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November 29, 2007

Comments

Hear, hear.

(applause)

"And those that forget the past… continue to employ David Addington and John Negroponte."

Kind of the problem in a nutshell: the "past" of the Reagan Administration isn't so far past that it can lend itself very well to dispassionate analysis. More-or-less the way that the carefully-crafted myth of "Camelot" distorted objective study of John Kennedy's Administration until quite recently (and still has "legs" 44 years on).

Eventually, (IMHO) the political mythmaking (or, in a less-charitable light, the willful self-delusion) that has skewed perceptions of Ronald Reagan and his Presidency will dissipate: but, as the old saying goes: "we should only live so long!"

One of the things I find deeply ironic about conservative criticism of Bush is that he is really very much in the Reagan mold when it comes to results. Huge deficits, immoral foreign wars, contempt for the Bill of Rights (War on Drugs, f'rex), expansion of government, banking crisis exacerbated by lousy government oversight, emphasis on image over substance...

You're just jealous because Reagan single-handedly ripped out the Soviet Union's still beating communistic heart out of its chest and showed it to Gorbachev before causing it to burst into flames - just like Mola Ram in Temple of Doom, but with better hair.

I agree that the lionization of Reagan is bizarre. But the reasons have little to do with his policy record or even personal charisma.

By the end of the 70's, it was conceivable that the Republican party could cease to exist. By '79, they were looking for someone to believe in and Reagan took the role. He is more of an icon than a historical figure (get your Reagan candles at the local market).

Since then, the Republican's have basically been the party of corrupt big government (leaving the democrats to be the party of ineffectual big government). It leads to a natural desire for people to focus on the mythical good ol' days.

Basically, holding on to Reagan is a way to deny that the Republican party should have ceased to exist after Nixon.

More, respect for Reagan is the last thing holding together the increasingly bizarre Republican coalition. All those factions can point back to the Reagan they hold in their hearts and claim that that is the true soul of the party. Reagan, like Shiva, has many faces.

It's also important because political figures use this rhetorical gambit all the time and are rarely called on the carpet for it.

How many times did we hear that GWB never characterized Iraq as an "imminent threat?"

Sven, your link seems to conflate certainty with imminence. Of course, this winter was certain back in July, and smart people around here prepared for it by buying their winter fuel at summer prices, but it wasn't 'imminent'.

"Imminence" is a temporal matter. It means that something will be happening soon. A threat can move from "caution" to "to late" without ever passing through "imminent", if the actions that have to be taken to avert it must be taken well in advance of the threat coming to fruition.

This is the problem with insisting that a claim we must act to avert a threat right now is equivalent to asserting that it's 'imminent'.

This is the problem with insisting that a claim we must act to avert a threat right now is equivalent to asserting that it's 'imminent'.

You're right. The problem was actually that Bush and Cheney invented the threat from Iraq. It makes sense to make long-term preparations for winter in July when you live in Maine: it makes no sense at all to start winterizing the house when you live in southern California.

Brett, my understanding of your comment passed from certainty to total confusion without ever passing through "imminent".

But I'm still trying to figure out what my smartalecky kid meant the other day when he said I was still in my latency phase.

Whatever it means, it can't be good. ;)

This is the problem with insisting that a claim we must act to avert a threat right now is equivalent to asserting that it's 'imminent'.

OT but worth a comment, I think.

The relevance of imminence is that it's one of the bars separating legitimate war from an illegal act of aggression. By tradition, and if I'm not mistaken as a matter of international law, pre-emptive acts of war in the absence of a credible claim of an imminent threat were considered to be illegal. They were, by definition, acts of international aggression.

That is no minor distinction. Folks have hung for it.

One of the most regrettable things, at least in my opinion, that has come out of the Bush administration has been that that bar has been lowered as a matter of US policy.

Just another part of the general stench that Bush will leave behind him when he goes.

Thanks -

Fine, Russell, you've just demonstrated that it's possible to attack Bush's Iraq policy without misrepresenting whether he asserted that Iraq was an imminent threat.

Yes, Bush was quite explicitly attempting to lower that bar, as a matter of US policy.

Publius: First, let me compliment you on this post, and even the first one on this topic; in fact on all your posts recently. That doesn’t mean that I agree with you here (or often unless it is telcom related), far from it. But I think that your writing has improved a lot since you began posting here. Maybe “improved” is not the right word. Your “reach” has improved. Initially the rhetoric and snark in your posts just pushed my buttons, and that really just allowed me to ignore what you were trying to say. Lately, and especially here, you don’t do that. The post comes across as quite reasonable and well argued without pushing any buttons. The downside there for me is that your arguments carry more weight and I find I have to give them serious consideration rather than dismissing them out of hand.

That’s the long way around to say that I’ll concede that Reagan pandered to racists, but I don’t believe that the man himself was a racist. I’m sure that there is no distinction there for many people. I don’t have a firm opinion on that myself at the moment as the thought (as concerns RR) is fairly new to me. I’ll give some thought to that.

I do want to quibble with this though:

His race record doesn’t discredit his entire administration, but it does mean that we shouldn’t name airports after him.

That’s rather tough criteria. I mean if you said that about Bull Connor I would say well, Duh. But as it applies to Reagan? Every other thing in W. VA is named after Robert Byrd. How many things in this country are named after that old slave-owner George Washington? You have to admit that they were both explicitly more racist than Reagan.

This isn’t (just) a nitpick; when you say “we shouldn’t name airports after him” based on his race record, you are doing a little more than throwing some cold water on the lionization. You are saying he was so bad that he should be swept under the carpet as far as American presidents go. That I don’t agree with. Neither does most of the rest of the country. He has polled in recent years as the first, second, or third greatest president. As you alluded to here, if Reagan just reflected public opinion then that is more of a problem with the public than with Reagan. But even the historians rank him 16/42.

Anyway – you got me thinking about it…

OCSteve: Every other thing in W. VA is named after Robert Byrd. How many things in this country are named after that old slave-owner George Washington? You have to admit that they were both explicitly more racist than Reagan.

Wow, that's bad faith argument. I had a longer response, but it adds up to: "You're arguing that because Byrd in 1942 or George Washington in 1792 was more explicitly racist than Reagan in 1982, er... And Bush is better than Saddam!"

Reagan pandered to racists, but I don’t believe that the man himself was a racist

I also doubt that Reagan was particularly racist. Which is to say, I'm sure he was no more so than was typical for someone of his generation and background. Probably less so than many of his peers, actually.

The harm, IMO, was here:

given the systematic hostility that Reagan and his agencies had for civil rights efforts

The common stance of conservatives during the civil rights era was that government should stay the hell out and let social history takes it natural course. Disruptive, let alone illegal, acts of protest or dissent were also not to be tolerated. These attitudes show up in Reagan's own statements of the time, notably about King, but are also prevalent in the statements of guys like Buckley, Goldwater, et al.

The quaint historical folkways of the nation were not to be disturbed, and certainly not by intrusive gummint.

That's a nice, principled position on paper, but IMO is blinkered to the point of gross irresponsibility when those "folkways" include the kind of systematic injustice and violence that was characteristic of racial relations of that period.

Thanks -

I might add that the lionization of Reagan by modern Republicans is rather odd given his actual record. To take 2 important things, when the Reagan tax cuts lead to large deficits at the beginning of his term, he actually reversed course and raised taxes up somewhat in 1982. While it is true that he did not raise them as much as they had been cut in the first place, this 'respond in someway related to reality' reaction that Reagan took is so opposite to the current Republican dogma that no taxes must ever be raised at any time that in a fair world, it would be embarrasing to them.

Second, while he certainly was willing to say what he thought about the Soviet Empire (and it wasn't favorable), his actual foreign policy was a cautious one. Yes, he sent arms to Central America, but not American troops. When he did send troops to Lebanon and they were attacked, he pulled them out. For all the attacks on him as a warmonger, or support for him for standing tall, actual military action was minimal. Both invading Greneda and bombing Libya in 1986 were very low risk operations.

Perhaps if the Republicans want to lionize a President who raised taxes in resonse to a large deficit and withdrew forces from the Middle East to lower the risk of terrorist or military attack on them, we should not necessarily think this is a bad thing.

I'm trying to parse the difference between Reagan pandering to racists and Al Sharpton pandering to anti-Semites.

Only one of them got himself elected, partly as a result of the pandering.

Well, Sharpton wouldn't cut taxes .... I get it now.

If I were a white South African politician, I think I might do a little racial pandering and Desmond Tutu baiting so I could gain a majority to cut the marginal tax rate.

Question is, why didn't Sammy Davis Jr. kick Reagan in the nuts during one of his White House visits?

Probably because his tax accountant had just let Sammy know he wouldn't be paying the 72% marginal rate any longer.

I think Reagan is even worse now than he seemed in Publius' first post on the subject.

But as it applies to Reagan? Every other thing in W. VA is named after Robert Byrd.

See if you can spot the logical fallacy, kids!

Perhaps if the Republicans want to lionize a President who raised taxes in resonse to a large deficit and withdrew forces from the Middle East to lower the risk of terrorist or military attack on them, we should not necessarily think this is a bad thing.

If that's the way they were lionizing Reagan i.e. accurately, and as a President who governed with a hostile Congress who attempted to keep him in check a good deal, then that would be fine. But they don't, and that's why we have a problem.

Reagan pandered to racists, but I don’t believe that the man himself was a racist

I think, frankly, that pandering to racists makes one a racist, no ifs, ands or buts about it.

While we're on the point, I was frankly astonished at all the hagiography of Milton Friedman after he passed.

I mean, have any of his adoring minions actually looked at the record of his policies?

Jes: You're arguing that because Byrd in 1942 or George Washington in 1792 was more explicitly racist than Reagan in 1982…

Byrd filibustered the Civil Rights Act in 64 and made remarks in 2001 that got him in trouble. Are you claiming he was rehabilitated after 42? He has been undeniably racist most of his life. Do Byrd and Washington get a pass because they were men of their times? But Reagan (born 6 years before Byrd) doesn’t? If you are saying that pandering to racists is bad enough that you should not have a public building named after you but overt racism is not I don’t think that the bad faith argument is mine…

I don’t care about naming buildings. A street address works well enough for me. I object to sweeping Reagan under the rug for what you perceive as racism when we don’t apply that same standard to other politicians, even where the racism is obvious.

Reagan also resided over an extraordinarily corrupt administration.

Corrupt in the stealing money sense and corrupt in the putting the fox in charge of the henhouse sense. What I remember most about him is that under his leadership the management of our public lands was handed over to exploiters who were allowed to do pretty much whatever they liked within and outside the land. Unforgiveable.

thanks steve - very kind of you and much appreciated.

"Marginal tax rates, for instance, were too high for some income brackets in 1979."

Pure unadulterated nonsense, but otherwise an interesting post.

Well, for fun, let's give Reagan the benefit of the doubt that he pandered to racists but was not a racist himself.

Why did he feel the need to pander to the baser impulses?

