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May 04, 2007

Comments

Or was it the Ronald Reagan who used a backchannel to Tehran to have them hold off releasing their hostages just until Jimmy Carter was out of the White House? Most.cynical.and.petty.stunt.ever.

Mitt Romney is quite upset at Guiliani's anti-weasel stance.

Ronald Reagan's reality has generally long since ceased to exist. Largely only a myth is left.

To be sure, there was never all that much more otherwise.

The real Ronald Reagan made an endless number of decisions that were, well, very bad. The mythical Reagan, though, is wonderful.

The only way the real Reagan can catch up, nowadays, to the myth, is through tireless effort.

In that, I have to say, Guiliani resembles him. Ignorance has served both most well.

But hilzoy's examples have the advantage of being true.

For all their talk about North Korea, if you let Republicans guided by Norquist have their way entirely, we'd see the same venerations to the Gipper-god-king, totally irrelevant to the actual facts of his presidency.

Maybe that stuff I dumped in every major metropolitan water supply will help people remember my steely former employer and all-around demigod more favorably!

I am not sure any of our former Presidents has as many myths around their personna as Reagan does.

He was called the Great Communicator because that was the one, and maybe only, thing he did well. There was substance behind the words.

From "ending the Cold War", (which I think the Pope had more to do with) to showing how one could cut taxes and have a good economy (forgetting the 7 tax increases during his terms) to the wonderful anti-terrorist (which hilzoy shreds) there is that 1% fact and the 99% unreality.

From "ending the Cold War", (which I think the Pope had more to do with)

Or seem to remember Gorbachev's decisions to unilaterally reduce military deployments, pull out of Third World conflicts and leave Eastern Europe having a pretty central role in the end of the Cold War.

"Ronald Reagan" in these sorts of remarks is just the politically acceptable way to pronounce "George W. Bush".

Thank you! It would have been lovely to hear that sort of retort in a debate (not that it would happen in a Republican primary). I really get sick of the reverence for St. Ronnie. Emotional attachment is one thing, but revisionism or ignoring facts is another.

byrningman, you are right. Plus there was a thing called Solidarity in Poland which had some influence.

The myth on Reagan has two parts. The first is that he forced the Soviet Union to overspend on armanents, whcih ahs been pretty musch debunked, I believe. The second is his famous "Tear down this wall"
speech.

Like I said, words but little substance.

I have never quite understood the Reagan-worship. Even setting aside the ways in which conservatives might agree with his decisions where I would find them monstrous, the ways in which Reagan's record is completely at odds with conservative principles are many and varied.

The best guess I've been able to come up with is that Reagan was the incarnation of the Republican fantasy need to "stick it to the liberals". He was openly and unapologetically hostile to liberalism, and signified the beginning of the Republican party's marriage to their theocratic fringe.

nonetheless, i predict that Rudy will win it all.

The first is that he forced the Soviet Union to overspend on armanents, whcih ahs been pretty musch debunked, I believe.

possibly, but that won't kill the myths.

cleek, despite my misspellings, you were able to capture the gist ot it all.

And you are correct (as usual), myths tend to have a self-generating quality and reach the point where reality and truth no longer matters.

Reagan mythology falls into that category.

HE also ended the Carter wheat embargo, which was beginning to cause real strain on the USSR.

Gary wrote "Guiliani"? I'd have expected that misspelling to have the same effect on him as "Ghandi".

It's "Giuliani", of course. Starts with "Joo", as in "Giuseppe" (though people misspell that all the time too), not "Gwee", as in "Guido".

despite my misspellings

if it wasn't for FireFox's automatic spellchecker (which thinks "spellchecker" is not a word, b.t.w.), i wouldn't have even noticed.

ain't Elngsh teh bset ?

Plus there was a thing called Solidarity in Poland which had some influence.

Meh, sideshow. I don't like the desperate need to overstate the relevance of any phenomenon in order to draw attention away from the fact that a Russian communist atheist happens to be the moral giant of the late twentieth century. Plus Mandela, natch.

"Gary wrote "Guiliani"?"

This is truly a moment to cherish.

Finally, I'm a bad influence on Gary. ;)

Maybe the presidential libraries are all this way, but the Reagan Library is a trivial place stocked primarily with the cheesy gifts received over the years while in office. There is a fun display of the old version of Air Force One, though again a carnival-ride-like photo op as you board.

It is surprising how little there is about the actual events of his presidency, which given the myths would not be hard to glorify. But it is largely without substance -- maybe that is how a place of worship to a false god should be.

I will say this for Reagan, he generally spoke in complete sentences, which is an improvement over our current front-man.
As for myths, while I can't pull out specifics, I think Truman gets pretty overblown in retrospect. JFK has quite a few diamond barnacles as well. The Ike years, portrayed as a really wholesome time, get a nice glossy coat.
Not many people beat Clinton for negative mythology, though. From the death of Vince Foster to children he fathered across the country, that man was a myth magnet.

Reagan was a popular president. When you hit a 70% approval rating I assume that means approximately 20% of Democrats approve. He tied Clinton’s overall average approval rating and in 2001 66% remembered his presidency favorably.

He turned the economy around (yes at the cost of a huge deficit). And he certainly was at least as influential in ending the cold war as Gorbachev and the pope. Gorbachev and Reagan were the two right men at the right time in history to be able to do it. It never would have happened without both of them.

Certainly he also screwed some stuff up; I’m not going to claim he was perfect, far from it. His (non) response to terrorism was my biggest disappointment with him. Iran-Contra was mind boggling. Tax increases, inaction on AIDS, etc. etc.

But all in all most of the country still thinks he was a good president. And with the cast of characters we’re fielding now it’s no wonder some on the right yearn for a new Reagan.

I see Mitt Romney is running for President of Stepford. Was this even better delivered than the transcript?

MR. VANDEHEI: Governor Romney, Daniel Dukovnic (sp) from Walnut Creek, California, wants to know: What do you dislike most about America?

MR. ROMNEY: Gosh. I love America. I’m afraid I’m going to be at a loss for words, because America for me is not just our rolling mountains and hills and streams and great cities, it’s the American people. And the American people are the greatest people in the world. What makes America the greatest nation in the world is the heart of the American people -- hard-working, innovative, risk-taking, God- loving, family-oriented American people. It’s that optimism we thank Ronald Reagan for. Thank you, Mrs. Reagan, for opening up this place in his memory for us. It is that optimism about this great people that makes us the greatest nation on Earth.

Couldn't he at least complain about our activist judges, or something? He doesn't have this problem talking about Massachusetts.

But all in all most of the country still thinks he was a good president

i'm reminded of the scene in the movie Crazy People:

Kathy: Who here wants to be an advertising executive?
[several hands go up]
Emory Leeson: Who here wants to be a fire truck?
[everyone raises their hands, with several standing and commenting things like "Ooh, I do!" and "Me! Pick me!"]

i'm too young to have paid much attention to politics during the Reagan years, but i was paying attention to music, and Reagan certainly had a positive effect there. everybody was afraid of him and of what he might do. he inspired a lot of good music :)

OCSteve, a serious question. Just how do you think Reagan contributed to the ending of the Cold War?

And how do you think he turned the economy around? By tax cuts? Not really when he also had to raise taxes 7 times.

I realize that he remains popular in this country, but I don't think it is because of his policies, I think it is because as an actor, he knew how to charm the populace.

The US Navy was shelling our enemies (whoever they were) in Lebanon before the attack on the Marines. It's not clear to me that people in other countries accept the principle that American forces have the right to come into their neighborhood, take sides in their civil war, and lob explosives at them.

I read Hilzoy's link to an interview with Robert McFarlane. It's funny how vague and fuzzy things get when it is the US that supported a terrorist attack--in this case, a car bomb that killed 80 Lebanese in an attempt to assassinate a Lebanese cleric. Except to hear McFarlane tell it, we don't know if Casey was trying to assassinate Fadlallah, because gosh, assassination is illegal and it wouldn't have been presented that way to Reagan. No, it was presented as an action against a Lebanese terrorist group. Maybe Reagan thought they were delivering cakes and bibles.

Who, btw, should the Lebanese have targeted in retaliation, since I gather many here are all in agreement that terrorist attacks should not go unanswered?

It wasn't directed at me, but I think Reagan contributed to the end of the Cold War by recognizing that Gorbachev was a sincere reformer who wanted to end the Cold War. Reagan went against most of his political allies in thinking this--they were convinced glasnost and perestroika were all devious Commie plots to get us to lower our guard. This is one time when Reagan's gut feelings about a person were right and his supposedly more intellectual critics (on the right) were wrong.

This is the only good thing I'd say about Reagan, but it was pretty important to have someone in office who can transcend his rightwing background and actually give peace a chance when the opportunity presented itself.

In other respects Reagan was a vile man who supported death squads and butchers on several continents while proclaiming his opposition to terrorism. A fairly typical American politician, in other words. Nobody's perfect.

Donald Johnson, fair enough. IOW, by not being negative he allowed Gorbachev an opportunity.

More by not doing something rather than by doing. It could have been worse, so I will give a little on that point. Not to the point of equal influence however.

Americans like to feel good. Reagan made us feel good. Would you stop hammering on all those facts that show that Reagan hardly ever did what he said he was going to do and get me a beer?

I always thought Phil Donohue, Elvis, and Levi jeans had orders-of-magnitude more to do with ending the cold war than Ronald Reagan and his B-1 Bombers and Pershing Missiles and exorbitantly priced Star War pie-in-the-sky.

