously continue to portray it falsely. Looking at the 1984 presidential campaign between Reagan and Mondale, if a Deaver could be recruited to direct Mondales photo ops and radio actualities and no Deaver would be allowed to handle Reagans, who would win?
Mondale? Of course not. Reagan. Mondales campaign was defeatist, centered on nuclear freeze or unilateral disarmament and higher taxes; Reagans was optimistic and idealistic tinged with hard realism. But until a generation of liberal journalists die off (which was created by liberal universities), the idea that Reagan was a media creation executed by Mike Deaver will continue.
Actually Deaver was far more than a selector of stage sites for news ops for his boss. He was deputy chief of staff and far from a Reaganite on most issues. He was very close to Nancy Reagan who was a country club Republican, not pro-life nor particularly interested in a hard line against the Russians. Nor was Deaver. He was the mirror image of Jim Baker, Reagans chief of staff. Aside from Ed Meese, the Reagan White House had very few Reaganites in itwith the one prominent Reaganite of all who dominated it: Ronald Reagan himself.
For that matter, George Shultz never understood it, was always trying to blur the distinctions when Shultz was secretary of state. Deaver told me very casually that he was not pro-life, that he joined with Nancy in trying to see that the Reagan who identified with issues on the right that proved to be authentic were muffled. He took pleasure in that, regarding himself as a cosmetician in the same way that John Sears, the first presidential campaign manager sought to blur the old mans edges. It is significant that evidently to the day of his death, Deaver, a very nice man and a charming one, did not fully comprehend the Reagan presidency while Ed Meese does in its entirety.
Decline and Fall.
Steve Huntley whom Ive had occasion to criticize here on other matters did write Sun-Times editorials that carried ballast, good documentation and a sense of understatement, trying nobly to tie his craft to the childish dictates of the two Canadians who believe nothing but are rudderless pragmatists. The replacement of Huntley (who has gone on to be a full-time columnist) with Cheryl Reed is a victory for the two rudderless ones. At first Reed was doing okay. Now she degenerates into name-calling as substitute for thought.
Take a look at yesterdays comment on the departure of Karl Rove. In one sense its accurate. Its entitled We saw Roves influence in everything Bush did. Im sure Cheryl Reed did but that is far from the case as historians will discover when they examine the value and significance of the Bush administration. But look at Reeds language: as Rove leaves the sinking ship SSGOP the Republicans shrewd courtship of the religious right the tactics that did in Bush opponents like John `Swift Boated Kerry. For the record, a Huntley would have utilized his conscience to state that Rove never was involved in the Swift Boat venture as John ONeill who has come to Chicago often still insists. Nor aside from the Lefts paranoia was there anything inaccurate about the Swift Boat campaign or else why hasnt Kerry who promised to divulge his record actually come through and divulge it?
In a remarkably swift time, Cheryl Reed has demoted the once high standard of Sun-Times editorial writing which was one of the very few things the paper had to boast about to bumper-sticker sloganeering. Which is in line with what the two Canadian sharpies one having been kicked off the New York Daily Newsthe inestimable Michael Cooke want to happen. They insult the Chicago working class by insisting that a semi-porno rag is beloved by the blue collar working class. Now the only thing they have going for them is the great Jack Higgins, the cartoonist without peer in the United States. The paper has really slipped down the sink-hole.