My sincere condolences to the Reagan family. Not just for the death, but for the what, 10 years of decline and agony of his not being able to recognize them? I wonder - did his daughter ever reconcile with her parents?
I see the obits on every station on TV and some of them are calling him one of the greatest presidents of all time - right up there with Washington and Lincoln. That's a huge stretch. But I'm trying to look at his tenure objectively, in a charitable fashion and I've been pouring over article after article summarizing his time in office in an attempt to try to see why he was so well-loved and popular. Here's what I've found.
He did help end the Cold War. I'll say Gorbachev had a hell of a lot more to do with that than Reagan did but to Reagan's credit, he wasn't so blinded by ideology that he couldn't ratchet down the "evil empire" rhetoric and give Gorby a chance to forge a genuine partnership to end the arms race. He didn't, for instance take advantage of the fall of the USSR to invade Cuba which a more gung-ho cowboy type of president might have. As offensive as his campaign rhetoric promising a conservative revolution was to the Left - in reality, he ended up not living up to that rhetoric. According to "Reagan's Liberal Legacy" (thanks to PinkDreamPoppies on Alas, A Blog) When push came to shove - he did prop up social security, expand the earned income tax credit, and appoint the first female supreme court justice. Despite all promises to the contrary, he ended up raising taxes after realizing his initial attempts to cut them were proving disastrous.
I've been doing quite a bit of soul searching and have realized that in the light of the current president, Reagan looks pretty damned good - and that's what's so scary. I came of age under Reagan. Loved to despise Reagan for his callous disregard for the plight of the working class/in poverty and those dying of AIDS; for his irrational confidence in the miraculous properties of the free market; for his high handed hamstringing of organized labor. As and rancher or farmer in the West will tell you - "trickle down" models only work so long as the folks upstream are prohibited by law from damming the water up completely or diverting it from its natural course. But mostly, I've hated Reagan for being the charismatic leader who started out a Democrat, then became the lightning rod that revitalized the Conservative movement. Without him, we wouldn't have had Bush Sr., wouldn't have had Newt & a Republican-controlled congress, which means we wouldn't have had Ken Starr, and wouldn't have the Shrub.
But you know what? I'd take him back in a heartbeat if it meant getting rid of Bush Jr. I'll take a President consulting astrologers over one who thinks he's the mouthpiece of God any day. I never questioned that Reagan understood that our constitutional right to freedom OF religion also means freedom FROM religion. I'll take a Republican President who turns mortal enemies into fast allies and not the other way around. One who admits their mistakes, learns from them, and is big enough to change their mind when the facts don't end up supporting their preconceptions.
But probably most importantly - I'd take one who, even though *I* didn't vote for him, was overwhelmingly voted for *twice* by a majority of Americans over one who, was NOT elected by the majority and with every subsequent word and deed screams "IMPOSTER!!!" to me. I didn't like Reagan, but I did respect the man. And I respected the fact that he WAS the President, was MY President by democratic process. I'll never have that confidence in the Shrub.