If you say you are starting a Bob Schieffer Fan Club, please take my check and let me enroll. Schieffer is as good as anyone is, including Bjorn Borg, at what he does. What he does is the CBS Morning News five days a week.
That's what Schieffer was doing Wednesday morning when he made me mad. The unusually reliable Schieffer, while introducing a story about President Carter's European trip, reported that Carter spent Tuesday in Belgrade meetings with "the successors of President Tito," and that Jimmy Carter was about to become the first American president to visit Spain "since the death of that country's longtime dictator, Francisco Franco." Lesley Stahl, whom Schieffer had by then introduced, them informed us of King Juan Carlos' efforts, which Carter would encourage, to "guide Spain away from its totalitarian form of government and into a democracy."
First, let's be brutally frank about Franco. The Generalissimo was never anybody's nominee for Civil Libertarian of the Month. But the last time anyone looked, the late Mr. Franco had sponsored and conducted just as many open primaries and runoff elections as the late Mr. Tito had. But to be fair, Bob and Lesley (you're entitled to be on a first-name basis with anyone who's there when you are shaving), the Human Rights Division of the State Department, which is overloaded with what Evans and Novak would call "softliners," should be consulted. After all, the human rights annual inventory, country by country, is available for purchase at the Government Printing Office.
On Spain: "Freedom of speech is total . . . no censorship of the media . . . opposition views are aired and broadcast . . . freedom of association . . . freedom of religion . . . total." Not discouraging progress for a place moving away from totalitarian ways.
Yugoslavia, even before the death of Tito, did not qualify for the human rights all-star team. The State Department reported: "The Government does not tolerate criticism of President Tito, the League of Communists of Yugoslavia . . . and enforces significant restrictions on freedom of political expression and the right to participate in political decision-making."
Nobody is suggesting that Yugoslavia is either China or Argentina, two garden spots were Ramsey Clark won't be holding any press conferences soon.Maybe the whole problems was caused by Spain's failing to get the right agency on retainer. After all, whom would you prefer as a friend: "President Tito" or that "longtime dictator, Franco"?
The beatification of Tito undoubtedly has something to do with his courage in standing up to the Russians. But there has to be more, because the late Gen. Park of South Korea, no flaming champion of civil liberties, had nothing but bad press in spite of his anti-Soviet credentials.
Perceptions die slowly indeed, and not only on CBS. Alan Baron, the proflific political newsletter publisher, appeared the other day before the leadership of the National Abortion Rights Actions League, which, as you may have guessed, has been highly critical of what it calls the "single-issue" approach of its right-to-life, a.k.a anti-abortion, opponents.
Baron, to the considerable unease of some of his listenes, asked a hypothetical question along the following lines: What would your reaction be to someone using your list -- your good, enlightened, liberal list of members -- to solicit funds for a candidate for the U.S. Senate who had voted for the neutron bomb, for recision of their ERA votes by states that had already ratified, for arms sales to Chile, against public financing of Congressional campaigns and against hospital cost containment? And what would you, Committed Feminists, say when told the letter was signed by Gloria Steinem and had raised half a million dollars for a candidate with that record?
Of course, the candidate is Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon. In addition to the votes Baron mentioned. Packwood has always stood with the National Abortion Rights Action League on the issues that group holds dear. Maybe, Baron suggested, NARAL and the senders of and responders to that fund-raising letter might be called "a single-issue" group, especially by somebody who disagreed with them.
The Liberal Party in New York regularly threatens to drop Sen. Moynihan for his sponsorship of a tuition tax credit plan. Nothing else. No suggestions about what might be done about the deplorable condition of America's public schools; only the threat to get Moynihan at the polls.
Yet in a smaller sense, what all of this means is that your "lonely, courageous stand on a matter of principle" may be, by my oafish lights, just one more example of the dominance of the "single-issue lobby" in our politics. And nothing manages to produce double standards like single issues -- except, perhaps, explaining the profound metaphysical differences between anti-democratic leaders who are anti-communist and those who are not.