Reagan's son...
January 31, 2003 1:53 PM   Subscribe

Reagan's Son... It took me all week to get around to reading this article from last Sunday's Times Magazine. I was astonished to discover no discussion of the story here. This strikes me as one of the most interesting recent pieces written about the president, and from the pen of a journalist who doesn't pull punches...NYT OpEd writer, Bill Keller. (NYT reg required)
posted by cyclopz (11 comments total)
Like a lot of Republicans who have watched both Reagan and Bush at close hand, Deaver sees uncanny similarities between them.

Hmm, I do recall a post of mine that was deleted.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:08 PM on January 31, 2003

From the article (which is, indeed, well worth the read if you are interested in this sort of thing): ''Bush's views are honed more by experience than by information,'' said a Republican strategist. ''For Bush, cutting taxes is not a philosophy. It's the result of spending much of his life immersed in a milieu with people who groused that taxes stifle investment and innovation.''

This example of Bush believing in cutting taxes sounds a lot more like he is basing his choices on information as opposed to experience. Bush's business experiences were largely disastrous. Charitably, I will assume that this means he has learned from his business disasters and has changed the way he approaches things as a result.

I suspect that most of the presidents (excluding Dubya - as it is too early to judge) in the last 30 years will be pretty much relegated to James Garfield status in the history books. Those that are not - like Nixon and Clinton - will be remember more for their scandals than their actions. Indeed, the most memorable president since FDR was Kennedy, who is remembered more for his death than his life.

My point is that Reagan's presidency, while a fond memory of conservative power for many, was really pretty forgettable despite his popularity. We won't be seeing his face on Mt. Rushmore. People will be hard pressed to list any of his accomplishments in 2050.

Of course, the point of emulating Reagan is for short term political gains, like winning elections and maintaining popular support. It isn't really to accomplish anything great or noble.
As if any president since FDR has accomplished anything great or noble - sigh.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:17 PM on January 31, 2003

Egads, that didn't seem quite so much like a rambling, pointless rant in preview. Read the article, chortle at my encroaching senility.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:19 PM on January 31, 2003

I've always thought the greater similarity was with Nixon, not Reagan. Bush (43) has a mean streak--a number of his policy decisions seem designed to punish enemies rather than accomplish goals that make any sense (at least to me)--e.g., his advocacy of offshore drilling in California but not Florida, his hard campaigning against those senators who backed the war resolution, by his gratuitous affronts to international opinion, and esp. his sustained interest in attacking Saddam. Some of this can be accounted for by ideology, by the desire to please his conservative base, by calculation that playing the Texas redneck is kinda fun, etc. But I don't remember Reagan taking so much evident pleasure in rubbing his opponents' noses in what he was doing to them.
posted by palancik at 2:38 PM on January 31, 2003

joey... don't know about the american history books.. but reagan will be always fondly remembered in eastern europe as the one who helped the commie world to crumble. not everything american presidents do is solely american history after all, fdr being the best example.
posted by bokononito at 7:08 PM on January 31, 2003

Well, I had to skip around a bit... 12 pages is more to read online than it is in print...but the comparison is pretty apt, overall. One of the disturbing aspects of this is that GW and Reagan (in his later years, esp.) inspired much speculation about who was really pulling the strings of national policy.

Some of us would rather have a dickhead who we knew was running the country than a subpar asshole whose primal power urges were being nudged along by others - smarter, richer others.
posted by kozad at 7:36 PM on January 31, 2003

ugh and yeccch. This was like a medical journal describing the similarities between salmonella and e.coli. Excuse me, I have to go retch some more.....
posted by sic at 3:02 AM on February 1, 2003

In other words, it made you sic.
posted by LeLiLo at 10:47 AM on February 1, 2003

What's most revealing about this article is its focus on re-evaluating Bush II (and linking him to Reagan) from the standpoint of political success and popularity. That is, it's wholly unconcerned with the question of whether his (or Reagan's) administration has done (or in Bush's case, is doing) good or bad things for the country.

Bush is judged "smart" insofar as he's maintained high approval ratings and dodged media bullets; an effective leader insofar as he controls and unifies the ideological messages emerging from his administration; and strong insofar as he gets his agenda passed.

There's nothing wrong with journalism that focuses on a President's political success or failure, per se but I fear that's become the only kind of journalism (other than a very partisan kind of punditry) which appears in today's newspapers and newsmagazines. The "horserace" approach to elections as applied to the "inter-election" management of popularity and the media itself. This is just more of that. Who's on top? Bush! Wow, he must be smart!

Keller clearly has some understanding of what Bush is trying to materially achieve (see his penultimate paragraph), but the chief message of the story is that we should admire and respect the man because he is popular, an effective communicator of his administration's political goals, and as "teflon" as Reagan.

I submit that to portray the Presidency in these terms makes it equivalent to simple celebrity, and to trumpet claims of Bush's intelligence and radical commitment on the strength of his successful media-messaging represents a lack of interest in political reporting which could be of use to voters.
posted by BT at 4:07 PM on February 1, 2003

Well written, BT. Well written.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:06 PM on February 1, 2003

"the exit polls found that 42 percent of voters felt Bush was incapable of handling a world crisis ..."

I still can't forget Bush's confused, frightened, deer-in-the-headlights look in the first day after September 11th, despite the ensuing masterful recovery & spin.

Forget the fact that he's a fuckwit with bad domestic agenda & worse foreign policy; this isn't a man I trust to hold together in a pinch, if the shit really starts hitting the fan in, say, Iraq, Israel, Pakistan, or North Korea. Or several at once.
posted by samozvanetz at 1:51 AM on February 3, 2003

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