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The Reagan Legacy Machine rolls on...
February 6, 2002 11:23 AM   Subscribe

The Reagan Legacy Machine rolls on... For Ron's 91st, National Review talks to Peggy Noonan, who claims that Reagan lived an "emotionally and intellectually arduous life."
posted by Ty Webb (39 comments total)

 
Here is the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project homepage. Check out their complete list of everything that has ever had the name Ronald Regan on it, ever. My favorite, the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, Kwajalein Atoll (with its own webpage). Also, they have a list of more crap that MUST respect the Gipper, including the $10 bill. Sorry Mr. Hamilton.
posted by thewittyname at 11:35 AM on February 6, 2002


Bush made his home a federal historical site today. Ay.
posted by owillis at 11:41 AM on February 6, 2002


*sigh*. . .the BIG LIE lives on. . .at least Mt. Rushmore appears to be safe for now.
posted by Danf at 11:43 AM on February 6, 2002


Intellectually arduous? Right, that was Reagan. Constantly quoting Thucydides, always with his head in a book, insatiably curious about the details of policy, eagerly surrounding himself with advisers of every political and philosophical stripe, weaving the threads of their perspectives into a nuanced, comprehensive worldview.

Yep, that's the Reagan I remember. That, and the astrology.
posted by luser at 11:49 AM on February 6, 2002


Reagan- the first president to appoint a woman to the U.S. Supreme Court...what a moron.
posted by quercus at 11:53 AM on February 6, 2002


Richard Nixon established the Environment Protection Agency. What a tree-hugger.
posted by luser at 12:04 PM on February 6, 2002


The Reagan-as-moron myth didn't work for eight years. The Bush-as-moron myth has completely blown up in the left's face. Perhaps, just maybe, it's time to accept that these men were and are thinking individuals who have made and are making hugely important changes in the social and political Zeitgeist of this nation, and that it just might behoove you to search for a similar person on the left for 2004 or 2008? Someone who may not be an out-and-out sweetheart-of-academia capital-I Intellecutual, but who is intelligent, has some new ideas about revitalizing liberalism and actually stands behind those thoughts and fights for them?

And we've been over the let's-name-everything-Reagan thing before. It's because he is, for all practical purposes, already dead. When presidents that bring such huge sea changes to the nation die, they get stuff named after them. That's why Manhattan has the FDR Drive and JFK Airport. It is not some Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.
posted by aaron at 12:06 PM on February 6, 2002


Suggested reading.
posted by aaron at 12:06 PM on February 6, 2002


I'm not sure what anyone expected from an interview with Peggy Noonan, of all people. A lengthy denunciation of Reagan? Noonan isn't exactly known for her political ambivalence. Then, there's great, challenging questions like this:

Lopez: What is so special about the Reagans — that bond that comes through so vividly in your book?

Ouch! Watch it, Peggy, it's a trap!

I've never been a cheerleader for Reagan by any stretch, but this posting just doesn't seem to invite discussion; rather, it seems to be an invitation to jeer angrily at an ex-president because certain people don't like him very much.
posted by Skot at 12:19 PM on February 6, 2002


The Bush-as-moron myth has completely blown up in the left's face.

What are you talking about? Everybody knows he's a moron!
posted by Ben Grimm at 12:22 PM on February 6, 2002


this posting just doesn't seem to invite discussion; rather, it seems to be an invitation to jeer angrily at an ex-president because certain people don't like him very much.

Actually, I very much want to invite discussion. I featured the quote about Reagan's "arduous" intellectualism because it runs counter to common perceptions, and seems a bit outrageous (on Noonan's part, what a troll.)

The article is quite good, two intelligent conservatives making well stated points. As it happen, I think many of those points are baloney.
posted by Ty Webb at 12:26 PM on February 6, 2002


and now he is a vegetable. He wasn't a very good President either. We haven't had any "Great" Presidents in the last few decades.
posted by LinemanBear at 12:33 PM on February 6, 2002


I don't mean to gratuitiously jeer at RR; keep in mind the context of this thread. I just have a problem with the reimagining of the man being peddled by Peggy Noonan and others. He was NOT an intellectually arduous man. He was an incurious, emotionally detached man with rocksolid, uncomplicated positions on several broad themes, the communications skills and tenacity to bring others into the fold, and the luck and timing to come along at the moment of the left's intellectual twilight. I haven't read the "writings" book. I'm curious whether it supports Noonan's characterization.
posted by luser at 12:40 PM on February 6, 2002


How does one define a Great President?

