Do the editors of the New York Times do anything these days besides lay off writers? Do they actually read the paper they publish? There was a time when the New York Times – liberal though it always was – was nonetheless read and respected by Americans of all persuasions and by foreign readers as our “newspaper of record.” The Times was called the “Gray Lady” for the comprehensiveness of its coverage and the authoritative tone of its editorial page.
No more. Now, it’s as if the Gray Lady has put on her proper bonnet, donned her gleaming pearl necklace, and gone off to the office neglecting to wear anything else. What else could possibly explain Sunday’s column by the rabid Frank Rich? Rich, who was lampooned by the late Richard Neuhaus as “an attack poodle,” spent his formative years as a theater critic. He must have spent too many years attending theater of the absurd.
Rich has come out of his kennel to denounce Republican “Stalinists” who he says have invaded upstate New York. He’s talking about New York’s special congressional election in the 23rd district. Rich thinks that conservatives like me who came out in favor of conservative challenger Doug Hoffman are followers of the Communist party boss liberals used to call “Uncle Joe.”
Now, it’s a matter of historical fact that even the most liberal of Republicans, even men like New York’s Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits, and John Lindsay were on record as anti-Communists. Ronald Reagan was certainly not alone in his staunch rejection of Communism. He was simply the most consistent, thoughtful, and effective of anti-Communists.
To call conservatives Stalinists comes with especially bad grace from anyone at the New York Times. This is the newspaper whose Pulitzer Prizewinning Moscow correspondent, Walter Duranty, infamously managed to suppress news of the five million Ukrainians whom Stalin deliberately starved to death in the 1930s. Stalin would later admit he killed five million.
But the New York Times rarely found a column inch to spare for denunciations of Josef Stalin’s mass murders. Instead, the Gray Lady denounced anti-Communists. And the paper smiled on Communist insurgents around the world.
During the 1960s, it was commonplace for conservatives to complain that Cuban dictator Fidel Castro could boast, with reason, “I Got My Job from the New York Times.” And when Mikhail Gorbachev finally came to power in the Kremlin, the Times was in ecstasy. Rush Limbaugh coined the term “Gorbasm” for the fawning coverage the Gray Lady gave to the latest Communist biggie.
Gorbachev was, in truth, a different kind of Communist dictator. Even President Reagan acknowledged that. Reagan’s aides, impressed by the Gorbachev “difference,” pressed the President for a premature summit. Reagan replied tartly: “I know he’s different. He’s the first Communist boss who weighs more than his wife.”
Gorbachev, of course, won the Nobel Peace Prize. For what? Well, he was the first Kremlin boss who said he would not shoot down freedom demonstrators in the Soviet Union’s captive nations if they tried to escape.
All the previous Kremlin rulers had shot down freedom marchers without hesitation, and with precious little denunciation from the New York Times. The Times viewed Ronald Reagan’s anti-Communism with far more horror than they viewed Khrushchev’s building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. The Times soon got over Brezhnev’s invasion of Chechoslovakia in 1968 and his suppression of Poland’s free labor movement in 1981.
When Gorbachev made it clear he would not kill people who yearned to be free, a Velvet Revolution occurred in Eastern Europe. The Soviets’ Outer Empire quickly evaporated. The 40-year old German Democratic Republic – which had never been democratic, or a republic, or even German – went poof!
All because Gorbachev would not do what Nikita Khrushchev was more than willing to do: shoot down a 17-year old lad like Peter Fechter. This German boy tried to escape the Worker’s Paradise in 1962. He ran across the minefield on the Eastern side of the Berlin Wall and was shot. He lay there, bleeding to death, and crying piteously for hours while East German border guards shot at any from the West who tried to help the dying boy.
That was the Communist empire that Ronald Reagan had the courage to call evil. The New York Times thought Reagan was stupid and dangerous for saying so.
So now, fifty-six years after Stalin choked to death in the Kremlin, Frank Rich comes out of his kennel to denounce as “Stalinists” Reagan Republicans like me who simply think that the voters of New York’s 23rd district ought to have a real choice in their congressional picks. Don’t worry about swine flu; somebody needs to get Frank Rich his rabies shot.
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