Pop over to Kevin Drum tonight and read the post on Joe Klein sitting in on one of Frank Luntz's conservative focus groups during last night's panderfest. Each person was outfitted with a dial. The meter readings plummeted (negative feedback) when Huckabee objected to throwing illegal immigrant kids out of the country. They are, after all, children of God.

When McCain gave his rousing denunciation of torture the meters again plummeted into negative territory. In other words, they loved Romney's weaseling about the subject.

This is why the rest of the Republican field, and Huckabee and McCain when desperate, are so ready to sound like absolute nuts. A truly principled stand for a little goodness doesn't do the job with a depressingly large proportion of the American electorate.

Guiliani should have waterboarded McCain right then and there. Luntz's meters would have buried at a 100% approval. Cripes.

The American people, most notably the hard Republican base, are a market ready to be pandered to. The Republican candidates, including Reagan, love a free market and will supply "product" and charge whatever the market will bear..

Democrats pander, too. They want to do awful things like provide healthcare to all citizens or maybe slow down atmospheric pollution, so they pander to other fears.

But you (who? I don't know) see the difference in the quality and aims of the pandering?

Thullen:

But I'm still trying to figure out what my smartalecky kid meant the other day when he said I was still in my latency phase.

Whatever it means, it can't be good. ;)

That your kid recently saw Annie Hall?

Or just has been reading Freud, or a derivative.

OCSteve:

His race record doesn’t discredit his entire administration, but it does mean that we shouldn’t name airports after him.

That’s rather tough criteria. I mean if you said that about Bull Connor I would say well, Duh. But as it applies to Reagan? Every other thing in W. VA is named after Robert Byrd. How many things in this country are named after that old slave-owner George Washington? You have to admit that they were both explicitly more racist than Reagan.

First, I'd be perfectly happy to see 97% of the things named after Robert Byrd have their names changed in return for an equal number of things named after Reagan being similarly altered.

Second, I think it's perfectly reasonable to judge differently the attitudes towards "race" of someone of the 18th century, and of the 20th century. That doesn't meant I cut someone of the 18th century complete slack on the topic, but it does mean that I'd say judging said people of different times by identical cultural standards to be ill-considered.

As a lesser point, I'd also suggest strongly that George Washington played one heck of a more important role in the life of this country than Ronald Reagan, or any 20th century president, or any other president not named Lincoln, and likely including him, but, really, who on earth would argue otherwise?

So the comparison: also not so great.

I don't know that there's any reason to think Reagan was at all racist on a personal level, and I have no interest in trying to demonstrate that he was, absent so evidence that I'm unaware of being brought to my attention.

In any case, Reagan was such a completely bizarre man on a personal level, in terms of how he interacted with other people, I don't know that he paid enough attention to other people on a personal level to care enough to be racist, even if he had such beliefs.

Which is to say, by all reports, he was pretty much like an animatronic robot, including to his closest family (with the exception that we don't know about Nancy, and I'm perfectly prepared to stipulate and believe that their relationship was unique in Ronald Reagan's life): his closest biographers report that no friend or human being on earth could be found who was a close friend of RR; he strictly performed to crowds, but up close was indifferent and cold to everyone around him.

It's a marvel of how excellent he was at projecting image, and how skilled his handlers, particularly Mike Deaver, were, that the fact that every biographer and friend and family member is unanimous in reporting on how cold and indifferent he was to other human beings, remains almost unknown to the general public, who, after all, don't tend to read 800 page political biographies.

I last blogged about it here, but I'm just reporting what people like Edmund Morris and Lou Cannon and Reagan's family and friends all say.

"Adored by so many, he was a man with no real friends." That's Morris on Reagan.

[...] Until he remarried, in 1952, earnest, bespectacled Ronnie was said to be “best friends” with William Holden, and after that with Robert Taylor. But neither man was more than a barbecue buddy. Hundreds of political supporters and associates claimed to be close to him when he was governor of California and thousands during his Presidency. Former Senator Paul Laxalt spoke for all of them when he said, “I guess I know Ronald Reagan as well as anybody. Of course, we never talk about anything personal.”

Sooner or later, every would-be intimate (including his four children, Maureen, Michael, Patti, and Ron) discovered that the only human being Reagan truly cared about (after his mother died) was Nancy. For Laxalt, disillusionment came when the President called to thank him for his campaign help in 1984, only to pause in midsentence and audibly turn over a page of typescript. For William F. Buckley, Jr., it was when Reagan showed polite relief at his inability to accept an offer of hospitality. For Michael Reagan, it was the high-school graduation day his father greeted him with “My name is Ronald Reagan. What’s yours?”

[...]

Ronald Reagan’s air of gentleness was such that few people noticed, or could believe they were noticing, that he had little private empathy with them. In November of 1988, a delegation of Bangladeshis visited the Oval Office to tell him about the catastrophic effects of the Burhi Ganga floods. After a few minutes, their spokesman stopped, disconcerted by the President’s dreamy smile. “You know,” Reagan said, “I used to work as a lifeguard at Lowell Park beach, on the Rock River in Illinois, and when it rained upstate you wouldn’t believe the trees and trash, and so forth, that used to come down.”

Yet he could be movingly sincere when he was required to emote in public. To question his identity with “the boys of Pointe du Hoc,” or the nameless dead of Bergen-Belsen, would be to misunderstand his essentially thespian nature. Actors are not like you or me: their real world, where they really feel, is onstage.

[...]

His glow, though, was oddly neutral. A man who professes to like everybody is by definition a man who cares for nobody in particular.

No fewer than twenty-nine of my cards document Reagan’s detachment. He was at once the most remote and the most accessible of men.

[...]

Ronald Reagan is inaccurately remembered as a warm man, and I think the voice (which he lubricated with hot lemon water) had much to do with it.

Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush could not emulate Reagan’s kindly chuckle (always deployed when he was cornered) or his ability to tear up at the right moment. Yet, for all their emotional awkwardness, one cannot imagine either of them ignoring their first grandchild, as Reagan did for two years, or walking away from the brain-damaged James Brady with nothing more than a cheerful “Hi, Jim.”

That was the real Ronald Reagan, reported by his official authorized biographer.

"He has polled in recent years as the first, second, or third greatest president."

Yes, but that's insane.

Myself, by the way, I wouldn't argue that stuff shouldn't be named after Reagan because of any personal qualities of his, alleged racism or any other personal quality.

I'd argue that stuff shouldn't be named after Ronald Reagan because I believe most of his polices were quite dreadful.

His polices as regards race were just one plate on a large smörgåsbord of awfulness.

But then we'd have to argue out most of his more significant policies. If we set aside Soviet policy and tax policy as boringly over-argued, what's left that a Reagan defender today wants to trumpet as wise and moral Reagan policy to rank with Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln?

Beyond his rhetoric, that is. Reagan did talk purty, and the result was that an awful lot of people confused his rhetoric with his policy and, un, accomplishments.

I'd do a Reagan-for-Byrd swap, but I think we'd run out of Reagans long before we ran out of Byrds. Maybe we could do a weighted swap; USS Ronald Reagan is worth, perhaps, 27 buildings named after Robert Byrd? We could dicker all night.

I'm not a big fan of naming things after current or former politicians in any case. When I first got on the Ronald Reagan turnpike in Florida, I thought: oh, no. Not another one. And why is it that we name streets after those we wish to honor? How many Martin Luther King Jr Blvds do we really need, and how much honor does that do to his legacy, to name a six-lane thoroughfare after him?

Not much, IMO. I think the Reverend King would have been far more honored by a Gedachtniskirche or seven, but may have preferred an orphanage or a school.

Here in Orlando we have one or two memorials to former mayor Glenda Hood (who actively campaigned to have them erected in her honor, by some accounts) and at least one to former mayor Bill Frederick, so a half-dozen monuments to Ronald Reagan would be, by comparison, a mere gesture. If a mayor gets one or two, I'd think a congresscritter would rate at least five or six. I wouldn't be surprised if Robert Byrd had a few things named after him in Florida, so cheap are the naming rights.

Granted, George Washington was much more pivotal. Tom Paine had some extraordinarily nasty things to say about him, but those (in my mind) reflect rather more poorly on Paine than they do on Washington. Still, I think he's got enough monuments.

If I were vain enough to suppose I might wind up being a man revered as one of the greats, I'd put something in my will requesting that no one name a street after me. Perhaps a bike path; I like bike paths. My existing request is that I be placed in a convenient and suitably large compost heap, and turned until I'm done, then tilled into the garden. Hopefully the net effect would be good. Probably ought to have that checked out in case I wind up killing the broccoli.

I'd do a Reagan-for-Byrd swap, but I think we'd run out of Reagans long before we ran out of Byrds. Maybe we could do a weighted swap; USS Ronald Reagan is worth, perhaps, 27 buildings named after Robert Byrd? We could dicker all night.

I'm not a big fan of naming things after current or former politicians in any case. When I first got on the Ronald Reagan turnpike in Florida, I thought: oh, no. Not another one. And why is it that we name streets after those we wish to honor? How many Martin Luther King Jr Blvds do we really need, and how much honor does that do to his legacy, to name a six-lane thoroughfare after him?

Not much, IMO. I think the Reverend King would have been far more honored by a Gedachtniskirche or seven, but may have preferred an orphanage or a school.

Here in Orlando we have one or two memorials to former mayor Glenda Hood (who actively campaigned to have them erected in her honor, by some accounts) and at least one to former mayor Bill Frederick, so a half-dozen monuments to Ronald Reagan would be, by comparison, a mere gesture. If a mayor gets one or two, I'd think a congresscritter would rate at least five or six. I wouldn't be surprised if Robert Byrd had a few things named after him in Florida, so cheap are the naming rights.

Granted, George Washington was much more pivotal. Tom Paine had some extraordinarily nasty things to say about him, but those (in my mind) reflect rather more poorly on Paine than they do on Washington. Still, I think he's got enough monuments.

If I were vain enough to suppose I might wind up being a man revered as one of the greats, I'd put something in my will requesting that no one name a street after me. Perhaps a bike path; I like bike paths. My existing request is that I be placed in a convenient and suitably large compost heap, and turned until I'm done, then tilled into the garden. Hopefully the net effect would be good. Probably ought to have that checked out in case I wind up killing the broccoli.

And that, my friends, is why you shouldn't make your first comment on your shiny new Firefox browser a long one.

I have no idea why there are two of them.

I have to say, with all due respect to West Virginians, naming something in West Virginia doesn't seem like a big honor.

I fully agree with Publius in wanting to deflate the myth of Reagan and replace it with a more realistic assessment. And I agree with Publius on why it matters -- seriously believing the myth of Reagan has led to Bush II, and who knows where it may lead from there.

But I am inclined to think that focusing solely on race is a cheap way to do it. To me the worst part of the Reagan legacy is the out-of-control executive as exemplified by Iran-Contra. The fact that he got away with that no doubt has a great deal to do with why our current President thinks he can get away with breakings laws at will.

The worst part of the Reagan myth is the belief that he brought down the Soviet Union by a policy of unrelenting toughness and confrontation. The truth is a good deal more complicated than that, but belief in that myth has led the current Administration to adopt a policy of unrelenting confrontation toward the rest of the world, assuming that it can get anything it wants by pushing hard enough.