In the mid-1980s when Donohue and Vladimir Posner hosted joint TV programs via satellite, hooking-up average Russian and American citizens, it was amazing how ‘middle-class normal the Russians seemed; no shoe-thumping, gold tooth war mongers among them. Like us, they were worried about being nuked into a cauldron of bubbling borsht. They didn’t seem like citizens from an ‘Evil Empire’ as Reagan described them; more like ordinary family people who didn’t want their kids growing up to glow radioactively in the dark.

About that time I was visiting friends in Brooklyn. They lived in a building filled with recent Russian émigrés (think Robin Williams, in Moscow on the Hudson). In conversations they eloquently reminisced about listening to smuggled rock-&-roll records as teenagers, and drooling over American magazines (no, not Playboy) with ads for ‘cool’ tight-fitting blue-jeans and pastille colored pull-overs.

Western-culture had seeped under the Berlin Wall and across all the other no-so-hermetically sealed borders of the Soviet Union, and created a generation with a savage case of consumer-envy. Gorbachev boogie-boarded in on that wave of discontent. Reagan had as much to do with Gorbachev getting elected as he had to do with who won the World Series those years – meaning not much. To Reagan’s credit, after Gorby got in and reforms were underway, Reagan supported them by reducing negative rhetoric and negotiating to reduce the arms race. Of course, he could have accomplished all that five years earlier if he had air-lifted the Russians twenty or thirty tons of Credence Clearwater and Simon-and-Garfunkle and Bob Dylan records plus shipped them containers filled with Donna Karan camisoles, hoop-earrings, berets, stretch-leotards, and wide belts. It would have made the Russians more amenable to discussions in a shorter time, and saved us about twenty or thirty billion in wasted Star War R&D.

how do you think Reagan contributed to the ending of the Cold War?

The arms race was one factor. When Gorbachev took over a quarter of the Soviets GNP was going to their military. Gorbachev’s best hope of reforming the Soviet economy was in ending the arms race with the US.

I give the most authority on this topic to career Foreign Service Officer Jack Matlock. He is a specialist in Soviet affairs. His first posting to Russia was in 61. He was stationed in the Moscow embassy during the Cuban missile crisis. He was Director of Soviet Affairs in the State Department during Nixon’s time.

Matlock participated in the negotiation of arms control treaties and other bilateral agreements.[10] In fact, he attended every one of the U.S.-Soviet summits for the 20 year period 1972-1991, with the exception of the 1979 Carter - Brezhnev summit.[11]

He was Deputy Chief of Mission in Moscow. He was Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. Reagan appointed him as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of European and Soviet Affairs in the NSC. He was our ambassador to Moscow through the end of the cold war and the fall of the Soviet Union. He is a Republican, but he endorsed Kerry for president.

In his book Reagan and Gorbachev : How the Cold War Ended he offers a first-hand account. He contends that Reagan made it clear to Gorbachev at Reykjavik that reform (human rights, end to imperialism) was going to be the cost of an arms reduction agreement. And I think that SDI was the final straw, Reagan would not put SDI on the table at Reykjavik. The Soviets simply could not keep up given what they were already spending.

He also says that the end of the cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union are separate events. The cold war essentially ended in December 1988 and was due to Reagan and Gorbachev. The end of the Soviet Union was strictly an internal event and all credit for that is Gorbachev’s:

Reagan and Gorbachev were the two central players in this, and the absence of one or both would have dramatically changed the process. The end of Communist rule in the Soviet Union was a much different matter from the end of the Cold War. Maybe it would not have happened without the end of the Cold War, Matlock pondered, but it did not predispose it. Western policy, he continued, certainly did not have that goal in mind. In the end, the collapse of the Soviet Union was due to internal factors, not western policy. Gorbachev’s reforms, which the West encouraged, together with the end of the Cold War, removed the lid from the simmering pot of the Soviet Union. Reagan himself never thought in terms of a zero sum game with the Soviets—irrespective of what some of the members of his administration thought. Rather, he believed that democracy won against totalitarianism, and US policy sought to achieve its goals without doing undue harm to a peaceful Soviet Union.
The book describes the process as it occurred, sometimes at a very fast pace, and, in Matlock’s opinion, driven by essentially two people: Reagan and Gorbachev. Was it not for them, the Cold War would not have ended when it did, nor as peacefully as it did.

Matlock also says in the book that Reagan privately pursued improved relations with the Soviets right from the start of his term, at the same time he was building up the US military. He worked to establish a relationship with Gorbachev, sometimes writing to him directly, in his own hand.


And how do you think he turned the economy around? By tax cuts? Not really when he also had to raise taxes 7 times.

Way too much detail here.

OCSteve, thank you.

I appreciate the thoroughness and the cite. I have several problems with the cited article which I won't go into here for two reasons. Number one, I am nnot an economist so a lot of this goes over my head. Secondly, I have read, with somewhat the same degree of confusion, rebuttals by economists of almost everything listed in that article.

Being an economic moron, I will let it be somewhat unsettled. I guess what bothers me is the way Reagan is talked about and almost worshipped for his great big tax cut, when most of it he had to take back.

Looking at the whole 8 years is somewhat misleading as a result.

Regarding the first point. It is interesting to note, from what you write, that Reagan spoke one thing for domestic consumption "evil empire" while working with them in a positive way.

Actually though, I don't think that the arms race, per se, had mu8ch to do with it. Gorbachev knew his economy couldn't handle the strain any more, and was already headed in that direction. I think for his own domestic consumption he put on a show of working with the US, but it really didn't matter. My opinion only.

Again, both yours and Donald Johnson's comments have helped me rethink my thoughts on Reagan a little, but I don't consider him worthy of the current idol worship.

OCSsteve: the matlock account is interesting, naturally, but you don't seem to be considering the fact that he is a directly interested party.

This comments are particularly telling IMHO:
And I think that SDI was the final straw, Reagan would not put SDI on the table at Reykjavik. The Soviets simply could not keep up given what they were already spending.

You might want to think about the fact that the Soviets dropped the SDI issue because their own scientists told them what American taxpayers learnt at their expense: SDI was BS. Why fight over a delusion?

But this is more irksome to me, to be honest:
He contends that Reagan made it clear to Gorbachev at Reykjavik that reform (human rights, end to imperialism) was going to be the cost of an arms reduction agreement
Jesus f'ing christ, are the reagan admin guys now claiming credit for gorby's historically-proportioned humanity? this man single-handedly ended a continent-sized dictatorship because of his own commitment to democratic and liberal principles, please do not deprive him of the credit for that epic achievement. he is already loathed in his own country, let's not do this legitimately great man the injustice of forgetting why.

You might sense this is an ax of mine. With good reason; only in the bizarre post-factual realm of post-reagan america is the astounding achievement of gorbachev negated with such insistence. what does a person need to do?

OCSteve, I think it's fair to say that Reagan played a part in ending the cold war, but not in the way his belligerent admirers would want to mythologize nowadays, but rather by acting against the advice of the hawks surrounding him back then.

Still, he listened to them when rejecting Gorbachev's proposal regarding Afghanistan and in doing helped create the cesspool that would bring forth the Taleban and Osama Bin Laden. But then the policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan has been a total disaster from the Carter administration on right up through to Bush 2, so Reagan was only following a trend there.

sorry about the strange grammar, it's late

I think it's fair to say that Reagan played a part in ending the cold war,

Honestly, I have yet to see anybody's claim for reagan's contribution extend beyond crediting him with belatedly acknowledging the face-slappingly unavoidable reality of gorbachev's politics. to my mind, this places the bar of cold-war-endingness pathetically low.

OT (or is it?): Via Josh Marshall -> a YouTube to call their very own...behold QubeTV. Take that Al-Gor!

OCSteve:

Reagan is constantly oversold as the "winner" of the Cold War. Another myth tied to this story (but not in your comment) is that we were allegedly "losing" pre-1980, and Reagan somehow turned it around.

It is not really credible to separate the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. If the 1991 coup had been successful, would the Cold War have still been over? Of course not. It was the death of the Soviet regime that ultimately ended the Cold War, though it was circling the drain right up to the unsuccessful coup. Gorbachev had a lot to do with ratcheting down the heat in the years prior to 1991, but it took the unsuccessful coup against him by hardliners to really end it.

The primary factor in the Soviet collapse was that the Soviet regime was not economically viable -- it had been rotting for years. Reagan did not spend it into oblivion -- the Soviets did it to themselves. They were the ultimate military-industrial complex and state-run economy, and a testament to how none of that is economically sound.

As for SDI being the alleged tipping point, 20 years and multiple billions later, and SDI has still not been implemented because it still does not work (imagine trying to make it work with 1980s computer technology). The Soviets knew this in the 1980s. So they allegedly quaked in their boots and caved because of a non-functional military program?

Reagan did make a significant contribution to the 40 year history of fighting the Cold War. He provided strong moral leadership and rhetoric to match that was an inspiration to oppressed peoples in Eastern Europe and Russia. The Soviets were an evil empire.

But Reagan also supported murderous right wing dictators because they were anti-communists (which has a funny way of strengthening communism), so his record in fighting the Cold War was mixed. Reagan was not the only one to do so, of course, and to what extent did that type of policy prolong the Cold War?

