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Allen Barra on the Myth of Ronald Reagan

Posted on Feb 13, 2009

By Allen Barra

“The aftermath of Reagan’s presidency,” Garry Wills wrote in a famous introduction to his 1987 book “Reagan’s America,” “has proved, over and over, that Reaganism without Reagan is unsustainable.” In the two decades since Wills’ book was published, a significant portion of the press and public seems to have forgotten that. William Kleinknecht is on a mission: In “The Man Who Sold the World: Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America,” he is out to demonstrate that Reaganism with Reagan never worked.

Kleinknecht, a veteran crime correspondent for the Newark Star-Ledger and the New York Daily News and an American Society of Professional Journalists award winner, is angry. But unlike many writers who have taken scatter shots at the Reagan legacy, Kleinknecht hasn’t lost his temper—in Henry James’ words, he has found it.


book cover


The Man Who Sold the World


By William Kleinknecht


Nation Books, 324 pages


Buy the book


In a fiery and lucid introduction he writes, “This book is born of annoyance: a great bewilderment over the myth that continues to surround the presidency of Ronald Reagan. It gives voice to a vast swath of psychically disenfranchised Americans, millions of them, lumped most thickly in the urban areas on either coast, who never understood Reagan’s appeal.” Kleinknecht’s thesis is nothing less than that Reagan was the “obvious enemy of the common people he claimed to represent, this empty suit who believed in flying saucers and allowed an astrologer to guide his presidential scheduling. ...” The great conundrum “is this: none of [the] unmistakable harbingers of American decline is being laid where it belongs—at the door of Ronald Reagan” [emphasis Kleinknecht’s].

In the tradition of most previous Reagan critics, Kleinknecht doesn’t try to draw a bead on Reagan from an ivory tower. He goes after Reagan from the blue collar on up: “He enacted policies that helped wipe out the high-paying jobs for the working class that were the real backbone of the country. ... His legacy—mergers, deregulation, tax cuts for the wealthy, privatization, globalization—helped weaken the family and eradicate small-town life and sense of community.”

Reaganomics did create fortunes, but mostly for those at the top of the economic ladder; it also brought “a reversal in the slow gains that the working class and the poor had made in the previous two decades.”

During a month when Republicans dug in against Barack Obama’s stimulus plan, Kleinknecht’s words, written last year before the economic crash, ring clear. “Reaganism replaced Enlightenment thinking with the corrupted Romanticism that portrays free-market purism as an article of religious faith that is the real meaning of America. The answer to any of the economic challenges of the twenty-first century is to do nothing. Cut taxes, eviscerate all regulation of private enterprise, and trust the market to guide our fates.” If this sounds like hyperbole, then you weren’t listening to the Republican response to President Obama’s bailout proposal.

To see long excerpts from “The Man Who Sold the World,” click here.

“The Man Who Sold America” has much in common with another recent scathing indictment of the Reagan administration, Will Bunch’s “Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future.” Both books cover much of the same territory: Contrary to the nearly two decades of idolatry from the right, Reagan was no more popular than numerous other modern presidents (as Kleinknecht notes, just 27 percent of eligible voters elected him in 1980, a year which saw a record-low turnout at the polls), the legacy of the famous 1980 tax cut was an era of deregulation that spawned CEO and Wall Street greed, and, most important, the Reagan revolution did not do what it set out to do, namely to reduce the size of government (“Big government,” writes Kleinknecht, “was not stripped away in the Reagan years; it was just redirected to the needs of private enterprise”).

However, Bunch sees Reagan primarily as a pragmatist whose image has been hijacked by a neoconservative cabal while Kleinknecht sees Reagan himself as the betrayer of what once was regarded as genuine conservatism. Reagan’s early backers “were not Burkean conservatives or acolytes of the John Birch Society. They had little interest in social issues. ... Most were not even particularly passionate in their anticommunism. They viewed Reagan quite simply as a potential liberator for the entrepreneurial class.” They were men who simply “wanted deep cuts in their taxes and government regulators out of the way.”

Many seminal thinkers of 20th century American conservatism—Kleinknecht cites Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver and German-born émigré Friedrich A. Hayek, to whose names I would add G.K.Chesterton—regarded large corporations as “a threat to folkways and small-scale private property. It was, after all, not government but big corporations that did so much to wipe out agrarian culture. The former machinist or farmer now bagging groceries at Wal-Mart is not exactly a conservative icon.”

This is interesting because Kleinknecht’s case against Reagan isn’t based on the former actor’s adherence to traditional conservative values but on his disregard of them. There are two enemies of a real conservative society, thought Chesterton; one of them “is State Socialism and the other is Big Business.” In other words, the enemy is bigness, no matter on which side of the political spectrum it originates. Hayek, quoted by Kleinknecht, wrote something similar in his highly influential book “The Road to Serfdom” (1944):  “... [T]he movement toward totalitarianism comes from two great vested interests: organized capital and organized labor. Probably the greatest menace of all is that the politics of these two most powerful groups point in the same direction.” Such sentiments, Kleinknecht writes, “were swept out of Washington in the 1980s. Relief from government regulation was one of a handful of core beliefs that really mattered to Reagan and his business supporters, and anything that stood in the way of the natural consolidation of the nation’s productive forces was a barrier to be removed.” Or as Reagan’s good friend whom he appointed attorney general, William French Smith, put it, “Bigness doesn’t necessarily mean badness.”

“The Man Who Sold the World” is the most concise and well-thought-out argument against Reagan. Kleinknecht is no poet; he too often writes at the top of his voice. Nonetheless, if he is guilty of occasional pamphleteering, there’s never any doubt as to his meaning, and many of his phrases linger after one has closed the book. “By discrediting government as a legitimate and meaningful presence in the lives of Americans,” he writes in his final chapter, “The Second-Rate Society,” “Reagan repudiated the very concept of national leadership. By exhorting Americans to place self-interest above all, he undermined the spirit of sacrifice and the possibility of a common effort to solve our most pressing national problems.”

Kleinknecht isn’t just writing to be heard by liberal Democrats: His challenge to conservatives is nothing less than to once again be conservative. 

Allen Barra writes for numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

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By christian96, May 10, 2009 at 10:43 pm Link to this comment

Wait until you see the library for Obama!

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By Shirl, May 8, 2009 at 8:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

He was not a good President, but they have created a big a story that he was Great.
I believe they will do the same with George W Bush, have you seen how much money has been donated for his library?
We can do better than this***************

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By KDelphi, February 23, 2009 at 1:31 am Link to this comment

Sodium—thanks for the reply. I have been packing up to move, so I have been offline, too. I am sorry to hear of health problems.

I give Paul his due for being anti-war. I am just afraid that he uses that somewhat, to entice anti-war people, when, if they looked at his views on other issues, they would be appalled. Kucinich and Paul would be a mismatch, as i am sure you are aware of now.

Paul was on Bill Maher this week—I missed part of it. YOu could tell that Maher had him on because of hiw views ie. the Bialout and the wars—-then, he started talking about taxes, Austrians, etc. Maher shirked. He always does this. He should do his research! He is certainly getting paid for it.

I love Maher, but, he certainly has his “agendas”—dont we all, I suppose…lol

But, I’ll give Paul the war—-its just that i think his views may be for “christian” and money reaosns. That is far better than being PRO war!


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By christian96, February 22, 2009 at 8:36 pm Link to this comment

Since this is the night for the Academy Awards it
is only appropriate to ask, “Does our society worship
movie stars, sports figures, money, or God?

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By Sodium, February 20, 2009 at 3:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re:KDelphi,February 18 at 11:38am.


I apologize for my tardiness in responding to your post Re cited above.My health conditions and my wife’s health circumstances do not allow me to spend too much time behind the computer.I usually check what is going on in this world through the internet about 2-3 times a week-some weeks none at all.I write all this to let you and others know that if you do not hear from me,it is not because of ignoring your posts,but because of reasons beyond my control.

I am well aware of the biases of Congressman Ron Paul of Texas since cyrena,whom I admire her relentless thoroughness in her posts and where she really leaves nothing to chance,had alerted her readers to the fact that Ron Paul was/is a member of the John Birch Society.That was roughly about two years ago when Paul announced that he also would run in the Republican party’s primary for the nomination for the Presidency of the U.S.Since I did all my graduate work at a University in Texas,I knew what the John Birch Society was all about,especially in the Dallas area,and I stood against its horrible biases since then.