I really don't think it's possible to deny that Reagan was and is a Great President to many Americans, probably a majority. He's also the devil incarnate to a lot of people.

I think claims that he "ended the Cold War" or "brought down the Berlin Wall" are way simplistic, but he played an important role, and was the right man at the right time in a lot of respects. There's also evidence that Reagan's open belligerence toward the USSR strengthened the paranoid Communist hard line and made it harder for reformers to gain a hold in the Kremlin, thereby extending the Cold War. And the Reagan administration's support for murderous, anti-democratic regimes can never be justified by any amount of sophistry.

Strange that Noonan would try to assert Reagan's intellectual arduousness, something not even his other defenders would bother. But then, Noonan, bright as she is, has made a career of tending to his legacy. I think she sees her star as hitched to Reagan's; as his reputation rises and falls, so does hers.
posted by Ty Webb at 12:54 PM on February 6, 2002


To be honest, the book I mentioned above ("Reagan, In His Own Hand: The Writings of Ronald Reagan That Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America") will probably not change many minds. Those that admire him will have their beliefs confirmed that he was no idiot, who spent immense amounts of time considering his positions on every issue under the sun, refining and strengthing them along the way, and who had the foresight to think years ahead of time about how to handle a huge number of the far-tougher issues he would be forced to deal with if he were ever elected president. Those that despise him will be both convinced that his common-man writing style is inherent proof that he was "no intellectual" (read: an idiot), and angered that for the most part his conservative beliefs became only stronger over time, instead of steadily "evolving" towards the left (or at least the center) as many "progressives" belive is necessary in any truly intelligent politician. Those in the middle may be persuaded by it, though.

Oh, and before anyone can make any "World's Shortest Book" jokes: It's 549 pages.
posted by aaron at 12:55 PM on February 6, 2002


What kind of sea change did Ronald Reagan bring to American life? He got rid of the honeybee and mohair subsidies, the latter of which is now with us again. All the major New Deal programs and existing agencies/initiatives stuck around in some form, except the S&Ls. (Oh, Glass-Steagall is gone now, but it'll come back soon enough, thanks to Enron.) Reagan changed American govt. at the margins, really.

Mind you, Kennedy didn't bring any sea change either. Both JFK and Reagan are way overrated in regard to what changes they wrought in society.

By comparison, LBJ is terribly underrated as regards his permanent impact, the aftereffects of Vietnam excluded. Medicare and Medicaid are still around, as are the NEA/NEH, etc., and both major presidential candidates in 2000 promised more funds for Head Start. Then, the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act had an incalculable effect on American life. What Kennedy program or act is comparable? The Appalachian Regional Commission, the Peace Corps and putting down the Ole Miss riot? OK, the moon landing, but LBJ did so much for the space program that they're about equal there, with Johnson a smidgen ahead. Of course, LBJ might not have pushed some of these programs as hard had Kennedy not died, but JFK didn't stand a chance in hell of getting them through on his own.
posted by raysmj at 2:51 PM on February 6, 2002


Reagan hagiography is as lucrative a pastime for Republicans as Clinton nostalgia is for Demcrats. What’s a much more painful pill to swallow is the one labeled “Truth”, but it will make you bigger.

There is required reading for conservative Reagan revisionists. It plots just a sampling of the lies he told (some of which were discovered the next day), the financial debacles that drew the ire of his own party (HUD, Iran-Contra, S&L) and by the time he left office more Americans liked Gorbachev than the Gipper. Upon hearing this, Clintonites are the first to remind everyone Bubba left office with the highest approval rating of any president since FDR.

Don’t forget, Bush is concealing the proof behind Reagan’s lies and malfeasence by hiding the Presidential papers.

