Erik Bates | June 6, 2004
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Melissa Erin | June 6, 2004
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Jackie Mason | June 6, 2004
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Jackie Mason | June 6, 2004
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Anna Gregoline | June 6, 2004
Since the media is directly controlled by the government, I don't think it was necessarily out of respect. But yes, I like that.

Anna Gregoline | June 6, 2004
The only thing I really liked about Reagan and Nancy is that they were heebie-jeebie astrology consulters, so much so that they avoided meetings on certain days, etc. Now that's weird.

Scott Hardie | June 7, 2004
The media is directly controlled by the government?

Erik Bates | June 7, 2004
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Anna Gregoline | June 7, 2004
Directly controlled as such that things like this are always not touched and treated with respect - which is how it should be. Any reporter even slightly connected with the White House that tried to write in-depth about Reagan's illness for example would be condemmed for doing so. I happen to agree with that sort of thing in this instance. I'm not trying to be alarmist.

Melissa Erin | June 7, 2004
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Anna Gregoline | June 7, 2004
Unfortunately, that illusion ends all too soon. I think Reagan was a very nice *person.* President? Well, I don't know.

I feel bad for Nancy - we will probably soon hear of her death too. Those two were close. Also, I hope she continues to lobby for stem-cell research on his behalf.

Melissa Erin | June 7, 2004
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Kris Weberg | June 7, 2004
Interestingly, the Bushcampaign has replaced their hoempage with a Ronald Reagan tribute site. Front and center is a link to Bush's remarks on Reagan's passing, flanked by transcripts of Reagan's best-known speeches.

Anna Gregoline | June 7, 2004
Of course they have - it's the best political good-will showing opportunity since 9/11.

I didn't understand political parties as a child either. I didn't understand that people could be on different teams - I thought you were supposed to vote for the nicest guy or something.

To me, that's what stem cell research really is about - saving the lives of people who are already with us and fighting to survive. I know it can't be untangled from embryos/pro-life issues (unless they can learn to create stem cells from our own tissues, but that requires research), but it seems more worthwhile to me to save a person who already exists than a person who hasn't become a person yet. Bah, I don't make sense.

Reagan was pretty funny - I remember TIME magazine running a sampling of his letters - the man wrote a lot of personal correspondence, and was quite humorous.

I was reminded earlier today that Reagan was the one who tried to classify ketchup as a vegetable. Does anyone remember that?

Melissa Erin | June 7, 2004
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Jackie Mason | June 7, 2004
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Scott Hardie | June 8, 2004
To Anna: I know Jackie just bumped this "media" talk to another discussion, but I just wanted to say that I understand now. I thought you meant that the government (Bill Clinton's administration no less) was directly ordering the news media to leave Reagan alone. I agree with what you meant to say. =)

Scott Hardie | June 8, 2004
I'm not surprised by the Reagan tribute taking over the Bush site; I'd be disappointed if there was anything else. He was the most popular living Republican. I was just thinking earlier today that the RNC this year will probably feature wall-to-wall Reagan tributes.

If Bush is going to tie himself to Reagan like that, I may as well chip in: Both men strike me as uncommonly courageous, taking extremely risky chances with their country's future, squandering resources to defeat an enemy that might be willing to kill itself in order to destroy us. Reagan's dangerous gamble paid off in the end of the Cold War, and he is now revered for it. I hope that Bush's gamble will end terrorism as we know it and that we will be similarly grateful to him, but in the meantime he sure doesn't instill me with confidence. It's going to be interesting watching the chips of history fall where they will.

Anna Gregoline | June 8, 2004
Actually, the ketchup lunch thing wasn't really cool - it was a move to be able to say they provided a "vegetable" and therefore not shell out extra money to do so. Kris posted a lot of other great stuff on a thread at my website, www.voodootoaster.

Like I said, I think that for the most part, Reagan was an ok guy. However, he wasn't a very nice President to great swatches of the population.

Kris Weberg | June 8, 2004
Scott, I wasn't going to do this on this thread, but let's actually look at the facts of the Reagan presidency, huh?

Ronald Reagan had more members of his administration idnicted than any other President in history; his administration sold guns to Axis of Evil charter member Iran to finance illegal wars in Latin America, and the side he supported there managed to run drugs into the States and kill at least one American aid worker; he justified rollign back provisions in the Clean Air Law and Environmental Protection Act by falsely claiming in a speech that "trees cause air pollution;" he argued against welfare on the grounds that most homeless people "want to be homeless;" at a time of rising unemployment, he cut job training programs by 30%.

