15 June 2004


Now that an appropriate interval has passed, it's time for some antidotes to the treacle. For a quick hit, check out this terrific cartoon my mother passed on, or these fourteen things that David Corn at The Nation asks us to remember:

  • getting cozy with Argentine fascist generals
  • tax credits for segregated schools
  • disinformation campaigns
  • “homeless by choice”
  • Manuel Noriega
  • falling wages
  • the HUD scandal
  • air raids on Libya
  • “constructive engagement” with apartheid South Africa
  • United States Information Agency blacklists of liberal speakers
  • attacks on OSHA and workplace safety
  • the invasion of Grenada
  • assassination manuals
  • Nancy's astrologer

That's just a sampling, actually — Mr. Corn has fifty-two more if you're interested.

Readers with stronger stomachs and more patience may wish to wander over to Salon for a couple of good articles on Mr. Reagan's legacy. One from Rick Perlstein:

Reagan soon became one of the hottest tickets on the anti-Communist lecture circuit — where sunny optimism was not the order of the day. “We have 10 years,” he would say in just about every speech. “Not 10 years to make up our mind.” (He was referring to the choice as to whether to embrace the Republican right or the march of communism, among whose avatars he numbered, in a famous 1960 letter to Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy.) But “10 years to win or lose — by 1970 the world will be all slave or all free.”


It is a quirk of American culture that each generation of nonconservatives sees the right-wingers of its own generation as the scary ones, then chooses to remember the right-wingers of the last generation as sort of cuddly. In 1964, observers horrified by Barry Goldwater pined for the sensible Robert Taft, the conservative leader of the 1950s. When Reagan was president, liberals spoke fondly of sweet old Goldwater.

Nowadays, as we grapple with the malevolence of President Bush, it's Reagan we remember as the sensible one. At the risk of speaking ill of the dead, let memory at least acknowledge that there was much about Reagan that was not so sensible.

Another from mighty Joe Conason:

The millions of words of hagiographic copy uttered and written this week will make scant mention of the scandal epidemic that marred Reagan's presidency (aside from the Iran-contra affair, which few commentators understand well enough to explain accurately). Disabled by historical amnesia, most Americans won't recall — or be reminded of — the scores of administration officials indicted, convicted or expelled on ethics charges between 1981 and 1989.

However historians will assess Reagan's responsibility, the record is what it is. Gathering dust in the news archives are thousands of clippings about the gross influence peddling, bribery, fraud, illegal lobbying and sundry abuses that engulfed the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Justice Department, and the Pentagon, to name a few of the most notorious cases.

I could give you a hundred other links and quotes, but I'll resist the tempations. I managed to come up with two nice things to say about President Reagan. Sixty-six bad things from Mr. Corn.

Fair and balanced, that's me.


Mike Sugarbaker said...

I wonder if there's an annotated version of that list of 66 somewhere, with links to background materials? I'm particularly curious about "tax credits for segregated schools."

Jonathan Korman said...

I found an unhelpful website with links to Google searches on each of those subjects, but most of the search results turn up that list of 66 again!

I know that Reagan proposed several school voucher bills which would have permitted segregated schools to collect on state monies, but a good web reference is hard to find. If you can read just a bit between the lines, you can see Reagan's segregation-friendly logic on this pro-voucher page:

Ronald Reagan advocated during his 1980 presidential campaign four changes for education. These included:
• Reduction of federal controls over education. Elimination of requirements for bilingual education. Block grants with control to be vested in the state or local communities.
• Tuition tax credits or vouches to help parents gain some control over their children’s education
• Elimination of busing for racial desegregation purposes
• Abolition of the Department of Education

Indri said...

I just remember that in 1980, when he was first elected, I was ten years old and watching the returns with my parents. I was crying, and my parents were yelling at the television--nothing out of the ordinary for her, but definitely for him. I was convinced that as soon as he was in office, we were all going to die in a nuclear holocaust.

The only thing I find really sad in his passing is that it must have been hard for his family to watch him go so slowly. That's pretty awful. But as for what he did for the country? No. No more tears.