Reagan and Clinton combined were easily the most malignant presidencies the US saw in the post war era. They were both the most base of liars, they thwarted the law and had no respect for the ideologies they so often gave lip service to.
posted by raaka at 3:00 PM on February 6, 2002


Oh, just so's you'll know, deregulation had been underway before Reagan (started under Carter), and welfare reform had been discussed for some time, including under both Nixon and Carter. No welfare reform passed during the Reagan administration. Also, containment of communism was an effort that began with the publishing of the famous "X" article by George Kennan in Foreign Affairs in 1947, and continued under subsequent administrations, becoming increasingly militaristic over time. Reagan's efforts in this department were a continuation of past ones, and the verdict is still out in their ultimate impact regardless. (Are we safer now than we were 20 years ago? No.)
posted by raysmj at 3:04 PM on February 6, 2002


arduous? challenged, surely....
posted by inpHilltr8r at 3:12 PM on February 6, 2002


Here's what I remember about the eight years of the "Reagan Revolution," or, Reagan years in a nutshell:

*American hostages released
*Gets shot by Jodie Foster fanatic; Jim Brady is paralyzed
*American soilders get killed in Lebenon; we invade Grenada
*Space shuttle Challanger blows up; Reagan gives a great speech (written by Peggy Noonan)
*Reagan calls the Soviets an 'Evil Empire'
*Iran-Contra

And that's it! Love to hear your favorite Reagan-era memories, and aaron, please name the events which tells us more about how Reagan made hugely important changes in the social and political Zeitgeist of this nation.
posted by Rastafari at 3:38 PM on February 6, 2002


If you get elected, they will name stuff after you, thats a given.

*But* naming an airport after the prez who fired thousands of air traffic controllers who were on strike (the same prez who was once prez of his own trade's union) is is way out there somewhere in the land between ironic and arrogant.
posted by BentPenguin at 5:19 PM on February 6, 2002


August 5, 1981: Reagan fires 11,359 striking air traffic controllers and bans the FAA from ever rehiring them.

February 4, 1998: Congress changes the name of Washington National Airport to Ronald Reagan National Airport.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:26 PM on February 6, 2002


Reagan was a b-list actor before he got into politics.

Reagan was a b-list President. I don't know much about his Governor era. I'm not in Cali.

The conservative's insatiable desire for someone to worship is a neverending source of comedy. I understand admiration just fine, but they insist upon worship. Sheep.

"The Bush-as-moron myth has completely blown up in the left's face."

Is that you Ari?

Too bad Bush won't let that cut under his nose heal. Everytime he opens it, the "myth" lives. How many colleges will be asking him to teach a course after he leaves office in January 2004 (if not sooner)?
posted by BarneyFifesBullet at 6:01 PM on February 6, 2002


I'd have to agree that Reagan found thinking to be intellectually arduous. For him, deep thought was a steep uphill grind!

And a "Bush-as-moron myth"? I've yet to see any evidence that he isn't a moron, so it's no myth in my eyes. What a relief he doesn't run my country! (Not that what we have is much better. Sob.)

It's been a loooooong time since North America had a real leader in any State, Provincial, or Federal government. A visionary, who stuck to his guns and did The Right Thing even in the face of public or corporate pressure. A charismatic, who could get everyone to believe. A nation-builder, instead of a nation-destroyer.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:36 PM on February 6, 2002


It's been a loooooong time since North America had a real leader in any State, Provincial, or Federal government. A visionary, who stuck to his guns and did The Right Thing even in the face of public or corporate pressure. A charismatic, who could get everyone to believe. A nation-builder, instead of a nation-destroyer.

What the hell does this even mean? What was this, the prologue to your upcoming novel on presidencies, or some crap pulled straight from the arse? (On a more polite note, please elaborate)
posted by BlueTrain at 6:53 PM on February 6, 2002


The conservative's insatiable desire for someone to worship is a neverending source of comedy. I understand admiration just fine, but they insist upon worship. Sheep.

Could be. I would just add:

"The liberals's insatiable desire for someone to worship (Bill Clinton) is a neverending source of comedy. I understand admiration just fine, but they insist upon worship. Sheep."
posted by munger at 6:57 PM on February 6, 2002


My favorite current memory is that in the credits for "Spies like Us" playing "The President" it says Ronald Reagan...
posted by drezdn at 7:15 PM on February 6, 2002


My favorite Reagan memory. (.wav, 36K)
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:21 PM on February 6, 2002


A visionary, who stuck to his guns and did The Right Thing even in the face of public or corporate pressure.

