|Hail to the Chief?|
|Persons of interest|
“”Someday, it might be worthwhile to find out how images are created, and even more worthwhile to learn how false images come into being.
|—The horse's mouth|
He got his start in politics by giving The Speech at Goldwater's Presidential nomination in 1964. The marriage of politics and Hollywood, inevitable in hindsight, kicked off with a bang, with Goldwater himself describing the Reagan Revolution as "ostentatious". Never mind Barry; his nose is out of joint because the man who gave The Speech kept on giving The Speech for himself, and so, sixteen years and four lackluster presidents later, was anointed Ronaldus Maximus I, defender of the realm.
If you want to know how the United States transformed into an international laughingstock in the course of 30 years, here's a pretty good place to start.
 Acting career
His most famous roles include violating the "never play across from an animal" dictum in Bedtime for Bonzo, acting in Army promotional films during World War II, his part as "The Gipper" in some dumb football movie, and playing President of the United States for eight years in the 1980s.
He also played the President of the Screen Actors Guild, during which time he orchestrated one of the guild's largest strikes (which resulted in actors receiving higher royalties and residuals) and did a stint appearing as the Governor of the state of California (but who hasn't?). Oddly enough, despite being SAG president, he was a zealous union buster, who de-fanged American organized labour, cast them as lazy pinko thugs and sent them into a downward spiral that continues to this day, tearing apart wages as it went. Apparently, the noble and hard-working actor needs a union, whereas the miner, factory worker and air traffic controller do not.
 War hero
 Dysfunction junction
A ballet dancer son did not go down well. A daughter who decided to run for the Senate (and support the Equal-Rights Amendment) did not go down well either. So, in 1982, Ron and his brother Neil helped to bury Maureen, which is too bad since she would have been a more honorable public servant than her father.
 Great Obfuscator
“”In all of the books that have come out about the administration, it's been extremely difficult to hide the fact that Reagan didn't have the foggiest idea what was going on. Whenever he wasn't properly programmed, the things that would come out of his mouth were like—they weren't lies, really, they were just kind of the babbling of a child. If a child babbles, it's not lies, it's just sort of on another plane. To be able to lie, you have to have a certain degree of competence, you have to know what truth is. And there didn't seem to be any indication that that was the case here.
In many ways, Reagan was sort of a peek into the Republicans' future: why not make elections completely symbolic activities? The population can keep voting, we'll still have the caucuses, big promises, eight candidates, a catchphrase for every occasion. But the people they're voting for will then be expected to just read off a teleprompter, and won't know anything apart what somebody tells them (and sometimes not even that.)
Reagan started to manifest Alzheimer's in his second term. It's definitely plausible that he was kept in the dark about the Contras, considering he couldn't remember the name of his chief-of-staff during the 1990 hearings. This was a concerted attempt by the administration to cast Reagan as an aloof, dim-witted president who didn't know what his aides, and often what he himself, was doing. While the tactic ultimately proved beneficial during the investigation into Iran-Contra, it only solidified the public perception that Reagan was neither fully "there" mentally or in control of his administration.
 Assassination attempt
“”Getting shot hurts.
In 1981, John Hinckley shot Reagan in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to impress Jodie Foster and Hinckley has spent his time since then in the booby hatch. Foster has not visited him, and has since come out as a lesbian. It's worth mentioning that this made Reagan the president who broke the Curse of Tippecanoe (which means Dubya probably owes him a life debt).
 A sterling record of fiscal conservatism
When it came to the federal budget, Reagan held the record for most spending by a conservative until Dubya came along. He ran up the debt to a height unseen since World War II, blowing an especially large load of dough on the SDI program. Reagan also founded the Church of Tax Cuts by accident. In the early '80s, he implemented his trickle-down scheme with a massive tax cut, much of which went to those struggling multi-millionaires. However, he raised taxes later in his administration a number of times. The current Republican Party has erased that last part from memory... as well as all those record deficits.
Here's the actual numbers showing us how you (yes, you!) could have made an extra quarter million in your lifetime. Nope, didn't need that!
 Junk Bond Bubble
Not to mention the unprecedented bailout of the Savings and Loan industry, which was only eclipsed by the bailout following the 2008 banking crisis. Following deregulation of the S&Ls earlier in the decade, new S&Ls popped up like crazy and created a mini-housing bubble. In 1987, Reagan replaced the retiring Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, one of the more sane and level-headed chairs in Fed history (whom the President relied on for stamping out inflation), with Alan Greenspan, now remembered as one of the biggest airheads in Fed history.