My version of Reagan's contribution to the end of the Cold War comes from Francis Fitzgerald's "Way Out There in the Blue", which is a history of Reagan and SDI. I read the book a few years ago, but as I remember it, as byrningman said, Gorbachev's own scientists told him Star Wars wouldn't work. I'm not sure if that settled the matter--presumably the Soviet Union had its own version of the military industrial complex and they might have felt like they had to keep up with SDI even if they didn't think it would work. I can't remember if that last point was in the Fitzgerald book or if my memory is playing tricks on me.

What I definitely remember in the book is what I said before (and for that matter, remember from living at the time)--Reagan believed Gorby was sincere, his rightwing allies thought he was wrong, and Reagan turned out to be right. I think it's fair to give him credit for this, just as I think it's fair to hold him partly responsible for the various atrocities committed by people he supported as "freedom fighters".

john miller: I am nnot an economist so a lot of this goes over my head

Neither am I and me too. Concerning rebuttals – you would think that numbers are numbers and that is that. Not so, I know. If you know of a similar study that rebuts that one I would love to put the two side by side.

I don't consider him worthy of the current idol worship.

Understood. And you won’t catch me saying “RR won the cold war single handedly”. OTOH I have to argue if someone says he deserves no credit at all.


Byrningman: please do not deprive him of the credit for that epic achievement

Not at all. Matlock makes it clear that the end of the cold war and the end of communist control and the fall of the Soviet Union are two distinct events. He gives Reagan and Gorby credit for the former, but only credits Gorby for the latter. He explicitly says:
”It was Mikhail Gorbachev, not Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush, who ended communist rule in the Soviet Union."

But human rights were always a topic. Reagan’s "Four-Part Agenda" included Human Rights, Regional Issues, Arms Control, and Bilateral Issues. All 4 were topics for each summit.

dmbeaster: It is not really credible to separate the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War

They were always synonymous in my mind as well. So it’s really Matlock you are disagreeing with. I think he’s got you on the authority angle though :)

Reagans and Bush 41's great accomplishment was winning freedom and independence for Eastern European countries, something that is somewhat apart of the relationship between the US and the Soviet Union.

The Cold War could have gone very differently. The US could have abandoned claims that Eastern Europe should be free, in an oblique way, to further detente, similar to the way the Carter administration no longer recognized Taiwan as China in order to gain favor with Beijing.

It's odd how differently people see things.

Of course when the Baltic states made serious moves toward independence, the US did refuse to act in any meaningful way on their behalf.

OC Steve and Donald Johnson are to be complimented.

1. When Rudy said the Iranians need to see "Ronald Reagan" in January 2009, he meant Reagan as the Iranians thought of him the day RR himself took office (and that very hour, the 52 US embassy hostages were released and left Iranian air space). That's what Rudy was talking about, that was his analogy.

Duh.

2. I voted for Reagan in 1980 and 1984, the only major party POTUS nominee I EVER voted for, though I've voted in every Presidential election since and including 1976. Two of my current political examplars, Wesley Clark and James Webb, also voted for RR.

2a. Reason #1: "Reagan won the cold war." Kissinger, a jealous man, said that. GHWB peevishly acknowledged that. From London, the Economist wrote recently that the west probably would have won the cold war, anyway, but it would have taken another 20 years. That's about right.

The hysterical negative mythology on this blog about Reagan actually makes me greedy. Folks, I want to sit down and play a board game for money with you -- "Risk, the Continental game of world power." I'm a shark at Risk and need your money.

I've studied military strategy and tactics all my life. I grew up reading the Proceedings of the US Naval Institute every money throughout my teenage years. When it is said 'Reagan won the Cold War' that is a kind of shorthand, ok? "Reagan was the TEAM CAPTAIN and COMMUNICATOR of the secret club that won the Cold War" is a lot more descriptive. The Polish labor movement and John Paul II was only one instance. The central team needed to modernize intermediate range missiles in the "Low Countries" of NATO in 1983 and buffalo the geriatric Politburo into a self-bankrupting program of modernization -- and -- sooner rather than later -- a younger, more flexible dictator.

As nearly as I can tell, the gaming and theorizing and nudging of the Politburo was brainstormed and planned by Sandhurst graduates reporting to MARGARET THATCHER, who herself was almost entirely responsible for getting the BeneLux/Netherlands to accept updated missiles (making them prime targets for Soviet missiles!).

The result of this 1983 game victory was a new Soviet leader in 1985 -- Gorbachev. Gorby met RR in Rekyavik -- and the rest is history.

Just as Churchill stalemated fascist expansion and then the US/UK team won the war, decades of US-led nuclear-umbrella M.A.D. was replaced by a Reagan/Thatcher team that bankrupted the Soviet Union.

Since you don't want to like Reagan, you certainly aren't going to give him credit for correctly wargaming that M.A.D. was dangerous and would ultimately lead to a nuclear exchange. All you need is one trigger-happy sociopath like Stalin. Or adrenaline freak Jack Kennedy. Or an angry cripple like Bob Dole (watch his old Vice Presidential debate with Walter Mondale in 1976 and tell me the Dole should ever have the nuclear football). Or "W" (example: brandishing nukes at Iran in early 2006 until the ENTIRE JCS threatened to resign! So said Seymour Hersh).

So it's a damned good thing RR and Thatcher won the cold war 20 years ahead of M.A.D.'s timetable.

Another damned good reason is that even after being bankrupted, the oldline military commies in the Soviet Union changed tactics and were working HARD and SUCCESSFULLY on (far cheaper but still devastating) biological agents until 1991, when Yeltsin shut off the money and took the program public to demonstrate that the bad old days were over. Good thing Reagan and Thatcher won the cold war early, wasn't it?

2b. Unemployment and inflation climbed at the end of the Carter administration. By 1982, Reagan's first full year in office, unemployment, nationally, was over 10 percent, as high as 1941, the last year of the depression. Reagan took his medicine from Paul Volker, then head of the fed, and turned that around -- killing high inflation and halving unemployment. That's something FDR was ONLY able to do with GENERAL WORLDWIDE WARFARE in 1942. Quite an accomplishment for a peacetime President like Reagan.

2c. In 1987, Reagan successfully selected Alan Greenspan for the Fed, who would serve nearly 18 years. Kudos. Kudos. Kudos. Kudos.

Reagan was elected in 1980 because Americans thought the economy was in trouble -- RR was under order to fix it. He did and, blocked by Tip O'Neil from his domestic programs, made a stunning mark in foreign policy (as a TEAM CAPTAIN of a mostly UK team). This is why Reagan was given an honorary knighthood after he left office.

And then. There's Iran-Contra... ye Gods... I was so enraged by this scandal I wanted to vote third party in 1984 and barely talked myself into another vote for RR -- why? "We haven't had a full two-term president since Eisenhower -- and I think we've got the Politburo on the run..." I wrote my best friend.

I want to think that RR knew his Presidency was about the superpower confrontation and waging peace. I want to suppose that in that rubric, the Middle East was a backwater, one he didn't mind subcontracting to ambitious subordinates like Bush Sr. and the Navy Academy Iran-Contra plumbers.

But I'm still uneasy about Iran-Contra and I don't think the whole story has been written even to this day. And I think the sheer incompetence of it lead to KUWAIT in 1991 and IRAQ in 2003. And the center of the incompetence was a rotten-ripe intelligence community (see Bob Woodward's book "Veil"). That still hasn't been fixed.

Great men make great mistakes. IN RR's case, I don't think that overshadows the accomplishment of replacing M.A.D. with a more peaceful world and ending a serious stagflationary cycle in the USA.

It impresses me that RR and Thatcher were a masterful team at something most bloggers here don't understand at all -- game theory. Reagan was cold and stagy, an actor? YES, and he was good enough to fool those who didn't like him. And, best of all, he didn't take it personally if people mocked him or opposed him -- can you say that about "W"? Bush Sr.? Nixon? LBJ?!

"You're not going to figure him out!" Ron Reagan, the Presdident's son, smiling and looking right into the camera for Ken Burns' film biography of RR.

One more poison dart.

In 1980, EUGENE McCARTHY endorsed Ronald Reagan for President, saying, "He's the first man since Truman to understand the difference between the office and the man."

urban c,
I wonder how much credit you would give to Gorby. You seem to be suggesting that the goal of the game theory that Reagan and Thatcher were doing was to bring Gorby to power, but if they had that kind of control, I'm wondering why did they only do that?

Also, where would you put Solidarność, Walesa, and Pope John Paul II in.

"You're not going to figure him out!" Ron Reagan, the Presdident's son, smiling and looking right into the camera for Ken Burns' film biography of RR.

Reagan was suffering early-stage Alzsheimers. He was pleasant and agreeable and he agreed with whoever had talked to him last. When he said he didn't remember about iran/contra he was probably telling the literal truth.

So how do I attribute his success at PR? He was pretty good at acting the role of president. He could do it in his sleep.

Compare with the longterm situation in britain. They've had a very long series of kings and prime ministers. Some of their leaders were brilliant and some stupid. Some sane and some downright crazy. And how does that correlate with britain's success? Not at all.

The Fitzgerald book as I remember it (I'm thinking of rereading it now) was critical of Reagan and SDI and his hardline policies, so that wouldn't fit in with urban coyote's view.
But I couldn't help feeling some respect for Reagan's visceral rejection of mutual assured destruction--like it or not, he had something in common here with Jonathan Schell and other leftwing critics who realized that MAD was insane. Yeah, it worked for a few decades, but there were a few close calls during that period and if there was (pulling a number out of the air that I think reasonable) a 1 percent chance in any given year of a nuclear war breaking out through miscalculation or mistake, you'd expect a few decades of success before the inevitable catastrophe that destroyed civilization. MAD had to change.