Isn't that a tyrant?
posted by thirteen at 8:25 PM on February 6, 2002


munger (attempting parody): "The liberals's insatiable desire for someone to worship (Bill Clinton) is a neverending source of comedy. etc. etc.

Geez, you must work up quite a sweat building up those straw men and then knocking them right back down again. Nice work if you can get it. Only problem:

Liberals don't worship Clinton

Certainly not in the "He's our Jee-sus in the ongoing Holy War against those dastardly and Satanic Communists/ Liberals/ DemocRATS" way that the right-wing and conservatives kneel at the feet of Reagan. The true liberals detest Clinton- if you'd care to show me where Noam Chomsky or Alexander Cockburn or other actual left-leaning liberals (no, centrist- to- conservative media pundits propped up as token liberals on Fox or CNN or MSNBC don't count) professed any great love for Clinton, please do. Otherwise, accept that there is no love lost between Clinton and liberals.

Now, as for the moderates and centrists, they often have an admiration for Clinton but certainly not a worshipful attitude, akin to Noonan's slobbery knob-gobbling on the "manliness" of Reagan and Bush, like a schoolgirl with a crush on the dreamy top-dog Republicans. Moderates respect Clinton because- unlike the Bushes for example- he worked himself up from a poor single-parent home into an Oxford scholarship and the Presidency. They respect him because he was and is exceptionally well-read and well-rounded (Gabriel Garcia Marquez lamented that Americans didn't seem to appreciate just how literate and intelligent their president was). They appreciate him because if nothing else they seem him as having held the line against an increasingly rabid right-wing for 8 long and trying years in which the eschatological fanaticism of the right-wing sought to assassinate Clinton like he was some kind of uppity Brer Rabbit figure.

But worship him? No, no Democrat or moderate I know could be said to "worship" Clinton, not remotely with the fervor that many even moderate Republicans have for Reagan.

Aside: I can't remember where I read it, but I recall that some relatively non-partisan study showed that over the past two decades, the Democratic party has pretty much stayed the same in its viewpoints and positions, while the Republican party has pushed ever further rightward. Does someone know what I'm referring to who can link it?

Anyway, the long and short is that the Left hates Clinton, the middle generally appreciates him as a not-too-shabby civil servant with personal issues of no ultimate consequence. The Right, however, most definitely worships Reagan- they need to, they need that hero figure. If your point was to show some moral relativism, claiming that the right wing does just what the left wing does in regards to their respective controversial political icons, you've failed miserably.
posted by hincandenza at 9:47 PM on February 6, 2002


A visionary, who stuck to his guns and did The Right Thing even in the face of public or corporate pressure. A charismatic, who could get everyone to believe. A nation-builder, instead of a nation-destroyer.

In other words, Ronald Reagan. Charismatic was his trademark; visionary in his vision of a world without a Soviet Union; a nation builder in that he made (most) Americans PROUD to be Americans, and ensured that our military matched our ideals -- and was ready when called for Desert Storm. Oh, he was a nation-destroyer of sorts -- "Tear Down This Wall" -- and Gorby & Co. complied shortly thereafter. Peace through strength, trust but verify, etc. An American hero & icon in many ways.
posted by davidmsc at 10:07 PM on February 6, 2002


Dude, did you READ this article linked above? READ it for cripe's sake, READ IT.

I mean, do you actually dispute the facts and history laid out within? Because if you don't dispute them... how on god's green earth can you say Reagan was anything but a terribly dangerous and quite possibly psychotic president? He lied in ways that would have put Gore at his worst to shame, retelling with great conviction completely fabricated stories, disregarding the facts when it wasn't convenient. He violated democratic principle after democratic principle, subverting the Constitution and the law to further his own ill-conceived and unfounded wars against nations that we had no public truck against. His non-stop sable-rattling might very well have sent us into WWIII had Gorbachev and other actually visionary leaders pursued unilateral disarmament.

Sure, Reagan was visionary, and obviously charismatic. So was Stalin.*

* Not, it should be noted, an actual invocation of Godwin's Law
posted by hincandenza at 10:44 PM on February 6, 2002


Dude, did you READ this article linked above? READ it for cripe's sake, READ IT.

