June 06, 2004

Press Play

I flipped through and watched a bit of all the rote, canned Reagan retrospectives that were flooding the TV yesterday. TV news was well-prepared for this; everybody had been sitting on the copy for the last ten years, waiting for the opportunity to break it out. Talking heads had been rehearsing their recitations of the copy in front of mirrors for years. And it showed. My own feelings and thoughts about Reagan, his presidency, and my own formative years which coincided with it, are complex and contradictory, not sufficiently explored or analyzed by any means. Maybe one day I'll delve into it and produce my own copy. I'm not much of "tribute man" myself. Yet for Reagan Remembered content, I much prefer Michele's genuine, personal, unpretentious, unrehearsed encomium to anything else I've seen so far.

UPDATE: Matt Welch has another good one, which more or less squares with my own experience.:

And so it was that when the old fella said "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" I laughed at his blustery naivete, as I did whenever he uttered the phrase "Evil Empire." Needless to say, I was wrong about that, and he was right, and I'm still ashamed about it.... For Californians between the ages 35 and 50, he just towered over our lives; Nixon was a piker in comparison, despite the spectacular flameout. Judging his life inevitably means re-examining our own. Since I don't have the time or inclination to do that just now, I'll leave it to the Culture Warriors.

Posted by Dr. Frank at June 6, 2004 05:14 PM | TrackBack

What can I say...He saved the world before I could talk.

Posted by: Amy 80 at June 6, 2004 11:32 PM

Great man. Great President. RIP

Posted by: Zaphod Beeblebrox at June 7, 2004 12:37 AM



Posted by: Anon at June 7, 2004 12:43 AM

Frank, thanks for the link and kind words.

Anon - don't you have anything better to do than post those two links on a thousand blogs?

Posted by: michele at June 7, 2004 01:34 AM

I'm not going to rehash all the old attacks on Reagan, but folks need to realize that there were excellent reasons why millions and millions of Americans absolutely despised this man and everything he stood for: greed, lack of compassion, hypocrisy, racism, class warfare, brute force. Anyone here who thinks the Iraq war was a great idea needs to remember that it was this man who supported Saddam in the 80s, who had the CIA give Saddam satellite targetting information for using chemical weapons on Iranian soldiers, and who sent Donald Rumsfeld to Baghdad to shake Saddam's hand. I'm 35, and I don't feel in any way that Reagan "saved the world" -- he imperiled it wrecklessly and needlessly, and then when we got through the 80s by the skin of our teeth got credit for not overseeing WWIII. Great job, Ronnie. Reagan was political junk food: it feels real good at the time, but after a while you begin to feel gross and, in the long run, it's terrible for your heatlh.

One thing I will give him credit for: his near agreement with Gorbachev in Rejkjavik to abolish all nuclear weapons. It was almost the greatest diplomatic accomplishment of the 20th century, but Ronnie was so wedded to Star Wars that he wouldn't agree to abandon the program in exchange for eliminating all US and Soviet nukes. Gorbachev asked for the sleeves off Ronnie's vest, and he just couldn't bring himself to give them up.

Posted by: Nick at June 7, 2004 05:02 PM

Yep, tear down a guy who just passed away and many people respected and admired. I hope during your eulogy that somebody mentions what they personally thought was wrong with you. A Real class act you are, Nick.

Posted by: Zaphod Beeblebrox at June 7, 2004 05:50 PM

A funny thing about the pre-planned memorandums… All these major news sites like CNN have all these graphics and stories armed and ready to go in their web cashes, and some time last year the password went down and Dick Cheney's, the pope's, and a ton other aging celebrity obituaries accidentally were exposed. I think i read about it on snopes.com. (Is that the second time i talked about Snopes on this blog? I'm not a spammer i swear!)

Posted by: Michael Lee at June 7, 2004 06:38 PM


I am not beating on Reagan as a person. Of course I feel for his children, his widow, and certainly him for what seems to have been about 10 years or so of suffering that no one deserves to endure. On the other hand, I'm not attending his funeral or delivering a eulogy -- we're having a political discussion on a blog. You yourself called him a "great man. A great President." Amy asserted that he "saved the world." Frank's original post was about his political legacy. I did not introduce the question of Reagan's political legacy to this thread, and I wouldn't have posted my thoughts on it except in this context.

I apologize if you or anyone else found my post to be too harsh, or inappropriate. I can tell you that my way of describing Reagan's leadership is mild compared to how he was attacked in the 1980s (and previously in the 60s)and how others are discussing it right now on other blogs. There was a lot of dishing it out and taking it on both sides during all of Reagan's political career. People on this blog understand how controversial Clinton was, how much some loved him and others hated him. Reagan was similarly controversial, not for the personal stupidities that Clinton got himself into, but for his policies, because of a disagreement about what he meant to American politics and society. To some, he was the savior who reversed a horrifying national spiral into oblivion -- to others, he was exactly the opposite.