Where Reagan was crazy was in thinking that SDI could actually provide a defense against a thousand missiles with multiple warheads. Fortunately, Gorbachev came into power and Reagan recognized his sincerity (despite the paranoia of conservative intellectuals who thought he'd gone softheaded). So things ended well.

john miller: Regarding the first point. It is interesting to note, from what you write, that Reagan spoke one thing for domestic consumption "evil empire" while working with them in a positive way.

Meant to get back to this yesterday…

Matlock doesn’t see any inconsistency here. He says it was all there in Reagan’s very first presser as president and in his first speeches, piecemeal at first, but he wanted arms reductions from the start and never wavered from that throughout his time in office:

And I have to believe that our greatest goal must be peace.
—Ronald Reagan, June 6, 1981

I've always recognized that ultimately there's got to be a settlement, a solution.
—Ronald Reagan, December 23, 1981

[A] Soviet leadership devoted to improving its people's lives, rather than expanding its armed conquests, will find a sympathetic partner in the West.
—Ronald Reagan, May 9, 1982

And:

During his first press conference as president, on January 29, 1981, Reagan stated that he was in favor of negotiating to achieve “an actual reduction in the numbers of nuclear weapons” on a basis that would be verifiable. He also declared that during any negotiation one had to take into account “other things that are going on,” and for that reason he believed in “linkage.”

But he also confronted the Soviets directly on issues that we previously just kind of overlooked for the sake of détente. Those statements became the meme.

My point being that his public statements on the record make clear that he was for peace and arms reduction and was willing to negotiate from his first days in office.

From his first term inaugural address:
As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it—now or ever.

Our forbearance should never be misunderstood. Our reluctance for conflict should not be misjudged as a failure of will. When action is required to preserve our national security, we will act. We will maintain sufficient strength to prevail if need be, knowing that if we do so we have the best chance of never having to use that strength.

Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have. It is a weapon that we as Americans do have. Let that be understood by those who practice terrorism and prey upon their neighbors.

Nine days later:
Reagan stated that he was in favor of negotiating to achieve “an actual reduction in the numbers of nuclear weapons” on a basis that would be verifiable.

So I’ll have to strongly disagree with those who think that Reagan just sort of lucked out and fell into it all when Gorby came on the scene, or that Gorby was the main force and Reagan’s only role was in recognizing the opportunity and not screwing things up with Gorby. It takes two to tango and this was the biggest dance in the history of the country, perhaps the world.

I thought it wouldn't get worse than Reagan, but then we got the current guy. Reagan's written record can support all sorts of things, I guess, but the point above about Gorbachev is right on the money. It's fine to quotye Reagan saying that he was in favor of verifiable arms reductions, until you realize that the conditions of verifiability weren't acheivable.

And I'll go one better: if we hadn't had Bush -- and not only Bush, but Baker in, and the true I-C believers out -- in 1989 when the crisis point came in the East, it could very well have gone completely wrong. As far as bring the Cold War to a happy end, I'd put Bush's contribution far ahead of Reagan's.

The fact that the Reagan presidency, as imagined by many Republicans, was effectively over after the 1986 midterms -- when he lost the Seante and as Iran Contra came out -- is also a very important part of the story. (As I think about it, it seems to me that the trajectory of Reagan foreign policy is something like 1985 and 1986 spent walking back from the misstatements and overreactions of 1981 to 1984, with 1987 and 1988 spent figuring out that the Nixon-Ford-Carter 1973-1979 policy direction had been right after all.)

Or was it the Ronald Reagan who used a backchannel to Tehran to have them hold off releasing their hostages just until Jimmy Carter was out of the White House? Most.cynical.and.petty.stunt.ever.

Not really. RR learned from the master, Richard Nixon, who back in 1968 had used a backchannel (Anna Chennault) to persuade Saigon's Nguyen Van Thieu to balk at opening the Paris peace talks until after the election, thus preventing LBJ (and the Humphrey candidacy) from getting credit for starting the peace process . . .

. . . and, arguably, costing 4 more years of war, the spread of the conflict into Cambodia, tens of thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Southeast Asian lives.

It's remarkable how often later Republican cynicism and dirty tricks, right up to the present, can be traced back to the old "new" Nixon.

Responses to some comments:

Liberal Japonicus:
I wonder how much credit you would give to Gorby. You seem to be suggesting that the goal of the game theory that Reagan and Thatcher were doing was to bring Gorby to power, but if they had that kind of control, I'm wondering why did they only do that?
Also, where would you put Solidarność, Walesa, and Pope John Paul II in.

I give a lot of credit to Gorby. Thatcher and Reagan didn't "groom" Gorby or foist him off on the Politburo -- instead they manufactured a crisis for the Kremlin by modernizing the intermediate range nuclear missiles in Europe, something the Low Countries didn't want to do (because it made them the prime nuclear target) and something the geriatric Kremlin thought they had the political savvy to stop -- and they didn't. Eventually they had to pick a leader from the next generation.

When I say I give a lot of credit to Gorby, let me give you this anechdote from the "unsuccessful" conference in Iceland. Reagan was urging arms reductions (START), not just technological caps (SALT). Gorby said, "Why don't we just eliminate all nuclear weapons?" Reagan replied, "That has always been my dream." Now get this, this is the punchline: at that point, aides to both leaders PULLED THEM APART, demanded a break, and briefed them about the holy and sacred status quo of nuclear brinksmanship. Pulling them apart and demanding things stay the same is something that, say, CharleyCarp would have done.

Religious freedom was a major issue to Reagan. He lectured the Soviets about it. He worked with the Pope on it. His support of Welesa was genuine and sure, unlike that of, say, Jimmy Carter. Or, if you will, Reagan didn't make the mistake Ike made in ignoring Hungarian protests in 1956. As recently as 1975, when Francisco Franco died in Spain, all Spanish-speaking nations were dictatorships. Only Cuba remained at the time John Paul II died -- I think that makes JP2 the greatest Pope in many centuries. Reagan was the first of several important western partners in making that happen.
===========
J Thomas: Reagan was suffering early-stage Alzsheimers.

Oh, which state are you practicing medicine in, Dr. Thomas? Alzheimers is a progressive, disabling neurological disability. The average period between onset and death is 15 years -- and that average gets a lot smaller if the onset is later in life. Reagan died at the age of 93 15 and 1/2 years after leaving the White House. Shrewd press conference sparring partner Helen Thomas said she thought Reagan "was compis mentis all the way through" his Presidency. You are almost certainly wrong in your diagnosis, doctor. The disease hit RR hard from 1991 to 1993 and knocked him flat for the rest of his days.

Dr. NGO - yes, 68 was a precedent, but personally I think the Iranian hostage situation was worse because, while 68 was treasonably cynical, it at least had an amoral logic to it. The other case was just petty. The election was won, there was no need to score such a low blow against Carter, who apparently lingered in the White House until the very last minute waiting for the news of the hostages' release to come in.

Naturally politics is a dirty game, but I'm not aware of comparably cynical games with American lives being played by the 'soft on defense' party. Maybe that's just blinkered of me though.

CharleyCarp wrote:
And I'll go one better: if we hadn't had Bush -- and not only Bush, but Baker in, and the true I-C believers out -- in 1989 when the crisis point came in the East, it could very well have gone completely wrong. As far as bring the Cold War to a happy end, I'd put Bush's contribution far ahead of Reagan's.

I’ve seen this worship of courtiers quite often. Bush and Baker met in 1962 when they were both selected to the board of the same country club in Houston. They immediately liked each other – after all, they acted the same way at meetings. Their guidebook for life is probably Stendhal’s “The Charterhouse of Parma.” If Amerca were a golf course, the two would have been the best executive team in American history. But it isn’t and they weren’t – nay, they are near the bottom of the Presidential barrel.

I don’t have the eloquence to explain to CharleyCarp that his idols Bush and Baker are made of mud and self-disqualify themselves for access to power. Bush never won an election bigger than a congressional district –and Baker never won one at all, though he wanted to be governor – until the booming economy of the Reagan administration (and gridlock with a Democratic congress, to be honest) made Bush seem better than Dukakis in 1988. Bush won because CALIFONIA thought he’d follow through on his environmental promises while keeping taxes low. Uh. California hasn’t voted Republican in a Presidential race since, and it won’t in 2008.

I don’t have the wordsmithing power to show CharleyCarp that his heros were dangerous dolts – but someone else did – someone who spotted and portrayed this kind of character before either Bush or Baker was born. Here is a poem about these two courtiers, drawn with an accuracy to the angstrom:

“A Servant when He Reigneth”

(For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear.
For a servant when he reigneth and a fool when he is filled with meat; for an
odious woman when she is married, and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress:
- Proverbs Chapter XXX v. 21-22-23.)

THREE things make earth unquiet
And four she cannot brook
The godly Agur counted them
And put them in a book—
Those Four Tremendous Curses
With which mankind is cursed
But a Servant when He Reigneth
Old Agur entered first.

An Handmaid that is Mistress
We need not call upon,
A Fool when he is full of Meat
Will fall asleep anon.
An Odious Woman Married
May bear a babe and mend,
But a Servant when He Reigneth
Is Confusion to the end.

