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Now They Tell Us!

A reader writes:

From today’s New York Times:

During the McGovern-Mondale era, the Democrats were exactly where the Republicans are now: the party had been taken over by its most extreme liberal faction, and it had lost touch with the core concerns of the middle class….Those terrible losses in 1972 and, especially, in 1984 were the Democrats’ shock therapy.

What happened in the interim? In effect, moderate Democrats wrested the party back from its most liberal wing….“We had become a party that had stopped worrying about people who were working and only focused on people who weren’t working,” [Al] From told me. “The party didn’t understand how big a concern crime was. It had stopped talking about opportunity and growth.”

Wait…WTF??? NOW they’re telling us this? (While conveniently leaving out the Dukakis disaster…”competence, not ideology.”) What did they say THEN? Weren’t they actively denying these claims about Democrats, at the time? Weren’t they relentlessly attacking conservatives and Republicans with every weapon at hand precisely to deny that these issues were shortcomings of the Dems and the left? Indeed, were there not many voices heard even at the Times–THEN–denouncing conservatives for even raising these issues on the usual grounds of heartlessness, racism and venality?

Yes, yes, and yes. Just for fun, I looked up the Times editorials in 1972 and 1984 in which the paper endorsed George McGovern and Walter Mondale, respectively. Needless to say, those editorials contain no trace of any acknowledgement that the Democrats were in the grip of the party’s far-left wing, or that either candidate had “stopped talking about opportunity and growth,” had “lost touch with the core concerns of the middle class,” or was “focused on people who weren’t working.”

On the contrary. Here is what the Times had to say about McGovern back in 1972:

The New York Times urges the election of George McGovern for President of the United States. We believe that Senator McGovern’s approach to public questions, his humanitarian philosophy and humane scale of values, his courage and forthrightness can offer a new kind of leadership in American political life. …

A McGovern administration, the Times believes, would reverse the unmistakable drift in Washington away from government of, by and for the people. …

On virtually every major issue from the war to taxes, from education to environment, from civil liberties to national defense, Mr. McGovern…seems to us to be moving with the right priorities, with faith in the common man, and within the democratic framework.

Which is to say that McGovern was just about as left-wing as the Times editorial board. This is what the Times had to say about Walter Mondale when it endorsed him in 1984:

[Mondale's] election would mean franker, fairer decisions on the hard economic choices that the President has concealed during the campaign. Mr. Mondale would offer an enlightened and humane conception of what Government should, and should not, do. Most of all, he would bring to the White House the will to control nuclear weapons. …

Walter Mondale believes in a sturdy defense. He also stands in the middle of the bipartisan community that long ago learned to abandon the fruitless quest for nuclear superiority. In this election, he represents all those Republicans and Democrats determined to tame the nuclear threat.

Lawyer Mondale offers pragmatic skill at making the best of reality. … Walter Mondale has all the dramatic flair of a trigonometry teacher. His Nordic upbringing makes it hard for him to brag. The first debate may have been the high point of his political personality. But there’s power in his plainness.

Precisely by not dramatizing issues, he has consistently produced consensus and agreement, as a Senator and as Jimmy Carter’s Vice President.

In the Times’s view at the time, Mondale was trudging stolidly down the middle of the road. Meanwhile, it is interesting to see that the paper’s current obsessions were just as prominent 28 years ago:

Who is likely to do better in arms negotiations in the next term, Walter Mondale or the President who tickles the religious right by reviling the Soviet Union as an Evil Empire?

To Henry Steele Commager, the historian, the 1983 speech in which Mr. Reagan described the Russians in that way was “the worst Presidential speech in American history, and I’ve read them all” – not because it was undiplomatic but because “No other Presidential speech has ever so flagrantly allied the government with religion. There was a gross appeal to religious prejudice.”

Religious prejudice? What a bizarre way of looking at the Cold War! Of course, it goes without saying that the Times failed either to foresee or to wish for the downfall of the Evil Empire.

One final digression before returning to the main point: the 1984 edition of the Times should be applauded for its concern about deficit spending:

Unless most economists are crazy, the country can’t keep borrowing $200 billion a year.

Give the paper its due; it was right. Deficit spending of $200 billion a year couldn’t continue. The Democrats had to increase the deficit to over $1 trillion to cover their extravagant spending habit.

To return to our reader’s point, he concludes:

So why does the Times have any credibility now?…..especially when urging their tender ministrations on us!!!….to become RINOs!

The Times, of course, has no credibility at all, but it is nice to see that after more than a quarter century, it is willing to publish a column by its own reporter that admits the truth about the inept candidates that it backed out of partisan fervor and ideological extremism.

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