I'd be more than willing to defer a more detailed discussion of Reagan's legacy for a week or so, though from what I can see it's tempting for people of every political stripe to get their 2 cents in immediately. If everyone's sensitivities are raised and it'll just turn into a flame war, then what's the point? I have no desire to make sport out of attacking him, and in the end I do think a rational discussion is possible, as well as necessary.

Posted by: Nick at June 7, 2004 06:45 PM

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch headline today was "A nation begins to mourn." (Whatever happened to headlines being in title caps?)

It all seems a bit odd, to me. The light bulb burned out 5-10 years ago; it was just removed on Saturday. For me, the greatest emotional impact (which, to be honest, wasn't that great) was when Nancy first came out to announce that Reagan could no longer recognize her or any other friends or family. At that point it dawned on me that he was gone.

I suppose the media needs a specific event to seize upon in order to publish their pre-written bios and such, but the sudden gush feels more than a little insincere. I would suspect that the primary emotion Nancy is feeling is relief and thankfulness that the long, hopeless struggle is finally over.

Posted by: dave bug at June 7, 2004 08:08 PM

What an asshole. This guy must lead a pathetic, lonely, loathesome life. Maybe a dog will piss on his grave when he dies.


Posted by: Zaphod Beeblebrox at June 8, 2004 01:39 AM

FYI. I REALLY dislike Al Gore. If he had won the Presidency then I would never say such things about him when he died. Clinton was a good President. He was crooked and embarrasing, but he was a good President. I'm not old enough to know, but did people say such terrible things about Nixon when he died? People thought he was a real heel.... I dunno, saying something like this about Jefferey Dahmer or Ted Bundy would be fine, but saying such things about a President or even just an average Joe Schmoe seems highly inappropriate and very saddening.

Posted by: Zaphod Beeblebrox at June 8, 2004 01:44 AM

My girlfriend's primary feeling about Reagan stems from his State of the Union speech interrupting the finale of the two-part Family Ties visit the United Kingdom special.

She had to wait 2 more weeks to find out if Alex figured out his phone had been bugged by international spies!

Posted by: Dave Bug at June 8, 2004 05:53 AM


It's highly unlikely that Joe Schmoe's photo will be plastered across the front page of every major newspaper in the world...ever. It's also unlikely that people will try to reinvent Joe Schmoe's legacy.

I don't applaud President Reagan's death. Far from it. It's a sad event indeed. Death always is for me…even if it’s Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. However, I don't have fond memories of the 40th president of the United States. His death and all of the sugarcoated pre-fab teletributes won't change my view. Sorry. But please don’t interpret my feelings as disrespectful (at least not in this instance) simply because they don’t match yours.

By the way, I'm old enough to remember Nixon as a president and former president. He was sufficiently reviled throughout his life. However, love filled the streets of Yorba Linda as his body lay in state.

Some friends and I ventured to the Nixon Library the night before his funeral, only to discover that the line to file past his coffin was more than 12-hours long. Worse than Space Mountain on a July afternoon.

None of us were fans of Nixon, but we were fans of history and recognized it in our own backyard (I was living in Whittier, CA at the time - a stone's through from Pat and Dick's first home). As I recall, we marveled at all the suit clad, young, Orange County republicans, but felt extremely out of place and fled the scene. Undoubtedly, we copped a twelve pack and reminisced about Tricky Dick, Spiro, Checkers, Julie, détente, Kissinger, Daniel Ellsberg, Watergate, Family Feud with Richard Dawson, the ’75 World Series, Lux Interior, our third grade teachers, Junior Samples, smiley faces and flowers. It’s all a blur now.

Buck up, Zap.

Posted by: j. francis at June 8, 2004 06:22 AM

I'm not inclined to attack him just because he's dead now, but I don't think that when someone passes away that history deserves to be whitewashed because of it. Ronald Reagan destroyed a lot of lives, President or not. Keep it in perspective. He was a politician playing power games, just like Bush or Clinton or anyone else that’s been able to manipulate their way to the top. Do we all become infallible in death? Would you guys be less angry at these remarks if I died tomorrow?

Posted by: Chris Fabulous at June 8, 2004 11:34 AM


nonetheless i have to say i don't care in
general myself.

even if i were to cede he were worthy of honor,
not enough truly worthy people are honored for
me to put in more than two cents.

Posted by: JUST ME at June 8, 2004 09:52 PM

"...destroyed a lot of lives..."

"...saved the world..."

Deceitful. Honest. Dimwitted. Wise. Caring. Hateful.

What's the diff, right? One person's inspiring, well-spoken, communism-crippling liberty-cherisher is another's snoring, conniving, scheming, greedy fascist. Black is white, up is down, night is day, etc.

Friggin' amazing.

Posted by: geoff at June 8, 2004 10:50 PM

i'm just saying... what about ray charles?

Posted by: just me at June 10, 2004 11:53 PM

It's true. Ray Charles should definitely replace Hamilton on the $10.

Posted by: Dave Bug at June 13, 2004 02:45 AM

seriously,and john denver can be on the
one dollar...he was sweet.;)

Posted by: just me at June 15, 2004 12:59 AM