Saturday, May 5, 2007

KOTA propagates the Reagan myth to South Dakotans

I'm usually quite supportive of Black Hills station KOTA-TV's reporting, but I just have to point out that they passed on this piece of wrong, and misleading information in this story about Tony Perkin's love-fest with a few local evangelicals at Mount Rushmore Thursday. (Three hundred is all they could gather?)
The National Day of Prayer ... was reaffirmed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 when the popular Commander-in-Chief designated the first Thursday in May as the annual Day of Prayer. (emphasis mine)
The facts: Although the press did and continues to say Reagan was a wildly popular president, the facts are he was less popular than most recent presidents. For example:
After two months in office, his rating of 60 percent compared to Carter’s 75, Nixon’s 65, Kennedy’s 73 and Eisenhower’s 67. At the end of a year, his rating of 49 percent compared to Carter’s 52, Nixon’s 46, Kennedy’s 77 and Eisenhower’s 68. At the end of two years, his 37 percent job approval rating trailed Jimmy Carter’s 50, Nixon’s 56, Kennedy’s 70 and Eisenhower’s 72.
(It turns out that the least popular years of Reagan's administration were the early years when he was tracking the conservative agenda most closely. Remember these early years of Reagan were before Iran-Contra came out, before the US was pushed by terrorists out of Lebanon, before the 1984 tax hikes. Interesting.)

Even more interestingly, despite years of unrelenting right-wing radio, pulpit, and pundit criticism and slander, Clinton's approval numbers track Reagan's. These two graphs show what amazing ability that both Reagan and Clinton had to inspire and lead, even in the face of problems of they brought on themselves by their choices, as well as strong political and historical forces working against them.

The truth is, years of inaccurate reporting and flawed analysis by the media, together and aggressive conservative propaganda about Reagan have distorted his true legacy.

I have admiration for Reagan in that he showed himself to be a realist and a flexible politician who not only took responsibility when problems arose, but even (gasp) changed staff and changed course in response to setbacks. We haven't seen enough of that recently, that's for sure.

It's a shame our flagship Rapid City source of TV news saw fit to pass on the "extremely popular president" myth. I feel Ronald Reagan's legacy deserves more than the warm fuzzy version we continue to hear from the media and the political class.

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