Greenspan promptly swooped in to save failing thrifts with easy money in conjunction with Reagan's big bailout after a wave of S&L failures. This managed to prop up enough zombie institutions to create a ticking time bomb that Reagan pawned off on George H. W. Bush. The S&L industry exploded again under Bush after an oil shock and market crash. Ultimately, the S&L scandals led to over 1,000 indictments by the time it all blew over. Economist JK Galbraith said of it:
“”In its shortest form, the scandal has been the extensive looting of the savings and loan associations, the looting being effectively that of government-supplied money. The total take is not yet known; it will certainly be upward of $200 billion, maybe much more, or several thousand dollars for every tax-paying American family. The golden misadventures of General and President Ulysses S. Grant and the greatly celebrated Teapot Dome speculations of Harry F. Sinclair and Albert B. Fall, duly adjusted for changing currency values, are microscopic in comparison.
 "The Reagan Boom"
A large part of Reagan's economic policy was a big military buildup. The Soviets' demise was in large part the result of their attempt to keep up. The stated philosophy of "less government and less spending" never actually came into play. Reaganomics, as a real practice was a myth (very Republican).
The Reagan Tax cuts had zero to do with the advances in technology that we saw under Clinton. This is, in Al Franken's words, the "crown jewel" of revisionist GOP bullshit: By crediting the tech boom to Reaganomics, they can claim credit for all of Clinton's successes while distancing themselves from Ron's failures. Why was the internet was invented (cue Al Gore joke)? Military spending. That takes taxes. How we communicate today? Fiber Optics. Completely subsidized by the government (as have been every upgrade in infrastructure since the start of the United States).
We're not sure what planet you are living on in which a guy gets a tax break, suddenly becomes a programming genius, and walks out into his garage and creates Half-Life. But we want some of those drugs.
 Foreign policy switcheroo
“”Freedom and democracy will leave Marxism and Leninism on the ash heap of history.
|—The little comment that led to the worst nuclear confrontation since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Whoops.|
In reality, after his near-disastrous "evil empire" rhetoric and attempts to heat up a new arms race, Reagan actually worked closely with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev... which many Republicans at the time blasted him for. We don't negotiate with
terr'ists commies. The Soviet Union was already collapsing under its own weight[wp] and the death of Leonid Brezhnev, coupled with the collapse in OPEC oil prices (that Reagan had little to no control over), opened up the way for liberalization when transitional leaders[wp] like Andropov and Chernenko died in quick succession. Gorbachev, who was something of a Hail Mary attempt to keep the USSR together, started a new era of reform through glasnost and perestroika. Reagan managed to find himself in the right place at the right time and take advantage of this situation. One speech about a wall and voila, instant hero of the galaxy.
To be fair, prominent Soviet dissidents such as Lech Walesa and Natan Sharansky do tend to see Reagan as a pivotal figure, not so much due to his policies but because they see him as providing the inspiration needed to get independent movements within the USSR off the ground . Gorbachev himself also credits Reagan as having been instrumental in ending the Cold War. Still, not much actually came of Reagan and Gorbachev's talks (though the INF Treaty was significant). The end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, etc. all happened after Reagan left office.
There was also the whole Lebanon debacle, which Republicans accused him of cutting-and-running from. In response to the Hezbollah bombing of US Marine barracks in Beirut, Reagan somehow decided to invade Grenada.
 Other tomfoolery
- Rigging HUD loans, for which 16 members of the White House and the Department of Housing and Urban Development were convicted.
- St. Ronnie's Chief of Staff and Press Secretary were fined and probated for illegal lobbying activities.
- "Sewergate," which funneled EPA money into Republican campaigns. Twenty EPA higher-ups were removed from office.
- Inslaw Affair in which the Department of Justice was accused of pirating software. Never investigated.
Reagan was a particular favorite trope of celebrated futurist author J.G. Ballard. A chapter in his 1969 modernist novel The Atrocity Exhibition was entitled Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan, and saw Ballard successfully prosecuted for obscenity in a UK court. The chapter was written as a kind bizarre public relations study from some crackpot think tank, and Ballard once had copies of it distributed to delegates at a Republican conference, who did not seem to realize it was a piece of satire. Considering what would come next, Ballard may have been a bit too early.
