Political hypocrisy was raised to a new standard in recent weeks by Democrats who successfully pushed ABC to purge a docudrama of certain scenes and dialogue that reflected poorly on the anti-terror efforts, such as they were, of the Clinton administration.
One can sympathize with the outrage voiced by former Clinton secretary of state Madeleine Albright, and even feel the pain of former Clinton national security adviser Sandy Berger (who, as National Review’s John J. Miller reminds us, was “last seen trying to sneak classified documents out of the National Archives”), at the prospect of having wholly invented dialogue and actions attributed to them in the two-part miniseries “The Path to 9/11,” which ran earlier this week.
But the Democrats’ full-court press to have ABC either make extensive changes – or, as Bill Clinton himself put it in a letter to ABC executives, “pull the drama entirely” – served to confirm the old adage about anger and outrage being dependent on whose ox is being gored. (No, the former vice president wasn’t a factor in the film.)
ABC aired the movie but removed some of the more problematic material and ran a disclaimer advising viewers that what they were watching was a “dramatization” with “fictionalized scenes.” Given the furor among Democratic partisans in the days leading up to the scheduled airing, the smart money had been on ABC caving completely.
For example, the Democratic National Committee posted an online petition to “Keep ‘Path to 9/11’ Propaganda Film Off The Air,” calling the movie “a conservative attempt to rewrite the history of September 11 to blame Democrats, just in time for the election.”
The Senate Democratic leadership, in a letter to Robert Iger, CEO of ABC’s parent Walt Disney Company, warned that showing the film “would be a gross miscarriage of your corporate and civic responsibility” and urged Iger “to uphold your responsibilities as a respected member of American society and as a beneficiary of the free use of the public airwaves to cancel this factually inaccurate and deeply misguided program.”
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party house organ known as the New York Times, in a September 12th editorial, archly lectured filmmakers that “when attempting to recreate real events on screen, you do not show real people doing things they never did.”
But the reaction from Democrats and their media acolytes was markedly different back in November 2003, when CBS moved a docudrama about Ronald and Nancy Reagan off its network schedule and relegated it instead to the lightly viewed Showtime cable channel after Republicans complained about fictitious, mean-spirited remarks inserted by screenwriters into the mouth of Mr. Reagan.
The Senate’s top Democrat at the time, South Dakota’s Tom Daschle (defeated in his bid for reelection in 2004), called the CBS decision “appalling” and said the network had “totally collapsed” in the face of Republican criticism.
The Democratic National Committee – the same folks with the online petition to keep the 9/11 miniseries off the air – issued a press release after the Reagan film was pulled saying that “CBS’s decision is – to put it mildly – disturbing. Essentially the network has given [Republicans] veto power over the content it puts on the air…the decision makes it very easy to imagine a future where representatives for the Bush administration have the power to disapprove of any content that touches politics, policy, or history – including news programs.”
Ever faithful to their Democratic leash-holders, the lapdog editorialists at the New York Times, while acknowledging that “people close to Mr. Reagan” had reason to be angry at the film’s portrayal of the former president, saved their opprobrium for the real villains – “conservatives, protective of Mr. Reagan’s image at all times,” who “launch[ed] one of the fierce assaults that have become so familiar whenever the right wants to scare the media on an ideological question.”
In the Times’s judgment, “CBS was wrong to yield to conservative pressure and yank [the Reagan film].”
It’s not exactly a mystery why the Times was far less concerned about political attempts to suppress artistic freedom in the case of the 9/11 miniseries. As the September 12th Times editorial lamented, “The second episode was wrapped around a live speech by President Bush, so it was especially unfortunate that the most questionable scenes all seemed to make the Clinton administration look worse, and Mr. Bush look better, than the record indicates.”
It certainly presented the two parties in different lights than the “newspaper of record” would like to indicate.