The greatest president of the 20th century has passed away. Everyone is assessing and re-assessing the giant legacy of this man, as well as the winning personality that helped create it. Even the national media produced coverage you might call loving at times, or at the very least respectful to that broad mass of Americans who loved Ronald Reagan.
They've noted the obvious achievements of the man. He had a winning smile and an inspirational optimism, and he renewed Americans' love and hopes for their country. His determined resistance to global communism led to the end of the Cold War. He re-energized the Republican Party into a force that now controls the White House and both houses of Congress.
Their coverage could be more forceful on the economic turnaround. Few remember anymore that 1979 and 1980 were the nation's worst economic years since the Great Depression. Reagan saved America from Jimmy Carter economics: He brought inflation down from 13.5 to 4.1 percent; unemployment, from 9.5 to 5.2 percent; the federal discount rate, from 14 to 6.5 percent. Under Reagan, the number of jobs increased by almost 20 million; and the median family income rose every year from 1982 to 1989. It was the greatest peacetime expansion in American history. What a record!
Sadly, not every report showed respect for our lost leader. Within minutes of the news of Reagan's passing hitting the television, CBS was running a canned piece by reporter Jerry Bowen that hammered Reagan for getting a cozy house loan and "cashing in" with personal appearances after his presidency was over. It was a very cheap shot. It was, thankfully, also the exception. Perhaps the most poignant tribute was delivered by Dan Rather, a man who always seems to strike the right tone during times of national sadness.
But the most notable omission in all the gracious obituaries and histories is the media's own role in the Reagan era -- fiercely hostile and often indistinguishable from the Democratic talking points of the day. Reporters, editors and anchormen fought Reagan's policies tooth and nail, built a scandal industry to taint Reagan with the "sleaze factor" (which they quickly dropped in the 1990s), and often dismissed him personally as a dangerously bellicose and ignorant man still lost in his old movie roles.