One of his more long-lasting actions was to appoint leaders of a conservative lobbying firm called ALEC into his White House Task Force on Federalism; the ALEC goons developed and implemented state policies that led to lower taxes and less regulation on businesses. Now in the bed of the Republican apparatus, ALEC won support from major corporate and individual donors, who pushed through their policies on the state level. Such policies advocated by ALEC include voter disenfranchisement, for-profit schools, private prisons, payday loan companies, Stand Your Ground bills, and restricting union influence. 
 Angel of Death
|—What you definitely want the "leader of the free world" to say during a global health crisis.|
Reagan arguably helped cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of American citizens — if not tens of millions of people worldwide — by vehemently ignoring the growth of a new epidemic that occurred during his time in office: AIDS. He allowed Nelson Mandela, for no reason other than irrational hatred of black people, to be targeted as a terrorist threat, and when Congress passed an anti-apartheid bill, he vetoed it, if for no other reason than to please racist donors. (They would override his veto with a supermajority, the only time in the 20th century a foreign policy veto was quashed.) And it would not be the only time he would pander to them.
He saw it perfectly acceptable to support a plethora of bloodthirsty dictators and terrorists, so long as they were fighting his childish vendetta against those evil commies. This involved supporting Hissene Habre in Chad (to "bloody Gaddaf nose" as Alexander Haig put it) playing pals with Suharto in Indonesia, Saddam Hussein in Iraq (against Iran... the irony, it burns), Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Jonas Savimbi in Angola, Efraín Ríos Montt in Guatemala, and the junta in El Salvador. And he also authorized billions in cash and weapons in Afghanistan which got picked up by a fellow known to be the son of a man named Laden.
His bloodlust led to the budget cutting of non-military programs, including Medicaid, food stamps, federal education programs, and the EPA. While he protected entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, his administration attempted to purge many people with disabilities from the Social Security disability rolls, which is effectively a cut as well.
Murder — it has many faces, and is most ugly when its face is power.
 Ascent to God's side
Shortly after his presidency Reagan began a long and (as it always is) ugly battle with Alzheimer's disease, and in the last years of his life made very few public appearances. Upon his death in June 2004, a weeklong period of worldwide mourning occurred. All non-essential activities were curtailed so The People could weep for their fallen idol. In addition, any taxes due on income earned (or unearned) during that period were waived. The processions as his open casket was brought around the countryside would often stretch for tens of miles as well-wishers offered St. Reagan one final "Godspeed."
He was canonized upon the instant of his death, by popular acclamation.
When Reagan was elected, there was an immediate wave of news articles and magazines asking the hot question, Just how did this amazing man get to be so wonderful? The answer was given as he hires the best people for the job, and gets out of the way! And that legacy is still with us: the idea that a manager doesn't have to really do anything except settle disputes, usually by throwing one or more subordinates to the wolves. It would help if managers from the CEO on down did their fucking jobs, which is to manage, and not just "get out of the way."
Since Reagan was the first neoconservative, anything he did was infallible, and his successors sought to mimic his every move. When you think Reagan, you think of small government, facing down foreign powers and giving the Democrats a drubbing. These are very much things the Republicans are still emphatic about accomplishing. When you think of Lincoln, you think of him freeing the slaves and reuniting a divided country using progressive social change. Not so much on the agenda right now. Reagan just makes a better philosophical touchstone for their immediate goals.
There's only one minor flaw with this strategy: Reagan won the presidency four decades ago. Although he would agree with some issues that modern conservatives have taken a stance on (e.g. abortion or gay rights), the fact remains that the world in 1980 was not the same as it is today (like the Soviet Union not existing). Nonetheless, this minor temporal detail has not stopped various Republicans from claiming the mantle of being the Second Coming of Reagan.
It's gotten so bad that Republican strategists believe it's singlehandedly suffocating the party.
 Reagan and astrology
Reagan's wife Nancy was obsessed with astrology (apparently the administration's "most closely guarded secret"), and this brand of woo played a large role in the Reagan White House, even affecting the scheduling of the Reykjavik summit between Reagan and Gorbachev. Strangely enough, this doesn't seem to have affected his support from the fundie base one jot or tittle.
 Reagan's policies today
Hilariously, if Ronald Reagan were to run today he would probably be considered a RINO given his willingness to raise the capital gains tax to 28%, refrain from waving an axe at Social Security, be prodded into funding Japanese reparations, pull out of Lebanon rather than 'stay the course,' and engage in diplomacy with the Soviets. He also supported, of all things, limited gun control, an end to the use of torture, and gave amnesty to millions of undocumented immigrants, in addition to signing a pro-choice bill as Governor and setting up a healthcare system in California. Last but not least, he was also a rather big fan of separation of church and state., much to the shock of many of today's religious ideologues.