But here's the rub, see. Many people still think that unrestrained executive power and unrelenting confrontation toward the rest of the world are just great, then and now. To argue that an unrestrained executive is not so great requires explaining why not. To argue that Reagan's foreign policy was not as hawkish as it appeared is to get into messy nuance. But racism is universally condemned, so it is much easier to accuse Reagan of race baiting and use that to brand his administration as flawed than to get into the serious complexities of what is wrong with the myth of Reagan.

S'OK, Slarti: your regrettably infrequent posts here are still so admired, we won't mind a bit of duplication! ;)

And before I sign off for the evening, I'll just laud, applaud and rain kudos on Gary's 23:12 post. It goes a long way towards articulating in greater detail my own take on the Reagan years: which have always seemed to me to read like the TV-guide recap of a cheap B-movie thriller:

The President of the United States is replaced by an actor, and no one notices

Counterfactual: Yes, he sent arms to Central America, but not American troops.

You earned your moniker with that sentence alone, C.

Reagan did indeed send U.S. troops to Central America. Aside from the publicly acknowledged and Congressionally permitted "advisors" to El Salvador (500? It's late and I'm not going to look it up tonight), there were many more U.S. troops who secretly and illegally engaged in combat -- in El Salvador and in and around Nicaragua (Honduras, Costa Rica, the waters off Nicaragua, and probably Guatemala).

Proof of this is the decision of the Clinton administration Defense Dept. to recognize these troops' combat service with medals, compensation, burial at Arlington, etc., as their families demanded. There's a Washington Post article about that from 1996 or so; again, I'm not going to dig it up now.

Then there were the hundreds of CIA operatives in the region. Some murdered ("wet work", in the agency's delightful slang), others liaised with local death squads. Some tortured, some trained torturers, others simply supervised and "received the intelligence product". Still others infiltrated organizations and pitted people against each other, or gathered information used to make up the lists of "targets" to be killed or tortured.

But Central America, blood-soaked as it was, was really a sideshow. I've posted here recently about what may have been the biggest obscenity among the Reagan administration's many criminal, corrupt foreign policies: the policy of backing Pakistan's most extreme Islamists, allowing that country to develop nuclear weapons, and giving the ISI free rein -- all part of the "covert" support for the Afghans and foreign fighters attacking the Russian occupation of Afghanistan next door.

Just as with El Salvador, the Pakistan-Afghan policy was actually begun under Carter (see Zbigniew Brzezinski's 2001[?] interview in which he brags about the decision to support fighters attacking the Russian-client government of Afghanistan in order to lure the Russians into "their own Viet Nam"). But under Reagan the policies became full-out causes to which most other objectives were sacrificed.

And I haven't even mentioned Africa...

Under the Reagan administration "we" backed one murderous, torturing, pillaging group of "freedom fighters" after another all over the freaking planet; it was the 1950s and early 1960s re-run, the return of the "rollback" crowd. It was a blood-soaked period that convinced the rest of the world that we remained an aggressive imperial menace (some of them had had brief hopes for change from us after the end of the Viet Nam war, the Nixon resignation-in-disgrace, and our election of a president who mouthed nice words about human rights).

Reagan's political support was based in the American people's inability to handle the truth about this country, which was briefly faced in the mid-1970s in the aftermath of our devastating debacle in Southeast Asia, then quickly suppressed by "liberal" Democratic politicians as well as centrists and ascending rightists.

There was also an economic engine to the backlash; 1972-3 was a peak from which a ratcheting decline continued for the next decade. (Or until this very moment, depending on what size spikes one's willing to consider blips in the descent.)

And there was a social/cultural component, reactionary response to "social change" -- the tentative acceptance of women, African-Americans, native Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, gay men, lesbians, and people with disabilities as fully human and full citizens -- and the somewhat less tentative acceptance of sexual activity as a many-splendored and good thing.

Right-wing reaction has common elements in all eras.

The current Cheney-Bush regime could be the dying embers of the rightist reaction to the 1960s that flourished under Reagan. It'd be nice to think so. But I doubt it; the hard-core base for fascism here is just a little too big to disappear.

But even the historians rank him 16/42

OC, wonderful link. Im really curious about the changing of rankings from year to year for the long-dead presidents eg what was it that moved Monroe from 15th in 1994 to 8th in 2002. Statistical noise? Reflection on his record in light of current events?
What made Jefferson slide from 2nd to 5th while TR moved up? etc.

When I was growing up, Republicans lionized the 50s. I guess the 50s are too far back to resonate with much of the current Republican base, so the 80s are the new 50s. And iirc the most Republican generation is the GenXers, who came of age in the 80s. Forgetting that Reagan raised taxes or fled Beruit is relatively easy- the man talked a great line.

"And why is it that we name streets after those we wish to honor? How many Martin Luther King Jr Blvds do we really need, and how much honor does that do to his legacy, to name a six-lane thoroughfare after him?"

A certain amount.

The fact is that memorials are of limited use, at best, in terms of getting people to actually be aware of anything particular, or at least anything beyond or or two key points, if the honoree is really lucky, a hundred years later, let alone more than that.

The parks and squares and circles and streets of cities around the world are littered with statues and arches and memorials named after endless people whom most passersby are completely unaware of who the honoree is. In plenty of other cases, it's simply that so and so was a hero of such and such war, or a politician of such and such a time.

And that's all it does for the good of making the general populace of the future remember good 'ol so and so.

Though the pigeons are probably grateful.

The same goes for naming streets, of course, other than not caring about the names.

But these namings and memorials all do have the minimal value of making a few people now and again ask who so and so was, or at least to have heard of so and so, so that there's a slightly larger impact if they ever do find out more about so and so.

In the case of Martin Luther King, there was also an understandable political goal of doing something that's particularly visible in communities with a large African-American population.

To be a bit cynical, perhaps, I'd be surprised if there weren't some correlation between the location of Martin Luther King streets/avenues/blvds/etc., and the locations of riots in the Sixties.

But, as I said, the largest effect in the end of such namings is probably to create exercises for schoolkids. How many 19th century statues in a large city are there that can anyone tell us more than a few sentences about the subject of?

Generally speaking, if you're really memorable, people will remember you for what you're memorable for, which is to say, one or two sentences worth.

And if you're not so much, they won't, and you'll just be a name. Like even the lesser-known American presidents are to most Americans.

Let alone, say, all the Roman Emperors who are forgotten by non-experts today, for all the glory and fame and monuments so many of them had. Ditto Pharaohs, Emperors of China, and gazillions of other kings, queens, empresses and emperors of few thousand years.

"My existing request is that I be placed in a convenient and suitably large compost heap, and turned until I'm done, then tilled into the garden."

I used to joke that I'd like to be frozen and kept in the freezer of a loved one, but nowadays I'm depressed and morbid, so I figure I'll die unloved and unnoticed for days in my apartment until the stink brings someone around, and a few people will be briefly sad, but no one much will really care. It goes along with the depression that I've been thinking too much about this sort of thing lately.

publius,

The upshot is that a honest appraisal of Reagan’s racial record would inform modern policy debates. But if we lionize him – and whitewash his record by repressing the negative in favor of a “Morning in America” narrative – then we lose sight of that record.

Well said! I've been disturbed by the tendency over the past year to present Reagan as a model/ideal conservative (as seen in several issues of Time magazine, for example), not because he didn't do anything worthwhile, but that the stuff he got wrong was just being forgotten.

Sorry about the double post.

Gary,

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away."

Does that cover your point adequately?

"Reagan pandered to racists, but I don’t believe that the man himself was a racist."

Clinton pandered to the anti-gay elements of his own party twice. But I don't believe that the man himself was homophobic. He personally signed the Defense of Marriage Act in September 1998 right before the election and certainly with a view to how anti-gay bigots would vote. That wasn't just 'coded' language. That was taking your anti-homosexual political posturing and putting it directly into law.

But he isn't personally anti-gay.

Any thoughts on the implications of that for the Democratic Party twenty years from now, publius? Or now?

Sebastian: Clinton pandered to the anti-gay elements of his own party twice. But I don't believe that the man himself was homophobic. He personally signed the Defense of Marriage Act in September 1998 right before the election and certainly with a view to how anti-gay bigots would vote. That wasn't just 'coded' language. That was taking your anti-homosexual political posturing and putting it directly into law.

Ironically, Sebastian, I don't recall your ever condemning Bush in such strong language, though Bush campaigned twice on the goal of writing anti-gay language into the Constitution.

What's that about?

1. I heartily endorse Slarti's 12:24, which is also his 12:25. I especially don't favor naming things after people who are still alive, let alone still serving in office.

2. Gary: As a lesser point, I'd also suggest strongly that George Washington played one heck of a more important role in the life of this country than Ronald Reagan, or any 20th century president, or any other president not named Lincoln, and likely including him, but, really, who on earth would argue otherwise?

Any other 20th century president? You've perhaps heard of Franklin Delano Roosevelt?

3. Slarti's point above is a perfectly valid one vis a vis Clinton himself, but I'm not sure what it has to do with Ronald Reagan except as an attempt at subject-changing. And before he pulls out the obvious rejoinder, I'll remind Sebastian that I have myself on these very pages many times condemned Bill Clinton's treatment of gays while serving as President and said that it reflects negatively on the Democrats and their commitment to gay rights.

It's OK, though, someone else pulled a double secret ju-jitsu subect change right afterwards.

Carleton: I guess the 50s are too far back to resonate with much of the current Republican base, so the 80s are the new 50s.

Bingo! That one sentence probably most accurately reflects my opinion of the man. It probably also explains his popularity even in recent years – at least with my age demographic.

The 70’s were just a depressing decade. The end of the Vietnam War, the gas crisis, inflation and the economy, unemployment, stagflation (I repeat myself), the Iranian hostage crisis, Disco {shudder}…

It was emotionally depressing. Growing up, watching your parents scrape by, living your teenage years and trying to enter the job market… As a young adult the future looked bleak. There seemed to be little hope that you would ever have a decent life. There were just no jobs at all for young people new to the workforce. There was just no hope of any kind. (I wonder if suicide rates went up significantly by the end of the decade.)

By the end of RR’s second term the world was a completely different place. Now I’ve argued recently that events shape the man more than the man shapes events and I’ll apply that here. I don’t believe that RR single-handedly turned the economy around and slayed the communist dragon. But he was the man in charge and somewhere in the back of your (my) mind he gets a lot of credit. Even if it’s subconscious, he seems to be the man most responsible for turning such a bleak outlook into a pretty good outcome. It may not be factually true, but I’ll bet it is emotionally true for a lot of people. That tends to cause you to overlook the bad parts of his administration.

Jes, you missed Seb's point.

Seb, as Phil stated, there is not a major denial that Clinton did that pandering, and a not insignificant amount of Dems have been very verbal in onjecting to those actions.

That is part of the difference. What publius s writing about is not the Reagan pandering, but the wholesale denial on the right of its significance.

But he was the man in charge and somewhere in the back of your (my) mind he gets a lot of credit.

