Linda Chavez

CBS executives seem to have come to their senses, and none too soon. The network's last-minute decision not to air the controversial, four-hour TV movie "The Reagans" means I won't have to join millions of other conservatives in boycotting CBS programming. Thank goodness. There's not much worth watching on the nets these days, and the few shows I enjoy -- "The Guardian," "JAG" and "Hack" -- all happen to air on CBS.

Ironically, what I like about these shows is that they usually manage to avoid the political correctness and left-wing nostrums that infect so many programs. Most TV fare today -- whether drama, sitcom or magazine format -- seems aimed more at indoctrinating viewers into Hollywood's version of the "real America" than in entertaining us.

"The Reagans," according to those critics who saw snippets of the script and a short promo of key scenes, depicts the former president as a doddering, homophobic dolt and his wife as a hysterical shrew. The fantasy fits perfectly with Hollywood's antipathy not only for Reagan but for conservatives in general, all of whom are presumed to be intolerant, callous and stupid.

Having worked for Ronald Reagan in the White House as director of public liaison in his second term, I know first-hand that he was none of these things, least of all dumb. President Reagan had a grand vision for America -- to rebuild its defenses, cut taxes and reduce the size of government.

He succeeded in all but the latter. Although President Reagan failed to reduce the size and scope of government largely because Democrats in Congress thwarted his effort to scale back domestic programs, he was able to slow the growth in some programs -- for which he was viciously attacked by the Democrats and the media as cruel and insensitive.

In fact, President Reagan was generous and kind, not only to the powerful and famous, but to everyone with whom he came in contact. I remember traveling with the president on a number of occasions when he would insist on stopping and shaking hands with busboys, housekeepers and stagehands as he was ushered through kitchens and backstage on his way to speaking events. He wasn't soliciting votes -- I suspect many of those he reached out to hadn't voted for him. But he felt he owed them the dignity of acknowledging their presence. I've seen many a liberal champion of the "little guy" who couldn't be bothered to do the same.

One time as we rode in the presidential limo on the way to a fundraiser during my own campaign for U.S. senator from Maryland, President Reagan apologized for appearing distracted as he waved to the large crowds that lined the motorcade route.

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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