 Quotes from (and about) the Great Communicator
- "Facts are stupid things." A mangling of John Adams' famous comment, "Facts are stubborn things."
- "All great change in America begins at the dinner table."
- "You can tell a lot about a fella's character by whether he picks out all of one color or just grabs a handful." — explaining why he liked to have a jar of jelly beans on hand for important meetings.
- "The Sound of Music was on last night." — on why he went unprepared for the 1983 Williamsburg Economic Summit.
- "Within the covers of the Bible are the answers for all the problems men face." — on his Bible knowledge.
- “It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.” — on why he didn't leave the profession.
- "America's future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts; it rests in the message of hope in songs so many young Americans admire: New Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen. And helping you make those dreams come true is what this job of mine is all about." — on getting suckered.
- "My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I just signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."
- "Don't be afraid to see what you see."
- "What would this country be without this great land of ours?"
- "You expect to see Jim Henson behind a curtain going, 'You moved him too far! Move his arms!'" — Robin Williams on Reagan's character tics.
- "He told me à propos Keynes that it must not be forgotten that he was a homosexual." — The British Ambassador to the US, explaining how Ronnie made his economic decisions.
- "What do I "think" of President Reagan? The best answer to give would be: I don't think of him. And the more I see, the less I think." — Ayn Rand
- "I only saw him once up close, which happened to be when he got a question he didn't like. Was it true that his staff in the 1980 debates had stolen President Carter's briefing book? (They had.) The famously genial grin turned into a rictus of senile fury: I was looking at a cruel and stupid lizard." — Christopher Hitchens
- "You don't bury someone for five days...I thought that maybe they were burying him with spoons." — Lewis Black on Reagan's funeral procession.
 See also
- JFK, another example of how "Camelot" mytholigizing and oratory can gloss over a flawed presidency.
- C. Everett Koop
- The "Iron Lady"
- Tricky Dick, who inadvertently ensured the bastard got to power with the Southern strategy.
- George H.W. Bush, his VP
- Grover Norquist, started the Reagan Legacy Project with a goal of memorializing Reagan in all 50 states.
- Jeane Kirkpatrick
- Milton Friedman
- Plausible deniability
- Trees cause pollution
- Carnivora -- a "nutriceutical" that the makers claim saved Reagan's life. Or something.
- October Surprise conspiracy theory[wp]
- Zombie Reagan Raised From Grave to Lead GOP - All hail!
- He also comes in supercomputer format.
- The quotes that make nuclear historians shudder.
- How the Bible of Reagan shapes Republican politics
- ↑ Reagan and Reality, The New York Times
- ↑ Bennetts, Leslie, "Reagan With a New First Lady, a New Style", NYT 1.21.81.
- ↑ What Reagan Did for Hollywood, The Atlantic
- ↑ US/Canada comparison of productivity and compensation
- ↑ Bush lied about his military service, and so did Reagan, Salon. (Bang! BLAM! Then we cut to commercial.)
- ↑ Lindsey, Robert, "Only in California", NYT 5.16.82.
- ↑ Morris, Edmund, "Reagan and Alzheimer's", Newsweek 1/23/11 at 12:00 AM). Morris": "I was real proud when Dad came to my high school commencement," reports his son, Michael Reagan. After posing for photos with Michael and his classmates, the future president came up to him, looked right in his eyes, and said, "Hi, my name's Ronald Reagan. What's yours?" Poor Michael replied, "Dad, it's me. Your son. Mike."
- ↑ Chomsky, Noam, Understanding Power p.54., Penguin Books (2002).
- ↑ Pitney Jr., John J., "Palin, The Second Coming Of Reagan", National Review Online (1/3/08, 11:50 AM). Michael Reagan: "Wednesday night I watched the Republican National Convention on television and there, before my very eyes, I saw my Dad reborn; only this time he's a she."
- ↑ Kelley, Marty, "Donald Trump Is Your New Ronald Reagan, But Dumber And Less Classy", Wonkette (9/10/15 11:00 am).
- ↑ Cannon, Lou, President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime, PublicAffairs (2002). While he was governor, Reagan's aides had noticed early on that, in the words of Cannon, "he often did not remember what he had done and sometimes not even what he had said." (p. 630).
- ↑ Corn, David, "Nixon on Tape: Reagan Was 'Shallow' and of 'Limited Mental Capacity'", Mother Jones 11.15.02. Kissinger: He's shallow. He's got no—he's an actor. When he gets a line he does it very well. He said, 'Hell, people are remembered not for what they do, but for what they say. Can't you find a few good lines?' [Chuckles.] That's really an actor's approach to foreign policy."
