Thursday, February 3

Great. Something Else To Look Forward To.

Jennifer Medina, "Lavish Centennial Plans Testify to the Strength of Reagan’s Influence". February 2

IF posting is light, if anyone cares, it's not because of winter-related traffic snarls, the demands of ice clearing on a man my age, nor even the notable, uh, physical effect unexpected school vacations have on my Poor Wife. The simple answer is that for some reason, possibly weather induced, I tried to read Maureen Dowd's column on Egypt yesterday.

Oddly, the effect was not unlike an early spring: horrible misshapen fleshy things of an unnatural pallor sticking up where they don't belong, and the water company flushing the lines so that what comes out might be technically fit for human consumption, but not for any human technically fit to make his own decisions. I'm still trying to get the taste out of my mouth.

[Preteritio alert: This post is not going to say anything at all about "Iran-Contra", "South American Death Squads," or "Senseless, preventable deaths of 241 American military personnel as a direct result of this country's Middle East policy being turned over to the wishes of a mythical 2000-year-old carpenter, variously mis-translated and indifferently studied". Because you can make the fucking case against Ronald Reagan without those.]

So, first: the odds are long that Ms Medina writes her own headlines, which means, at long last, it's time for headline writers to get a byline so we know who to hurl rancid government cheese at for this one. Lavish Centennial Plans testify to nothing more than two generations of Reaganauts having no better argument than mindless hero worship, no progress to mark since his second inaugural, and not enough sense to distinguish between kitschy public display and actual achievement. Which, come to think of it, was how he got elected in the first place.

No, if you need a testament to his Lasting Influence, it's this. As in this, the fact that the New York Times is apparently afraid not to join in the general hagiographyin':
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Ronald Reagan would have turned 100 this Sunday, and nearly seven years after his death, one might think he were still alive and leading the Republican Party.

Still alive? Being brain-dead didn't stop him before.
Along with the requisite speeches and academic panels, the festivities include: a Rose Parade float, a six-foot-high cake, commemorative stamps and jelly beans, a Beach Boys concert, a tribute from the Jonas Brothers and a video homage at the Super Bowl, which is also on Sunday. The memorials, including a 21-gun salute and a graveside wreath-laying by Nancy Reagan, are expected to draw hundreds of former aides and supporters.

Here's my favorite thing about incontinent Reagan Tributizin', which, younger readers may not realize, has been going on non-stop since Election Night 1980, when he single-handedly saved the Republic by defeating Jimmy Carter: the way it never fails achieve Unintended Self-Parody in the first ten seconds. (While we're at it, a Special Thanks to the NFL for taking time out of its busy schedule of holding cities and states hostage for the price of the stadiums it needs to salute the Father of Modern Private Enterprise in such a fitting manner.)
Reagan is not the first former president to enjoy the honor of a centennial celebration, but it is hard to remember any that were quite so lavish, speaking to his enduring role in American politics. (This weekend’s festivities at the Reagan Library here, the highlight of a year’s worth of events around the country, will cost roughly $5 million; by contrast, the cost of Lyndon Johnson’s centennial in 2008 was a mere $500,000.)

Bear that in mind, when you're planning your own lavish memorial: the Wealthy throw bigger bashes.
And a number of the prospective 2012 presidential candidates will be on hand to offer their praise during the revelry, among them Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, who has just written a book about Reagan and, in an interview, called him the “most successful president at actually achieving his specific and articulated goals.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Your Country in a Nutshell. Where it belongs.
The accolades illustrate the unusual durability — at least among Republicans —

What? Your modern Republican is precisely distinguishable from the average Former Jonas Brothers Fan in that his crushes last forever. My god, these are the people who thought "Miss Me Yet?" with a picture of The Worst President in the History of the Republic was a milestone in the annals of political humor. David Brooks will publicly blow the corpse of anyone who opposed the French Fucking Revolution, fer chrissakes. Repeatedly.
of the Reagan legacy, which has endured even as so many institutions have been under attack. Reagan’s near-idol status in the G.O.P. is so ingrained that when potential party chairmen were asked last month to name their political hero, the moderator hastened to add “aside from President Reagan.”

In other words, it took Grover Norquist only thirty years before he figured out he needed to add "besides the Bible" if he wanted to get any honest essay answers--in house, remember--from young seminarians about The Book Which Most Influenced My Life. Big deal. For twenty-five years no Republican would have dared say anything else.
If the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation has any say, that qualifier will be repeated for decades.

“Our job is to promote the legacy of his words and work, which were simply incredible,” said John Heubusch, the executive director of the foundation and a former Congressional aide, who said that Reagan inspired him to enter politics.

