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To Bury, Not to Praise; On the Death of Ronald Reagan

By Gary Gordon
Sunday, June 6, 2004
     When Bob Schieffer of CBS’s Face The Nation asked Newt Gingrich about the huge deficits that would also be part of the Reagan legacy, Gingrich said Reagan’s choice was always to have a strong defense and cut domestic spending and that this would grow the economy and cure the deficits.
     On whose backs?
     And what about all those nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union still aimed at us?
     In other words, why all the hoopla about Reagan?
     Well, it’s Mainstream Media Hoopla Time, and part of their job is to praise Caesar and reinforce the collective memory loss that urges us all to forget Reagan’s war on the poor, his efforts to eliminate Head Start, Food Stamps, Legal Services Corporation (legal aid for poor people), and his war on the environment (remember James Watt?) and alternative energy progress-he tore the solar collectors off the White House roof in one of the most vivid demonstrations of backward thinking to date.
     This is where Ralph Nader would be important, had Nader not chosen to become something of a joke. Nader, and journalists like Mark Hertsgaard (“On Bended Knee”), Ronnie Dugger (“On Reagan”), Mark Green (Ronald Reagan’s Reign of Error”) and those journalists who covered Iran-Contra-these are the folks with the facts and figures about what really occurred during the Reagan regime.
     Those of us who were involved in municipal policies during that era (I served on the city council in Gainesville, Florida) had to deal with a Reagan-lead federal administration that reduced funding for mass transportation, Community Development Block Grant funds, and environmental protection.
     Here was a man who, among other things, got “the government off our backs” by withholding federal highways funds to states until they raised the drinking age from 18 to 21. (Fine, you might think that’s an appropriate age limit, that it’s okay to fight for your country at 18 but not to drink-that’s another argument-the point is Mr. anti-government Reagan was not really opposed to using the power of the federal purse to implement social policy, so don’t be conned by that scam.)
     The green light was given to corporations to make war on unions and to do their best to conglomerate. What had remained of the Great Society thru Nixon, an American experiment that was working, was wiped out under Reagan.
     And as far as Reagan’s huge accomplishment (other than speaking at Bittburg to commemorate the Nazi war dead) of defeating the Soviet Union, most analysts agree that empire was on its last legs, and its fall was hastened more by its invasion of Afghanistan than by Reagan’s “evil empire” rhetoric and his fascination with and attempts to fund the huge boondoggle SDI aka “Star Wars”. (An invasion, by the way, which we unnecessarily chose to oppose by arming the Mujadeen with RPGs-you remember the Mujadeen aka The Taliban and Al Qaeda?)
     Returning for a moment to all those warheads, the question must be raised, despite the end of the Cold War, are we really safer? What was gained geopolitically (thinking like Kissinger here) from the destabilization of the check against an expansionist China? With Russia and a variety of hard-to-pronounce “republics” armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, many aimed at us, all destabilized, coupled with the destabilization now of Iraq (the check against Iranian and Saudi expansion), how can anyone conclude that the world is a safer place?
     Reagan supported dictators around the world, failed to support democracy in Central and South America, supported rogue actions (conducted by the liars Admiral Poindexter and Ollie North) that violated US law, increased the no-win war on drugs, decreased the funding and impact of the great social programs of FDR and LBJ, enthusiastically embraced the fast-track corporatizing of America while reducing environmental protections, made war on the Air Traffic Controllers Union (PATCO) thus giving the green light to all those CEOs wanting to destroy unions, lost 250 Marines on an ill-defined mission in Lebanon, “wagged the dog” in Grenada, and in all likelihood stole the 1980 election through deals made regarding the hostage release, and successfully fooled most of the people enough of the time to get them to feel good about voting against their own interests and to now, perhaps, want to celebrate him as something other than a second-rate movie actor.
     And in fooling all those people, in conning them, in scamming them, in seducing them with his "humor" and genial manner and smile that concealed a complex combination of ruthlessness, narrowmindedness, dogma, know-nothingism, and ego, well, Reagan committed what became the number one crime of the Clinton era: he lied.
     Now the man will lie in state… as he always did.