Time's Unrecognizable FDR

As the 1900s headed for the history books, I suppose it's only logical that the liberal media would ruin the moment with bone-headed reminders that their first draft of history remains unchanged despite the reality that the facts keep marching on past them.

On the liberal PBS echo chamber "Washington Week in Review," host Gwen Ifill suggested, "we went through decades of Red-hunting, Red-baiting, fear of communists and then all of a sudden the Berlin Wall, that symbol of everything that happened...fell." Last year, French author Stephane Courtois offered Americans "The Black Book of Communism," with 1120 pages detailing the tens of millions who perished under totalitarian communist regimes. We ought to be a tad beyond cheeky talk of "Red-baiters" with their irrational "fear of communists." And they say PBS is television for the deep thinkers?

On CBS, Dan Rather mysteriously remembered something he called "a half century plus of a bi- partisan effort to win the Cold War." Historians might locate some notion of a bipartisan anti- communism into the 1960s, but Rather seems to be ignoring every Democratic foreign-policy platform since 1972, documents which were anything but anti-communist.

But these offenses against common sense are trifling compared with the whopper Time magazine is offered with its "Person of the Century" issue. Time selected Einstein instead of the rumored Franklin Roosevelt and avoided looking awfully ultraliberal when ultraliberalism isn't cool. Yet Managing Editor Walter Isaacson seems to believe the bizarre idea that FDR is God's gift to...libertarianism.

Isaacson declared: "If you had to describe the century's geopolitics in one sentence, it could be a short one: Freedom won. Free minds and free markets prevailed over fascism and communism. So a more suitable choice would be someone who embodied the struggle for freedom: Franklin Roosevelt...He helped save capitalism from its most serious challenge, the Great Depression. And then he rallied the power of free people and free enterprise to defeat fascism."

Issacson returned to his perplexing pet theme near his article's end: "Roosevelt, scarcely an exemplar of humility, nonetheless saved the possibility of governmental humility from the forces of utopian and dystopian arrogance. Totalitarian systems - whether fascist or communist - believe that those in charge know what's best for everyone else. But leaders who nurture democracy and freedom - who allow folks to make their own choices rather than dictating them from on high -are being laudably humble, an attitude that the 20th century clearly rewarded and one that is necessary for creating humane societies."

This is just too much nonsense to handle. Since when have liberal Democrats been humble about government arrogantly dictating from on high? Now, after fifty years of Democrats worshipping FDR as the godfather of Great Society socialism, Isaacson hopes his readers don't remember the New Deal, the National Recovery Administration being ruled unconstitutional, or Franklin "Free Minds and Free Markets" Roosevelt allowing the Soviet annexation of Eastern Europe at Yalta.

As if his ponderous praise wasn't enough, Isaacson also allowed liberal court historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and President Clinton to throw their own roses at Roosevelt. Aiming to please at this opportunity for rehabilitation, Clinton drove home the Isaacson Idea again: "When our children's children read the story of the 20th century, they will see that above all, it is the story of freedom's triumph: the victory of democracy over fascism and totalitarianism; of free enterprise over command economies; of tolerance over bigotry. And they will see that the embodiment of that triumph, the driving force behind it, was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt."

This takes the argument to new heights of absurdity: the New Deal is to be considered a triumph over "command economies"?

Isaacson would not go unrebuked for choosing a figure of science instead of a liberal hero. On CBS's "The Early Show," Bryant Gumbel carped: "You brought up FDR and Gandhi who were the other two finalists for this. Einstein's value to others was a by-product of what he did, it wasn't what he was about. Helping others was what FDR and Gandhi where about. Why didn't that matter more in the long run?" When Isaacson underlined that Einstein was his pick and asked Gumbel his opinion, he said: "I told you, mine would have been FDR, but that's alright."

What almost nobody noticed was Time's vanishing online polling on the century's worst "Phonies and Frauds." Despite loading the ballot with liberal hate objects like Ken Starr, Linda Tripp, and Rush Limbaugh, NBC embarrassment Geraldo Rivera was winning in late September. What were the final results? You couldn't find them anywhere on Time's home page. Much like Roosevelt's ultraliberalism, Rivera's expected comeuppance was conveniently removed.

The phony and fraud in this poll was Time, who refused to present the results, and proved that when it comes to things like "free minds," it can't practice what it preaches.

CLARIFICATION: At press time for this column, Time had not posted the poll results on its Web site (it could not be found under "Online Polls" or even using the search engine for Rivera.) The print edition did not publish the results with the rest of its large "Person of the Century" issue, even though the "Phonies and Frauds of the Century" poll was part of the Person of the Century online package. However, Time did publish the results in the issue dated January 1, on page 34. Geraldo Rivera came in second for "Phony or Fraud of the Century" with 33,600 votes, or about 10,000 behind J.R. "Bob" Dobbs, the whimsical messiah of the whimsical Church of the SubGenius. On the SubGenius web site, they lobbied furiously to make sure Dobbs won, telling site visitors in September he "lacks only 7,000 more votes to topple Geraldo Rivera," who was then in first place. Geraldo also tied for second in "Worst Idea of the Century" for the live televised opening of Al Capone's empty vault.