BTW – this is also undoubtedly why many of us feel that Carter was one of the worst presidents evah. Carter gets the blame for the 70’s. Reagan gets the credit for the 80’s. It’s not fact-based. It comes from a place where facts just don’t matter. It’s emotional and in many cases emotional at a personal level.

But that is what you are up against in trying to tear down the lionization of RR – at least with my generation. Facts vs. emotion – that’s a tough task you’ve set yourself. Facts lose in that contest. I’m not saying that’s right, just that it is…

Facts vs. emotion – that’s a tough task you’ve set yourself.

True enough.

What Reagan was really, really good at was making people feel good. Whether there was any factual basis for that good feeling, or not.

And since folks had been feeling badly for a while -- Vietnam, Watergate, the effects of becoming a net importer of oil, the Iran hostage crisis -- he got to make them feel good *again*, like they thought they used to do, which is even better.

Hard to talk people out of loving someone who made them feel good, again, about being themselves, even if it was largely based on treacle.

None of this either diminishes the value of the good things, nor makes up for the very many harmful things, that happened under his watch. But OC's right, people just don't evaluate Reagan on those terms.

He was Uncle Ron, our pal in Washington.

Thanks -

And the statement OC used applies just as much today. Except the emotion now is fear instead of feeling good. And fear is an even more potent emotion.

And OC, since we disagreed on an earlier thread about Reagan, I want to say that I appreciate your comment. It isn't often someone admits that their attitude toward something is not necessarily based upon facts alone. And I include myself in that.

OCS's observation is, I think, extremely insightful and rings true to me.

What I take out of that is a thought for the future. I think it's probably safe to say that these last seven years have been some of the darkest, bleakest, and most depressing in my lifetime, at least as far as the state of the country is concerned. I imagine that's true for most Democrats, and probably for no small number of Republicans as well, if for different reasons.

I will be really interested to see whether or not the Reagan Effect is bestowed upon the next president to lift us out of this--forgive the term--malaise.

Russell, thanks for saying much more simply and clearly what I took many more long paragraphs to say.

And thanks for your contributions over the last week or so, which have all had that clear and calm quality.

OCSteve: Reagan gets the credit for the 80’s. It’s not fact-based. It comes from a place where facts just don’t matter. It’s emotional and in many cases emotional at a personal level.

Yes, I see that. Also, Reagan - whatever else one may say about him - had the actor's knack of being publicly personable. I doubt he would ever have made the mistake of mocking Karla Faye Tucker, for example. (I am told by people who have met them that both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair have the same kind of knack... so does Stephen Fry, fwtw.)

russell: And since folks had been feeling badly for a while -- Vietnam, Watergate, the effects of becoming a net importer of oil, the Iran hostage crisis -- he got to make them feel good *again*, like they thought they used to do, which is even better.

I’d say that’s true for my parents’ generation. After all they grew up in the 50’s and came out of the 60’s mostly feeling pretty, ah, good. But my generation, coming of age in the late 70’s – early 80’s, had never known anything else. That was the world we knew and we had no basis for comparison to really understand that things could be better. I remember thinking, why bother finishing high school – its not going to help. Why bother trying to swing college, it won’t help. Moving around the country looking for work and seeing the same gloom and despair everywhere. There just seemed to be no future.

And Reagan getting elected was no immediate panacea. I couldn’t put my finger on where things changed, or where I noticed they had changed, as it was incremental. It was more like suddenly waking up one day in 89 or 90 and realizing that life was pretty good after all. And it wasn’t until then that I likely associated that with Reagan (possibly due to the 88 campaign).
So call it transference, but there was thereafter an emotional component that likely caused me to downplay the less savory aspects of his administration (although I honestly didn’t see the racial aspect we’re discussing lately I was well aware that Iran-Contra and the policy of “Yes, he’s an SOB but he’s our SOB” were just wrong).

And it’s a very strong factor. Even though you can list everything bad he was responsible for and I can push aside the emotional factor long enough to see that you are correct, at the end of the day I’ll still feel that he was one of the best. I don’t think that is something that will change, but it is something I should be aware of in these types of discussions.

john miller: since we disagreed on an earlier thread

I’ll have to go back and look. Seems that I don’t disagree with you on much anymore. ;)

As for the rest: I’ll credit publius with a couple of good posts that managed to get me to think about it instead of just reacting.

Gary, quoting Morris:

'For Michael Reagan, it was the high-school graduation day his father greeted him with "Hi. My name is Ronald Reagan. What's yours?" '

Well, that explains Michael Reagan, doesn't it? Again, I believe (half jokingly, which is pretty serious for me) Michael's thinking was as follows: "My Dad, who was cold and distant, showed his love for me by cutting my marginal tax rate and thus incentivizing me to make something of myself: a loud-mouthed talk-radio hack."

Incidentally, Michael Reagan was one of the prime movers of the name-everything-after-Reagan movement, which was started and funded, I believe, by Grover Norquist. It included putting Ronnie's mug on the currency.

The entire movement, unlike the iconography of our founding heros, has the creepy, banal air of the shellacked Lenin in his tomb or Mao and Saddam statues astride major thoroughfares. It was part and parcel of the Republican base's effort to reeducate the electorate away from the evil institutions of liberalism.

I don't know why they didn't commission a huge statue of Reagan standing over the IRS building in Washington wielding a gleaming scythe. I do too know why: ideologues of all stripes have no real imagination and their statues are as lifelike as a character out of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged", a writer whose talents would have fit right in with the cardboard Soviet hagiography of the Stalinist era, if she had stayed home.

I could see naming a glacier after Reagan.

Sebastian:

Your point about Bill Clinton is right on. I would include his execution of the guy in Arkansas during the 1992 campaign.

However, my take on this is as follows: Ask yourself who Clinton was pandering to. Was it me? Could it have been Gary Farber? We know it couldn't be Edward. Hilzoy wasn't moved by this cynical ploy. I don't think you or OCSteve or Von or other fine conservatives were insufficiently principled enough to buy it.

He was pandering to the Republican base, the bastard. And the few socially conservative Democrats who were momentarily mesmerized by Newt's ascendancy and all it dragged into the picture.

It was triangulation, not compromise. Those who were the target of the triangulation hated him even more for his trouble.

The targets of the triangulation hate it when they get what they want from their enemies. They feel compromised even when their principles become the law of the land.

So let me take a moment to thank George Bush for the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

O.K., that moment's over.

"Clinton pandered to the anti-gay elements of his own party twice. But I don't believe that the man himself was homophobic. He personally signed the Defense of Marriage Act in September 1998 right before the election and certainly with a view to how anti-gay bigots would vote. That wasn't just 'coded' language. That was taking your anti-homosexual political posturing and putting it directly into law.

But he isn't personally anti-gay.

Any thoughts on the implications of that for the Democratic Party twenty years from now, publius? Or now?

I'm not publius, but I'm of the opinion that most likely in twenty years, we'll be able to agree just as we can today that Bill Clinton, and many in the Democratic Party, engaged in heterosexist bigotry, by supporting DOMA, and otherwise not pressing for full and equal civil rights for gay people.

Also in twenty years, I expect that, just as today Republicans cover over the fact that in the post-WWII civil rights era, it was the Democratic Party that, slowly at first, but then rapidly during the Sixties, led the charge on creating new civil rights protections, while the Republican Party became the party of resistance and opposition to civil rights, Republicans in twenty years will equally be claiming that the Democrats deserve no credit for advancing gay rights, because, after all, Bill Clinton signed, and many passed, DOMA, and didn't do enough for gay rights fast enough, no matter that a major theme for today's Republican Party is that homosexuality is condemned by the Bible.

There are, after all, always people interested in distorting the truth that way.

Is today's Democratic Party great on gay rights? Not particularly. Is it better than the Republican Party?

Is that really a question?

Phil:

[...] Gary: As a lesser point, I'd also suggest strongly that George Washington played one heck of a more important role in the life of this country than Ronald Reagan, or any 20th century president, or any other president not named Lincoln, and likely including him, but, really, who on earth would argue otherwise?

Any other 20th century president? You've perhaps heard of Franklin Delano Roosevelt?

There's a large framed portrait, with a fake autograph, of the man, a few feet away from me on my wall.

I can well argue the case for him being the third greatest/most important president, but if not for Washington, we wouldn't have the same country, if we had one at all, and the same is plainly so for Lincoln, as well.

It's arguably true of Roosevelt, as well, but the first two did it first, and more inarguably, so they get clear priority in my book.

"The 70’s were just a depressing decade. The end of the Vietnam War, the gas crisis, inflation and the economy, unemployment, stagflation (I repeat myself), the Iranian hostage crisis, Disco {shudder}…"

Yes, but the clothing and hair styles were so... memorable.

I dunno, I came of age in the Seventies, having been born in November, 1958, so I found them to be great times, myself.

"It was emotionally depressing. Growing up, watching your parents scrape by, living your teenage years and trying to enter the job market… As a young adult the future looked bleak. There seemed to be little hope that you would ever have a decent life."

Gee, you and I had different experiences. I was a young adult in the Seventies, and the future seemed full of limitless possibilities to me.

My home life was crap: my father was a crazy manic-depressive, and my parents had an ugly divorce when I was around 12-13, while my childhood was filled with crazy father incidents, and emotionally-stilted mother non-goodness. I ended up moving out of my mother's place when I was 15, and lived independently ever after.

But there were endless jobs for a teen, and everything seemed relatively great and bouncy and wonderful to me at the time, in retrospective memory, at least.

I was particularly over-joyed to have a decent, though one I was hardly uncritical of, president after the nightmare of Richard Nixon, whose administration seriously fought what it seriously feared was incipient domestic and international revolution, and whose criminality was eventually established beyond refutation (not that folks have stopped trying).

Ronald Reagan was, for me, a return to the nightmare of Al Haig and the rest of the Republican thugocracy. Earl Butz, whoopee.

So I don't think it was "the times" so much as one's perspective. How many African-Americans thought Reagan was good for America?

"There were just no jobs at all for young people new to the workforce."

In NYC, there were zillions of jobs for young people. Temp jobs, clerical jobs, service jobs, all sorts of jobs. I got started in publishing, and could have gone much further early on if I'd not chosen to move to Seattle at the beginning of 1978, not returning to NYC and publishing until the mid-Eighties.

"There was just no hope of any kind."

In your head, obvious.

I'm not clear what's so economically more hopeful today: are incomes rising more now than then?

Reagan was the biggest blot on the landscape of 1980, in my world, being little in touch with reality, and by 1981 employing an administration of thugs, industry toadies, Christian fundamentalists, crazed Team B paranoids, and death squad defenders.

Pretty much the same as the current administration, in other words, with literally many of the same individuals, doing then what they've been doing in recent years: creating and instituting horrible and destructive policies, in pretty much every field of government, be it foreign policy, warring on the poor, turning on the faucets of spending for corporate welfare, grinding up Central American lives, supporting governments with death squads, fighting attempts to defend the environment, or on and on and on.

Iran-Contra still leaves me speechless in the depths of its un-Constitutional assault on the essence of our government: that Congress makes law, and the White House can't just break it in the most fundamental way, by selling literally tons and tons of major weapons -- missile and fighter parts -- to the country, Iran, that the right has now been insisting for years that we've at war with all that time.