- ↑ Plinkington, Ed, "Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer's while president, says son", The Guardian, (1/17/11 14.37 EST).
- ↑ Johnston, David, "North Says Reagan Knew of Iran Deal", NYT 10.20.91.
- ↑ "Dear Diary: Getting shot hurts", Sydney Morning Herald (5/2/07 - 10:28AM).
- ↑ You thought we were kidding?!
- ↑ Graph source: Government Printing Office numbers
- ↑ Seeds of its own destruction, Financial Times
- ↑ The Ultimate Scandal, New York Review of Books
- ↑ Krugman, Paul, "Reagan Was a Keynesian", NYT 7.7.12.
- ↑ Mandel, Michael J., "Reagan's Economic Legacy", Bloomberg.
- ↑ "The more experience I had with Soviet leaders and other heads of state who knew them, the more I began to realize that many Soviet officials feared us not only as adversaries but as potential aggressors who might hurl nuclear weapons at them in a first strike...if that was the case, I was even more anxious to get a top Soviet leader in a room alone and try to convince him we had no designs on the Soviet Union and Russians had nothing to fear from us." Then what was the point of your whole damn Doctrine?
- ↑ Reagan sleepy...
- ↑ Newt Gingrich is a particularly good example. He called Reagan's summit with Gorbachev "the most dangerous summit for the West since Adolf Hitler met with Chamberlain in 1938 at Munich."
- ↑ Ronald Reagan's son says his father got the Saudis to pump more oil to undercut USSR, PolitiFact
- ↑ You would expect conservatives to mention this more often. But no, "the greatness of American military power" is apparently a better argument than "the command economy was woefully inefficient all along."
- ↑ Walesa, Lech, "Lech Walesa on Reagan, Valley Patriot"
- ↑ "The View From The Gulag", The Weekly Standard
- ↑ "Gorbachev calls Reagan 'great president'", NBC News
- ↑ See the Wikipedia article on Reagan administration scandals.
- ↑ http://www.politico.com/story/2015/03/white-house-elizabeth-warren-reach-out-to-state-governments-115782.html#ixzz3TY9Zelse
- ↑ The 45 Biggest Homophobes of Our 45 Years, The Advocate
- ↑ Reagan's AIDS Legacy: Silence equals death, San Francisco Chronicle
- ↑ US government considered Nelson Mandela a terrorist until 2008, NBC (The administration's typical "He was a Marxist!" excuse could be seen straight through for what it was, even for Brian Mulroney.)
- ↑ His lies on the nature of apartheid would also pave the way for modern-day political fact-checking.
- ↑ "(You) will be judged harshly by history." - Desmund Tutu
- ↑ See Coit v. Green and the Civil Rights Restoration Act veto.
- ↑ Our Man in Africa, Foreign Policy
- ↑ Reagan dramatically increased military aid to El Salvador as the country's regular security forces and officially sanctioned government death squads killed thousands annually. Reagan also circumvented a 1977 arms embargo to send material support to the government in Guatemala, which was committing atrocities similar to those in neighboring El Salvador. Famously immortalized in a U2 song.
- ↑ Lescaze, Lee, "The Reagan Organizational Style: Management, Over Easy", WaPo 1.20.81.
- ↑ Reilly Dowd, Ann, "What Managers Can Learn From Reagan", Fortune 9.15.86.
- ↑ "On Foreign Policy, Conservatives Should Leave Ronald Reagan Behind", Outside the Beltway (And this is relatively kind.)
- ↑ For another good example of crap like this (pay careful attention to Mitt Romney).
- ↑ "Ronald Reagan is dead and they need to accept it."
- ↑ Joan Quigley, Astrologer to a First Lady, Is Dead at 87, The New York Times
- ↑ Good Heavens!, CNN, May 16, 1988.
- ↑ Civil Liberties Act of 1988, Densho Encyclopedia
- ↑ His own words
- ↑ Message to the Senate Transmitting the Convention Against Torture and Inhuman Treatment or Punishment, UC Santa Barbara
- ↑ 
- ↑ The best-placed irony.
- ↑ His statement was later dubbed onto a rap record by Jerry Harrison and Bootsy Collins.
- ↑ Reagan and Keynes: The Love that Dare Not Speak its Name, The New Yorker
- ↑ Hitchens, "The Stupidity of Ronald Reagan", 7.7.04.