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June 10, 2004


Kan Mattoo

Could not agree more. Especially since I've been at home and all the newscasts show are Reagan was a great president stuff.

Look, the guy was a great speech giver. He knew how to get people behind him and was pretty impressive in getting people behind him. But overall, best president of the 20th century? Come on.


There's some debate over whether or not that link I provided is accurate is some sort of satire. It's kind of hard to tell from visiting the site it originally appeared on, but it seems from what I've read elsewhere, that its portrayal of Bush's character is pretty much on target.

As for Reagan, obviously I'm in agreement. And it's El Salvador and Nicaragua and the rise of the Taliban and the support of Iraq that really puts me over the top more than tax policy or AIDS. People were tortured and raped as you note. People suffered and died. It seems to me--though others would disagree--that Reagan was an intelligent, shrewd man who knew what he was doing. For me, it is a categorical impossibility to say he was a good man. He died in bed at an advanced age; because of him and his administration, many, many people were not so lucky.



I appreciate Marc's measured, respectful yet dissenting tones, as different from other blog diatribes on the same theme. I tend to recoil from any characterization of people as 'Evil' or 'Saintly.' With a rhetorically bankrupt few exceptions (Hitler, Shweitzer, geez did I even come close?) people just aren't that reductively defined. As a politically oblivious college student during the Reagan years, my dominant memories are:

1) "..tear down this wall..." For as unsophisticated a young citizen as myself, immersed in the ABC "Day After" TV-event culture, this was a stunningly direct and stirring statement.

2) The befuddled, aloof, and sadly impotent figure hovering around the periphery of Iran-Contra. It is difficult for me to reconcile this memory with any characterization as a shrewd manipulator of human misery. I DO believe it was a near-religious anti-Communism from the CIC that permitted this weed to thrive.

My own view is that this was a President who wore unshakable confidence in a simplistic world-view as charisma, not fanaticism (something our current Employee is spinning away from). A President who supplied Leadership to the nation and in some cases the functions of Government. A President who benefited from the last few breaths of partisan cordiality before dying a hacking, coughing death under Clinton; benefited from a historical accident of economics.

Contrasted against a backdrop of Nixon, Ford and Carter (morally admirable though I find him to be), he would stand out.

It is difficult to say, though, that any of this makes him more than an above average president (against no specific measure of quality), and any permanent enshrinement (say on the bills in my wallet) MUST reconcile all the filthy realpolitik destruction the creator and wielder of THE WORLD SUPER-POWER cannot help but unleash.

A long historical view should right that, and take the emotion out of either side of the debate. I'm thinking let's say goodbye now, and leave the enshrining to future generations.

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