His feet are swift to tumult*,
His hands are slow to toil,
His ears are deaf to reason**,
His lips are loud in broil.
He knows no use for power
Except to show his might***.
He gives no heed to judgment
Unless it prove him right****.

Because he served a master
Before his Kingship came,
And hid in all disaster
Behind his master’s name,
So, when his Folly opens
The unnecessary hells#,
A Servant when He Reigneth
Throws the blame on some one else##.

His vows are lightly spoken###,
His faith is hard to bind,
His trust is easy broken####,
He fears his fellow-kind.#####
The nearest mob will move him
To break the pledge he gave ^ —
Oh a Servant when He Reigneth
Is more than ever slave!

--Rudyard Kipling

Footnotes specifically supported by Bush’s actions:

* Swift to tumult –three, count ‘em!-- unnecessary, strategically irrelevant wars in a single term as President—Panama, Kuwait and, after losing re-election -- Somalia! I think this makes Bush the most warmongering president in American history, especially if you start with the “Kuwaiti liberation” war and keep the clock running through the “no fly zones” to Iraq II, which makes it 1991-2007 and counting. All of it for a strategically irrelevant purpose. His feet were swift to tumult, indeed.

*** no use for power except to show his might – Bush didn’t like Yeltsin, so there was no Marshall Plan for defeated Russia, no sympathy, no significant humanitarian aide. Bush stuck to the unelected Politburo and Gorbachev as long as he could.

**** no heed to judgment – remember his loyal ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie?!?! She vanished as an invisible woman for doing what she was told, it appears.

# the unnecessary hells – remember the cocaine bought across the street from the White House?

## someone else – his former intelligence crony, Manny Noriega!

### vows are lightly spoken – “Read my lips! I’m not going to raise your taxes!”

#### trust is easy broken – he raised taxes AND the deficit! His post-cold war deficits were HIGHER than any of Reagan’s Defense-modernization, “Star Wars” funding deficits!

##### fears his fellow kind –he FAINTED at an Imperial dinner in Tokyo. After raising the deficit, he was terrified of Alan Greenspan, and still blames Greenspan (not his 3 private little wars!) for losing in 1992.

^ breaking a pledge because of the nearest mob – to keep Pat Buchanan happy at his renominating convention in 1992 after Pat got 42% of the New Hampshire primary vote, Bush gave the Christian right control over the 1996 RULES COMMITTEE and CREDENTIALS COMMITTEE. In other words, fear of loudmouth Buchanan caused Bush to hand over CONTROL of the party of Lincoln to the fascists. This is your hero at his finest, Charley Carp.

Note: I didn't include Reagan persuading the Iranians not to release the hostages before he took office because i was not aware that that had been substantiated. Has it?

urban c,
I think you are working a bit to hard at this, specifically, trying to make CharleyCarp out to be a Bush worshipper. If Reagan is such a hero, one shouldn't need to cut down everyone else around him to make him seem taller.

I think, after the current administration, CC has (as I do) a renewed appreciation of the brand of realpolitik that Bush 1 favored, but 'hero' is far too strong. It's not altogether clear that Reagan knew what he was doing (all those anecdotes about him not reading briefings, your own points about Iran Contra), which is precisely the question we have to deal with: Was Reagan the master of his own destiny? I don't pretend to know, but those stories above, along with the inability of Edmund Morris to write a proper biography has me lean towards Reagan less as a cunning fox and more as a fabulist. What I do think Reagan had (which the current WH occupant does not) was a sense of self worth that let him continue to work towards his goals even after he lost Congress.

These guys seem to be giving tricky Dick a run for his money...

Harry Reid says:


"Now he's the commander in chief, and we're not going to do anything to limit funding or cut off funds, even though there are some on the outside who suggest that,'' House leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said. "I think we want to make sure that the troops have everything that they need." -- Harry Reid, November 30, 2006

"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday he will try to cut off funding for the Iraq war if President George W. Bush rejects Congress's proposal to set a deadline for ending combat." -- The Globe And Mail

And he also says...


Sen Harry Reid (D-NV) :
"…I don’t think anyone can find a war that this country was engaged in where the funds were cut off. No one is talking about cutting off the funds."

Our future President says:


Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) :
"I do not support cutting funding for American troops."


You got to give them credit. Moving to deauthorize the war was clever. Effectively the same thing and grossly misleading.

Tricky Dick would be proud. I guess the real connection between them is that they are dishonest and cowardly. They can end the war today, but choose not to. They are so craven that they want the political upper hand instead of doing what they believe is right.

But let's not leave out the rest of the gang...

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) :
"We're not going to cut off funding to the troops … no one wants to do that."

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) :
"I don't know of any senator who would cut off funds for troops in the field."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN :
"I don’t think we should be pulling back any funds."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA):
"Yes, the congress could cut off the funds. But the congress will not do that because our men and women are in harm’s way."

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) :
"U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson ( D-FL ) today made clear his intention to oppose measures he sees as possibly undermining U.S. troops, like cutting funds... […] Nelson said today he’ll oppose efforts to cut off funding."

Not sure what comment thread to stick this in--it's a link to an article about Iraq, specifically about Iraqis with a peace plan for their country. They allegedly represent what has been missing so far--a rational political program for the Iraqi resistance to the occupation. That's important if you think, as I do, that there isn't a military solution to this conflict. They claim to have ties to the resistance--the part of the resistance which is nationalistic and allegedly doesn't attack civilians. (I have read that there are such groups, though my guess is that no such group has a perfect human rights record). Anyone have an idea how seriously to take this? I want to believe these people are serious, but don't know.

link

Alzheimers is a progressive, disabling neurological disability. The average period between onset and death is 15 years -- and that average gets a lot smaller if the onset is later in life. Reagan died at the age of 93 15 and 1/2 years after leaving the White House. .... The disease hit RR hard from 1991 to 1993 and knocked him flat for the rest of his days.

You're welcome to your opinion. I personally would prefer to give Reagan the benefit of the doubt, but if you want to think it was on purpose then go right ahead.

Hilzoy: Note: I didn't include Reagan persuading the Iranians not to release the hostages before he took office because i was not aware that that had been substantiated. Has it?

My further comment: Kinda, sorta, maybe. What happened was that while RR was President-elect, a reporter asked him about the hostage negotiations. The reporter speculated that maybe the Iranians felt they could dawdle and just wait, to start over again with a new President in a couple of weeks? Reagan waggled his head diagonally and said slowly to the reporter, “That would be very foolish.”

=============

Liberal japonicus: Was Reagan the master of his own destiny? ….What I do think Reagan had (which the current WH occupant does not) was a sense of self worth that let him continue to work towards his goals even after he lost Congress.

My further reply: I haven’t entirely figured Reagan out, either! I think he was master of his own destiny when it was ON HIS RADAR and he could DO SOMETHING. By this standard, a partnership with Thatcher to bankrupt the Soviet Union and roll the Politburo leadership forward to another generation was on his radar and he had the authority to act. His smaller-government agenda was not something he could get through the US House, so he just cut taxes hoping the House would cut spending (but correctly suspecting that they wouldn’t).

I suspect that, except for Israel and Saudi Arabia, the Middle East was not on Reagan’s radar, so he left it to Bush, Sr., whom, I think, volunteered. If my speculation here is right, Bush flatout lied when he said he was “out of the loop” on Iran-Contra. I strongly suspect that the m.o. of Iran-Contra, based on “Iranian moderates,” was rooted in very bad intelligence – which has never been fixed – again inferring Bush senior’s participation. And then there was the idiotic “pro-Iraqi tilt” during the 1980's Iran/Iraq war, an intelligence hallucination that again infers CIA and Bush participation. Bush knew about Saddam Hussein from back in his CIA days. According to the Kuwaiti ambassador, Bush was PERSONALLY angry at Saddam over the Kuwaiti invasion in 1990. "That little man," Bush fumed, then personally promised the ambassador full USA support -- immediately -- without checking with anyone -- before talking to anyone in Congress. So, yeah, I think Bush was the puppeteer in Iran Contra controlling North and Poindexter. (Poindexter was jailed but REHIRED by Bush's son when Bush43 became President).

=== general further comment:===

I know RR and Nancy picked Bush for Veep as a bone to throw to the eastern banking interests, which always hated RR and Barry Goldwater. Reagan was trying to unite the party to win an election. But he should have picked Jack Kemp or Howard Baker himself as Veep. Having never won a statewide election, Ambassador Bush was no help to him in carrying any single state. I think picking Bush was RR’s biggest mistake as a politican. And I suspect putting Bush in charge of non-Israeli-related Middle East matters was his biggest management mistake in office.

Bush was so bad a President that in 1992 he only got 37% of the vote, worse than challenger Barry Goldwater against LBJ running on Jack Kennedy’s ghost in 1964. You have to go back to 1912 and the Taft incumbancy and party fratricide between Taft and Teddy Roosevelt to see such a dismal showing. I’ve left out of this discussion the thing I hate about Bush Sr. the most – the half-trillion-dollar S&L bailout, off-budget of course. It was the biggest white collar crime in USA history up to that point. I haven’t mentioned it because it is a subject of personal, professional rage on my part as a certified public accountant.

That Bush Sr was a courtier who just wanted the title and the executive desk is something mentioned shrewdly by Jack Germond of the Baltimore Sun. Germond was amazed Bush had no vision, no plan, no desire to establish an important change the country needed as his own legacy and trademark, he just wanted to be there, himself, in office. I laughed when Germond mentioned this on “Inside Washington” with Gordon Peterson, but I didn’t laugh when Bill Clinton brought this up stingingly in the 1992 campaign with a brilliant Bible quote aimed at Bush: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

I see that I've been outed!