Not knowing about Ron Paul’s membership in such a society before cyrena confirmed it,I was an early supporter of Ron Paul for President for two reasons:

(1)He was one of the very very few Republicans who stood in the House of Representatives and made a straightforward speech against goining to war against Iraq.

(2)He stressed the importance of closing all the 700 military bases world wide and as he put it that we could no longer afford it.

I even suggested then that the dream ticket would have been Paul-Kucinich or Kucinich-Paul ticket.

As soon as I read cyrena’s post,I immediately wrote a lengthy post,adressing it to cyrena and declared that my support to Ron Paul was severed right then and at once.But at the same time and in the same post.I do recall that I mentioned to cyrena that to deny a degree of credit and appreciation of his stand agaist the illegal and immoral war against Iraq and his call to close the 700 military bases would not be unfair but also be self-defeating for all of those who stood against the war and those who wanted the military bases closed world wide,in spite
of Ron Paul’s membership in the John Birch Society.

My position on those two points has not changed ever since and as our quagmire in Iraq occurred and the current financial difficulty imploded,my position on the two points concerning Ron Paul was vindicated.

Therefore,that is why I mentioned the two points as expressed by Ron Paul on the floor of the House of Representatives,in my earierl post on this thread,to show that they were/are an integral part of the causes that the current economic meltdown America and the rest of the world had fallen in its traps whose end yet to be seen…

KDelphi:As always,I appreciate reading informative and intelligently written posts,regardless of the source,as long as they are characterized with honesty.Yours was as such.That is why I have taken my time to respond.Thank you for sharing what you know about Ron Paul.Most appreciated.

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By Boggs, February 20, 2009 at 9:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Christian96, It was Carter who got the prisoners released from Iran.
He personally went to Iran with an envoy and had a successful mission.
The republicans always gave the credit to Reagan, but thats not true.

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By KDelphi, February 20, 2009 at 12:17 am Link to this comment

Reagan may be the worst for Labor—-Clinton wasnt much help with NAFTA.

Big Business has had more success is busitng up labor in in the uS than any other civiized country.

Maybe thats why we dot behave in a more civilized manner…

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By Leefeller, February 19, 2009 at 9:20 pm Link to this comment

Front page news about the lady who stabbed her Chimp, reminded me of one of Ronald’s better movies. “Bed Time For Bonzo” (I believe the move name referred to the Chimp not RR, though, it would have been appropriate ).

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By Jimbosan, February 19, 2009 at 6:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Reagan was a republican, right?  That explains everything, the working class American has no busines voting for a republican.  Ronnie did more to harm labor and the working class than all other presidents combined.  I still think he had full blown alzheimers through most of his presidency.

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By KDelphi, February 18, 2009 at 12:38 pm Link to this comment


On Rep Paul and a Right/Left “Alliance” and exerpts from Paul’s newsletters (1991-recent)

Under the headline “Terrorist Update,” Paul reported on gang crime in Los Angeles and wrote, “If you have ever been robbed by a black teenaged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be.” About blacks in Washington, D.C., Paul wrote, “I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.” 

In 1990-1991, his newsletters threw out all kinds of slurs about Martin Luther King, and/or praising David Duke. Seemingly around the same time, he (or his associates using his signature) issued a solicitation letter talking about a conspiracy of gays and the government to cover-up some unknown aspect of AIDS. 

Paul attacked AIDS sufferers as “victims of their own lifestyle.” And in a statement that gives a glimpse of the ruling-class tyranny of individualism he asserts that AIDS victims demanding rushed drug trials were impinging on “the rights of insurance company owners.”

Paul wants to abolish the Department of Education and, in his words, “end the federal education monopoly” by eliminating all taxes that go toward public education and “giving educational control back to parents.” Which parents should children choose? Only those with the leisure time, educational training, and ideology for home schooling! Whatever real problems the U.S. education system suffers from, eliminating the entire system is not the answer and is uncivilized.

Paul also opposes equal pay for equal work, a minimum wage, and, naturally, trade unions. In 2007, he voted against restricting employers’ rights to interfere in union drives and against raising the federal minimum wage to $7.25. In 2001, he voted for zero-funding for OSHA’s Ergonomics Rules, instead of the $4.5 billion..

To advocate for society to be organized on the basis of strict individualism, as libertarians do, is to argue that everyone has the right to do whatever he or she wants. But what happens when the desires of one individual infringe on the desires of another?  “The dictatorial power of a majority” he argues ought to be replaced by the unencumbered power of individuals–in other words, the dictatorial power of a minority.

Ron Paul argues, “Government by majority rule has replaced strict protection of the individual from government abuse. Right of property ownership has been replaced with the forced redistribution of wealth and property.” Few folks will agree that we actually live in a society where wealth and property are taken from the rich and given to workers and the poor—just look at recent statistics.  It is the bourgeious political outlook of the middle-class “small” business owner obsessed with guarding his. As online anti-libertarian writer Ernest Partridge puts it in “Liberty for some”:

“The sort of Left-Right alliance (Paul) advocates is not only opportunistic but is also a repellent to creating the multiracial working-class movement that is sorely needed of we are to end this war,”

Libertarianism is no radical political solution to inequality, violence, and misery. When Paul shouts: “We need freedom to choose!” we need to ask, “Yes, but freedom for whom?” Freedom for those that can claw their way to the top, and, if youre “lucky”, charity for a few of the unlucky.

He is also theocratic , by nature, and is against a woman’s right to choose abortion. He is also against stem cell research, and, any type of govt help with, or, regulation of, the health care INDUSTRY.

“Freedom”, with “intervention where it goes against my Biblical beliefs” is not
“freedom” at all…

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By Sodium, February 18, 2009 at 10:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In the 1970s and 1980s I was stationed overseas,
managing complex technical business operations for a
multi-nationals American corporation.During the four years of President Carter in office,I had to pay the Internal Revenue Service(IRS) in one year of President Carter’s four years in office about $6,000
in back taxes,since the corporation I worked for did not deduct enough taxes from the gross pay of my bi-monthly salary. After President Reagan was elected and for eight years,the tax refund I received from the IRS varied between $9,000 to $12,000.I thought that Reagan was great until I returned to the States for good,just before the First Gulf War started(Bush Senior’s Gulf War in 1991). I was disappointed to find out the taxe refunds the IRS was sending back to me were really from borrowed money the Reagan’s administration were borrowing from somebody.

Just before passing away in the late 1990s(I believe in 1998)former Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona was interviewed by a supplement magazine called “Parade” which usually was part of the bulky Sunday newspapers.In the interview,he was a real honest Republican when he criticized harshly both President Reagan and President Bush Senior for borrowing so many billion of dollars with disregard to fiscal responsibility.

Further follow-up on the borrowing of both Reagan and Bush Senior,I had found out that what they borrowed was more than what the US borrowed in its entire history for 200 years.You figure…..

Given the choice to pay more taxes or keep borrowing and keep passing the burden of paying back what was borrowed to our children and our grandchildren,I would choose paying more taxes,as I did in one year of President Carter’s four years in Office. In my view,it is immoral to pass our debt to our children and our grandchildren because of our irresponsible overconsumption addiction and because we keep waging wars and keep maintaining 700 military bases overseas. Ron Paul,the Congressman from Texas,is correct in his stand against the war in Iraq and in his call to close all military bases overseas which contributed significantly in bankrupting us financially as well as morally.Why should we continue occupying Iraq when the vast majority of Iraqis do not want us there? Why should we maintain 700 military bases by payng the host country “fees?” just to protect their asses? why? why? Please do not tell me our national security requires it.That is a phony claim,a cover up for the Military Industrial Complex President Dwight Eisenhower warned the whole nation about its danger to our lives.George Macgovern,the former Senator from South Dakota was correct when he said that the US had/has enough military power to destroy the whole world ten times over.

It looks like that Reagan started the huge borrowing to sustain our “imperial hubris” abroad,with disregard to our needs and vulnerability at home. With the exception of President Clinton’s years(he left office with a huge surplus),ever since Reagan’s days,borrowing and accumulating debt has become the norms,not the exception,and baby Bush really really goofed real badly in borrowing to a point of bankrupting our economy,in addition of squandering
what Bill Clinton left,for the US Treasury,as surplus.

And yet some Republicans keep bragging about the greatness of Ronald Reagan as a President.Yeah,he was great President in borrowing and deregulating so that the wealthy big thieves could steal what he borrowed. And this horrible practice continued during Bush Senior.s and baby Bush’s Presidencies and the country ended up with current and ominous economic meltdown….