He claimed repeatedly in speeches that child poverty and hunger did not exist in America despite statistics from his own Department of Labor disproving his claims; presided over the highest rates of poverty and unemployment in 18 years, a dramatic increase from even the previous inflation-plagued decade; had more members of his administration were indicted than in any other in U.S. history; claimed to support tax cuts but ended up presiding over the highest tax increases in over a decade; claimed in a 1981 speech that World War II president Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal was passed in support of fascism; he routinely made up patently false anecdotes or took lines from war movies and claimed they were true stories of people he'd actually met; had more Americans taken hostage than under any previous President; had those hostages held longer as well; and was described by everyone from his own party's then-big wheel Bob Packwood to his own outgoing press secretary, Larry Speakes, to Congress' report on the Iran-Contra scandal as an incompetent, clueless President outside even the White House loop.

It was under Reagan that we supplied chemical weapons tehcnology to Iraq, because they were fighting Iran at the time. In 1988, of course, Saddam infamously used this tehcnology to gas thousands of Kurds. That infamous picture of a younger Don Rumsfeld shaking Saddam's hand and smiling? It's from 1983. Rummy was Undersecretary of Defense, sent over as a "special envoy" by Reagan.

The CIA funding, weapons supplies, and strategic training Osama bin Laden received, the ones that proved instrumental in creating Al Quaeda? It happened under the Reagan administration, when we were helping the fanatical mujahadeen in Afghanistan because they were fighting the Soviets. Not that Reagan had enough control over his own government to know most of that:

"Sen. Orrin Hatch, a senior Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee making those decisions, told my colleague Robert Windrem that he would make the same call again today even knowing what bin Laden would do subsequently. 'It was worth it,' he said. 'Those were very important, pivotal matters that played an important role in the downfall of the Soviet Union,' he said.

......

"Even Hatch can’t be blamed completely. The CIA, ever mindful of the need to justify its 'mission,' had conclusive evidence by the mid-1980s of the deepening crisis of infrastructure within the Soviet Union. The CIA, as its deputy director Robert Gates acknowledged under congressional questioning in 1992, had decided to keep that evidence from President Reagan and his top advisors and instead continued to grossly exaggerate Soviet military and technological capabilities in its annual 'Soviet Military Power' report right up to 1990."

These are not mere accusations, mere editorializing. These are policies and effects demonstrable by reference to recorded quotes, recorded legal language, recorded governmental statistics and reports in many cases collected by Reagan's own administration.

Ronald Reagan was an excellent orator. He was everybody's kind old grandpa on television, and I don't doubt that he really believed he was doing what was right. By pursuing and extending military spending policies that began under Eisenhower and had been continued by every previous president, he hastened the end of the Cold War and indirectly helped liberate Eastern Europe from Russian control. Granted, the Russians had always been much weaker than Reagan or anyone else suspected, but his arms race policies worked and worked brilliantly. For that, I do credit him.

But as a domestic policy president, on any matter not related to Russia, and indeed in terms of controlling and governing his own advisors and Cabinet, he was simply incompetent. He was neither informed nor capable in any of these regards, sometbing glaringly obvious by a quick glance to statements he made in his eight years office and by the sheer number of forced resignations, indictments, and convictions of his Cabinet and staff members. Under Reagan, the poor got poorer, the rich got richer, and the middle class shrank -- and this, again, despite Reagan raising taxes by $100 billion, the largest increase since World War II and that New Deal Reagan called, again I note, "fascism." In fact, Reagan raised taxes on four seperate occasions before 1984, including adding a five-cent-per-gallon gas tax. And then he increased them again in 1986. Reagan himself called these efforts, respectively, "tax reform" and a "user fee" on fuel.

There are things I liked about Ronald Reagan. But with the excepetion of the Cold War -- and I freely grant, a big excepetion, a huge, world-changing one -- he was not a great President in the mold of Lincoln, Jefferson, or either Roosevelt.

Jackie Mason | June 9, 2004
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Scott Hardie | June 9, 2004
First of all, I didn't say Reagan was a great president. I said he was revered and that he ended the Cold War, both of which are true. Why is your comment directed at me? (As it happens, I do think Reagan was a great president. To put it simply: I believe that his misdeeds, which I have not forgotten, are outweighed by his accomplishments.)

I don't mean this to come off as too strong or too personal, but this is the kind of thing that makes me want to leave the Democratic Party and register as an independent. Am I not liberal enough for you? Am I not allowed to offer praise for an accomplished leader in the wake of his passing if he happened to be a conservative? The traditional and socially acceptable thing to do when a beloved figure dies is to praise him or keep quiet. I was offering kind facts about Reagan and ignoring, for the moment, his faults. What is this need at the two far ends of the political spectrum to let no compliment for their enemies pass without a recitation of the corresponding inadequacies? What is this need among hard-core liberals to push away soft-core liberals for not seeing the world in the same pure black-and-white? I regret to bring it up here and risk running this discussion off-topic, but it bothers me to take flak from other liberals for praising conservatives at times when it is appropriate to do so.

