Bozell Column: Remembering (and Forgetting) Thatcher
The legendary British prime minister Margaret Thatcher has died, and the national media tried to pay their respects, not only for breaking Britain’s “glass ceiling” with a “bruising” political style, but for transforming Britain and helping wind down the Cold War.
Still, Thatcher was a conservative and one of Ronald Reagan’s staunchest friends in the world, so you can be sure these journalists were Thatcher-bashers when she was in power. Some of them were American anchors and reporters.
Let’s start with a few quotes from long after she left 10 Downing Street. On November 19, 1999, NBC reporter Jim Avila brought the liberal contempt in a story on a sex scandal in higher education: “Hillsdale College is supposed to be different: a liberal arts college where liberals are unwanted, where Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan are regarded as heroic deep thinkers, prayer is encouraged and morality is taught alongside grammar.”
That knock on “heroic deep thinkers” shows that Avila wrote the story before he showed up at Hillsdale. Reagan and Thatcher were great leaders, and certainly great combatants in the war on ideas. But Hillsdale teaches Locke and Montesquieu and Alexis de Tocqueville. One wonders if TV reporters have heard of those philosophers before they mock conservative “deep thinkers.” Obviously, if a Fox News reporter mocked college students viewing Obama and Bill Clinton as “heroic deep thinkers,” they would be dismissed as street rabble who’d never opened a book.
In 2000, Time magazine and CBS News picked the most important people of the 20th century. On CBS on Christmas Eve, Bryant Gumbel and Dan Rather took turns suggesting Thatcher wasn’t worthy. Gumbel began: "On the women's front, Eleanor Roosevelt is obviously a given. Do we agree with the Margaret Thatcher pick?" Rather replied: "I don't, to be perfectly honest."
Gumbel agreed: "I don't either." Rather demeaned her: “My guess, Margaret Thatcher is there, as much as any reason, because she is a woman."
I’m not making this up. Eleanor Roosevelt, best known as a First Lady and then as an esteemed lecturer of liberal nonsense, is to Gumbel and Rather “obviously a given” on the world stage, while Margaret Thatcher is a mere footnote, only worth mentioning because she was a woman. Neither took exception with the other American woman on the list of the century’s leaders: radical leftist Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood.
During Thatcher’s time in power, as she boldly argued for less socialism at home and less communism across Europe, American reporters often brought the same dismissive rhetoric to their Thatcher stories that they did to their Reagan stories. On May 3, 1989, NBC reporter Peter Kent asserted "Thatcher has ruthlessly applied her conservative solutions." NBC didn’t report that Obama “ruthlessly applied his liberal solutions” when he forced Obamacare down America’s throat in 2010.
On that same night, a foolish ABC reporter named John Laurence made Thatcher sound like a despot: "Mrs. Thatcher has proved to be an Iron Lady at home and abroad....And in the process, she converted 10 Downing Street into what's been described as an elective dictatorship."
That’s what the Left says when conservatives win repeated landslides.
This tilt may have been established in part because when Mrs. Thatcher sat down for interviews with the American networks, she brought her usual firm approach. In her memoir “Reporting Live,” CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl tells of interviewing Thatcher in the depths of Iran-Contra, pushing the prime minister to admit Reagan as a liar, feeling that she was “demolished” by Thatcher “seeming to question my love of country.” “What are you doing your level best to put the worst foot forward? Why? America is a great country,” Thatcher insisted. “I beg of you, you should have as much faith in America as I have.”
Stahl told of receiving bagfuls of negative mail. Thatcher was originally livid at Stahl’s quite-typical battering, but changed her mind when the letters came in, like one telling Stahl “We applauded when Mrs. Thatcher chopped you into bits.”
Our media devoted many more hours of weepy airtime to Princess Diana in 1997 than the spare minutes they’ll offer in Thatcher's memory. They have already treated her as faded and forgotten. In 2009, when Michelle Obama came to London, NBC turned to an “expert” named Helen Kirwan-Taylor, who proclaimed Mrs. Obama is “absolutely terrifying for the British, because the British like their women subdued and doe-eyed, modest and soft-spoken, I mean, Princess Di. And here comes this woman who's in your face. Everything about her says 'I'm confident. I know what I want. I can do anything.'"
This quote can only be disseminated by people who know this is Thatcher-ignoring nonsense. Liberals claim to love strong women, but not when those women are conservatives.