How the newly elected President,Barack Obama,is going to get the country and the world out of what Reagan started and the Bushes completed was/is beyond my limited intelligence to comprehend.I wish him well.

Yeah,Reagan was a great President!!

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By bogi666, February 18, 2009 at 9:10 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Reagan was the greatest con man in world history. He convinced Americans that debt is prosperity and that the Nicaraguan Sandinista army was going to across Mexico invade Texas and burn Wash, DC down, a good idea. Americans believed/believe him to this day. The most preposterous was the tax reduction myth which was really a Corporate tax rate reduction which added to their profit delusion. He eliminated individual tax deductions with a token rate reduction but the end result was higher taxes for individuals, the working class which ultimately bear the expense of the huge Federal debt, tax monies which were then doled out to the CORPORATE WELFARE KINGS as government contracts. Reagan then claimed his policies released the   shackles from American capitalism to pursue their “greed is good” agenda but it was really the implementation of fascism. Any economic progress is just smoke and mirror delusions, under Reagoonism, which continues to this I speak from experience as I lived in Calif., under Reagoonism. His purpose there was to destroy the education system and raise taxes for individuals, which he did. I never paid State income taxes before Reagoon. After deciding to reduce my working hours and income to attend college my taxes went up. The cost of attending State Colleges and Universities also increased. The long term effects of dumbing down and reducing higher education opportunities are finally being realized because of China and India’s increased prosperity has resulted in their government funding of higher education. Now their are more people in China and India that speak english than there are people in the U.S. China, at least, has more students taking the SAT test in english than students in the USA who take the test. This is Reagoonism. AS for an example of dumbing down the American electorate just look to G.W. Bush a bumbling incurious sociopath who can’t speak a proper sentence and the fact he able to duped Americans to such a low level that topics never imagined as being viable America subjects for debate such as the legitimacy of conducting torture by the U.S. government.Not to mention creating of imagined fears, WMD’s and so on.

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By christian96, February 18, 2009 at 12:15 am Link to this comment

Thanks for taking time to clarify the Oliver North,
Iran, Contras mess for me.  As for Ronald Regand,
I remember reading where his wife, Nanacy, would
consult with a fortune teller and then inform Pres.
Reagan on what action to take on certain issuses.
I don’t remember if he called himself a Christian
or not.  He probably did.  Calling yourself a Christian plays well to the general populace for
politicians.  Jesus said you will know real Christians not by what they say but by what they do.
The Bible is definitely against consorting with
fortune tellers.

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By KDelphi, February 17, 2009 at 10:29 pm Link to this comment

The speech Reagan gave in the Deep South—about “states rights”? when the Klan and others had argued against the Voting Rights Act, saying that it was “up to states” (and integration as well). It was ‘code”, but, anyone who has spent time in the South knew what he was talking about.

“The Creature From Jekyll Island”, which the followers of Rep Ron Paul (and some others) are touting, was written by G. Edward Griffin, who waw a speechwriter for “Bombs Away” Curtis Lemay, who was George Wallace’s VP. He belongs to the John Birch Society, and, Paul took donations from the Aryan Nation….when you go to some of the Austrian School website, I just couldnt get past the pre-WWII, neo-Nazi looking memorabilia…the Paul supporter who directed me to the site said to “ignore it”—but why is it there??

I didnt know that about WW—barf!

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By Inherit The Wind, February 17, 2009 at 9:04 pm Link to this comment

Another fun category is most over-rated President—this is REALLY subjective as lots of old-time Southern racists pick Lincoln hands-down.

And with the phony hype of St. Ronald-Let’s-Put-Him—On—Rushmore, he’s a fine candidate—until the Reaganites die off with time. Then he’ll be down-rated.

My pick? Woodrow Wilson. And I’m Democrat, and read a bit on WW, even heard Arthur S. Link speak.  WW was a racist, not even in the George Wallace type but in the Lester Maddox and David Duke mold. He LOVED “Birth of a Nation” claiming it was perfect history (and he was a professor of History). He was a fascist, locking up dissidents left and right.  He allowed corrupt ignorant incompetents to negotiate for him (the sinister and inept Colonel House). 

He was an Anglophile, and Germanophobe, back when it wasn’t so clear who was right and who was wrong.  Until 1916, Germany avoided US shipping while the UK was stopping, searching and seizing US goods and ships totally illegally.

He lied us into WWI—saying we were making the world safe for democracy, when, in FACT, we were there to establish OUR say in the peace and make sure nobody got to dominate Europe—either Germany or France—but giving Britain an edge.

He then abandoned the nation to go spend months in Europe at Versailles, and, came back with a crappy treaty that moved the power to declare War from the Congress to the President.

He then suffered a nervous breakdown from the stress (conveniently called a “stroke”) leaving his wife in charge when he should have stepped down.  BTW, he had the same “stroke” when he was President of Princeton and lost a battle with the Dean of the Law School.

Yup, old Thomas Woodrow Wilson is MY pick for most over-rated!  Reagan can’t qualify ‘cuz I thought he was crap from Day 1 of the primaries and “Mr. Bush I PAID for this microphone!”  I can’t over-rate him!

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By Inherit The Wind, February 17, 2009 at 8:43 pm Link to this comment

KDelphi, February 17 at 11:21 am #

ITW—Reagan has had the worst effect on current USAns lives of any president. Period. Bushes, Clinton, etc, continued it. Bush Jr. was a HUGE Reaganomics idiot—he merely continued Reagan’s faux populism. Not to mention Nancy’s bullshit “just say no” while high on valium and alcohol. I am being more fair to Reagan than he was to the poor….to Af Ams in inner cities who were caught with a little planted crack cocaine.

Bush II would never have been possible without Reagan.

He was a racist, a homophobe, and hated the average human being. I didnt know James Buchanan when he was alive..I lived (barely) through Reagan and Bush II.


You make a defensible point.  Of course, the company I see Reagan beating out is nothing but the dregs.  And, while it’s true that RR made Dumya possible, I STILL rank Bush as far worse.  But you could argue that Nixon is REALLY what made Dumbya possible.

I’ve lived through Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, RR, Bush 41, Clinton and Bush 43.

I know Reagan was a homophobe. I didn’t know he was a racist.

I don’t know if Bush is a homophobe—there are rumors about him being gay or bi-and some “love connections” that way.  THAT I don’t care about—not my biz if it involved consenting adults.  But sometimes those are the worst homophobes.  Curiously, I don’t believe Bush is racist on a personal level at all.  There’s just too much evidence to the contrary.

I think Reagan was politically clever, but as a “statesman” was incredibly shallow, and unable to EVER do deep thinking and analysis—intellectually lazy.  Dumbya was the same way.  Daddy Bush tried to learn RR’s rabble-rousing but was far, FAR more talented in actually administering. He understood how foreign relations work (barfing on the Japanese PM is to be avoided if possible).  While I have no affection for Daddy Bush, I can respect that the man had the brain-power and the dedication to wear himself out trying to do the job right, like all the other Presidents of my lifetime.

Buchanan let the nation tear itself apart while he was hunting up his next lover.  For that he should be forever condemned. (the abandonment, not the hunting—it’s all about setting priorities.)

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By KDelphi, February 17, 2009 at 12:21 pm Link to this comment

ITW—Reagan has had the worst effect on current USAns lives of any president. Period. Bushes, Clinton, etc, continued it. Bush Jr. was a HUGE Reaganomics idiot—he merely continued Reagan’s faux populism. Not to mention Nancy’s bullshit “just say no” while high on valium and alcohol. I am being more fair to Reagan than he was to the poor….to Af Ams in inner cities who were caught with a little planted crack cocaine.

Bush II would never have been possible without Reagan.

He was a racist, a homophobe, and hated the average human being. I didnt know James Buchanan when he was alive..I lived (barely) through Reagan and Bush II.

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By Gaylord Cat, February 17, 2009 at 9:27 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When Reagan announced his run for the presidency, I was an actor. Still am, for that matter, but then I was employed. I remember saying, “Please don’t let that idiot actor run and, if there is no God, be elected. No actor should be president.” Guess there is no God.

By our very nature, we actors depend on direction. Directors are our initial audience with the responsibility to tell us when we are screwing up and when our choices are good. It isn’t that we are necessarily unintelligent; most actors are quite intelligent. But we cannot see ourselves do what is right to create the character; we have to be directed.

