Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future by Will Bunch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The book starts with a description of the Cult of personality as applied to Reagan
step 1: Eliminate any negative reference, such as Iran Contra
step 2: Award credit where it is not due: Cold War was Reagan ignoring 40 years
step 3: Whitewashing any qualities that don't mesh with the new vision. Good Qualities as well as bad, such as the fact that he talked with the enemy and compromised and raised taxes
I was frankly amazed that there was so much good to say about the man, of course it was mainly because he didn't follow through on his rhetoric.
For all his hawkish bluster the only real military engagement was Grenada (don't get me started on that pile of ..well pile something). AND it turns out his advisers multiple times tried to get him to invade Panama, but he always refused.
And of course for all the praise the massive 1981 tax cuts Tea-baggers praise, it turns out he raised taxes for the next six years. Something like 11 times.
But good points and nuance aside, one of the more frustrating things was the replay of the Carter Reagan debate where at one point Carter said..
Now we have and opportunity to move forward toward national health insurance, with an emphasis on the prevention of disease and...(he goes on make wonderfully important and telling points)
There you go again.
A line Reagan had practiced over and over again and he killed with it.
The fact that this line is remembered with affection and some odd example of how wonderful Reagan was, makes me think our country really is doomed.
But the thing that sticks in my mind the most was Reagan's misquote where he said
Facts are stupid things
He meant to say facts are stubborn things, but really he was unwittingly insightful. Facts by themselves mean nothing, they require context and interpretation.
One could say it is a fact that Carter had the solution to our current energy problems decades ago, or that he was the one that started the deregulation of big business, or that he was already rebuilding the military or appointed Paul Volker who was truly responsible for reigning in inflation. You could say that but every one of these facts say one thing to me, but to conservatives they prove the opposite.
It is like how I imagine a tarot reading (I really don't know), you lay down one card (a fact) but all the other you place around it influence the reading until the next thing you know the seer-er is telling you that Reagan shrank the size of government and the deficit.
The author does a pretty good job of tracing the beatification of St Reagan and points out that by the end of his presidency he was only mildly popular and one of those irritating rate the President polls one time had him, Carter and Clinton about the same (before Clinton's blue dress problems)
By the time of his death it was as if George Washington had come back to life and died just to get some press coverage. Almost no mention of Iran Contra, which another of the facts don't matter that he was advised selling arms to Iran was an impeachable offense and he said not to worry about it.
He also points out that the ramping up of the Reagan sainthood got underway around the time the demonize Clinton industry took off. His point was that in order to have a hero you have to have a villain. Maybe there is some of that in the Obama hater's club.
The latter part of the book looses focus for me since he leaves the hypothetical world of facts and starts opining on what it all means and what America is really like. All very vague and hard to prove. But then again that is the gist of the Reagan lesson, Proof is now really just strongly stated belief. Do it just like Reagan did, and you may recall George Costanza in Seinfeld clarified it when he said “It's not a lie if you believe it!” Reagan believed it.
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