So where were the treason trials for Ronald Reagan and minions for selling arms to Iran? Where are the rightwing calls for exhuming Reagan, and trying him for treason, along with the other planners of that bit of genius -- which at least had the virtue of working, and making us allies with Iran, oh wait?

Where is the call for trying and hanging Michael Ledeen for treason, in selling arms to a country we were and are, he says, at war with at the time?

But, anyway, I repeat: aside from rhetoric, and I'll set aside arguing over how much credit or not Reagan deserves for positive Cold War policies (I think he was largely counter-productive, but, as I said, let's set that aside for now), and stipulating that bringing down the highest marginal tax rates wasn't an all bad thing, what are the great accomplishments or policies to applaud of the Reagan administration?

"But he was the man in charge and somewhere in the back of your (my) mind he gets a lot of credit."

In the back of your mind. In the back and front of my mind are the actual facts and results of his policies.

"Even if it’s subconscious, he seems to be the man most responsible for turning such a bleak outlook into a pretty good outcome."

"For me," you forgot to add.

"It may not be factually true, but I’ll bet it is emotionally true for a lot of people. That tends to cause you to overlook the bad parts of his administration."

It's fascinating that you insist on putting this in second person, insisting that your personal emotional fantasies, unconnected to the facts, are universal.

I believe you're absolutely right that many people function on fantasy, on "emotional truth" that contradicts mere factual truth, and I'd say that this explains Ronald Reagan pretty much entirely.

I hardly see this as something positive about Ronald Reagan, and the masses of citizens that can't tell truth from fantasy, though.

No matter that inability to tell truth from fantasy is the absolute basis of both the Reagan administration, and much of the current administration.

Reagan's minions, though, did a much better job of protecting Ronald Reagan from the cost of his fantasies, but often keeping them limited to rhetoric, and gestures. His staff was reasonably aware, for the most part, that the boss was in little contact with reality.

Really. Read any memoir of any major Reagan administration figure, and they make no bones about it.

G. W. Bush, on the other hand, was either genuinely considered a genius by some of his toadies, or otherwise had his top toadies bully the rest of the government into submission, in most cases, and thus letting his fantasy-based polices out to have greater reign in actual government, and thus making his government more visibily a horrific failure, especially when combined with Bush's unique form of articulateness.

"What Reagan was really, really good at was making people feel good. Whether there was any factual basis for that good feeling, or not."

The thing is, most of that was just simple Madison Avenue advertising technique. Cheery commercials with lots of sunlight. Slogans. "Morning in America." Chants: "we're number !" Lighting. Backdrops. Dramatic entrances.

That's basically proto-quasi-fascist stuff, or, if you prefer, just pure advertising technique.

How people could, having bought into that repulsive and completely artificial crap -- "we're number one at killing nuns and funding insurgencies and counter-insurgenies! We're number one at blowing the limbs off infants! Yeah, America!" -- and not look back on it with outrage and disgust at how they let themselves be fooled, I don't know.

"Yes, I see that. Also, Reagan - whatever else one may say about him - had the actor's knack of being publicly personable."

As I wrote: in speeches and public appearances, yes. On a one-to-one level, if you didn't know him, and it was for a couple of minutes, yes.

Otherwise, very much not.

"I am told by people who have met them that both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair have the same kind of knack..."

Obviously not at all. Obviously, people who meet Clinton and Blair feel strongly that they're interested in what you're saying, and the like. That was completely untrue of Reagan. He and Clinton/Blair are opposites in this. People who met Reagan for more than a few minutes felt that he had no interest in them whatever, and wouldn't remember them three minutes later.

Including his children. I can't think of how more opposite people like Blair/Clinton, and Reagan, were in this.

". I remember thinking, why bother finishing high school – its not going to help. Why bother trying to swing college, it won’t help. Moving around the country looking for work and seeing the same gloom and despair everywhere. There just seemed to be no future."

I don't want to hammer this, but this really seems to me to be a description of insideryour head, and having little to do with anything outside it (beyond your family, at least). It doesn't connect to reality as I know it at all. No offense intended. Our personal truths are true for our persons, after all, and I'm certainly not arguing that you didn't feel that way.

Gary, not wanting to speak for OCSteve, of course, but he did in one instance say "oyu (me)" and probably expected us all to understand that is what he was talking about.

Overall, I think his assessment is accurate and was not meant in any way to be a defense of Reagan.

Reagan was not called the "teflon Prresident" for nothing. If I had to make a guess, I would say that after the examples of UJohnson and Nixon, and the apparent weakness of Carter (I don't agree with the weakness part) the nation as a whole (although not everyone) wanted to believe the the basic goodness of the office of the Presidency, so yes, they bought into Madison Ave glitz.

And after all, anyone who co-starred with a chimp couldn't really be that bad. :)

As far as the 80's were concerned, I was relatively newly married, with 2 young boys, and quite honestly more concerned about making mortgage payments than aything else. And I had a real sense that the economy was not good and unlikely to get any better in the short run. Thus I was looking at Reagan's policies with that in mind and really didn't like what I saw.

After all, the vaunted trickle down economy never reached me. And yes, I was as disgusted as you apparently were with the whole Iran-Contra, death squads, etc aspect and the general lawlessness of so many members of his administration.

But again, for most people, that was laid at the feet of the subordinates, and I think the general population, or at least a goodly majority of them, believed Reagan had no real knowledge of what was happening.

GPS includes a (currently disabled) feature called Selective Availability (SA) that can introduce intentional, slowly changing random errors of up to a hundred meters (328 ft) into the publicly available navigation signals to confound, for example, guiding long range missiles to precise targets. When enabled, the accuracy is still available in the signal, but in an encrypted form that is only available to the United States military, its allies and a few others, mostly government users.

Prior to being turned off, SA typically added signal errors of up to about 10 meters (32 ft) horizontally and 30 meters (98 ft) vertically. The inaccuracy of the civilian signal was deliberately encoded so as not to change very quickly.

During the Gulf War, the shortage of military GPS units and the ready availability of civilian ones caused many troops to buy their own civilian GPS units: their wide use among personnel resulted in a decision to disable Selective Availability. This was ironic, as SA had been introduced specifically for these situations, allowing friendly troops to use the signal for accurate navigation, while at the same time denying it to the enemy—but the assumption underlying this policy was that all U.S. troops and enemy troops would have military-specification GPS receivers and that civilian receivers would not exist in war zones. But since many American soldiers were using civilian devices, SA was also denying the same accuracy to thousands of friendly troops; turning it off (by removing the added-in error) presented a clear benefit to friendly troops.

In the 1990s, the FAA started pressuring the military to turn off SA permanently. This would save the FAA millions of dollars every year in maintenance of their own radio navigation systems. The military resisted for most of the 1990s, and it ultimately took an executive order to have SA removed from the GPS signal. The amount of error added was "set to zero"[15] at midnight on May 1, 2000 following an announcement by U.S. President Bill Clinton, allowing users access to the error-free L1 signal. Per the directive, the induced error of SA was changed to add no error to the public signals (C/A code). Clinton's executive order required SA to be set to zero by 2006; it happened in 2000.

I wouldn't say that his means that Clinton was personally anti-Selective Availability. He may have pandered to the anti-Selective Availability crowd, and a lot of people might be inclined to think that that's just as bad. Maybe so. I'd have to think about it more.

(Sorry, it's Friday and I'm feeling saucy.)

It was more like suddenly waking up one day in 89 or 90 and realizing that life was pretty good after all

Not to minimize your understanding of your own experience, but I think a lot of what you're describing is plain old growing up. I don't think it's unique to any particular generation.

There are probably a very small handful of historical moments where it was easy pickings for folks just entering adulthood, but in general I think folks' experience is a lot like yours, regardless of when they were born.

If Reagan benefits from the reflected glory of your finding your way into adulthood, that's all good luck for him.

Thanks -

p.s. -- Nell, many thanks for your kind words.

Gary: Gee, you and I had different experiences. I was a young adult in the Seventies, and the future seemed full of limitless possibilities to me.

But there were endless jobs for a teen, and everything seemed relatively great and bouncy and wonderful to me at the time, in retrospective memory, at least.

In NYC, there were zillions of jobs for young people.

As you say, we obviously had very different experiences. Apparently NYC was in much better shape than the (mostly suburban) areas of the country I tried at the time. To clarify, I found jobs. Day work, temp work, pumping gas, midnight shift in a convenience store... Pack the belongings in the car and try another part of the country when they dried up. The hopelessness came from what seemed to be (to me only of course) the total lack of opportunity at any kind of a career or a stable life.


In your head, obvious.

It's fascinating that you insist on putting this in second person, insisting that your personal emotional fantasies, unconnected to the facts, are universal.

but this really seems to me to be a description of insideryour head, and having little to do with anything outside it

Obviously I wasn’t careful enough to qualify my statements. Attribute it to a lack of writing skill and dashing off a comment when I should have been doing something else. OTOH, I’d argue that qualifiers such as “for a lot of people” and specifying by (my) that in fact I meant my hardly equals “universal”. But to clarify, obviously I was talking about my personal experience of the time.

However, while I’m glad that you made out OK, (much of) the rest of the country would have been grateful to know that low economic growth, high oil prices, inflation topping out at 13.3% with an average of 6%, double-digit unemployment, and starting the 80’s with the highest prime rate in history (21.5%) and the highest misery index ever of 22% was all in my head. While I can’t speak for everyone in the country, I’ll go out on a limb and claim that a lot of people would have loved to have known that was all in my head. Hell, I feel better knowing that.

I’m just about 100% sure that you are well aware of the economy of the 70’s, and that times sucked for a lot of the country. So I really don’t know what your point is in trying to make it sound as if the experience I described was somehow unique to me (and my family) and that any hint that it may have been a more general problem was a figment of my imagination.

As for “personal emotional fantasies” – well I had a bit of an insight reading Carleton’s comment, it really resonated with me. I thought I would share it.

No offense intended.

Oh, I’m sure it wasn’t intended. I’ve seen when you intend offense and I do recognize the difference at this point.

Obviously I phrased my comment poorly, OCSteve, since I clearly did offend you. I apologize.

I wasn't trying to say that the fact that there were economic difficulties in America during the Seventies was in your head. I was trying to say that comments like this were more reflective of what was in your head than what was objectively observable:

[...] I remember thinking, why bother finishing high school – its not going to help. Why bother trying to swing college, it won’t help. Moving around the country looking for work and seeing the same gloom and despair everywhere. There just seemed to be no future.
And, as I said, I certainly wasn't trying to criticize you for feeling that.

I was simply trying to make a distinction between that kind of interior view, and external reality.

And I always find it fascinating when people take purely subjective, interior, views and feelings, and when discussing them, phrase them in the second person. But that's probably best left for another discussion.

Again, I apologize that I clearly put it in a way that was offensive to you.

Reagan was a clueless moron, perhaps dumber than our current president, but he could act.