Reagan was an actor, first and foremost, always was, and his greatest role was playing president for eight years. His director(s)? Corporate moguls who first saw his potential when they asked him to run for governor of California. What an offer. An actor’s dream, having a director ask YOU to play a lead role without auditioning.

Story goes, true or not, that Jane Wyman, his first wife, kicked him out because all he did when he was home was walk around giving political speeches to the walls. As president of SAG, it was said, he was, indeed, auditioning for something, and, according to many actors, screwing them the way he would screw Californians and the American people later on. He was not stupid; he was opportunistic, crafty, and deceitful. His “directors” picked up on that, his glib actor’s tongue and ability to follow a script, and Bingo! he was their lead actor in their planned vehicle, which if a box office success, would make them monarchs of Wall Street and corporate America. Guess what? It was a smash, and only now is it beginning to lose patrons.

The finale of this incredible run was for the directors to make Reagan a saint, which they were able to do because Ron was extremely good on camera, something years of experience had rewarded him.

Another story, apocryphal perhaps, concerns him when president being unusually quiet during a prep for a speech from the Oval Office. He sat silently while the set up took place, not smiling and not engaging is his usual banter with the crew, until the monitor came on a showed him. “Ah,” he supposedly said, “there he is.” Now he was himself, and the banter began. We actors love ourselves and need to see ourselves up in lights.

Who was president all those years? Ronald Reagan, to be sure, but his lines were written for him by a host of screenwriters, some of whom were probably members of the White House staff. Many lived on Wall Street.

We Americans long for heroes. Talented young people become heroes, and when they prove to have clay feet, as they usually do, we find others. Our hero most longed for, I believe, is a hero president, another George Washington or Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt. We thrust them upon a pedestal and we refuse to let them be tarnished. We deny them humanity because if they are just human, they are like us and we know that we are flawed. Our heroes must not be flawed.

I supported Obama and I pray he will do well. I do have hope. But he must not be canonized because he is human and will fail in many ways. Like Reagan he is glib, writes and reads wonderful speeches, and he can move crowds superbly. He is not an actor, but he could be if he’d wanted to be. So we got to watch him. We cannot allow him to manipulate us as Reagan did. We must keep him honest, and so far I think he is honest for the most part.

Let’s certainly bury Reagan but not forget about him. He was probably the most dangerous president we ever had because we were searching for a hero and he played the role beautifully. His success is our fault, I think. Good lesson. We should never forget it.

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By Inherit The Wind, February 17, 2009 at 4:55 am Link to this comment

Let’s be fair:  There were worse Presidents than Ronald Reagan.

Let’s see….
There was:
John Tyler—maybe the most inept and annoying man to be in the White House until Dumbya.
Franklin Pierce—a Northerner who vigorously supported slavery—when he wasn’t admiring himself in a mirror.
James Buchanan—Who, like Pierce, was a vigorous defender of slavery (perhaps because of his 15 year-long live-in romance with a Southern congressman) and stood by while the South seceded.
George W. Bush—need I say more?

Next to Reagan such shining lights like Millard Fillmore, Chester Arthur and Benjamin Harrison look like talented Presidents!

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By Amon Drool, February 16, 2009 at 9:12 pm Link to this comment

chapter 9 of oliver sack’s “the man who mistook his wife for a hat” is entitled “the presidents speech.”

sacks begins the chapter: “what was going on?  a roar of laughter from the aphasia ward, just as the president’s speech was coming on, and they all had been so eager to hear the president speaking… there he was, the old charmer, the actor, with his practiced rhetoric, his histrionisms, his emotional appeal—and all the patients were convulsed with laughter.”

later on in the chapter, sacks describes the reaction of emily d.: “emily d. also listened, stony-faced to the president’s speech…it did not move her…‘he is not cogent,‘she said.  ‘he does not speak good prose.  his word-use is improper.  either he has brain damage or he has something to conceal.’ “

why the differing reactions of these patients of the brain-damaged ward?  sacks tells us that the aphasiacs had lost the ability to understand the meaning of words strung together.  but they still retained an ability to understand the “feeling-tone” of communication.  “thus it was the grimaces, the histrionisms,the false gestures, and above all, the false tones and cadences of the voice, which rang false for these wordless but immensely sensitive patients.  it was to these (for them) most glaring, even grotesque, incongruities and improprieties that my aphasic patients responded, undeceived and undeceivable by words.  that is why they laughed at the preidents speech.”

and emily d’s response:  emily d. was a former english teacher, and a poetess of some repute, with an exceptional feeling for language, and strong powers of analysis and expression. when her right temporal lobe was damaged, she developed tonal agnosia.  the expressive (feeling-tone) quality of voices dissapear, while words and grammatical constructions are perfectly understood. thus, her stone-faced response, “he is not cogent.”

sacks ends the chapter: “here then was the paradox of the presidents speech. we normals—aided doubtless by our wish to be fooled, were indeed well and truly fooled.  and so cunningly was deceptive word-use combined with deceptive tone, that only the brain-damaged remained intact, undeceived.”

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By JEFF, February 16, 2009 at 7:20 pm Link to this comment
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By sailorflat, February 16, 2009 at 6:07 pm Link to this comment
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Reagan was a miserable president; not only the liberal left but also the conservative should understand that he was a senile president at best.  After all, my father has Alzheimer’s Disease and while he was very intelligent, he never had a memory. From that I know that you had to know how screwed up President Reagan was.  After all, he took naps at 10.30 am, according to records.  If one has to sleep that early in the day, it definitely is indicative of the effect of Alezimer’s Disease.  Alzheimer’s Disease is very dibiletating. I should know.  My father, was VERY intelligent(139 IQ) and he has slowly been comsumed by this disease.  So don’t tell me that Reagan wasn’t affected.  He was and we saw it throughout his president.  After all, George H., W. Bush was the one that pushed the arms for trade of hostages with Iran.  Hello!; pay attention.

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By don knutsen, February 16, 2009 at 3:16 pm Link to this comment
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Ronald Reagan helped in a large way usher in the era of blind ideology above common sense style of governing championed later by the last idiot at the helm. The fact that he has risen to sainthood amongst the republican party speaks volumes as to how completely disconnected republicans are from the average working american. Notice I said average “Working” american. He tarnished our countries reputation thruout Central and South America. Using our tax dollars to prop up dictators and their death squads.
The dutiful republican lemmings that filled every goverment agency got their start following his example. Our goverment was effectively rendered useless because of the republican party, as far as doing anything at all for the american people, because every agency of the goverment, everything from the EPA, SEC, FDA, FEMA, etc. were filled with good loyal “bushies”, who worshipped Saint Reagan. These agencies have shown themselves to be completely incompetant / irrelevant and were shown that everyday we read about a Health Dept. in Texas that apparently was unconcerned or just too incompetant to care to deal with the salmonilla outbreak in the peanut industry, or in Tomatoes before that, The SEC whose job was to oversee Wall St. was too busy looking the other way. FEMA during Katrina, on and on it goes. All of this done by the republican party that worships Ronald Reagan like a diety.

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By Inherit The Wind, February 16, 2009 at 12:49 pm Link to this comment

christian96, February 16 at 10:46 am #

To Kdelphi—-Thanks for the response.  I have never
understood what happened.  Did Oliver North sell
American weapons to Iran and then give the money
to the Contras to fight the peasants?


That’s an oversimplification, but yes.  Congress forbade Reagan funding the Contras so they indirectly paid Iran to fund the Contras.

Also, prior to the election of 1980, Reagan & Co (like Rumsfeld) secretly negotiated with Iran NOT to release the hostages until after the inauguration. I’m not sure what they traded but it makes sense it was
1) in their mutual interest to embarrass and cripple Carter,
2) to make Reagan look like a tough crazy who’d nuke ‘em if they didn’t release the hostages
3) They’d find a way to sell them arms.

I might have the who sold what to who and who funded what backwards but in either case what they did in the fall of 1980 was out-and-out treason.

North was convicted but his conviction was overturned on one of those technicalities the people who love North condemn—except when it applies to their hero (situational ethics again). 

North later ran for senator from Virginia, being the only human in the US capable of losing to Chuck Robb.  Even the other senator, a Republican, John Warner, refused to endorse North saying the conviction was based on crimes he actually committed and the he had DONE THOSE THINGS disqualified him from serving whether the conviction was over-turned or not!  Warner continued to get re-elected until this year, when he retired, one of the last honorable Republican senators (there are only 3 others left…......)