Either John Heubusch doesn't know the meaning of "incredible", or there's at least one Republican who enjoys a good public leg pull.
“I’d go toe-to-toe to debate with anyone who said he was not a transformational president. He certainly was.”

And we're still in doubt on that language question, since Mr. Heubusch didn't specify what sort of transformation.
Staff members at the foundation are careful to point out that the money for the events and for the museum’s $15 million renovation came entirely from private fund-raising. “President Reagan would not have wanted Congress to spend any money on this,” said Stewart McLaurin, the director of the centennial events, who also went to work for Reagan in 1984.

Because if there was one thing President Reagan was known for it was minimizing the pomp and circumstance surrounding the office.
What about the presidential Jelly Belly jelly beans? Reagan was a famous fan, so it is certainly possible that he would look kindly on spending $24.95 for the special edition Reagan Centennial box. Along with 50 flavors of jelly beans, the box comes with a copy of the Declaration of Independence, a brief history of Reagan’s life and several of his quotes.

The Reaganisms include the lofty: “I can assure you that personal faith and conviction are strengthened, not weakened, in adversity.” And then there’s his philosophy on jelly beans: “You can tell a lot about a fella’s character by whether he picks out all of one color or just grabs a handful.”

Jesus Christ, does anybody buy this shit? I mean for free, let alone at $30.00 for an six-ounce commemorative bag?
Perhaps it is hardly surprising for Reagan, who was known as the Great Communicator, to be quoted so extensively.

“He’s referred to all the time because he’s extraordinarily quotable and inspiring, as much as Lincoln and more than anyone else in the 20th century,” Mr. Gingrich said.

That's Professor Gingrich to you. Case closed.
The love for Reagan is not universal, of course, and liberals do not hold him in such high esteem.

“Reagan holds unique status today because the Republicans don’t have anyone else,” said Paul Begala, a former Clinton aide and a political strategist. “They can’t lionize Eisenhower because, by today’s standards, he was a liberal. They can’t lionize Nixon because he was a criminal. Who have they got left?”

Fifteen paragraphs and we get to…Paul Begala? Who is more-or-less correct in his assessment of the Republican bench, though he might've added that they can't use Lincoln since he opposed the ideal minimum wage, but that's beside the point. The story of the Reagan presidency is precisely the phony PR rep that was built up around it and calcified faster'n the Presidential Brain. It's the reason Reagan's noted pop historian has this to say:
Mr. Cannon said that the popular view of Reagan had only improved with time, although his approval ratings were higher than many other presidents when he left office.

“There’s always a certain nostalgia,” Mr. Cannon said. “But the reality is he really did help end the cold war. The world now ain’t a walk in Central Park, but it’s certainly a much safer place than when Reagan took office. And he convinced Americans to believe in themselves.”

Higher than Many! a qualifier now used because Bill Clinton left office even more popular, and without the 24-hour lionization service. Reagan left office popular, not exactly like an old whore or an ugly building, but because there was a collective Oh Shit! moment in American politics when both the worst of his shenanigans and the real-world effect of his disconnected leadership came to light, and people decided they'd rather not be called to account for voting for him in overwhelming numbers despite ample evidence which argued against it, and decided to fall back on a sort of instant nostalgia for the trumped-up economic accomplishments of the middle of his reign. Of course that one's inoperative now, too, in light (never did a man's lasting influence depend so much on changing the rules every so often in order to keep him in the best light), again, of Bill Clinton's better numbers. Not to mention our clearer view of the effects of thirty-years worth of increasing income disparity and WWIII levels of Defense spending. So we fudge that now, and show another round of Berlin Wall clips. Horseshit. Ronald Reagan was the paid spokesmodel of a few wealthy Goldwaterites, and he managed to stick around long enough to get elected when the sea happened to change. He promised to eliminate the National Debt and nearly quadrupled it. He spoke about Middle American values, and handed the keys to the country to piratical mercantilists. He cured our post-Vietnam military defeatism by signing a blank check for every high-tech gadget the Pentagon pushed his way, reducing our nuts-and-bolts readiness in the process; Ronald Reagan is a major reason why we could have blown Sadam Hussein and the rest of the Middle East to Allah five-hundred times over, but couldn't successfully occupy a country with no air force and a tenth-rate military already defeated. Make no mistake about this. The Soviet Union was bankrupt before Ronald Reagan ever took office, and the United States government had known this for a decade. Th' fuck do you think we spent all our time studying in those days? Ronald Reagan chose to spend us near to bankruptcy alongside it. Take your pick of reasons; none of them involves "reality". His was the morality of the small-town cop: determine how much graft is acceptable, how much sticking your nose into other people's business you can get away with by calling it "surveillance", and when you're finally found out protest loudly that things would've been much worse if Stalin had been in charge. A tacky Rose Bowl parade float is a fitting tribute for the real Reagan. Assuming it had a vacuum attachment that sucked money from honest people along the route.


