NewsBusters Time Machine: Blame Reagan for Rise of Trump?

This week’s NewsBusters Time Machine looks back at a mammoth PBS documentary on Ronald Reagan that aired 21 years ago this week. The 270 minute film, which aired on February 24,1998, included the usual tropes about Reagan not caring about the poor. But it also seemed to blame the conservative president for the rise of... Donald Trump? 

Narrator David Ogden Stiers highlighted the stock market crash of 1987 and chided, “Black Monday raised doubts about the soundness of Reagan's economic policies. On Reagan's watch tax revenues would double. But they never kept up with spending.” 

As ominous music played, Stiers lamented: 

 

 

The national debt nearly tripled. Although most Americans benefited, the gap between the richest and poorest became a chasm. Donald Trump and the new billionaires of the 1980s recalled the extravagance of the captains of industry in the 1880s. There were losers. Cuts in social programs created a homeless population that grew to exceed that of Atlanta. AIDS became an epidemic in the 1980s. Nearly 50,000 died. Reagan largely ignored it.

The line about Reagan not caring about AIDS is a liberal media smear that simply isn’t true. But it's typical propaganda

Of course, the sheer weight of Reagan’s history-making impact can’t be ignored and the documentary highlights it by talking about what the conservative president accomplished. Towards the end of the documentary, Stiers credited Reagan for the ultimate victory in the Cold War: 

 

 

NARRATOR DAVID OGDEN STIERS: When Reagan was in Moscow in May 1988, the Cold War was ending. He never expected the tide would turn so quickly. That same month Gorbachev began withdrawing Soviet forces from Afghanistan. The next year, in June 1989, Lech Walesa was elected president of Poland. Gorbachev refused to intervene. As Reagan had foreseen, the rest of Eastern Europe followed. In November 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. In February 1990 in free elections in Nicaragua, the Sandinistas were voted out of power. Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet system's best response to the challenge of Ronald Reagan, could not control the reforms he had begun. On Christmas Day 1991 he dissolved the Soviet Union. What Reagan had predicted before Parliament came true. The Soviet Union was consigned to the ash heap of history.

Token PBS conservative George Will appeared and reminded viewers: “If you seek his monument, look around at what you don't see. You don't see the Berlin Wall. You don't see the Iron Curtain from Stetin to Trieste.”

Partial transcripts are below.  

Reagan (Part 2) 

2/24/1998

NARRATOR DAVID OGDEN STIERS: Black Monday raised doubts about the soundness of Reagan's economic policies. On Reagan's watch tax revenues would double. But they never kept up with spending.

The national debt nearly tripled. Although most Americans benefited, the gap between the richest and poorest became a chasm. Donald Trump and the new billionaires of the 1980s recalled the extravagance of the captains of industry in the 1880s. There were losers. Cuts in social programs created a homeless population that grew to exceed that of Atlanta. AIDS became an epidemic in the 1980s. Nearly 50,000 died. Reagan largely ignored it.

...

GEORGE F. WILL: If you seek his monument look around at what you don't see. You don't see the Berlin Wall. You don't see the Iron curtain from Stetin to Trieste.

...

NARRATOR DAVID OGDEN STIERS: When Reagan was in Moscow in May 1988, the Cold War was ending. He never expected the tide would turn so quickly. That same month Gorbachev began withdrawing Soviet forces from Afghanistan. The next year, in June 1989, Lech Walesa was elected president of Poland. Gorbachev refused to intervene. As Reagan had foreseen, the rest of Eastern Europe followed. In November 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. In February 1990 in free elections in Nicaragua, the Sandinistas were voted out of power. Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet system's best response to the challenge of Ronald Reagan, could not control the reforms he had begun. On Christmas Day 1991 he dissolved the Soviet Union. What Reagan had predicted before Parliament came true. The Soviet Union was consigned to the ash heap of history.

NewsBusters Time Machine PBS Video Ronald Reagan
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