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By KDelphi, February 16, 2009 at 12:19 pm Link to this comment

“The Iran-Contra affair was a political scandal in the United States which came to light in November 1986, during the Reagan administration, over an arms-for-hostages deal with Iran and funding for the Nicaraguan Contras.

It began as an operation to improve U.S.-Iranian relations, wherein Israel would ship weapons to a relatively moderate, politically influential group of Iranians; the U.S. would then resupply Israel and receive the Israeli payment. The Iranian recipients promised to do everything in their power to achieve the release of six U.S. hostages, who were being held by the Lebanese Shia Islamist group Hezbollah. The plan eventually deteriorated into an arms-for-hostages scheme, in which members of the executive branch sold weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of the American hostages.[1][2] Large modifications to the plan were conjured by Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North of the National Security Council in late 1985, in which a portion of the proceeds from the weapon sales was diverted to fund anti-Sandinista and anti-communist rebels, or Contras, in Nicaragua.[3] While President Ronald Reagan was a supporter of the Contra cause,[4] there has not been any evidence uncovered showing that he authorized this plan.”

The last sentence is bullshit.

NOtice, also, that ,once again Israel was involved…also, my opinion is that the Sandanistas were a peasant, socialist revolutionary group. We will never know everything about it, because, as usual, Congress and the Courts refused to prosecute the elites and, Oliver NOrth, as you may know, now does a show on FOX! !!!!!!!!!!

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By christian96, February 16, 2009 at 11:46 am Link to this comment

To Kdelphi—-Thanks for the response.  I have never
understood what happened.  Did Oliver North sell
American weapons to Iran and then give the money
to the Contras to fight the peasants?

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By KDelphi, February 16, 2009 at 11:29 am Link to this comment

Reagan used money from Iranian weapons sales (illegal) to support the Contras (in Nicaragua) against the peasant Sandanistas, helping bring about the “release of hostages” and, making us hostage to worldwide hatred for decades. Justifiably so—they just shouldve thrown Reagan-zap in prison for life.

Iran-Contra…The (Dis)Honorable Oliver NOrth

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By christian96, February 16, 2009 at 11:21 am Link to this comment

I just read my previous comment and I said “Iraq”
when I should have said “Iran.”  Probably, a freudian
slip, my old age or perhaps Iraq did have something
to do with the release of the hostages.

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By christian96, February 16, 2009 at 11:18 am Link to this comment

I have always wondered how the hostages got released
just when President Regan took office?  Co-incidence?
I think not.  Something had to be transpiring between
the Iraq’s and someone associated with President
Reagan.  I haven’t studied it enough to know exactly
what transpired.  Perhaps, someone can enlighten me!

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By KDelphi, February 15, 2009 at 2:37 pm Link to this comment

boggs—some people love to be bullshitted.

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By boggs, February 15, 2009 at 2:18 pm Link to this comment

Ronald Reagan had a beautiful line of bullsh#t, which made him popular with the vulnerable who didn’t realize he was doing away with their union jobs as quickly as possible.
He was not elected to represent the working classes, but to transfer wealth to the rich.
He was a traitor to the working man and he cheated on his first wife with Lady Nancy.
Now what is it that people adore him for?

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By Pod, February 15, 2009 at 2:11 pm Link to this comment
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Ronald Reagan hated working and poor people. When he fired the air traffic controllers he sent a message to the middle class which could only be interpreted as do what you’re told or you will end up in the street . He also sent a message to the power elite telling them to treat your employees anyway you see fit and the government has your back. He taught a whole generation to despise the poor and homeless and only worship greed. He got away with this by wrapping himself up in the flag and pontificating about God and Country.  Using his “B” rate acting skills and “charisma” he was able to fool millions of people into thinking that he really cared about them. Sorry to say, that many of them have still not seen the light to this day. A concerted right wing effort to portray him as the president who could “walk on water” backed by a media that regurgitates those sentiments is the reason for this. Hopefully the myths and lies of the Reagan presidency will start to “trickle down” to a new and enlightened generation who will clearly see him for what he really was.

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By KDelphi, February 15, 2009 at 2:07 pm Link to this comment

If you say that W was stupid, then, you would have to concede that most of Congress (dems included ) were, also. They gave him every fricking thing he asked for.

Reagan had early Alzhiemer’s. But, two mos ago, there were those saying that Pres. Obama should “reach across the aisle” like “Reagan did”—-or did Pres. Obama himself say that?

Reagan is where I would trace the problems back to.

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By Don't Matter, February 15, 2009 at 7:28 am Link to this comment
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Hey let’s pass legislation without reading it. If you want to talk about being an Obamecile, no closer to being an IDIOT.

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By JimBob, February 15, 2009 at 1:51 am Link to this comment

Reagan was an empty suit indeed.  He was put in the presidency by the very people he enriched, for that exact purpose—i.e. to enrich them.  Same with George W. Bush.  That’s why you can’t call either one of their presidencies “failed.”  They did exactly what they were put there to do.

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By Leefeller, February 14, 2009 at 9:20 pm Link to this comment


Thanks for the Slate Link.  Reagan was much closer to bing an imbecile than he was stupid. FYI: an imbecile is a stupid idiot.  Should send the Slate article to my unsolicited Republican junk mail folks.

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By ocjim, February 14, 2009 at 7:59 pm Link to this comment

A good reference. Someone in their comments mentioned that it was good that the truth—Alan Bara’s article—I assume came out.

The truth has always been there trumpeted by those interested in true history.

Reagan escaped many criminal acts. The savings-loan fiasco cost taxpayers billions.

Again we just rid ourselves of the Bush crime family and again a crook gets off scott free. So far we have had Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr, and Bush Jr for more major crimes. Others perpetrated lesser offenses, including lying about sex

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By peacenik1, February 14, 2009 at 7:28 pm Link to this comment
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I lived in Santa Monica, California during the Reagan years.  Not long after Reagan got elected, almost on cue, the streets of Santa Monica started to fill with homeless people.  They were everywhere, in the city parks, checking the garbage bins in the alleys, panhandling on the streets.  Many of these poor souls were obviously mentally ill.  At one time we had approximately 3,000 homeless people on the streets in a city of 80,000 residents.  Time magazine wrote an article about this.

This was documented.  Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, wrote about this tragic situation in her autobiography.  As I recall, she had to pass these forgotten Americans while she was out jogging in Santa Monica and started to take an alternate route so that she would not have to see a daily reminder of the results of her father’s policies.

Reagan will be remembered as the father of the “Greed is Good” era.

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By Jeff, February 14, 2009 at 12:14 pm Link to this comment
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If anyone would like to read the below-mentioned “eulogy” of Reagan by Christopher Hitchens it can be found here.

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By James M. Martin, February 14, 2009 at 11:36 am Link to this comment

Inherit says: “Hell, even John McCain with a Black (albeit Bengali) daughter was willing to sell his soul for those votes!”

Lot of good it did him.  The GOP is a “former Party.”

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By Inherit The Wind, February 14, 2009 at 11:11 am Link to this comment

Actually, it was Nixon who recruited the Southern White racist Dixiecrats into the GOP back in 1968, long before Reagan was a force in national politics (in 1968 he was less visible than Huckabee or Romney in the GOP primaries—but he was running!).

It was Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” combined with the racist code phrase “Law and Order” that put him over the top in 1968 as the dixiecrats were pissed at fellow Southerner LBJ’s twisting arms to get the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and Thurgood Marshall approved by Congress. So they abandoned their agrarian and New Deal values to go with the guys who promised to put those uppity n*****s down. (Sorry, Cyrena: I’m sure you see my sarcastic tone).

But to be fair to Reagan: He was just as happy to capitalize on it—Hell, even John McCain with a Black (albeit Bengali) daughter was willing to sell his soul for those votes!

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By Larry Mane, February 14, 2009 at 9:55 am Link to this comment
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George W. Bush is the son of Ronald W. Reagan

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By Leefeller, February 13, 2009 at 9:40 pm Link to this comment


The hatred you speak of is alive and well, never under estimate it.  Using reason to comprehend bigoted hate, is impossible for many, it only remains to be seen how many.

Remember reading something about Conservatives are born that way, has something to do with being comfortable sitting in their space.