He's revered by the repugnicons because he looks the part of a kindly, authoritarian, who can be trusted to tell everyone what to do.

Towards the end of his presidency he was already experiencing dementia and one shouldn't underestimate the role Nancy played in choosing some of his policies.

But, ultimately, Reagan was simply a mentally addled vehicle for others.

At least Washington, Lincoln, FDR were all responsible for their administration's policies. Reagan just wanted his tv dinner served at the same time each night.

I grew up in a stable, economically secure family, so while I was aware of some of the troubles of the late 70s I was insulated from them. I was also aware, however, as an aghast high school junior, that the country had just overwhelming elected someone who smilingly spouted comments about trees causing air pollution, and other similarly moronic things.

As a college student in the early 80s, I was aware that the country was having the worst recession, with the highest unemployment rate, since the Depression. I recall vividly the helpless fear of wondering what Reagan might do in response to the Soviets shooting down KAL 007.

I was sufficiently disturbed by Reagan's (not unexpected) re-election that I expressed my disgust by walking around campus the next day wearing a green fatigue shirt with a homemade swastika armband, yelling at anyone who asked, "This is what you voted for yesterday!" It was, admittedly, a misguided, offensive, and possibly dangerous gesture, given that the undergrad population was close to 50% Jewish.

All of that is a long way of saying that, for me, the Reagan Years meant something very different, dark, and fearful, than they did for OCSteve. But that's just my personal perspective.

Sorry I haven't been around in a while, I've been in Iraq for several months.

I've been back for a couple of weeks, and have been reading the posts here, having come over from "publius'" other weblog. I see he's still on the narrative of "Reagan was just so racist, and why won't anyone just take my word for it?"

I also see no one answered the question about Senator Robert Byrd, who just a few of years ago (long after Reagan left the public sphere) was calling people "white niggers." A couple of people said they wouldn't mind removing his name from a building or two, someone said it was so long ago that it doesn't matter, but not a single "that was the most abhorrent thing I've ever heard Sen. Byrd say." Double standard and "publius'" favorite psychiatric diagnosis: "cognitive dissonance."

I also find amusing all the people here talking about Iraq as if they, themselves, have walked down any street in Baghdad, when they haven't. I guess it's easy to say we've lost and should admit defeat and crawl away when you are sitting at a keyboard thousands of miles away.

Just wondering: If liberal policies are so popular and desirable, why do people on the left still refuse to identify themselves as liberals? Why hide behind the "progressive" moniker, one that is inherently elitist and exclusionary?

Gary: Again, I apologize that I clearly put it in a way that was offensive to you.

You didn’t actually. No apology necessary. After enough time I understand that it is your style, that you are just telling it as you see it, and you don’t understand why it may be offensive. You are a tremendous resource to whatever blogs you chose to frequent. I appreciate your feedback. I like you.

But it would go down a little smoother if you could put the “editor” on hold. I understand that is who you are. But speaking only for myself, I have certain breaks in the day when I can catch up on blogs and occasionally throw out a comment that I spend all of a 2 minutes composing. Little care about grammar or composition (This sentence is a fragment!). Boom. Something moves me to respond. 2 minutes later I hit post. Very little research and almost no care about any abuses to the English language (another fragment).

It’s a way to interject my thoughts quickly. Sometimes it’s tripe. Occasionally it may click. Mainly it is noise.

But when I come back and find that the main response is thousands of words picking apart everything I said and dissecting it and telling me why I was wrong to have the thought to begin with – I want to throw up my hands and say WHY BOTHER?!?

Challenge me on facts – please do. For the rest just realize: I am not a professional writer and I have never been trained as such. I skipped a lot of writing classes to {….} (OK, I inhaled). When I hit POST it is a blog comment. That is all the care I gave it.

No offense and I do like you and respect you highly… Just chill dude.

Why hide behind the "progressive" moniker, one that is inherently elitist and exclusionary?

JB, could you explain why progressive has those connotations? I understand if that it is your opinion, but I'd love to know why you feel that progressive has that, but "conservative" (which I assume would preserve status quo) not carry such meanings.

Byrd isn't lionized like Reagan, Washington's been dead a loooooong time.

And Douthat can more easily be comprehended in the reverse: "If conservative policy on any issue is related to Reagan, then it is so irredeemably sainted that it cannot even be argued against." That's why we liberals fight against Ronnie's lionization, and instead prefer to tar him with the brush with which he painted.

"But it would go down a little smoother if you could put the 'editor' on hold. I understand that is who you are. But speaking only for myself, I have certain breaks in the day when I can catch up on blogs and occasionally throw out a comment that I spend all of a 2 minutes composing. Little care about grammar or composition (This sentence is a fragment!). Boom. Something moves me to respond. 2 minutes later I hit post. Very little research and almost no care about any abuses to the English language (another fragment)."

OCSTeve, I'd perfectly understand this if it were in response to a comment I'd made where I'd made any criticism whatever of your grammar or punctuation or English, but I don't recall or see that I did, so as a result I'm puzzled. (Nor do I recall writing a comment on that topic here for at least a couple of months, though I could certainly be forgetting -- not to deny that I've many times addressed the topic previously, of course.)

"Challenge me on facts – please do. For the rest just realize: I am not a professional writer and I have never been trained as such."

Sure. But I don't understand what this is in response to. What you're responding to is a comment I made that was all about Ronald Reagan, and the substance of what you wrote.

I didn't write anything in that comment that was in any way criticizing, or critiquing, or offering advice about, your writing; please forgive my confusion when I ask what this is all in response to, exactly? Is it just left over from some past exchanges? Because I'm not understanding what it has to do with what I wrote about what you wrote about Reagan.

JB, that's about four different chips you seem to be wearing on your shoulder simultaneously. My own reaction to someone figuratively walking into a room and acting so belligerently is to back away, first slowly, and then quickly.

Especially given that your summary of the thread was not particularly accurate.

"But when I come back and find that the main response is thousands of words picking apart everything I said and dissecting it and telling me why I was wrong to have the thought to begin with – I want to throw up my hands and say WHY BOTHER?!?"

Let me also please say, for whatever it's worth, which may be little, I realize, that this is certainly not the effect I intend with you.

I like you, too, OCSteve, and I respect you. I think you're a thoughtful, warm-hearted, good guy. I think you care considerably about what's right, and about putting in some time and effort to find out what's right, and think about what's right. I have terrific respect for that, as well as other qualities I see in you, and doubtless many others I don't see, given how limited our views of each other in these forums are.

In that last set of comments you made about Reagan, I very much appreciate the effort you put into being honest. I wasn't in any way meaning to denigrate any of that, and I'm sorry I didn't praise it in the first place. I tend to be dreadfully forgetful and vastly overly-stingy about spreading about deserved praise. It's one of my many expressive, and perhaps character flaws.

I was trying to suggest that some of what you were saying seemed a lot more interior than exterior, but I wasn't at all trying to say that there weren't people struggling economically in the Seventies. I was trying to say that going from that to a view that everyone in America thought the future was nothing but hopeless -- which is what I also took you to be implying, as well as simply your own personal interior monologue, and perhaps that was an error on my part -- seemed a leap, nonetheless.

But I wasn't trying to rip apart what you said, or say you shouldn't have said it, or say it lacked value, or anything like that.

At this point, though, the topic seems to have turned to people's feelings about Ronald Reagan, and since some of those feelings are bound to conflict strongly, I, for one, should probably try to stay out of further exchanges on how any of us feels about Ronald Reagan, since whether one agrees, or by disagreeing insults the other party, little value seems to be added.

I'll try to keep my own emotional and political desire to be critical of Reagan to the more usual factual issues I tend to stick to.

[mutters] Although if you love Reagan, you're a big doody-head! [/mutter]

While running for the presidency Reagan stressed balancing the budget but after the election and toward the end of his first term he quadrupled the National Debt by a borrowing spree rather than be responsible and cut spending, raise taxes or a combination of both. The Reagan administration also funded Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge, that killed 1,700,000 of his fellow Cambodians. Reagan did not defeat the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union collapsed because of the corrupt political and economic weight. Substance is much more important than image and myths are an excessive weight that slows the journey into the future.

I think that Venezuela is on the verge of a great victory for socialists. The students will be beaten back, and Great Leader will emerge, a disciple of Chomsky, an opponent of the hated Bush. This will be a weekend of celebration for you all.

I sense this great resentment that the US opposed Communism in Nicaragua and Chile. So come clean, why not celebrate the coming Chavez Communist dictatorship in Venezuela. Free health care, free food, just like Cuba.

DaveC,
I think the resentment was not so much that the US opposed Communism in in Nicaragua and Chile (and Guatamala and Bolivia and Brazil and Uruguay and Haiti and Ecuador and El Salvador and Honduras...) but that US meddled in places where it shouldn't have. You don't have to like the way your neighbors run their lives to object to some arm of the government coming in and telling them how to do it. That we American hating libruls want to apply those principles those same principles that you would accept for your neighbors should have you happy.

"The Reagan administration also funded Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge, that killed 1,700,000 of his fellow Cambodians."

I expect a number of people will look at that, and wonder if it's true or not.

While there are exaggerated claims made in this regard, this is verifiable.

On the other hand, the above statement is phrased in a way that's liable to be somewhat misinterpreted and over-read.

Back on the original hand, what the Reagan administration did do was certainly morally questionable.

Amplifying Gary's remarks on Cambodia, the USA did not support Pol Pot while he was murdering his fellow Cambodians in unbelievable (but true) numbers.

We started doing so after he was driven from power - because we regarded the Vietnamese (who had done the driving) as proxies for the Soviets, and we wanted to punish them! - which was among the more stupid and ignoble acts of our modern foreign policy.

However: (1) it was not actually among our more destructive acts, on a global scale, in that we never precipitated a major war (thank heaven for small mercies); (2) it was begun by Carter, and continued by Reagan, so it was bipartisan stupidity and ignobility [that must surely be a word, mustn't it?].

IOW, as Gary suggested, there are plenty of sticks with which to beat Reagan without having to pick up the Cambodian one.

"You don't have to like the way your neighbors run their lives to object to some arm of the government coming in and telling them how to do it."

For the most part, we didn't care how they ran their lives. We objected to Communist takeovers because we were afraid they could lead to strategic problems like those that sparked the Cuban missile crisis. Bad enough to have one Cuba. Unless of course you thought that the Cuban Missile Crisis was 'no big deal'.

So, Sebastian, you are arguing that if we hadn't done all the things we did in South America, we would have had Soviet missiles pointing at us? Or that we would have had so many more strategic problems that one of them might have turned into a Cuban missile crisis, so it was necessary for us to do what we did? Kinda brings us back full circle to Reagan.

All this contrasting of the 1970s/1980s USA sounds very much like the 1970s/1980s Thatcher debate. Was the 1980s Great Britain a time of national greatness again and an escape from Britain in decline or did it create mass misery? To which the answer, of course, is yes. If you were in some groups (aspirational working classes, employed in the City) it was a time of 'loadsofmoney'; if you were in manufacturing industry it was largely a disaster. Given that it was a period in which social inequality increased, it's almost inevitable that there will be different memories of it depending on your socio-economic position and your fortune.

