Ronald W. Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, would have turned 100 years old this month. He’s been gone from this place since 2004.

I liked Ron as an actor, particularly for his roll as Drake in one of my favorite movies (and books) of all time, Henry Bellamann’s Kings Row. I wasn’t a big fan of his politics in my misguided youth, though. I was in my early adulthood (19 years old) when Ron was first elected President in ’80. The world was in chaos at the time. The U.S. had been dealing with oil shortages (contrived), fanatic Iranian clerics, American hostages, Disco, etc. The end of the 70s and beginning of the 80s was a tumultuous time for all.

I really disliked his politics back then. I was just a young, easily misled kid who thought Reagan was the friggin’ Antichrist. Silly me. The real Antichrist was that Gorbachev dude, the leader of the “Evil Empire“. In later years, when my brain was more fully formed, I began to study Reagan’s politics a little more closely. The man, regardless of his party leanings, was a remarkable pol, in my opinion; bordering on genius. Sure. He had a lot of help, but I believe that Ron was the right man in the right place at the right time for this country.

He would be vilified as a BIG GOV Democrat in today’s political environment were he to run for office on his history of his two terms as President. Funny how times change, huh? The U.S. was recovering from a pretty nasty recession back then. Reagan used no-nonsense policies to stimulate and invigorate the U.S. economy. Sadly, not only did his fiscal policies save the U.S. at that time, it also ushered in the decade or so of greed that followed. Whether that was a good or bad thing is a topic for another day, though.

I just wanted to post this little blurb to say, “We miss you, Ronnie. You’re a Republican that I might be able to stomach were you to run for office nowadays.”

Later…

~Eric

Image credits: Kings Row image © 1942 Warner Bros. Ent.

President Reagan image courtesy of Whitehouse.gov

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About V. T. Eric Layton

vtel57, Nocturnal Slacker

2 responses »

  1. PsiCop says:

    The truth about Ronald Reagan is that he was a mixture of good and bad. He accomplished a lot, and he screwed up a lot.

    Now, that can be said of any human being. So I hardly need to point that out. The problem with Reagan is that he was a polarizing figure, and the legends surrounding him have grown beyond this simple reality. There are nuggets of truth about him which have exploded beyond their factual cores … and today it’s the legend, not the fact, that people pay attention to.

    To the Right, he’s a demigod who destroyed communism, reduced government, and via the magic of supply-side economics, increased total federal revenues by cutting tax rates.

    While it’s very likely he did help undermine communism, the Soviet regime was already in its death throes before his election (as exemplified e.g. in their failed invasion of Afghanistan begun in 1980). Yeah, he may have hastened the collapse of the S.U. by a few years, but we can hardly give him full credit for “destroying” that regime single-handedly. Reagan also did not appreciably reduce the size of either the federal or state governments. And while he did ram tax-rate cuts through Congress and revenues did increase afterward, that’s not all he did; his tax-rate cuts were accompanied by the elimination of nearly all tax shelters (including deductions of interest on consumer credit and interest from several types of savings accounts), thus increasing the pool of money being taxed. It’s not the rate cuts that brought in more money, it was the elimination of exceptions and deductions.

    To the Left, Reagan was a brain-dead ogre who stomped around the world bludgeoning everything and everyone else, wreaking havoc on the planet, and building up a military too vast for any rational purpose. His orchestration of aid to the Contras alone merited his impeachment and removal from office. His invasion of Grenada was also contemptible, and so was his condemnation of the S.U. as an “evil empire.”

    But really, Reagan’s policies were not far different from that of his predecessors (except Carter) or other occidental leaders of his time. The Cold War was still very real when he was elected (and in fact, it lingered a year or so after his term ended); to have cut the military would have been national suicide. (Not even Carter dared that … although he didn’t do anything to beef it up, as his predecessors and subsequently Reagan had.) And the Contra dealings, while unsavory, are not necessarily cut-&-dried illegal … one could equally argue that the Boland Amendment forbidding him to support the Contras was a Congressional overreach. And Grenada was a remarkably quick & successful venture … especially compared to other interventions by Reagan’s predecessors (e.g. Vietnam, Korea) or his contemporaries (e.g. the Falklands). And yes, the S.U. was, in fact, an “evil empire.” (I know a few people who lived in the S.U. and can attest to this personally.)

    Another Leftist legend about Reagan is that he, personally, emptied all the mental institutions and forced the mentally ill on the streets. The truth is that mental health reforms were enacted during the Carter administration in 1980; the idea had been to make states responsible for their care rather than the federal government. The reforms were to take place over a period of years, and were to be accompanied by federal subsidies to the states to help them do it right. The idea was to help the mentally ill by making their care more local and “mainstreaming” them. What happened, instead, was that the states all just pocketed what the feds paid them; they — not Reagan — emptied the institutions and made the mentally ill homeless. If Reagan did anything wrong, it was in not having done enough to force the states to spend their subsidies as they should have … but I’m not sure how much he could have done about that, without violating states’ rights.

    It’s unfortunate that the nation’s two ideologies have used these legends to eclipse the reality of Reagan’s administration, and are using them as weapons against each other. Reagan was, in fact, neither as great as his admirers say he was, nor as horrible as his detractors claim. But this mundane truth is not dramatic enough for either of them. And in today’s world, everything is always about the drama, never about the fact.

    • …was, in fact, neither as great as his admirers say he was, nor as horrible as his detractors claim.

      That is pretty much the case for most historical personages, actually. The opinions of the historians carry the majority of the weight when it comes to perpetuating someone’s cult of personality into the future.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Psi. I’ve been a bit busy installing Linux distros and dealing with hardware issues this week. I need to visit your site and post a comment or two.

      Have a good weekend! 🙂

      ~Eric

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