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By JEP, February 13, 2009 at 9:16 pm Link to this comment

Lest we forget, it was Reagan who turned the world upside down by bringing the southern Democrats in the Republican Party.

Their stars and bars hatred for all things Union and Lincoln might make it seem improbable that they would one day hijack his party as a front for bigotry as a campaign tool.

But this is a bizarro world of conservative politics, where no-talent, loudmouth, drug-addicted anti-patriots like Rush “The Lump” can spout radio hatred and be considered a hero to the worst Americans, and an icon of their failing party.

These self-righteous hypocrites have dug a hole they may never be able to dig themselves out of.

The only question that remains is, are they so bitter that they were wrong, and history already proves it every day, that they will take the rest of us down with them.

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By 1twenty1, February 13, 2009 at 6:59 pm Link to this comment
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Ronnie, a trained actor, the penultimate politician, the great communicator of scrolled telepromptation.

Take away the Grecian Formula, the rouge, the broad-shouldered suit, the cowboy hat, the swagger, that decades-old-much-rehearsed glint and all that’s left is an old republican toady.  That’s pretty much it. 

Hint to ‘conservatives’.  He is not God’s first cousin.

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By Spiritgirl, February 13, 2009 at 5:37 pm Link to this comment

Wonderful article, it’s what I’ve been saying all along, but those with stardust in their eyes for Reagan don’t want to hear it!  It was Reagan that started the corporate war on “the American worker” when he busted up the ATCU, it was the demolition of AT&T thru anti-trust which created the fiasco in the phone industry!

More than any other President in the last few year, it was Reagan that started putting incompetent people that didn’t believe in government or doing the job that corrupted most of the federal agencies that are supposed to be the watchdog for the people!

W. was the most obvious in his ignorance, but Ronnie, started this whole “free-market” fiasco, and then couldn’t remember that he’d done it!!!

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, February 13, 2009 at 5:37 pm Link to this comment

ITW, good points.

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By Amon Drool, February 13, 2009 at 5:33 pm Link to this comment

the brylcreem bullshit artist….lolol

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By clipper, February 13, 2009 at 5:30 pm Link to this comment
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I believe as some do, that G.H.W.Bush was the one who ran the Reagan Presidency, just like he was the one who ran G.W. Bush, and probably has a hand into how much Obama can do.

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By Bertil, February 13, 2009 at 4:54 pm Link to this comment

I am glad to see that the truth is coming out about the man Alexander Cockburn referred to as the “Brylcreem Bullshit Artist.”
GE workers saw right through him when he toured their factories giving pep talks in the 50s. 
His passing out of government blocks of cheese, cheap cheese at that, and his decimation of PATCO, some of whose members never recovered economically, were the omens of what was to come in the way that they would treat the middle class.
Some idea of this man’s egoism is reflected in his eleborate funeral.  He was involved in the planning every step of it.
After he died they revealed his personal letters compiled in a book by Douglas Brinkley. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that even those letters were ghost written.  With an IQ of around 106, Reagan could be considered Dull-Normal compared to Clinton.

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By Ed Harges, February 13, 2009 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment

Reagan was absolutely vile.

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By James M. Martin, February 13, 2009 at 4:20 pm Link to this comment

When Reagan was governor of California, he made it abundantly clear that he was no populist but neo-con before that term was coined.  Rumors spread about his legendary mean-spiritedness, including one that had him commenting on the S.L.A. grocery handouts to the poor in Oakland for the return of Patty Hearst: “I hope those canned goods have botulism in them.”

I know, it’s probably apocryphal, but it demonstrates just how disgusted progressives were that he had such power.  We saw him as a Grade B has-been actor whose best performance, arguably, was in a film where he was a white collar, gun-wielding thug, which gave rise to a popular poster I think I still have: a shot of the gunman himself, with a line underneath saying, “Thanks for the Votes, Suckers.”

My own animosity is personal to me.  Just when I was about to shoot a short motion picture at UCLA Film School, he put his wife on the state school board and they nixed state college and university funding in a line by line that included UCLA student film productions.  It seemed we were making too many anti-Vietnam war films and anti-corporation movies and Ronnie and his wife objected to that.  (Duh!  Don’t we have a 1st Amendment: he didn’t care for that much, either.)

I could not believe it when the dumb ass electorate put him in the White House.  I didn’t think they could do any worse, but they voted twice for a worse trickle downer: Bush 2.

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By Leefeller, February 13, 2009 at 3:13 pm Link to this comment

When he was governor of California, he sucked and when he was president he sucked, we all heard the trickle melody jingle.

From what I understand, the corporate plutocracy took hold in the early 20th century, when they screwed the steel workers, just like Regan did to the air traffic controllers. Difference being the influence was not directly via the president for the steel workers. It has been going on for a long time.  Agendas take time, now we have the “New World Order”, what a plan. 

Many believe Reagan was one of greatest presidents, “yes of course” said Alice to the Hatter.

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By deang, February 13, 2009 at 2:50 pm Link to this comment
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There’s another get-real-about-Reagan book out this month, too:

“Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Myth Still Distorts Our National Politics” by Will Bunch.

I look forward to reading both.

(By the way, calling these books “revisionist” is demeaning. They’re not revising anything. They’re getting at the truth. Do we call paleontologists who do research that overturns previously held beliefs about dinosaurs revisionist? No. We laud them as good researchers who enhanced our knowledge. Same with good historians and researchers in other fields.)

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By Big B, February 13, 2009 at 12:57 pm Link to this comment

I look forward to giving this a read. We find that, as time goes on, we are looking back to try and pinpoint the moment that the wheels came off the american cart. It is high time we started looking at 1981 as the begining of the end.(I personally think that the 1968 democratic convention in Chicago was the tipping point of american mores, but I have to admit that 1981 sucked pretty hard, too)

Old Ronny was either a bumbling boob puppet, or an evil mastermind, hell bent on creating his sides version of how america should be. Either way, it was a disasterous 8 years for america. As the years fly by we see more and more the evidence that Ronny and his minions corrupted the very fabric of our society. Sure, we were already on our way down, but the Reagonites put us all on a bobsled and pushed us over the cliff. And now we are faced with the post Bush years. The evil icing on an already putrid cake.

This leaves us with one important question in the coming turbulent years, will the apocolypse be an open bar, or BYOB?

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By felicity, February 13, 2009 at 12:55 pm Link to this comment

“I’ve got mine and I don’t care about anybody else” was the ‘80’s mantra of the then youngish up-and-comings.  (My arithmetic tells me they’ve been either sitting on corporate boards, playing CEO/CFO, or pushing sub-prime mortgages these days.)

Somebody ‘got’ to Reagan - or he dreamed it up himself - as he became convinced that capitalism was a provable substitute for the Second Coming.

It’s not a stretch to indict the selfish benefit of capitalism, a system which is wasteful, corrupt, disorganized and inhumane.  Reagan’s long gone, and his legacy lives on only because we let it.

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By Eric L. Prentis, February 13, 2009 at 12:06 pm Link to this comment

President Reagan was a mediocre Hollywood actor who did what he was told by his corporate masters and did it well. The plutocracy is always hoping to find a naive, easily manipulated actor/politician who is good at selling neocon propaganda to the masses, e.g., Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Fred Thompson and Sarah Palin, and who can get elected. The corporate media, owned by the plutocracy, tries to elect the neocon Republican shill/actor, and unfortunately, it often works because the masses, who don’t think critically, believe everything on TV.

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By Inherit The Wind, February 13, 2009 at 11:59 am Link to this comment

ITW, if the condition of the world and the ruled says anything about its leaders, then it’s not only the good people of the Ohio/Mon Valley Rust Belt that can be faulted for their lousy choice of a leader.

OK, if you want to say they are as stupid and ignorant as anybody else (or, better yet, as Obama put it during the campaign) I’ll buy that.

But the reason that Pennsylvania wasn’t a slam-dunk for Obama is that Western PA is very GOP and Murtha is an exception—and is pretty right wing for a Dem.

I don’t think Reagan was stupid at all, or, as Art Buchwald put it SO perfectly: “an amiable dunce”!  Actually, I think Reagan was like Dumbya, only wiser and better able to read people, and didn’t really hold politics against someone—on a personal level.  So…how was he like Dumbya? Reagan was intellectually lazy.  To Ronnie, a political idea had to fit on a bumper sticker, and a political philosophy couldn’t be longer than a paragraph.  But that didn’t make him stupid.

