WSJ's Timely Wall-Fall Reminder: In 1987, Rather Said USSR Citizens 'Do Not Yearn For Democracy'

BerlinWall1986The Wall Street Journal's editorial today on the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall is excellent, as would be expected, and gives credit where credit is due:

In the debate over who deserves credit for causing the Berlin Wall to collapse on the night of November 9, 1989, many names come to mind, both great and small.

There was Günter Schabowski, the muddled East German politburo spokesman, who in a live press conference that evening accidentally announced that the country's travel restrictions were to be lifted "immediately." There was Mikhail Gorbachev, who made it clear that the Soviet Union would not violently suppress people power in its satellite states, as it had decades earlier in Czechoslovakia and Hungary. There were the heroes of Poland's Solidarity movement, not least Pope John Paul II, who did so much to expose the moral bankruptcy of communism.

And there was Ronald Reagan, who believed the job of Western statesmanship was to muster the moral, political, economic and military wherewithal not simply to contain the Soviet bloc, but to bury it.

[Editor's note: For more on the media's pro-Communist bias in the waning days of the Cold War, read "Better Off Red?", MRC's new study looking back 20 years ago to the fall of the Berlin Wall]

In the editorial's second-last paragraph, the Journal reminds us of an alleged journalist who was so blinded by his partisan disdain for any Republican in power that he refused to acknowledge what had become clear years earlier, and of the risk-averse weenies who tried to talk him out of delivering the signature line of what is probably his most famous speech (bold is mine):

Yet it bears recalling that even these obvious political facts were obscure to many people who lived in freedom and should have known better. "Despite what many Americans think, most Soviets do not yearn for capitalism or Western-style democracy," said CBS's Dan Rather just two years before the Wall fell. And when Reagan delivered his historic speech in Berlin calling on Mr. Gorbachev to "tear down this wall," he did so after being warned by some of his senior advisers that the language was "unpresidential," and after thousands of protesters had marched through West Berlin in opposition.

The only substance to former CBS Evening News anchor Rather's contention was that 70 years of statist conditioning and state-sponsored terror would make such a transition difficult -- as it has been, and with much recent dangerous backsliding. That doesn't change the fact that as our Founders stated, freedom is a God-given right to which every person is entitled, or that those who have come here from the old Soviet Union almost universally sing America's praises (often more recently with somber warnings about the direction we have taken in the past year or so). 

Sadly, there are even some on the right who subscribe to the untenable assertion that the Soviet Union imploded on its own because it was unsustainable -- in other words, it would have fallen anyway, with or without Lech Walesa, Margaret Thatcher, John Paul, or Reagan. Those who hold to this belief on both sides of the aisle need to ask themselves how that self-implosion theory is working out in Cuba and North Korea, both of which are in arguably worse shape than the Soviet Union ever was.

In a probable comment engine-starter, it also should not go unnoticed that the only vote against the resolution in the House recognizing the significance of the Wall's fall came from Ron Paul. I could not find an explanation for Paul's vote on his congressional web site or elsewhere. If he thinks it's because the resolution could have been stronger, I'd be inclined to agree with him, but for heaven's sake, not to the point of voting against it.

Cross-posted at

Foreign Policy Congress Media Bias Debate Russia Covert Liberal Activists Communism CBS CBS Evening News