CC: I see that I've been outed!

I have to say, you sure had me fooled…

OT: I left a comment on the latest post at your place and it seems to have broken things.

It's a fact that on the mantle in my living room, amongst all the family pictures, there are only two people not members of my (or my wife's) immediate family. One is GHWB.

I left a comment on the latest post at your place and it seems to have broken things.

Works for me. Maybe it was just a Wordpress issue, and they've corrected it . . .

urban coyote: he [Reagan] just cut taxes hoping the House would cut spending (but correctly suspecting that they wouldn’t).

I'm fascinated by this Constitution of yours under which the President controls taxation but the Congress controls expenditures.

Is your country anywhere near the USA?

bril: A simple suggestion.

Start a blog of your own.

Post messages on it about whatever you think is important.

Quit trying to hijack threads here.

Have a nice life.

He didn't try to grant himself an emergency extension of his Presidency.

Possibly because his Alzheimer's was too advanced by then to allow him to plot effectively. I'm at least half convinced that Reagan was demented by his second term and that that alone saved us from a nuclear war during his presidency. The man was pure evil with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

The man was pure evil with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

I don't think that's true. I think sometimes he played pure evil like a role, and sometimes he played Heidi's Grandfather as a role, and sometimes he played the jester, etc. I have the strong impression he wsn't anything in particular, he just knew how to play roles.

Dianne: pure evil with no redeeming qualities whatsoever

That’s pretty far out there. Given the facts of what he did vs. what he could have done with all the power of the president, I’d be curious as to what specifically you have in mind.

Picking out a few things from a quick scan of his Wikipedia article that I speculate you might have to consider as redeeming qualities, or at least less than pure evil:
-Saved the lives of 77 people as a lifeguard over 7 years.
-He was originally a Democrat and a supporter of the New Deal.
-24 years of Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.

That’s 3 data points from his early life, his middle life, and his late life, from the personal to the political. Do you condemn those points?

Another thing I’m curious about: If the baseline is RR as “pure evil with no redeeming qualities whatsoever” then what’s left on the scale for you to describe GWB? Which one is worse in your mind?

OCS, I'm not a member of the pure evil school, but will not forgive or forget either the steps RR took to further execute the Southern Strategy, or his whole reality-doesn't-matter-nearly-as-much-as-the-pandering-cartoon-version-I-present business. He's not unique in either respect, but was much more effective that anyone ever before, especially at the latter.

If one really wants to go down the road that the truth of things doesn't matter at all, we're going to end up in a pretty ugly place. And if you can't sell your policies without lying or exaggerating, then doesn't that say something about the policies?

Some snippets from B Movie:

The idea concerns the fact that this country wants nostalgia. They want to go back as far as they can – even if it’s only as far as last week. Not to face now or tomorrow, but to face backwards. And yesterday was the day of our cinema heroes riding to the rescue at the last possible moment. The day of the man in the white hat or the man on the white horse - or the man who always came to save America at the last moment – someone always came to save America at the last moment – especially in “B” movies. And when America found itself having a hard time facing the future, they looked for people like John Wayne. But since John Wayne was no longer available, they settled for Ronald Reagan – and it has placed us in a situation that we can only look at – like a “B” movie.

* * * *

A theme song for saber-rallying and selling wars door-to-door. Remember, we’re looking for the closest thing we can find to John Wayne. Clichés abound like kangaroos – courtesy of some spaced out Marlin Perkins, a Reagan contemporary. Clichés like, “itchy trigger finger” and “tall in the saddle” and “riding off or on into the sunset.” Clichés like, “Get off of my planet by sundown!” More so than clichés like, “he died with his boots on.” Marine tough the man is. Bogart tough the man is. Cagney tough the man is. Hollywood tough the man is. Cheap steak tough. And Bonzo’s substantial. The ultimate in synthetic selling: A Madison Avenue masterpiece – a miracle – a cotton-candy politician…Presto! Macho!

“Macho, macho man!”

Put your orders in America. And quick as Kodak your leaders duplicate with the accent being on the dupe - cause all of a sudden we have fallen prey to selective amnesia - remembering what we want to remember and forgetting what we choose to forget. All of a sudden, the man who called for a blood bath on our college campuses is supposed to be Dudley “God-damn” Do-Right?

“You go give them liberals hell Ronnie.” That was the mandate. To the new “Captain Bligh” on the new ship of fools. It was doubtlessly based on his chameleon performance of the past - as a liberal democrat – as the head of the Studio Actor’s Guild. When other celluloid saviors were cringing in terror from McCarthy – Ron stood tall. It goes all the way back from Hollywood to hillbilly. From liberal to libelous, from “Bonzo” to Birch idol…born again. Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights…it’s all wrong. Call in the cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild. God damn it…first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom.

Nostalgia, that’s what we want…the good ol’ days…when we gave’em hell. When the buck stopped somewhere and you could still buy something with it. To a time when movies were in black and white – and so was everything else. Even if we go back to the campaign trail, before six-gun Ron shot off his face and developed hoof-in-mouth. Before the free press went down before full-court press. And were reluctant to review the menu because they knew the only thing available was – Crow.

Personal anecdote:

I probably have more reason to hate RR than most. In 1981 as he took office I was halfway through my freshman year of college at a state university. My future wife and I both had to work full time to survive and pay my college tuition and buy books (yes, we were living in sin) and the only way we made it work was something called the Pell Grant. There was no help from our families, who were barely surviving on their own rights. It was not an easy life but we felt that by working hard and judiciously watching every penny we would be able to get me my degree, then I could get a real job and she could go to school.

Enter RR and the 97th US Congress:
In the Pell grant program, S. 1108 would allow the Secretary of Education to establish a series of progressive assessment rates on discretionary income, subject to the congressional review process, which would offer greater equity to the lowest income students for whom the program was intended.

That didn’t sound too bad. After all I certainly felt that I was one of those “lowest income students for whom the program was intended”. In reality it meant that because I had been working full time I no longer qualified at all. The program was based more around a single mom at home raising 4 kids and trying to send one of them to college than around a student living on his own with no support from his family and working. I don't think it had actually passed yet, and I’m not sure of the final impact on Pell Grants – but by early summer my college Financial Aid office informed me I was pretty much hosed. So plan A went out the window.

Ask anyone trying to enter the job market (find a real job rather than flipping burgers or pumping gas) in the last half of 81 through most of 82 how that worked out for them. It wasn’t just regional. We tried various parts of the country – anywhere we heard the job market was better.

“YES Drill Sergeant!”

I have no regrets (today) about going in the Army. In the end I finished my degree; my wife got hers (and then a couple more), and we got to see a lot of the world. But in the worst times I certainly blamed RR personally for setting my life on a much different course than I had intended.

OCSteve:

1. If he was a lifeguard then saving people was his job. Doing your job well is value neutral. One could argue that it was good of him to take that job, but only if he turned down better paid jobs in order to save lives when there was an acute shortage of lifeguards and some beaches might have gone without if he hadn't done the job. Or some equivalent situation.
2. He was probably one of those frat-boy liberals who are "liberal" and even "feminist" because it makes it easier for them to get laid whose politics change on graduation.
3. That was an accident, like Nixon's appointment of Warren or, indeed, Reagan's appointment of Koop: he probably thought she'd be less fair and competent than she turned out to be. Plus she was part of the imposition of GWB on the country, making her career as a Supreme Court Justice neutral, not good.

And, yeah, there are/have been more evil people in the world than Reagan. Hitler, Stalin, Pinochet, and Pol Pot spring to mind, along with any number of crusaders. As far as GWB goes, all I can say is that not even Dubya makes me nostalgic for the Reagan era. I don't even want to think about what RR would have done with 9/11.

Guess I’ll take what I can get at your acknowledgement that he was not the most evil person to ever live :)

"Cheap steak tough."

I just had to repeat it.

I learn so many things on the internets! ;)

Hmmm, on the Alzheimers onset issue with Ronald Reagan ..... who knows, but having watched an individual up close who suffered and died from Alzheimers, there was something about RR in press conferences late in the second term ......... fleeting moments of vacancy ...... in which everything was in place, the mannerisms etc, but the eyes went inwardly blank.

Small points (the only kind I have):

If being "demented" saves the world from nuclear holocaust, then why waste time interviewing all of these rational people in suits every four years? There's a guy standing on a streetcorner not too far from me who seems like presidential material.

"He was probably one of those frat-boy liberals who are "liberal" or even "feminist" because it makes it easier for them to get laid whose politics change on graduation."

I used to hate it when the insincere ones were getting laid and the true liberals and feminists among us were still cooling our heels at last call. That's it, we'd say to ourselves, tomorrow we're taking up the guitar and signing up for ROTC.

Ask anyone trying to enter the job market (find a real job rather than flipping burgers or pumping gas) in the last half of 81 through most of 82 how that worked out for them.

Oh, that does indeed bring back memories. I couldn't find a job, stayed with various friends for various lengths of time, and wound up having to move from Seattle back to Miami ("return to the nest") for a few years. Dreadful, dreadful time.

RR did a lot of bad things. I'm not sure which one ranks as the worst. Letting the Christian Right set the agenda on AIDS policy is certainly up there. Ending Carter's alternate energy programs probably had the worst long-term effects for the economy, the environment, and American foreign policy. Busting PATCO and ushering in an age of anti-labor practices had the worst long-term effects on working people, the gap between rich and poor, and upward mobility.