Is it just left over from some past exchanges? Because I'm not understanding what it has to do with what I wrote about what you wrote about Reagan.

That’s probably right. Some of that was accumulated frustration. But surely you can see how repeatedly saying ‘that’s all in your head’ might get someone’s dander up? The “writing” aspect in this case was that I didn’t make it clear enough that it was a personal experience vs. a general condition. I didn’t draw a bright line there because I felt it was a somewhat general condition. And there is nothing wrong with you relating that you had a very different experience, just try to do it in some way other than telling me that mine was all in my imagination. ;)

I do respect you and appreciate your feedback and feel that your contribution here is fantastic. But on occasion I want to pour a beer over your head. ;)

Although if you love Reagan, you're a big doody-head!

Alright! lol.

I see he's still on the narrative of "Reagan was just so racist, and why won't anyone just take my word for it?"

Which , of course, he did not say at all, so this is nothing short of an actual lie.

I also see no one answered the question about Senator Robert Byrd, who just a few of years ago (long after Reagan left the public sphere) was calling people "white niggers."

When did Robert Byrd serve as President, and which political parties are organized around his near-canonization? Show your work!

I also find amusing all the people here talking about Iraq as if they, themselves, have walked down any street in Baghdad, when they haven't. I guess it's easy to say we've lost and should admit defeat and crawl away when you are sitting at a keyboard thousands of miles away.

I'll bet you $5,000 you've never made this criticism to a war supporter or a right-wing blog.

I also see no one answered the question about Senator Robert Byrd, who just a few of years ago (long after Reagan left the public sphere) was calling people "white niggers."

Robert Byrd was, and perhaps continues to be, a racist. Full stop. Not sure what that has to do with Ronald Reagan.

I also find amusing all the people here talking about Iraq as if they, themselves, have walked down any street in Baghdad, when they haven't.

I think you'll find that most discussion of Iraq here is at the level of policy and history. Other than folks who post here who have actually done so, there aren't many claiming to know what walking down the streets of Baghdad is like.

why do people on the left still refuse to identify themselves as liberals?

That's a fair and interesting question.

Many folks are perfectly happy to unapologetically call themselves liberals.

Other folks might want to put some distance between themselves and American liberal policies of the 60's and 70's. Others might be trying to find a way to identify themselves that will make it more likely for other folks to actually listen to what they have to say, rather than just react with a sneer.

And, of course, some folks that espouse progressive or left-leaning values and policies aren't actually liberals.

There probably isn't a single answer that covers all cases.

Welcome back. I believe I speak for all here in saying that I appreciate your service, and I'm glad you're back.

I sense this great resentment that the US opposed Communism in Nicaragua and Chile.

I think what you sense is not resentment, but anger.

I think the object of the anger is not opposition to communism, but material support, provided secretly and illegally in many cases, for folks who throw other folks out of airplanes, rape and kill nuns, and rule by terror.

Hope that clarifies it for you.

Thanks -

Well, there's a lot to be said for the US not getting into foreign entanglements, especially when that allies us with bad guys. On the other hand, the world is full of bad guys. If we leave them alone, that doesn't necessarily make things better. Now, I wish NAFTA had fixed everything in Mexico and Central America, and had resulted in the ascendancy of the middle class there. That would have been sweet, if all the capitalists had to do was send in the Rotary Club for some final tweaking of the system. But that simply is not the case. I think that for good or for ill, the United States has to do some amount of meddling in other countries' affairs. Exactly how to do that, well that's a damned tricky question.

if we are not prepared to have other countries "meddle"* in our affairs, we should perhaps stay out if theirs, yes?

* is "meddle" supposed to be some sort of euphemism here? It isn't really that tricky if you take as your starting point, "Dont invade and kill them without a damn good reason."

I notice that the thoroughly loathesome DaveC is once again permitted to call everyone Communist dictator-lovers without so much as a warning.

I notice that the thoroughly loathesome DaveC is once again permitted to call everyone Communist dictator-lovers without so much as a warning.

Relax a little bit. The post is about "Are all Republicans bigots or simply ignorant racists?" That's the deal with blogs: Here, you can ask "Does Bush have no heart (Scarecrow), no mind (Tinman) or is a just tool of evil (Flying Monkey)", and that's OK.

Yes, I'm an anti-Communist. I don't think that is the least bit loathsome.

DaveC: Yes, I'm an anti-Communist. I don't think that is the least bit loathsome.
The CIA in Nicaragua:

Witness For Peace, an American Protestant watchdog body, collected a list of Contra atrocities in one year, which included murder, the rape of two girls in their homes, torture of men, maiming of children, cutting off arms, cutting out tongues, gouging out eyes, castration, bayoneting pregnant women in the stomach, amputating the genitals of people of both sexes, gouging out eyes, scraping the skin off the face, pouring acid on the face, breaking the toes and fingers of an 18 year old boy, and summary executions.
That's your "anti-Communism" in Nicaragua, DaveC: you may not find it loathsome, but most people think that - for example - bayoneting a pregnant woman in the stomach is actually worse than allowing her to choose to terminate an unwanted pregnancy - which latter, you've condemned routinely. But no objections to atrocities committed in the name of "anti-Communism"? That's just the US's right to meddle?

Yes, I'm an anti-Communist. I don't think that is the least bit loathsome.

Nor should it be.

But what some people might find loathsome is the extent you'll go to guard against Communism. Or radical Islamic extremists. Or anything that we should legitimately be on guard on.

In orders, methods vs. goals. And it does no one any credit to confuse the two, either accidentally or purposefully,

"And it does no one any credit to confuse the two, either accidentally or purposefully,"

It gives you troll credit; it's what trolls do. They just try to provoke a response, which feeds their emotional goal. The longer the response, the more successful the troll, and the more they're encouraged to keep trolling.

That's why the only way to deal with trolls is to ignore them. It's the one thing they can't stand; provoking a response, whether indignant and wrathful, or calm and thoughtful -- and both will get the same non-response in turn, since the troll has no interest in reasoned debate -- is their sole goal.

Respond and you feed the troll. The troll keeps trolling when you feed it.

I wouldn't say that his means that Clinton was personally anti-Selective Availability. He may have pandered to the anti-Selective Availability crowd, and a lot of people might be inclined to think that that's just as bad. Maybe so. I'd have to think about it more.

I think he was just caving into commercial interests, myself. After all, commercial GPS had developed the capacity to deliver very close to military accuracy without the GPS crypto keys (meaning they have access to L2, and so can correct for atmospheric effects), if SA was turned off, so companies like Trimble could make a bleeding fortune off of, basically, making Loran obsolete.

I'm kidding, in case it's not clear. I have no opinion at all as to what (if any) ulterior motives Clinton may have had.

Of course, SA could always be turned back on, in which case the commercial receivers would be relegated to teh suck, unless they've figured out a way around SA. It wouldn't surprise me; they figured a way around P-code encryption.

Sorry, that was in response to hairshirthedonist's saucy comment.

Of course one reason that the willingness of Reagan and other Republicans of his day to pander to racists matters is what it tells us about how long they've done the equivalent of what they do today. Appealing to the more negative aspects of our humanity such as racism, homophobia, self-righteousness in religion, these are all still SOP for people like Rove and other Republican politicians and strategists who seek to emulate him. So it doesn't simply reflect on the deification of Reagan but what the Republican party power structure continues to be.

Of course one reason that the willingness of Reagan and other Republicans of his day to pander to racists matters is what it tells us about how long they've done the equivalent of what they do today. Appealing to the more negative aspects of our humanity such as racism, homophobia, self-righteousness in religion, these are all still SOP for people like Rove and other Republican politicians and strategists who seek to emulate him. So it doesn't simply reflect on the deification of Reagan but what the Republican party power structure continues to be.

Yes, I'm an anti-Communist. I don't think that is the least bit loathsome.

That isn't what makes you loathesome.

There's also a nontrivial difference between people discussing George Bush's performance as President and you accusing everyone of planning their celebrations for a Communist dictatorship in Venezeula, but I don't expect you to see the intellectual, moral, or, well any other difference, because you're kind of a terrible human being.

If we leave them alone, that doesn't necessarily make things better.

Now there, my friends, is a truly compelling argument for an aggressively interventionist foreign policy.

Nice try, Dave.

And now I will take Gary's very good advice regarding troll food.

Thanks -

All this hand wringing about Ronnie Raygun and his racial animus/politicization is grimly hilarious to me. I was 20 when he was elected. About 8/9 months later, I was eating my breakfast when I read a tiny item on page A26 or something like that (it was a throwaway akin to "Cat retrieved from tree in Encino") of the Los Angeles Times about a mysterious cancer (Kaposi Sarcoma) that was striking what seemed to be only homosexuals.

Within two years, I personally knew of at least 50 people, in the prime of their lives, who died horrible deaths in a matter of a few months. To say gay men were "dropping like flies" wasn't even an exaggeration.

Ronald Reagan first addressed the issue publicly in *September, 1985*, over four years after Michael Gottlieb's announcement. Rough number of deaths from AIDS as of 9/85: ca. 12,000, number of infections, 70,000+. Number of deaths by the time he left office: ca. 25,000, infections too depressing to think about. Legionnaires Disease in Philly in 1976 got more attention and money thrown at it than HIV in the early stages.

When Reagan died, the remaining two friends I knew from the early 80's that were still alive and myself got really drunk, walked to Will Rogers Beach, set fire to a picture of him and pissed on it to extinguish the fire.

In all the posts/comments across the blogosphere about Reagan and racism and Iran/Contra and so on in the condemnations of the man and his administration, I don't think I've seen even one comment about his AIDS/HIV neglect, something LIGHT YEARS more morally evil and far-reaching that *anything* he did regarding race. An entire generation of gay and bisexual men were wiped out and they've already disappeared down the memory hole.

So, pardon me, but I think y'all need a massive priority rearrangement when it comes to the ghastly policies that vile man and his equally vile minions were part of.

Henry: In all the posts/comments across the blogosphere about Reagan and racism and Iran/Contra and so on in the condemnations of the man and his administration, I don't think I've seen even one comment about his AIDS/HIV neglect, something LIGHT YEARS more morally evil and far-reaching that *anything* he did regarding race. An entire generation of gay and bisexual men were wiped out and they've already disappeared down the memory hole.

I thought of mentioning it, but: The indifference to AIDS when it could be tagged as "a disease that homosexuals get" was far from being confined to Ronald Reagan or invented by him: in his indifference, he was merely a politician of his time. His racism, however, made him a politician reaching backwards.

By the time Reagan became President, open, hateful racism was no longer "respectable" in the public discourse - but open, hateful homophobia was then and is now still respectable. Reagan may have had to be racist in code that would be understood by racist voters: he and his successors could be homophobic out in the open, and get credit for being moral, family-orientated, and defenders of marriage.

Black people die as a consequence of institutional racism: to present institutional homophobia as somehow worse, seems to me to be the wrong both ethically and strategically.