Kris Weberg | June 9, 2004
There are conservatives I praise -- I'm an avid reader of George Will, I think Barry Goldwater was a great man (albeit one I disagree with), and I think that Nixon did some truly impressive things as President -- opening relations with China, for example. John McCain is my favorite politician right now -- I'd vote for him over Kerry in a heartbeat. But Reagan? I've never understood that one, not since I was old enough to do serious reading about him.

You mention Reagan's accomplishments outweighing his misdeeds. I ask : aside from using military spending to break down the Soviet Union, which was less a Reagan invention than a more aggressive continuation of long-standing, bipartisan executive policy, what are Reagan's great accomplishments? I am continually told he accomplished great things for this country, but aside from ending the Cold War -- and that in a way that many find morally questionable and that inarguably entailed no planning for a post-Cold War world -- what are his great accomplishments?

Or is the idea that Reagan's ending the Cold War is itself great enough to outweigh all misdeeds? Because that, I'm afraid, I'd have to disagree with. I think that the fall of Communism in Russia was a great thing, but one that was inevitable. (I'd note that most economic and political analysts agree; their economy just wasn't working, and hadn't been for about five decades.)

And the techniques we used -- supporting odious totalitarians because they were anti-Communist, effecively building the mujahadeen that later became Al Quaeda, imagining that a post-CW world would be free of all threats to America -- was at best foolishly naive and at worst willfully ignorant. I can't consider so qualified and so historically conditioned an event as the great accomplishment it's been made out to be.

To your second point about appropriate mourning: in summary, Ronald Reagan is too recent and too strongly partisan a figure for apolitical mourning to be realistic.

As you yourself put it, "I was just thinking earlier today that the RNC this year will probably feature wall-to-wall Reagan tributes." Reagan's death is being made, and will be refashioned even more as, a reason to reelect an entirely separate person to the office of the Presidency. Reagan's death, like Paul Wellstone's in Minnesota, is by the day becoming less about the deceased and more about those who stand to gain politically from
the death. And when that happens, those with opposing viewpoints, I think, has the right to fire back. If the better lights of Reagan's term may be invoked for the benefit of George W. Bush, why should the darker shades be invoked to his detriment?

You yourself have indicated that Reagan's death, and more importantly Bush's tribute, are not in themselves "simple compliments." They are already, and will inevitably be partisan political capital. This is in part because of the kind of President that Ronald Reagan was: he was himself unabashedly partisan, not even giving lip service to the "oither side" within his own country. Unlike the wartime presidents of the past -- FDR, Lincoln -- or the Founding Fathers, he will not historically be recalled as a man behind whom all Americans of all ideologies united. That is not the legacy he worked towards, nor is it the legacy he could have left had he wished it so. If Reagan is a great President, he is one whose greatness will be disputed precisely because he belonged so totally to a singel party, and a single portion of the political spectrum you describe.

Reagan's death, today, in this year, in this time, is not an ordinary death; not only because he was a man of fame, of achievement, of American statesmanship; but because his ideas remain controversial, and the present outcome of an important contest is entangled in those controversies. If Ronald Reagan were a part of some forgotten party of history, or his ideas so old and entrenched or forgotten that they were only matter for historians and not for voters, I would not feel as I do. But this is not the case; and so I have acted and spoken as I have.

As to liberal puritanisms, no one prevents you from offering praise of Reagan. I disagree with your assessment, and I'm stating my case forcefully, yes, but I'm not telling you you're bad person for having your opinions. More strongly, I feelt hat the cultural and polticial context of the present day makes what should be a simple, pleasant thing -- fond remembrance of a man who, whatever his views, devoted hismelf to his country and to serving it in the best ways he knew -- something fraught with difficulty, something nearly impossible to really do. I may disagree with your opinions; I may present what I feel is evidence that might qualify or change it; but I do not oppose your right to hold and express it.

But no, I cannot view Reagan's obituaries as the apolitical show they are; not when some of Reagan's positions (or their very direct descendants) are the matter of current political debate and a current election, and when a current candidate has said in the recent past that he pursues Reagan's policies (implying that his opponent does not). Make no mistake, Reagan cannot be easily separated from contemporary conservatism like that practiced by George W. Bush. To praise Reagan for the purposes of apolitical euology will, sadly, resound as political speech because the current election has already involved Reagan and the ideas he is strongly identified with.

Anthony Lewis | June 9, 2004
Thank you Kris for that post. It was the perfect antidote to all of this praise for Reagan. It's making me sick.

I'll tell you what...if anyone could listen to Ronnie speak, then listen to Walker Bush...and then vote for Bush in November? Goodness gracious.

Jackie Mason | June 25, 2004
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