From: Subject: Date: April 21, 2005 3:53:51 PM CDT Hankblog

Monday, June 07, 2004

Remembering Reagan

I was 8 years old when Ronald Reagan won the presidency. My recollections of his two terms are very fuzzy with the intervening years having passed. I vaguely remember I think it was my second or third grade class in grade school doing get well cards to send to the White House after John Hinkley, Jr. made his assassination attempt. Showing just how clueless I was as a youth, I didn't know the whole Jodie Foster angle on that one until some years later.

So it's been interesting to read about how people are reacting in the blogsphere to Reagan's passing this weekend.

Oliver Willis shared the sentiment of a number of bloggers and pundits by saying that now is simply not the time to debate the true nature of Reagan's legacy. I would be inclined to agree with that stance, but the reactions by other bloggers I read would make it more difficult to just leave thoughts at mere condolences.

Billmon at Whiskey Bar on the "Great Man Theory" as he puts it:

The most humorous thing so far about the attempted apotheosis of St. Ronnie is watching liberals fall all over themselves to say nice things about a president they hated like poison when he was in the White House, and tried hard to ignore after he left office.


During one of the 1984 presidential debates, for example, Reagan drifted into a long, rambling story about a drive he once took down the Big Sur coast - a trip which had no apparent point and which never seemed to end. A lot of political reporters were convinced right then that Reagan had lost his marbles - not that they let it influence their coverage. By that point, Reagan wasn't just a president, he was a celebrity, and that's not how you cover celebrities. Reporting that Reagan was slipping into senility would have been like reporting that Madonna had a yeast infection - it would have cracked the illusion, always a major faux pas in celebrity journalism.

The whole post is well worth reading, but I just had to include the Madonna line. That one had me howling.

Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly:

I voted against Ronald Reagan twice, and while 20 years may have passed since my last vote for a Reagan opponent, that doesn't mean I've forgotten why I cast it. Rose tinted hindsight or not, I didn't like his policies then and I don't like them now.

I think I would have to say I ride in this boat now as far as Reagan is concerned. When I was 8, I think I would have voted for him, because, well, he was a nice man. Now I look back, having developed an actual social conscience, as well as an awareness of the world I live in, and wouldn't think twice about voting against Reagan in any capacity. Someone being a nice guy is ok if you're looking for a friend. But you don't want your boss or the head of the country being someone who's nice but clueless.

Meteor Blades, a Daily Kos contributor points a sharper point on his feelings:

By the time Ronald Reagan’s funeral rolls around on Friday, I wonder how deeply brainwashed about this "great president" we all will have become in our desire not to give the enemies of democracy and peace quotable ammunition in their efforts to keep George Bush in the White House for a second term. How far are we as people of the left willing to go while the avalanche of Reagan mythology spews forth from every cranny of television, radio, the press and Blogworld?


It is one thing to bite our tongues for a few respectful moments while Reagan's fans sign the Icon's commemorative guestbook, tell us what a fabulous leader he was and try to persuade us that we are all better for his having passed this way. It is quite another to repeat the bullshit ourselves.

Indeed, while a funeral is typically (and I think, rightly) a time to try and focus on the good of the deceased, and not dwell on the bad because such thought is largely unproductive (IMHO), I think that the way Reagan has long been deified by the right takes this behavior to a really unhealthy extreme. I remember reading this post on Pandagon about a proposed Ronald Reagan University that seemed to be fueled and funded mainly by spit, hope, and good wishes. And I think the people who were pushing this effort were completely oblivious to the irony in the fact that that particularstrategyy for the foundation of a university pretty closely mirrored what was the bulk of Reagan's fiscal policy, and some of his social too.

I think that the man suffered greatly from a disease so horrific as Alzheimer's. I think that every person deserves to pass with more dignity than what Reagan was afforded. I think that he should be remembered with appropriate amounts of respect both for that and the office he once held. It's the right thing to do.

But don't try and sell me that this man was some kind of world changer. To believe the eulogies being given by the wingnut right about Reagan's role in the world, you'd think he was all the positive aspects of Churchhill, Gandhi, Einstein, and Olivier, rolled into one political figure. The reality is that he was none of these things, to any significant degree. At least not in an capacity that I could buy and agree to in memorializing him.

May he rest in peace, and be given the respite he was denied in the last ten years of his life. No more, no less.