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Jewish World Review Jan. 5, 2000 /26 Teves, 5760

Cal Thomas

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Missing persons from the last century --
IN CHRONICLING HIS VERSION of "who mattered and why'' in the century just past, Time magazine editor Walter Isaacson gives short shrift to Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II and Margaret Thatcher.

Reagan gets no credit for joining forces with Thatcher and the Pope to push Soviet communism over the edge. He was merely a "choreograph(er),'' writes Isaacson, who says the former president must share billing with Mikhail Gorbachev. But Gorbachev, regarded by liberals as a political savior, vowed to mend communism, not end it.

In a further attempt to dilute the influence of these three, Isaacson says they had help from Winston Churchill, Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt. True enough. But these men successfully contained the spread of communism. It was Reagan, Thatcher and the Pope who set out to kill it -- and did so in Russia.

The New York Times goes further than Time magazine. It questions whether Reagan's 1981 "evil empire'' speech, in which he declared economic war on the Soviet Union, "was the act of a simpleton or a visionary strategist.'' It was far more visionary than the Times editorial page, which regularly denounced Reagan for refusing to buy the liberal dogma of a nuclear freeze, unilateral disarmament and accommodation with the Soviets.

Why do liberals refuse to give credit where it's due? Communism is the backwater of the past, not the wave of the future. Most students -- at American universities and in much of the rest of the world -- no longer study socialism. Rather, they want to learn how to ride the crest of the prosperity wave made possible by communism's reduced threat.

Chinese communism hangs on, not because it excites the masses but because a brutal dictatorship threatens the masses.

The reason Isaacson, the New York Times and their fellow ideological travelers cannot bring themselves to credit Reagan, Thatcher and the Pope for what they did is that they would have, in the words of Dezi Arnaz, "a lot of 'splanin' to do.'' Many liberal journalists, writers, economists, politicians, academics and clergy believed in the promises of socialism and communism. They became evangelists for the cause, pumping ideological bilge into the public mind. While "journalists'' such as Walter Duranty of the New York Times and Anna Louise Strong were extreme in their lavish praise of Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, many others in the media helped pass along uncritical stories and propaganda that promoted the "humanitarian nature'' of communism over "inhumane'' capitalism. Such people were never held accountable by their peers or their followers, because to do so would highlight their own political sins.

Reagan's words, especially, gave hope to millions trapped behind the Iron Curtain that the United States was serious in its objective to help others breathe free.

In a June 3, 1988, address in London, Reagan noted the two causes -- peace and freedom for all humanity -- to which thousands of men and women dedicated and in some cases sacrificed their lives for more than four decades. He spoke of a "forward'' post-war strategy, not of containment but of "public candor about the moral and fundamental differences between statism and democracy, but also a strategy of vigorous diplomatic engagement.''

And then Reagan hit liberals in their most vulnerable parts: "The history of our time will undoubtedly include a footnote about how, during this decade and the last, the voices of retreat and hopelessness reached a crescendo in the West -- insisting the only way to peace was unilateral disarmament, proposing nuclear freezes (and) opposing deployment of counterbalancing weapons .... These same voices ridiculed the notion of going beyond arms control -- the hope of doing something more than merely establishing artificial limits within which arms build-ups could continue all but unabated.''

The Reagan-Thatcher-Pope strategy deserves more than a footnote. It deserves a headline for sending Soviet communism to what Reagan called "the ash heap of history.'' But these folks won't get it from the likes of the New York Times and Walter Isaacson -- who pridefully refuse to admit their errors.

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