Ah yes, the condescending arrogance of hincandenza, the ultimate leftist whose true motive is to belittle anyone to the near right of him to the point of...wait, what is the point hincandenza? Seems for all the lyrics you spout, there are no actual facts to Reagan's attempt at WWIII, though your gross exaggerations are appreciated. And please, if you want to attack me, stick to a link or some tangible fact I can try and refute. Your annoying belittlement tactics are not wanted.
posted by BlueTrain at 11:23 PM on February 6, 2002


It's 3 am, so I can't spend an hour refuting all these accusations about Reagan right now, but I do want to point out one thing before I hit the hay: Raaka noted that one of the points the author of that OC Weekly article was that when Reagan left office, Gorbachev had higher approval ratings than Reagan did. Actually, Raaka misread it: What the author Jim Washburn said is that this was the case in 1987. The author, however, does not mention that 1987 was the year when the Iran-Contra scandal was at its height, as well as when glasnost and a big arms-reduction treaty were giving Americans the first major tastes of a thaw in the Cold War. In other words, Washburn intentionally chose the exact point in history to take his polling sample where he could most make Ronald Reagan look the worst and make Mikhail Gorbachev look the best. There was no logical historical reason to choose that year in either man's career to look at their approval ratings, but every ideological reason to do so.

In the end, Ronald Reagan left office with a 68% approval rating, a higher end-of-term approval than for any other president since Roosevelt. (Come January of last year, Clinton achieved the same 68%, as you can see from the link. You may also remember that Clinton's numbers plummeted almost immediately afterwards as the pardon and other scandals blew up, which I point out here only to highlight the ephemerality of poll numbers in general. Also cf. George HW Bush's drop from 91% in Feb 1991 to 56% in Jan 1993.)

This article of Washburn's is chock-a-block with many such sins of omission, and as such makes it pretty much worthless as a truthful history of Reagan's life or presidency. I don't know if there's an antonym for the word "hagiography," but if there isn't, it is because of hit pieces like Jim Washburn's that such a word ought to be invented.

(And for the record, I'm taking Washburn's word for it that Reagan's and Gorbachev's US poll ratings were indeed as he claims they were in 1987. I couldn't find any stats on the matter in my half-awake Google search just now.)
posted by aaron at 12:34 AM on February 7, 2002


This center/lefter worships Clinton. But that's just me, and should come as no surprise to anyone here. But like I do with Clinton, the Republicans need to admit he was not totally flawless and not an earth bound deity.

And wait till he's officially six feet under before naming everything under the sun after him (this goes for politicos of all persuasions).
posted by owillis at 12:43 AM on February 7, 2002


Oh, I especially enjoyed the part where Washburn wrote that "We will not dwell here on the controversial allegations of the October Surprise," and then spent an entire paragraph dwelling on the October Surprise, using as his main source of evidence a book by Barbara Honneger. He of course does not mention that Honneger's tome owed much of its research to unsubstantiated allegations gathered Lyndon LaRouche publications. (She has also made other, um, shall we say "dubious" claims such as that the Reagan Administration decided where to put MX missiles based on the parapsychology concept of "remote viewing.")

Oliver: Ronald Reagan was not totally flawless and is not an earth-bound deity.
posted by aaron at 12:57 AM on February 7, 2002


BluesClues: Ah yes, the condescending arrogance of hincandenza, the ultimate leftist whose true motive is to belittle anyone to the near right of him to the point of...wait, what is the point hincandenza? Seems for all the lyrics you spout, there are no actual facts to Reagan's attempt at WWIII, though your gross exaggerations are appreciated. And please, if you want to attack me, stick to a link or some tangible fact I can try and refute. Your annoying belittlement tactics are not wanted.

Ultimate leftist!? No, guys like that dude on PI last week from the band The Coup (sp?) is closer to that, or maybe an Alex Cockburn or someone. Me, I'm a lefty-leaning pragmatic semi-centrist, whatever that means. Ultimate leftist? Sheesh- it might only seem that way from your particular ledge on the political spectrum. But please, do tell me what my true motive is, Dr. Freud, since you're so fond of discussing the facts and only the facts.