But Reagan was, curiously, far more of a pragmatist than Bush, and far more introspective and willing to recognize his own doubts.  Remember: Dumbya is a dried-out drunk but Reagan never was.  Reagan had to reverse himself on tax cuts and did.

Was Reagan a nice guy or a pr**k?  I guess it depends on whom you ask.  To his kids, especially his two youngest, Patty and Ron, he was a miserable father—cold and distant.  She ran away and changed her name.  He simply rejected Dad’s politics.  Maureen seemed devoted to him, but Michael and he had a terrible relationship—wasn’t he estranged for many years?

Yet Reagan’s favorite pol to invite for dinner was Tip O’Neil, another old Irish pol and ward-healer.  So go figure!

Reagan was shallow but glib and that helped him.  There was even a movement (retch) to add him to Mt. Rushmore!

I was 25 when Reagan became President, 21 when Carter did, so I remember both their reigns only too well.  I remember back then they liked to talk about the young Reaganites and “The Two Presidents Theorem” (Carter and Reagan).  Now, Reagan’s two terms are FINALLY being recognized for what I always knew them to be: Total failures.

Plus Jimmy Carter’s one term is slowly, slowly, slowly being rehabilitated.

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By BobZ, February 13, 2009 at 11:44 am Link to this comment

At one point, the adulation of Ronald Reagan got so bad there was talk of putting him on Mount Rushmore. Even Obama thought Reagan was a transformative president, which he may have been, but for all the wrong reasons. Reagan is still a major hero to the business class in this country - just watch CNBC and/or Fox News (if you can stand it) and they still think he was the “cats meow”. The horrible part and I guess the point of this book is how he misled the middle class by playing up the “culture wars” that Nixon started. Many books have been written about this phenomenon, and still today, among my friends, they seem much more willing to jump on some poor soul, usually poor, who bilked taxpayers out of a few hundred dollars, that the bankers on Wall Street who have cost us billions of dollars in lost net wealth. Kudo to Kleinknecht for writing this book. I bet he won’t soon be invited on Fox News to discuss his debunking of the Reagan myth.

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By Gerald Sutliff, February 13, 2009 at 11:16 am Link to this comment
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I didn’t like R.R. since his “Death Valley Days”. Still “we the people” elected him and reelected; what does that say about us?
BTW we elected G.W. Bush as well.  Same question.

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By Bboy56, February 13, 2009 at 11:09 am Link to this comment
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All show, no substance. A hallmark of the era. Overblown, overhyped, conspicuous consumptions poster boy. The MIC’s God.

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By ocjim, February 13, 2009 at 10:45 am Link to this comment

True progressives always knew the sham of Reagan and perceived the fantasies created by Reagan supporters.

Putting down Reagan worship is necessary because moving ahead to a future of hopeful democracy requires dispelling the myth of Reagan because right-wingers use the nostalgia of his false legacy more than any other historical benchmark to trumpet a defense of their failed policies.

Obviously it is not clear how much of an economic, ethical, and cultural failure than Reaganism launched.

It is vital to our future to reject all policy that was Reagan-connected and move on to a pragmatic and hopeful future, leaving behind the Rush-Limbaugh-type cancers still growing.

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By godistwaddle, February 13, 2009 at 10:34 am Link to this comment

If you can find it, check out Christopher Hitchens’s “eulogy” of Reagan.  Hitchens says Reagan was a vile human being, as well as being monumentally stupid.

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By WriterOnTheStorm, February 13, 2009 at 10:09 am Link to this comment

Reagan typifies an America trying to hold on to an infantilized image of itself as maverick, untouchable, invincible, intrinsically superior. He was the salve on the psychic wound of Viet Nam. He was a champion of the delusional American Exceptionalism that has come crashing down under Bush.

There can be no doubt that he ushered in the parasitic corporatocracy that has eaten this country alive for several decades. The slow but sure hollowing out of the national economic infrastructure began in earnest with the deregulation for which he fought.

If it weren’t for the recent economic meltdown it is likely that the latest ‘maverick’ would have achieved the presidency instead of Obama, and the country would have continued it’s long slide into oblivion. It took a complete collapse of the system to arrest our prideful march into self destruction.

Was Reagan a bad man? Probably not. Was he wrong? Yes, wrong about almost everything.

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By Frederick Fuller, February 13, 2009 at 10:00 am Link to this comment
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I am so glad someone is at last telling the truth about Reagan, whom I believe just portrayed a president, the best role a B-film actor ever landed. Big business governed during those years, but the good actor was able to cloud most of the minds of the American people and become a saint. He was just an actor, even an governor of California. Thank you for beginning the downfall of this man who did more to harm our country than did George W. Bush, and that is saying an awful lot. Ronnie and George, I think, were cut from the same cloth.

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, February 13, 2009 at 9:17 am Link to this comment

ITW, if the condition of the world and the ruled says anything about its leaders, then it’s not only the good people of the Ohio/Mon Valley Rust Belt that can be faulted for their lousy choice of a leader.

There’s plenty of history that should amply illustrate what good leaders are or aren’t and yet, things continually get worse.

I’ve come to believe there’s a natural, built-in deterioration of the human condition—probably related to our propensity for multiplying—that, despite the efforts of a few, we’ll not be able to halt. 
Along the way, we’ll always get the phony, smooth-talking, beguiling, charlatan, asshole traitor Reagans.

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By Alejandro, February 13, 2009 at 9:11 am Link to this comment
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Great review and right on target. Ronnie a b-movie actor and Georgie II were nothing more then usefull idiots for the real powers behind the neo-con right. Neither one championed their own ideas, they merely followed a script, prepared by right-wing ideologue’s; and history should treat them as such. School, parks and airports with their names should be changed and monuments of their heads with dunce-caps should be erected instead.

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By Jack, February 13, 2009 at 8:59 am Link to this comment
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When Reagan took office, the United States was the largest creditor nation in the world, and the leading importer of raw materials. We converted those raw materials into the best products in the world, for sale both in our own market to our own citizens as well as for export to other markets. When Reagan left office, we were the largest debtor nation in the world. Reagan’s “recovery” was based upon borrowing money.

When Reagan took office, the National Debt had been paid down to its lowest level since 1931, to 31% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). At the end of the Reagan/Bush years, the National Debt had skyrocketed to 67% of GDP. During Reagan’s eight years, he added more debt that in the entire previous history of the United States. Here is what he said in his inaugural address:

“For decades we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children’s future for the temporary convenience of the present.  To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals.  You and I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means, but only for a limited period of time.  Why, then, should we think that collectively, as a nation, we’re not bound by that same limitation?  We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow.  And let there be no misunderstanding:  We are going to begin to act, beginning today.”
—President Reagan, in his inaugural address, January 20, 1981

And then he went on to ~triple~ the National Debt, from $1 Trillion to $2.9 Trillion.

Reagan inherited 8% unemployment rates, as you point out, from his predecessor. But after two years of his presidency, the U.S. economy entered a recession deeper than any since the Great Depression, and unemployment hit 10.9%.

Those are the actual facts.

Modern conservatives genuinely believe that they stand for fiscal responsibility, smaller government, reining in spending, and liberty. Those were the ideals of Goldwater conservatives, but starting with Ronald Reagan, the reality is that modern conservatives have pushed for the very opposite of those virtues—-all while still claiming them. They have promoted the fantasy of conservative values while engaging in the reality of neoconservatism, which is neither “neo” nor “conservative.” The only thing similar between conservatives and neocons is the flag lapel pin.