Besides, this is a thread on Reagan's racism, not on the homophobia that let AIDS flourish because initially it seemed to be killing only people that "didn't matter" - Haitians, Homosexuals, Heroin addicts, Haemophiliacs, remember? The neglect of AIDS was racist as well as homophobic...

OCSteve: It was emotionally depressing. Growing up, watching your parents scrape by, living your teenage years and trying to enter the job market… As a young adult the future looked bleak. There seemed to be little hope that you would ever have a decent life. There were just no jobs at all for young people new to the workforce. There was just no hope of any kind. (I wonder if suicide rates went up significantly by the end of the decade.)

By the end of RR’s second term the world was a completely different place.

Speaking from the perspective of a child of the 80s, you're both right and wrong. The 80s were indeed a rejuvenating decade if you could convince yourself that materialism was what mattered. Greed, after all, was good. As long as you could blind yourself to the suffering of the poor with the glittering prospects of a Big City Job -- not to wax melodramatic or anything -- it was indeed morning in America. I think it's impossible to overstate the degree to which wealth became a motivating factor; not just material well-being, nor even prosperity, but wealth. Being rich, almost for the sake of being rich. If you didn't buy into this myth, though, it was a very different, and not a particularly happy, world indeed. In fact, I still have friends to do this day who regard my life of sempiternal semi-poverty -- yay grad school! -- as a form of apostasy against the American Dream. Or, as one put it: "When are you going to quit that and start getting rich?"

[Remember those ads from a few years back for the VW Beetle that said something to the effect that, if you sold your soul in the 80s, this was your chance to buy it back? Yeah. Now imagine you believe the first part of that sentence to be genuinely true...]

As for suicides, I'll bet you anything you like that the suicide rate went up during the Reagan years. Couple the creeping existential dread of those in my generation who saw the country hollowing itself into oblivion* with the eroded, or in some cases outright eliminated, safety nets for the sick and the poor... I'd wager it wouldn't even be close, in fact.

* I'm well aware that all youths believe their time to be the most dramatic, and their struggles the most profound, in all history. And fair enough. I defy anyone to tell me that US society and culture didn't take a massive turn in the 1980s, though -- or perhaps a better way to say this would be that marginal trends of earlier years erupted into full-blown phenomena whose counterweights simply disappeared -- and (IMO, obviously) to its catastrophic detriment.

--"Which , of course, he did not say at all, so this is nothing short of an actual lie."

"publius" has been saying for years that Reagan was a racist. This is just the latest in a long line of posts about his personal (wrongheaded) bias.

--"Especially given that your summary of the thread was not particularly accurate."

Seemed pretty accurate to me. Please let me know what, exactly, I was so wrong about.

--"I'll bet you $5,000 you've never made this criticism to a war supporter or a right-wing blog."

Because they are not lying and saying we've already lost in Iraq.

--"When did Robert Byrd serve as President, and which political parties are organized around his near-canonization?"

I hate to tell you, but the Republican party was not organized around Reagan's near-canonization, it was organized in the 1800's around abolishing slavery. And it doesn't matter whether Sen. Byrd was president or not; if Sen. McConnell went on TV and talked about "white niggers" would you say, "Well, he's not president, so it's okay for him to use that word."? You, along with the rest of the left, would be screaming from the top of your lungs about how Sen. McConnell should be thrown out of the Senate. I don't hear the same about Sen. Byrd.

Not that any Reagan hater will actually read this, but:

A Los Angeles Times story suggested "many gay men like playwright Jon Bastian still feel Reagan 'did nothing, basically' about the AIDS epidemic that exploded during his eight years as president." Reporters like CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta also lied: "The first time President Reagan would utter the word AIDS in public would be well into his second term, six years after the virus was discovered."

Some AIDS activists in the 1980s never had anything but vicious blame for Reagan. Some still do. The Advocate magazine is touting its forthcoming essay by extremist playwright Larry Kramer titled "Adolf Reagan." It begins: "Our murderer is dead. The man who murdered more gay people than anyone in the entire history of the world, is dead. More people than Hitler even."

The real Reagan record on AIDS is different. AIDS funding skyrocketed in the 1980s, almost doubling each year from 1983-when the media started blaring headlines-from $44 million to $103 million, $205 million, $508 million, $922 million, and then $1.6 billion in 1988. Reagan's secretary of Health and Human Services in 1983, Margaret Heckler, declared AIDS her department's "number one priority."

It's also wrong that Reagan didn't utter the word "AIDS" until 1987. Any reporter who bothered to check facts would find that Reagan discussed AIDS funding in a 1985 press conference, just for starters. But let's turn that around on the rest of Washington. Does that mean no reporter asked Reagan about AIDS in the 1984 presidential debates? And that every interview President Reagan granted to a national or local media outlet failed to solicit Reagan's opinions on AIDS until 1985? Using this phony-baloney spin line-that federal policy hinges exclusively on the presidential bully pulpit-is an exercise in liberal hyperbole over hard data.

The second new myth about the Reagan years was about racism in the Gipper's 1980 campaign. The Washington Post explained Reagan "offended blacks when he kicked off his 1980 general election campaign by promoting 'states' rights'-once southern code for segregation-in Philadelphia, Miss., scene of the murder of three civil rights workers 16 years before."

Suddenly, as Reagan was being mourned, liberals suddenly rediscovered a "states' rights" speech in Mississippi. Actually, most of the speech targeted the failures of Jimmy Carter, but Reagan said, "I believe in states' rights; I believe in people doing as much as they can at the private level."

The weird thing about this is that we've almost never seen this anecdote in all the liberal screeds of the 1980s and 1990s. You won't find it much in old TV news transcripts or news magazine stories. The main purveyor of this spin line over the last 20 years is...Jesse Jackson.

But every reporter who recycled Jesse's old tale left out several crucial facts.

First, Reagan wasn't speaking in code to the KKK. He was dead serious about granting federal powers back to the states, period. One of his primary initiatives was a "New Federalism" that would reverse the trend of centralizing all government power in Washington, returning it to states and localities with block grants.

Second, on the day after the supposedly racist-encouraging Mississippi speech, Reagan traveled to New York for a speech to the Urban League, where the Washington Post reported on Aug. 5, 1980, that Reagan declared, "I am committed to the protection of the civil rights of black Americans. That commitment is interwoven into every phase of the programs I will propose." Adviser Martin Anderson explained Reagan would uphold ongoing "affirmative action" programs. Do those sound like code words for Southern racists? That might explain why the story didn't become much of a left-wing legend back in the 1980s.

Spending on AIDS research:
Fiscal Year - $ Millions
1982 - 8
1983 - 44
1984 - 103
1985 - 205
1986 - 508

"The weird thing about this is that we've almost never seen this anecdote in all the liberal screeds of the 1980s and 1990s. You won't find it much in old TV news transcripts or news magazine stories. The main purveyor of this spin line over the last 20 years is...Jesse Jackson."

I'm not clear how old you are, but I quite clearly recall my outrage the day it happened in 1980. Us liberals were entirely outraged on that day and thereafter, and we didn't neglect speaking of it after that. Believe me or not.

Maintaining that it was some sort of "rediscovery" simply makes you less credible, since it's what we technically call "untrue."

--"Especially given that your summary of the thread was not particularly accurate."

Seemed pretty accurate to me. Please let me know what, exactly, I was so wrong about.

That would be easy, but can you explain to me why should I bother, since you're pretty much rhetorically trembling on the verge of a desire to punch me in the mouth?

I mean, guy, with your chips on your shoulder, why, exactly, would I want to engage further with you? I do that with people I like.

I know such suggestions are rarely well met, but, guy, with all that anger, try a therapist, rather than ranting on blogs. It may work better, although admittedly you may have to go through a few therapists to find one who works for you. But there's no reason not to try.

--"I mean, guy, with your chips on your shoulder, why, exactly, would I want to engage further with you?"

What 'chips?' I'm just calling out the left for their lies.

Also, I didn't write the column I quoted, but I do know that speech by Reagan wasn't first covered in any depth until the next week in Newsweek and Time, and only received coverage that day on the national news (and only on NBC, by the way) as "Governor Reagan kicked off his presidential campaign today in Mississippi and will be in New York tomorrow to speak to the Urban League, meanwhile, President Carter..." so I can't see how you could "the day it happened" be so outraged that you never forgot it and seemed to hold onto this unmitigated rage for decades. I know such suggestions are rarely well met, but, guy, with all that anger, try a therapist, rather than ranting on blogs.

jb: It's also wrong that Reagan didn't utter the word "AIDS" until 1987. Any reporter who bothered to check facts would find that Reagan discussed AIDS funding in a 1985 press conference, just for starters.

Transcript here.

Reagan did, in fact, use the word AIDS once at a press conference on September 17 1985 in his response to the first question on AIDS by a reporter. (Two other questions about AIDS were then asked: Reagan avoided using the word AIDS in his response to either of them.)

I have been supporting it for more than 4 years now. It's been one of the top priorities with us, and over the last 4 years, and including what we have in the budget for '86, it will amount to over a half a billion dollars that we have provided for research on AIDS in addition to what I'm sure other medical groups are doing. And we have $100 million in the budget this year; it'll be 126 million next year. So, this is a top priority with us. Yes, there's no question about the seriousness of this and the need to find an answer.
1985 was the year Rock Hudson, a friend of Reagan's, died of AIDS: Reagan said nothing. In 1986, at the Statue of Liberty centenary ceremony, Bob Hope made a 'joke': “I just heard that the Statue of Liberty has AIDS, but she doesn’t know if she got it from the mouth of the Hudson or the Staten Island Fairy.” A year after a friend of his had died of AIDS, Ronald Reagan found that joke very amusing.

I can tell you, jb: a year after a friend of mine died of AIDS, I could not have heard a joke like that without wanting to walk out - hell, without wanting to punch the 'comedian' who made it. I certainly wouldn't have been able to laugh.

"I'm just calling out the left for their lies."

But you can't find "the left" here. Only some individuals, with families, and lives, and a wide and disparate varieties of belief, who represent only a tiny fragment of whatever point on the political spectrum they exist at.

"The left" isn't something you can find and attack and beat up and defeat. It consists of innumerable disparate groups, with a huge number of different and conflicting beliefs. Some of them are outrageous and wrong. Some of them are courageous and right. Many of them lie in between. Just as many beliefs on the right do.

In each case, they consist of people trying to do right, however correct or misguided.

You can choose to engage these people, discover their individual beliefs, and explore how correct or incorrect they are, along with your own beliefs, while examining those beliefs in the context of a wider search for what's sensible or not, or you can choose to rant against some sort of cardboard caricature of what you regard as "the left," and search for someone to represent it, so you can beat up on them, and feel good for having done so.

Which would be a better choice, do you think. jb?

Let me add that, setting aside the times I'm not up to it, I'd be happy to chat with you, jb, about what are and aren't good ideas as regards policy, and as regards what the country we are both patriots of, the United States of America, should do, if I didn't feel like you were jittering for a chance to punch me out for disagreeing.

That latter tends to throw a person off, perhaps because we haven't been in combat.

And I do thank you for your service, no matter whatever political disagreements we might have. We're all Americans, you know. I hope you know.

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