Hey, speaking of sins of ommision... my actual statement was clearly one of opinion regarding what could have been the consequences of his actions: His non-stop sable-rattling might very well have sent us into WWIII. That wasn't how you quoted me, though. No, you made it sound like I suggested Reagan specifically tried to start WWIII. Odd, for someone so obsessed with purely factual analysis to misrepresent what I'd said... I'm shocked, utterly shocked.

Getting back to more mundane matters, though. You never did say that you disputed the statements regarding Reagan's actions, though. Rather telling, don't you think? I ask how, if you don't dispute the OC Weekly's statements about Reagan's presidency, about Iran- Contra in particular, about Reagan's known and documented lying and fabricating of stories- you can still hold him up as this shining pillar of goodness and light, still proclaim that Reagan was the Way, the Truth, and the Light. Your response: you completely ignored my imploring to [re]read the article and dispute or debate the truth of those allegations. In the truest sense of ad hominem (meaning not just a personal attack, but one tangential or irrelevent to the core discussion), you instead decided to call me the "ultimate leftist", to proclaim me a rabble-rousing belittler. Great, fantastic, wonderful. Hey, if it makes you happy, let's say for the sake of argument that I'm more left than Lenin, that I wallpapered my apartment with pages from the Communist Manifesto, and that my only purpose in life is to mock conservatives while ignoring any facts.

Now that we got that out of the way, why don't you tell us all how nothing that OC Weekly- and countless other sources- have alleged and documented regarding Reagan's administration is supported by the facts or the historical record.

You saying Reagan didn't sign off on sending weapons to terrorists in the Middle East to raise cash to fund death-squad anti-democratic insurgency groups in Central America, groups that also set up a nice drug running business funneling highly addictive crack into LA and Miami to the great decimation of the urban centers of our nation? You telling me Reagan didn't continue to support wholly illegal and covert operations with the Contras despite Congress twice voting unanimously to prohibit such involvement? You telling me Reagan didn't repeatedly lie to the people's faces when he said these extremely well-documented allegations were lies, or later that he simply "couldn't recall" (despite being well known for having an unusually strong memory)? Because if you're not denying that all that is true- well, that would make for a fantastically corrupt administration. Not exactly a president you'd carve into Mount Rushmore, eh?

Even aaron said he was too tired to do this for you, but did manage to focus on an inconsequential statement, regarding the poll numbers. Yeah, that's really the core of that article, the poll numbers claim. Let's really focus in on the heart of the matter- the poll numbers claim, because that was so obviously the focus of the OC Weekly article that Reagan had low poll numbers. No, no, don't summon up that nighttime energy just to waste two paragraphs on refuting something completely peripheral like what went on in Iran-Contra and other cozying-up-to-despots activities. Focus on the important stuff, like poll numbers.

If the posting thing doesn't work out for you, you might consider a career in magic- you cons are very skilled at the ol' prestidigitation...
posted by hincandenza at 1:26 AM on February 7, 2002


Dude, did you READ this article linked above? READ it for cripe's sake, READ IT.

Washburn's unvarnished, seething contempt forced me to bail on his opinion piece only a sixth or so of my way through it.

Can anyone suggest a more dispassionate article that makes the case against Reagan-worship™ by allowing "the facts" to speak more or less for themselves?
posted by verdezza at 4:45 AM on February 7, 2002


BluesClues:; Even aaron said he was too tired to do this for you,;If the posting thing doesn't work out for you, you might consider a career in magic- you cons are very skilled at the ol' prestidigitation...

I made no attempt to derail the Anti-Reagan train you're on based on facts; I simply tire of arrogant jerks who can't post a single link to their entire discourse. For all the foaming at the mouth, you present no evidence; simply rhetoric. MY point is that you would do better convincing others of your argument if you presented facts.

My other comments, including the ultimate leftist jab, were examples of my own hypocritical nature. You want to play, let's play. Give me a link. Give me a solitary FACT and I will bother trying to academically argue you. Until then, I stand by my post; you belittle people and use strong rhetoric, thus losing any credibility you could have had.
posted by BlueTrain at 11:02 AM on February 7, 2002


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