Bull from a Stone

Reagan administration national security adviser Richard Allen has published an article in the Wall Street Journal exposing manifold untruths in the Showtime cable film "The Day Reagan Was Shot," which premiered last month. Allen charges that while there have been other "mostly inaccurate" accounts of what took place in the White House in the wake of John Hinckley's 1981 attempt on Reagan's life, "none has approached 'The Day Reagan Was Shot' for brazen distortion."

Words have meaning, especially for serious men like Mr. Allen. When he accuses you of "brazen distortion" he is saying one thing, and one thing only: You're a liar.

The premise of the movie is that then-Secretary of State Alexander Haig attempted a coup while incompetent administration officials almost got us into a nuclear war. The only problem is that none of this was true.

Allen's rebuttal is scathing: "The film places generals in the Situation Room when they were not there; introduces conversations that never occurred; claims that a 'red alert from NORAD' was in progress (there is no such thing) and that a Soviet 'wolf pack' was off our coast with malign intent. (It wasn't...)"

And that's just for starters. Allen goes on to show how the producers invented a scene of Mrs. Reagan and Michael Deaver forcing the president to sign a dairy-support bill right after his surgery, while still on a gurney. There is the fiction that Deaver and chief of staff James Baker told surgeons to lie about the president's condition.

Just how does Allen know all these things? He was there. How can he prove what he knows? He has it on tape. Just because those who made "The Day Reagan Was Shot" got it wrong, does this necessarily make them liars? The film's writer-director, Cyrus Nowrasteh, claimed that Allen's tapes "corroborate our movie." That makes him a liar.

So who is behind this anti-conservative, anti-Reagan, anti-government lie of a motion picture? If you didn't know it before, you've probably figured it out by now.

Oliver Stone, an executive producer of "The Day Reagan Was Shot," strikes again.

Between that film and his remarks ("The Arabs have a point!") in partial defense of the September 11 atrocities, Stone has evoked memories of his heyday a decade and more ago, when he was Hollywood's hottest, and probably its most obnoxious and dishonest, auteur.

With "Platoon" (1986) and "Wall Street" (1987), the main ingredients in Stone's cinematic recipe were talent and leftist advocacy. Then, with "Born on the Fourth of July" (1989), Stone added another ingredient: history-twisting.

Stone said that with "Born," he was simply "telling Ron [Kovic's] story" and that in doing so, he had not "screw[ed] with the facts," except he had, time and again, as exposed by Diana West of the Washington Times. The film depicted thuggish police breaking up a 1970 Syracuse University student rally at which Abbie Hoffman had spoken; West countered that at the actual rally, there was no police brutality and no Hoffman speech. There is a scene in which Kovic visits the family of a Marine he believes he accidentally fatally shot during the war; such a visit happened only in Kovic's recurring nightmare. The distortions of truth were numerous, but since "Born" was anti-Vietnam War, the left remained mostly silent.

In 1991, Stone offered his take on an incident that had long been a magnet for wackos: the assassination of John F. Kennedy. "JFK" posited that a right-wing, rabidly anti-Communist "invisible government" had Kennedy killed because he, among other sins, refused to attempt another invasion of Cuba after the Bay of Pigs fiasco and planned to end the Cold War in his second term. This was too much even for hardened liberals to swallow. Jack Germond accused Stone of "crackpotism," and Tom Wicker called the movie "fantastic," in the literal sense of that word, and "paranoid."

Stone argued, essentially, that since perfect accuracy doesn't exist, accuracy itself is meaningless. The "nature of human beings," he asserted, is to "exaggerate," adding, "What is history? Who the f-- knows?" It is in that spirit, one supposes, that Warner Bros., which released the film, funded and distributed a "JFK" study guide for high-school and college use.

Ideas have consequences. Regarding "JFK," Richard Reeves wrote in the New York Times, "Chances are that [it] will play in the minds of a generation or two because the commercial and emotional reach of popular movies is so great. More than 50 million people around the world have seen that film, and many of them seem to have believed every frame."

Far fewer than that number will ever see "The Day Reagan Was Shot." It doesn't matter. Storytelling masked as historical truth is only one thing. A lie.