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World Opinion Roundup

Jefferson Morley
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 8, 2004; 1:00 PM

In his weekly show, washingtonpost.com Staff Writer Jefferson Morley conducts a freewheeling tour of the best of Internet news sites from Afghanistan to Beijing to Mexico City to Paris to Zimbabwe.

Today, Morley discusses the legacy of Ronald Reagan as cited by critics in the international press.


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Read today's column: The Other Side of Reagan (World Opinion Roundup, June 8)

World Opinion Roundup brings the diversity of the global online media to your screen, presenting today's news and views from journalists, pundits and commentators from every continent. We'll talk about America in the eyes of the world, compare journalistic practices, analyze politics and perspectives, examine the nature of news and debate styles of journalism.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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Jefferson Morley: And we're off. While Reagan's passing is not dominating overseas news coverage the way it is dominating the U.S. news cycle, there is plenty of commentary, even since I finished my column last night. So we'll start there.

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New Jersey: Jefferson,

How did South America's and Central America's papers write about Reagan's demise? He certainly helped to stem communism there, but he also supported some rather atrocious groups.

Jefferson Morley: There is less perhaps less commentary on Reagan in the Central American press than I expected. Or maybe it will take longer.

The issue is more charged in Nicaragua. La Prensa, which might be described as the country's establishment newspaper, editorializes in favor of Reagan saying he helped bring democracy to the country.

Nuevo Diario, a leftist daily, is much more negative saying his legacy was one of 'crimes and destruction.'

For those who read Spanish, the links are provided below.

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New York, N.Y.: Jefferson, as someone who lived in India in the 1980s before becoming an American citizen, I have to say that the Economic Times section you quote is largely spin. Most Indian papers in that time were quite strongly anti-Reagan, partly because they were left-wing, but mostly because Reagan was seen as pro-Pakistan. Most also felt (probably rightly) that Reagan's Manichean philosophy left no room for countries that were democratic, but chose not to be anti-communist (even if their population was greater than that of the entire evil empire). Reagan's charisma was great, but he never visited India so Indian people and reporters were never charmed by him (unlike Clinton). The point is simply that whatever people may say now, Reagan's legacy is regarded as far more mixed in some countries than it is in the U.S. or East Europe.

Jefferson Morley: We agree. Your point that "Reagan's legacy is regarded as far more mixed in some countries than it is in the U.S. or East Europe" is exactly the point of my column today

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washingtonpost.com: El Nuevo Diario denounces Reagan for 'crimes and destruction'

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Bowie, Md.: During the Reagan years, one of the central foreign policy beliefs of American conservatives was the distinction between a "totalitarian" government and an "authoritarian" one.

Is this distinction solely the province of Reaganists, do other democracies see significant grades of dictatorship that don't revolve around their own foreign policy objectives?

Jefferson Morley: The authoritarian-totalitarian distinction was not and is not important to any other question.

Its not even important to conservatives anymore since the the peaceful collapse of the communist ('totalitarian') bloc made the whole point of the distinction problematic. As articulated by Jeane Kirkpatrick, the point of the distinction was that authoritarian regimes could evolve toward democracy while totalitarian regimes allegedly could not. Since the totalitarian regimes of Eastern Europe collapsed and started evolving peacefully and often rapidly toward democracy, conservatives have tended to avoid debating the issue.

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San Salvador: El Diario de Hoy noted today the following:

In 1980 El Salvador was at the brink of collapse, since the Carter presidency in the U.S. began applying the same strategy that two years earlier had made Nicaragua fall into communism. Carter encouraged a coup d'etat that, at the end of 1979, brought to power a coalition of communists, christian democrats and fellow travelers, with a radical agenda. The theory was that, by adopting the policies pushed by the extreme left, the country was going to avoid falling into the same situation as Nicaragua, but the Carter objective was another: turn the country over to communism.

The Reagan victory reversed this plan: the United States began to arm our military and the Carterist strategy was foiled. But, inexplicably, Reagan supported the gang of thieves that Carter had installed in power, resulting in the bankruptcy of the country, and in a twelve-year war, longer than the two world wars combined. A liberal president, apostle of the free market, maintained an interventionist and ruinous scheme in El Salvador, contradicting his great work.

Your comments?

Jefferson Morley: I saw this editorial too and I wanted to cite it because I am quite sure it is only case I have seen of Reagan being criticized from the right, for being too much like Jimmy Carter.

Mainly, this shows how just how right-wing the Reagan administration's allies in El Salvador were.

If you want to read the original, it is linked below.

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washingtonpost.com: El Diario de Hoy (El Salvador): Reagan was too much like Carter

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New York, N.Y.: What's with the policy of the press asking two questions of the president and other world leaders as they did in France and Italy? The W.H. is railing against Al Jazerza's spin yet why can't we see the press asking questions we would like answers to?

Jefferson Morley: The press doesn't control how many questions it gets to ask. The president decides. So there is no "policy."

As for the White House denouncing the Arab cable channel, Condoleezza Rice is at it again. Rice's criticism, as has often been the case, was heavy on rhetoric about inaccuracy but light on specific allegations. I tend to agree with Post correspondent Anthony Shadid. Al-Jazeera's coverage doesn't lead Middle East public opinion. It follows it.

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Bethesda, Md.: I realize that the aphorism "don't speak ill of the dead" rightly reigns for a few days following a passing, and my heart goes out to Mrs. Reagan and anyone whose family is darkened by Alzheimer's. But I was glad to see your column. So many of the eulogies have glossed over the Reagan/Bush administration's arming of Hussein and support for torture states in Latin America.

In fact, nowhere have I seen it pointed out that the Reagan White House was an 'accomplice' in the gassing of Iranians that was so hypocritically condemned by former envoy Donald Rumsfeld (Reagan's envoy to Iraq) in the run-up to our invasion there last year. We supplied satellite intelligence so that Hussein could better target his WMDs, and then Reagan fought tooth and nail to protect Saddam from resolutions of condemnation both in Congress and the U.N. These are parts of his legacy, too.

Jefferson Morley: President Reagan spoke with pride of his support for the regimes in El Salvador, Guatemala and Argentina. So I didn't think it was speaking ill of him to point that out.

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Burke, Va.: Did any paper mention HIV/AIDS? Unfortunately I believe that homophobia and pandering to the religious right in the Reagan administration helped allow this disease to spread more than it otherwise would have. At the very least one can say they didn't try very hard to stem the disease.

Jefferson Morley: I didn't see any overseas commentary on Reagan and HIV/AIDS, even in Africa where the epidemic is most deadly. This seems to be an American issue only.

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Arlington, Va.: How did President Bush's D-Day speech go over in the foreign press? It seems to have laid an egg in the USA.

Jefferson Morley: Le Monde, the voice of European multilateralism, laments that it was too effective, that French President Chirac's appearance by his side gave Bush an electoral boost.

For those who read French, Le Monde's editorial is linked below.

Other papers compared Bush's speech unfavorably with Reagan's 20 years ago.

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washingtonpost.com: Le Monde on Bush's D-Day commemoration

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Jefferson Morley: Without more questions, I will close by linking to one of more judicious Reagan retrospectives in the overseas press. Written by British journalist/historian Godfrey Hodgson, it appears in The Independent, a London daily.

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washingtonpost.com: The Independent on Reagan

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Jefferson Morley: That's all for today. See you next week.

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