The one common denominator in RR's various dark legacies is legitimizing the already-haves' sense of entitlement. It moved the Overton Window way off to the Right, and we're still stuck there.

Reagan was partly evil. Sentimental, really, with some good intentions, but like a lot of people he greatly overestimated his own goodness. So he ends up supporting mass murderers and excusing genocide (in Guatemala) because he takes for granted his own virtue and knowing in his heart what a fine upstanding well-intentioned person he is, it just isn't possible that the people he supports might be responsible for children being impaled on stakes (Guatemala again). I suspect he was no different from a lot of foreign leaders that he and his followers would label evil without a second's hesitation.

On RR and Alzheimer's, there is an interesting essay in Oliver Sacks' book 'The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat' about him seeing a room full of patients with severe aphasia, who can't understand language, but are incredibly sensitive to gestures, laughing while watching an RR speech, because his gestures and facial expressions were like Marx brothers' non-sequiturs.

It's mentioned in Tom Carson's Village Voice obituary of Reagan here, whose last line is

If you ask me, the best that can be said for Ronald Reagan is that, if George W. Bush gets re-elected, we may yet end up missing him.

RR continued the politizatioon of government agencies a la Nixon, which is now a hallmark not just of how the Bush administration operates but of how Republican politicians in general expect to operate.

For example: James Watt and Crowell and the woman he put in charge of the EPA. All were appoint to destroy the agencies they superrvised and to subvert the agencies to serve the interests special innterests groups and circumvent both laws and publicinteress regulations.
It has been characteristic of the way the Republican party functions tha the real policies are never discussed honestly during a campaign. Instead the appoinntment process is used to sabotage the functions of agencies so that unpopular and indeed unethical policies can be put through off the radar. As CC observed, what does that say about a party, when it's policies are so toxic that they can't be discussed openly and adopted on their merits? Also what does it say abouut the politicians of thhat party thhat thhey knowingly impliment policies the public doesn't want through the undemocratic means of sabotage by appointment?

RR wasn't the probelm and neither is Bush. The problem is that too many Republicans, like Thomas Sowell, have minority beliefs which they wish to impose on the majority and that they are willinng to resort to antidemocratic methods when democratic ones don't work.

what does that say about a party, when it's policies are so toxic that they can't be discussed openly and adopted on their merits?

The problem is that too many Republicans, like Thomas Sowell, have minority beliefs which they wish to impose on the majority and that they are willinng to resort to antidemocratic methods when democratic ones don't work.

Surely you realize that the first can apply equally to many liberal policies, and the second can be directly flipped. ;)

(Yeah OK, don't call you Shirley.)

JT: The thing about Reagan and Alzheimer's is that he wasn't a rational person before it hit him. He was a crazed believer in Revalations as fact and was looking forward to the Apocalypse, possibly hoping to start it. That part had nothing to do with the Alzheimer's. What AD did to him was take away his ability to plan and make major decisions (but, typically for the disease, his ability to do things that he had done for a long time--like make speeches and act--was unimpaired until quite late in the disease), which may have meant that he was unable to make any more progress on the Apocalypse after his first term. Or maybe it was just that the Ultimate Evil he was facing collapsed on him, leaving him with no one to nuke.

Sorry someone you were close to died of AD. The disease sucks major eggs and I wouldn't wish it on anyone, Reagan included. But I am glad that we never found out what he really had planned for his second term. This may be paranoia on my part, of course, but...well, I'm really just as happy not knowing.

I don't think Reagan lacked any redeeming qualities whatsoever. It's just that those qualities he had were vastly outweighed by the evils he wrought. If I were a believer in sin, I'd say that his rap sheet with God was pretty long.

Good riddance--the world's better off without him, and the sooner historians expose the dark underbelly of the Reagan administration and set all the right-wing fairy tales about him to rest, the better. The irony is that under the Bush Doctrine, someone would have been morally obligated to invade the United States and topple the Reagan Administration, as it was a major state sponsor of terrorism.

But I guess IOKIYAR.

I want to thank Charley Carp for talking about the pictures on his mantle. That was a profound personal statement.

An emotional boil seems to have superated here in this thread. The Reagan haters that have surfaced are very comfortable in judges' robes. RR's son, Ron, was right: You're not going to figure him out! By the way, does your condemnation extent to Wesley Clark? James Webb?

"Naturally, the educated man does not believe in propaganda; he shrugs and is convinced that propaganda has no effect on him. This is, in fact, one of his great weaknesses, and propagandists are well aware that in order to reach someone, one must first convince him that propaganda is ineffectual and not very clever. Because he is convinced of his own superiority, the intellectual is much more vulnerable than anybody else to this maneuver…"

--Jacques Ellul, Propaganda

Now, there's a book worth reading.

The Reagan haters that have surfaced are very comfortable in judges' robes.

...says the man who claims to know CharleyCarp's mind.

"And, yeah, there are/have been more evil people in the world than Reagan. Hitler, Stalin, Pinochet, and Pol Pot spring to mind, along with any number of crusaders."

"I don't think Reagan lacked any redeeming qualities whatsoever. It's just that those qualities he had were vastly outweighed by the evils he wrought."

Wow! Reading all these comments about Reagan one can only wonder how ignorant, vicious and mean some of you guys must be. It's not often I see people so blinded by their ideology.

I always thought you guys were far out, but I had no idea it was this bad. I hope this type of hatred, which appears to me as a form of evil in the world, is confined to the web.

My own perspective on Reagan is inevitably colored by growing up where I did, in a city that has a large Central American community. Too many of my friends were there in California because their families were fleeing the right-wing death squads and the regimes behind them. A lot of their families would in other circumstances have been prime Republican voters: devoutly Christian, vigorously anti-abortion, anti-communist, anti-drug, the list goes on. But they were instead mostly Democratic supporters, because the Democrats weren't enthusiastic supporters of the people who raped their nuns and the women in their own families and chopped the hands of their priests and the men in their own families.

I've always been pretty thoroughly anti-communist myself. It's just that I could never make myself believe that the global struggle against Soviet tyranny actually required anyone to throw acid in Mrs. Garcia's face or rape the older Nunez girls while the young ones had to watch, or any of the other things done against people suspected of being complicit in left-wing rebellions.

(I note that I was therefore getting second-hand what Kos grew up seeing first-hand. This may have something to do with why I immediately sympathized with his remark about mercenaries. I can't describe adequately the chill at the bone I got from seeing the damage done well after the fact by people Reagan was calling the moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers, and that without having to live among them and their works.)

My own perspective on Reagan is inevitably colored by growing up where I did, in a city that has a large Central American community.

I had something of a similar experience in that I spent a year -- a rather formative year, in retrospect -- in Marcos' Philippines and was in fact there for Ninoy's assassination and the subsequent American denialism. It was the first time in my life that I saw the true disconnect between the rhetoric of the US and its practices (hey, I was only five) and it's never been something I've been able, or willing, to unsee.

[Throw that together with being in Hong Kong during Tiananmen Square, and the subsequent American grovelling vis a vis Most Favored Nation status with China, and that pretty much explains my views on American foreign policy.]

By the way, OCSteve: Notice that the sort of thing Anarch and I are saying doesn't un-say or innately falsify the intresting and worthwhile stuff you've been posting about Reagan administration dealings with the Soviet. If it did, someone would have a much simpler moral calculation than any of us do. It's figuring out how to weight and balance this all that makes judgments hard.

My earlier praise for Reagan's role in being Gorbachev's peace partner was genuine. But he also embraced death squads and mass murderers. That's simply a fact. He praised Jonas Savimbi, Rios Montt, and the contras, and there's no moral distinction between doing that and praising Osama bin Laden. I suppose the fact that Reagan is an American and loved by many Americans means that somehow he is above mere moral considerations.

I'm a Christian, btw, and so the usual inaccurate stereotypes about lefty pseudo-intellectuals will need to be adjusted appropriately in order to dismiss my opinions of Reagan. Perhaps I'm a utopian religious fanatic who can't face up to reality, or something like that. Anything rather than admit that it's bad to support people who butcher children by the tens of thousands.

Bruce: Understood. I hope it’s clear that I never tried to make him out as flawless. I think every president does good things and bad things, and many of the bad things can indeed be very bad.

Bril:

"It's not often I see people so blinded by their ideology."

and

"I hope this type of hatred, which appears to me as a form of evil in the world, is confined to the web."

Yes, think of it.

If Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton had access to the web, think of the awful things they might have said about each other.

Or better, sit at my grandmother's supper table way back when and utter three words: "Franklin Delano Roosevelt". Go ahead, I dare ya. Frost on the glassware, bile rising in her gorge, and no dessert for you.

A dear, sweet woman. But even now, that whirring sound you hear is her spinning in her grave, preparing to rise into the light of day and hover menacingly over you as she dismantles whatever poorly thought-out praise you might have for the New Deal, should you have any.

Do you need a napkin to wipe the spittle from your glasses?

Let me see... Dick Gregory entering Lester Maddox's diner and being told they don't serve Negros and him saying that's O.K., he'd prefer the chicken, anyway.

Sure enough, Ronald Reagan shows up nearby (confederately speaking) years later to honor all the chickens that Lester saved from Dick Gregory's hunger, as a way of kicking off his Presidential campaign in hearty demagogic fashion.

