CBS yells 'uncle'

Posted: Nov 05, 2003 12:00 AM

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.

"They'll be telling their grandchildren about the day they saw the president," he said as he smiled and waved at the men and women lining the streets.

But I also witnessed the president being tough as nails. One of my duties was to put together small groups to meet with the president, usually in the Cabinet or Roosevelt Room in the West Wing. When the occasion called for it, the president could twist arms with the best of them and marshal facts and figures to persuade even the most skeptical. I remember one occasion when I gathered a group of CEOs together to hear a presentation on his tax reform proposals.

President Reagan had his usual notes, typed up on 3-by-5 cards that he carried in the inside pocket of his jacket, but he barely glanced at them as he made an articulate and persuasive argument to the men sitting around the table. I also remember the looks on their faces, as several of these corporate honchos seemed surprised that the president wasn't the affable actor-turned-politician they expected but a forceful and knowledgeable leader with a sophisticated understanding of economics.

The Left hated Ronald Reagan when he was president. And now that he's incapacitated by Alzheimer's and can't defend himself, they'd like to rewrite the history of his presidency.

But the folks at CBS understand economics, too, and what they don't need is for the millions of Americans who revere Ronald Reagan to register their protest of this leftist hit job by blocking CBS from their TV sets.