Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Ronald Reagan Was Not a Saint

I am so tired of all of the overblown Reagan eulogizing that is going on. Every conservative in the US – as well as a bunch in England for some reason – has gone nuts with the praise since Reagan died on Saturday. I realize he was the president for 8 years. And, despite the fact that I don’t think he was a particularly good president, he was an influential president. I think he deserves a State funeral, and all the pageantry and pomp, and circumstance that goes with it.

But the man was not a saint. He was an actor who was very good at reading the lines that his scriptwriters, I mean speechwriters, gave him. At least that’s more than good ol’ George W can claim, but it doesn’t make him the greatest president ever, which is what they’re selling. I don’t know how much of the policy making of his administration came from him. But there were a lot of seriously flawed policies that came out of his administration. Remember the “ketchup is a vegetable” decision? Everyone loves to laugh about that one. I’m sure it was a real barrel of laughs to the kids who were getting free lunch (and there were plenty of them in the Reagan years) and suddenly found themselves with less food. The next time you’re hungry, try making yourself a ketchup sandwich. See how nutritious and filling that is.

Then there are all of the typical conservative environment-hating policies. James Watt was a real winner as Secretary of the Interior. Iran Contra, of course. Reckless nuclear proliferation and brinkmanship. Remember the Evil Empire speech? I grew up during the Reagan years, and I remember, vividly, how my friends and I were quite sure there would be a nuclear war at some point. There was even a series of young adult books about life after a nuclear war, where the kids were trying to survive and find what was left of their families. How messed up is that?

In the 1980’s the rich got a whole lot richer, and the poor got poorer. The AIDS epidemic went ignored. The rise of crack led to record numbers of homicides and people in jail. The stock market tanked spectacularly in 1987. Social programs and education funding were cut so we could buy tanks and missiles and aircraft carriers for the Cold War.

There were a lot of problems which shouldn’t be glossed over in the hysteria over Reagan’s death. It’s not realistic. If have to listen to one more Reagan administration official gush, I’m probably going to throw up. Why isn’t anyone presenting the whole picture? Interview someone who didn’t like Reagan. The House and Senate were filled with Democrats who disagreed with almost every policy decision that came out of the Reagan White house. Where are they? Yes, plenty of people loved him and thought he was a great president. But plenty of people didn’t, and that should be recognized too. Because Ronald Reagan was not a saint.

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