After all, that's when Republicans discovered Southern Democrats had a pretty good handle on hate that could be useful to them. Off ran hate, and good riddance, to the new high bidder.

You know, back when hate ran loose through real life kicking up its heels, before it was tamed and confined to the Web.

When Richard Nixon sat in the Oval Office stewing over the Jews, Rosemary Woods told him, "Someday, Mr. President, you will confine your hatred to a new medium called the Web, rather than getting it all over the White House carpet."

Heck, this is a little amusing blowing off of excess political steam here at Obsidian Wings.

"And how did you like the play, Mr. Lincoln?"

"Well, if you leave aside the fatal gunshot wound, not to mention the rejoicing of most everyone below the Mason-Dixon Line, things could have been worse. I could have been criticized at Obsidian Wings."

Bril, your outrage is either completely fake or very touching.

Full now?

“The Reagan haters that have surfaced are very comfortable in judges' robes."
...says the man who claims to know CharleyCarp's mind.
--Posted by: Anarch

Yeah, thanks Anarch, I do know a lot about Charley Carp’s mind – for example I know he values gentility and civility. He thinks GHBW is a paragon in that area and I disagree with that, HIS judgment. That does not mean that I’m judging CC overall, especially, specifically, I do not deride his quest for civility and examplars of it.

==fasten your seatbelts==

All right, boys and girls, let’s take the gloves off and get down to the brass tacks. Let’s take the cabinet off the computer and see what’s busted – or what Pepsi was spilled and then seeped into the circuit boards. Reagan’s central America policy was abysmal –dare I mention the Naval Academy mafia of CIA director William Casey, Admiral Poindexter and LtCol Oliver North? The only defense I have for this (and it’s an irrational, so’s-your-old-man comparative-shopping excuse) is that RR was sighted and hunting for the big game – an end to the Soviet Empire by dusting off Eisenhower’s bankrupt-them-with-our-technology plan and working a tag team with Thatcher and her military planners.)

Why stop there with the Reagan White House as far as dancing with dictators and bungling invasions? JFK took us into Cuba, and when that failed, wanted to take us into Laos, and when General Douglas MacArthur scared him (in 9/61, by telling him after dinner, “Do not engage in a non-nuclear land war in mainland Asia,” a brilliant summary LBJ, GHWB and “W” forgot to heed), LBJ expanded Vietnam, invaded the Dominican Republic, and supported all the central and south American banana dictators. Nixon wanted to NUKE North Vietnam (and gave the order to Kissinger, who disobeyed him!), Gerry Ford wanted to go back into Vietnam as well as go into Angola (!), Carter was playing footsie with Arab terrorists including Arafat at his bloodthirsty-worst, Reagan tolerated gun-toting butchery in central America, Bush Sr got us into three irrelevant military conflicts and snubbed Yeltzin, Clinton and Albright THREW AWAY the Iraq I ceasefire in 8/98 -- guaranteeing another Iraqi war for whosoever succeeded him, and “W” bragged he could get Osama, failed, and then led us into a permanent colonial under-occupation of Iraq on obviously false intelligence that has since been soundly repudiated.

Go back to Hilzoy’s original post and her quote of Bob Woodward, calling Reagan’s policies inconsistent: Woodward is right, but he’s being rhetorical there, asking a question he already knows the answer to – the policies were all based on bad, contradictory intelligence, of course the decisions sucked and weren’t coherent.

What has all this got in common? “Lousy, incompetent and unreliable covert intelligence.” So I say to Anarch and Bruce Baugh and Donald Johnson that Reagan winked at barbarity in central America because he respected and trusted his WW2 sterling OSS head of the CIA (and 1980 political campaign aide), William Casey. A superpower is going to support clumsy, brutal, barbaric people when its own intelligence is off-track. I can throw smoke bombs and say, “This isn’t as bad” as Nixon colluding with Allende’s murder and Pinochet’s rise, and it isn’t as bad as GHWB invading Panama on personal pique about a former friend, and it isn’t as bad as the entrenched, running civil war in Columbia that the USA has established over the last 18 years or so.

But all of this is bad and it’s getting worse, because our intelligence community is busted and still rotting. It’s a full garbage truck with no brakes, going downhill and picking up speed. So part of my respect for RR is that the war-gaming and scenerio probability-estimation Thatcher was doing with him as his partner was so professional and such good teamwork that, together, they won the cold war in spite of mediocre intelligence. Wow. Compare that with the spastic, preposterous WMD “evidence” that got us into Iraq in 2003, as we sucked in the UK as our partner!

Incredibly bad.

Let’s take a look at USA intelligence in 2007. The Democrats won Congress, Pelosi supports Jack Murtha for Majority Leader in the House, but the House mutinies and picks DC suburban hack Steny Hoyer. The House candidates have won a majority in 2006 campaigning on following the Iraq study panel advice. As soon as Hoyer is in charge, the #1 suggestion, FIXING THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY, is abandoned. The democrats want the White House in January, 2009, but they apparently want their new leader to stumble into the Oval Office as blind as Oedipus, getting the same sh*tty morning briefings that have been getting us into trouble for decades. Does this party know how to build peace? “Hard flunk.”

And what are the Republicans doing – “W” kept Clinton’s CIA chief, Tenet, and then after getting us into Iraq on phony intelligence conclusions, Tenet gets a “Medal of Freedom” right after retirement. Torture continues (yes, folks, solitary confinement for an extended period for an individual who goes for years without being formally charged, alone, ipse dixit, is torture under the Geneva Conventions), “extraordinary rendition” continues, the US military is bombing and shooting sectarian enemies on the orders and spotting of MILITIAS in Iraq, Osama and other groups are pouring volunteers into Iraq, and in the Green Zone – almost no American can speak Arabic. Retired CIA employees are trying to bribe civilians into giving intelligence – and they are paying a lot of money for junk data, believe me. The overall game plan is obviously to keep the occupation, torture, tension and lack of resolution right where it is until inauguration day, 2009. “Hard flunk.”

You can’t make good superpower decisions without good intelligence. You don’t have good intelligence unless there are a few agents, invisible to the locals, on the ground and reporting from inside enemy headquarters (chapter 13, Art of War, written around 400BC). We didn’t have anyone like that in Iraq in 2002 as we ramped up to this conflict. I have checked with, uh, people that I know who are experts in this field. They tell me that the Pentagon GLOATS that it no longer needs humans on the ground in enemy territory. You don’t want to know what I said in response; it wasn’t polite. Our intelligence is broke and it isn’t being fixed. There doesn’t appear to be even a plan to fix it.

I refuse to “pick” the busted Democratic track or the barbaric ongoing Republican track here. Ugh.

PS: A lot of those banana republics are democracies now – but not thanks to USA intelligence –thanks to a lot of things like live global satellite television and to certain people, especially JP2, a courageous man himself jailed by the Nazis and then again by the Soviets. For example, the Pope’s visit to Cuba did more than many, many filthy CIA tricks from 1961 through 2000.

Urban Coyote, you are so far wrong in your character assessments that it's getting well in the way of any substance you might have to say. In particular, some of us find it not just weird but actively offensive that you'd be putting this much effort into making a Bush-lover caricature out of a lawyer who is fighting for the legal rights of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, one of the best bets for ground zero of this administration's contempt for human rights. He is out there doing the things that a lot of us sya someoen should but aren't able to ourselves and you're here pissing on him because of poor reading comprehension and a demonstrated fondness for leaping to ridiculous extremes of conclusions. In a better world you would be ashamed of this, but I'm not expecting that; it would be enough if you would at some point bother to read up on the history of CharleyCarp's posts and feel like an apology or at least silence might be in order.

You are, in brief, a disgrace to the causes you see to defend, and end up reinforcing the self-righteous smug convictions of those who really are undermining liberty, justice, and peace.

I'm sorry, I will immediately apologize for one part of that.

I said "you", and I lack any justification for doing that. I will defend an attack on "your posts", which are what I have on hand to respond to, but I know nothing of Urban Coyote as a person, and retract any and all claims about the person beyond these texts.

You can’t make good superpower decisions without good intelligence.

You can't make good superpower decisions period. There is no such thing as a good superpower or good colonial power and there never will be. Having that much power over another group of people is simply intrinsically evil. (Or is this getting off topic?)

Thesis: Urban Coyote is the anti-Farber. Discuss.

Good riddance--the world's better off without him, and the sooner historians expose the dark underbelly of the Reagan administration and set all the right-wing fairy tales about him to rest, the better.

The problem is that those fairy tales are so solidly entrenched, and have been for a quarter-century now, that attempts at this point to expose it are simply shrugged off as liberal revisionism by the people most inclined to believe the myths. And those people still control our government, and much of our media.

Urban coyote--I agree with much of that. Reagan's policy of suppporting murderous thugs didn't arise in a vacuum and every American president has, to varying degrees, done what he did. But Reagan went further than most in embracing murderers and bad intelligence doesn't even begin to excuse it. He was defending the Argentinian military in the late 70's when he was a private citizen. His inclination was to leap to the side of anyone who called himself an anti-communist and to deny reported atrocities if they didn't fit into his worldview.

I'd say the same about the current Bush Administration. It's not an accident that Bush initially had widespread support for going into Iraq. But he's taken our imperialistic, self-righteous tendencies to an extreme, and carried them out with a level of incompetence that is truly impressive (unless, as some think, the chaos is all part of the plan).

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