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By Alejandro, February 13, 2009 at 8:48 am Link to this comment
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Great review and right-on. Ronnie as well Georgie II were nothing more then usefull idiots to the real shot-callers of the neo-con right. I wish we would stop nameing streets, buildings, airports, schools as though these reprobrates were great Americans to to be reveared

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By Bud, February 13, 2009 at 8:41 am Link to this comment
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I would like to take issue with another myth associated with “Ronnie the Rat”.He DID NOT win the cold war!! He simply out spent the Soviet Union,and drove them into bankruptcy.lower

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By photoshock, February 13, 2009 at 8:05 am Link to this comment

ITW:  Right ON! Revisionist Historical Syndrome, is at its worst when applied to Ronnie and friends. How the Republicans can look back on the Reagan era as the golden years is beyond me.
Unemployment rose, unions were broken, taxes on the middle class and poor rose precipitously, good jobs, were outsourced to foreign countries, the drug wars heated up, and worst of all the top %1 of American wealth became much wealthier because of the no tax policy on them.
Yes, middle class America and the working poor, were much worse off under Ronnie baby, than at any other time before then.
Now, the RHS sufferers, want you to believe that Ronald Reagan, was the “he man, super spiritual, guide of all guides,”  for the masses. No one who earned less than $500,000 a year was any wealthier or any better off under Ronnie.
Sadly, the masses, see his presidency as the golden age of America, when Communism was defeated, and all the bad guys of the world went down with the sinking ship.  No such luck!
The imperial presidency came back with a vengeance under the watchful eyes of Darth Vader. The shrub, lacking even a modicum of intelligence, could hardly tie his own shoes let alone run a country without help from the neo-conservatives.
We must now pick up the pieces of the reputation of America, because of the neo-cons lack of compassion and their priceless accounting methods, that have caused an economic meltdown that is unparalleled in history.
Hopefully, the sufferers of RHS, or more colloquially
right hand syndrome, for the use of the right hand causes sufferers of this syndrome to see things that are clearly not there, or where never there in the first place to slowly fade from view as the continued use of the right hand causes sufferers to hide away from the world.
Please pray for those who suffer from this horribly disfiguring disease, for the sufferers also suffer mentally also.  They soon cannot tell reality from the fantasy created in their own minds. Maybe, just maybe, the sufferers will see the light and return to
the world with eyes wide open, reality staring them totally in the face.

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By tdbach, February 13, 2009 at 7:55 am Link to this comment

Well said, Inherit.

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By Verne Arnold, February 13, 2009 at 7:54 am Link to this comment

Reagan was the prototypical fantasy of the quintessential American wet dream that never existed. EOM

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By Jim Yell, February 13, 2009 at 7:31 am Link to this comment
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We are still paying for weapons programs that do not work and will never work, ones that had their origin in the Reagan Presidency and domination of America by the Military Industrial complex.

Yes Reagan betrayed everyone who ever put faith in him. He was a shallow and not very good actor, but had a winning smile and greed, nothing else. I said this all thru his administration, so why did it take so long to start showing up? Nancy Culp gave us all we needed to understand about Reagan, when she revealed how he had betrayed the Screen Actors Guild to lead his way into being a director.

An echo of this appeared after he left office and immediately went to Japan to give a talk in which he degraded the American Movie Industry and gave exagerated praise to Japan’s movie industry. Perhaps he wasn’t an empty suit as it seems to have been stuffed with payoffs.

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By Purple Girl, February 13, 2009 at 6:41 am Link to this comment

Reagan HAD Alzheimers when he took Office!!Symptoms of alzheimers begin Years before one loses total memory. “I Couldn’t tell you what I had for Breakfast” (Ronny during Iran Contra) Was not merely a way to get out of answering questions- it was the truth.
Ronny was the Next perfect Patsy. Nixon being clinically paranoid was easily manipulated. Ronny’s acting B Film acting abilities and Work experience ratting on his fellow Hollywood cohorts only aided in his selection to be the Frontman for Cheney & Fiends.
No Doubt W’s IQ was well below normal,and his arrogance played right into their goals of bringing down the only country which stood in the way Corp Global Domination.
Their next constestant was a beautiful combination of all three mental deficits. McCain couldn’t retain any information beyond a minute, had serious personality flaws and lacked impulse control, and couldn’t logic his way out of a wet paper bag with a pocket knife. We watched his Temper tantrums during thecampaign. We heard of his violent outburst in the senate. He couldn’t remember the differnce between Shia & Sunni, or who was supposedly being trained by the Iranians. In fact His Staff had to finally come out and admit McCain didn’t speak for the campaign!
In th e’80’s it was easy to blame Ronny, because the ‘King makers’ were only on their 2nd round of Puppeteering. But Now after W and Mac’s emergence as Utter idiots, Cheney et al’s control can not be denied. McCain said he’d love to have Dick in his cabinet- well of course he would, otherwise there wouldn’t be a hand up his ass to work his mouth!
Please lets not blame the Puppet for the Puppetmasters nefarious attempts to bring down the Great Experiment.Cheney, Rummy ,Wolfie et al should be prosectued and Executed for 40 yrs of TREASON!

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By SteveK9, February 13, 2009 at 5:54 am Link to this comment

Agree.  I’ve always thought Reagan was a terrible President.  He began my era when I could not watch a President on TV.  I think television media has been saying what a great President Reagan was so often that it is now viewed as a truism.  Jimmy Carter explains Reagans popularity by pointing out that he happened to be there when the USSR collapsed.  Perhaps his military buildup had some effect but I’m not convinced.  In any case we had 35 years of Presidents fighting the cold war before Reagan.

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By curt taylor, February 13, 2009 at 5:39 am Link to this comment
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It never ceases to amaze me re: the Reagan myth. The national debt was doubled as well as the size of government exploding during his watch. Another myth that the neocons perpetuate: The Republican myth of being the fiscally responsible party.

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By Inherit The Wind, February 13, 2009 at 5:21 am Link to this comment

I know some think me a conservative here—how odd! I’ve said many times here that our economic collapse NOW began in January of 1981. I detested Ronald Reagan as far back as 1976, never could IMAGINE that the GOP would swing SO far Right after Nixon, or that he’d ever be elected.  Because I KNEW he’d damage America far worse than Nixon ever did.  Had George W. Bush not come along, I’d say Reagan was the worst President since James Buchanan and I’d include Ulysses S. Grant in that assessment.

Remember: Reagan’s FIRST goals were to end taxes on the rich and break the unions. “Y’know, if you think about it, corporate income tax is double taxation” or something like that that he said.
Then he broke Patco and endangered the lives of every flying American for a decade.  That showed he had NO tolerance for unions.
Then he signed into law a tax break for corporations who moved jobs OUT of America to the 3rd world.  3.5 MILLION union rust belt jobs were lost in that.  Today, Pittsburgh has NO steel mills because of that, yet the idiots in Western Pennsylvania are hard-core Republicans—like slaves happily serving a master who beats them unmercifully.

Not only that, but Reagan gets the credit for the policies of Jimmy Carter and Paul Volcker—the draconian therapy necessary to heal the economy in 1979-1981. It helped Reagan get elected, but his immediate undermining of it back-fired two years later when unemployment was rising again.

He replaced Douglas Ginzburg at Anti-Trust with Frederick R. Reuhl (‘scuse the spelling error) who not only never met a merger he didn’t like, he didn’t even believe in enforcing EXISTING law much to the division’s chagrin.  Reuhl, as asst AG for Anti-Trust allowed mergers that NEVER should have been allowed, were TERRIBLE for American and cost the division many of its best people who left in disgust.  Even price-fixing cases—a no-brainer to prosecute—were slowed down or blocked.

By the time Clinton took office in 1993, the economy was a mess again, the deficit had exploded, health care cost in America was rising like a hot-air balloon while care quality was getting spottier, and more and more Americans were losing coverage till fully 12-15% had no coverage at all.

Reagan also introduced a meanness—at least in public.  Democrats weren’t “our mis-guided friends across the aisle” but cowards, traitors and betrayers of the American Dream and American Ideals.  In other words, Democrats were tools of Satan (as was made clear in the meteoric rise of Jerry Fallwell and Pat Robertson to influence).

And let’s not forget Antonin Scalia—Reagan’s USSC legacy.

But good history cannot be filled with histrionics, subjective adjectives or calling everything “isms” as the reviewer indicates.  I look more for the “boring” and tedious histories that document fact by fact how Reagan systematically began the destruction of the American economy, political system, and our freedom, all to start us on the road to modern feudalism.

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By Thoreaulymad, February 13, 2009 at 3:11 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We should also lament the demise of the “Not for profit” health insurance provider as a Reagan legacy too. Thanks Ronnie, for the outrageous health care costs.

“Profit uber alles” would be an appropriate catch phrase that describes Reagan’s legacy.

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By M.B.S.S., February 13, 2009 at 3:03 am Link to this comment

the revisionist history is quite an interesting mass spin cycle jedi trick.  the more i learn about jimmy carter the more he seems to redeem himself as well.  amongst the average rush limbaugh republican the former is the best president ever while the latter is the worst.

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By DarthMiffy, February 13, 2009 at 2:38 am Link to this comment

Great review. I wonder how the drive to validate the small and personal stands against the inevitable globalization of many of the same concerns. Anyone?

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