77south said...

Would honest people be anywhere near a Reagan birthday parade? I doubt it. Shills and rubes by the thousand, but honest people, not so much.

Brian M said...

God, this is great stuff Doghouse. Bravo! I'm so sick of hearing about Saint Ronnie. even his own son admits he was senile during his figurehead second term.

M. Krebs said...

Reagan was sanctified because he made rich assholes and ignorant losers feel proud of of themselves and each other.

May God have mercy on his soul. Or not.

Anonymous said...

He was a prick!

Brendan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brendan said...

"The world now ain’t a walk in Central Park, but it’s certainly a much safer place than when Reagan took office." -- Lou Cannon

I wonder if he realizes how many of those who currently think Reagan=Jesus, if asked about that safer-world-now business, would say HELL NO! HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN ABOUT THE TURRURISTS?

(Also, the Bedwetter Brigade would not under any circumstances walk through Central Park, no matter how much of their personal 2nd Amendment artillery you let them carry.)

D. Sidhe said...

I may be starting to annoy your Poor Wife at this point, but *Goddamn*, Riley, I wish I'd known you when we were younger. If nothing else, I'm betting it would have vastly improved the quality of my youthful indiscretions.

Oh, and me? I still got jars of FDR dimes sitting around in case we go even stupider as a country and start letting Grover fucking Norquist write legislation.

Rugosa said...

So what exactly can you tell about a man's character by his choice of jelly beans?

What you can tell about Regan's alleged great communicating from that quip is that it was mostly meaningless, get-a-chuckle blather. The kind of chuckle you give the boss's bad jokes so you get the raise you don't really deserve.

Oh, and he raised taxes, too.

StringonaStick said...

When he was in office I thought Reagan was evil incarnate, but compared to the current batch he's just an entry-level hell.

Anonymous said...

Preach, Brother Riley, PREACH!! This column really needs to be published on the front page of the "Newspaper of Record." One of the most heinous acts of the GOP has been its ability to completely twist the truth around and serve it up on the Web and of course, Faux News. Orwell is now rotating fairly rapidly in his grave. Thank the FSM there are a few voices out there who know that the Emperor was running around au naturel. Keep fighting the good fight...where's your tip jar, anyhow? Oh, I see it...

jackd said...

To celebrate the Reagan Centennial, I'm going to dig out my copy of "The Clothes Have No Emperor", which is about 200 pages of evidence that as a President, Reagan was an excellent B-grade actor.

Anonymous said...

"The world [is] certainly a much safer place than when Reagan took office." -- Lou Cannon

Like funneling money and weapons to mujahideen leaders in Afghanistan like Osama Bin Laden. Boy, am I glad there was never any blowback from that far-sighted policy.

Reagan did some things to bring closer the end of the cold war, and some stupid, belligerent things that probably lengthened it, all at a hideous cost to the US taxpayer. All in all, barely effective and extravagantly inefficient at his 'signature' bragging accomplishment.

But he had a great PR machine, and a wooden bathos delivery which inexplicably came across as non-phony to some number of people, and lots of cool-looking set pieces for the TV cameras, which is all that matters to the mancrush fanboys of the Republican party who demand a simpleton, entertaining manichean storyline without any of that scary commie/librul nuance or ambiguity.

loretta said...

@ jackd: Funny you should mention that, The Clothes Have No Emperor has just come out in an e-book form and I read the entire thing in one sitting yesterday. I guess you could call it a sentimental journey, although the sentiments were mostly disgust.

I was rather young in the 80s, so I don't remember much in real time, but I do remember hating him early and often, even before I paid much attention.

I was a fledgling Political Science student just in college and surrounded by newly minted brownshirt Reagan accolades who wanted to abolish welfare, among other things. Luckily, the state government (Ohio) had just become completely Democratic after Rhodes lost his final run at governor and it balanced the equation for the next 8 years. Thank god for that.

If anyone wants to read "The Clothes..." it's available for whatever you want to pay for it, check out Gawker or Huff post. Highly recommended as an antidote to this sickening idolatry.

Cletis L. Stump said...

My dad would have been 100 on August 23, 2010. There, my friends, was a man. He worked in the coal mines for forty-nine years. He started in 1923, when he was 13, after his father was crushed in a rock fall. It took my grandfather two years to compensation, no social security, no food stamps, nothing to help my grandmother and five other kids.

Dad took his energy, intelligence, and his fists and helped establish the UMW in Southwestern Virginia and Southeastern Kentucky. He was compassionate and funny as hell. He was also a bad ...shut your mouth.

He loathed Ronald Reagan. He did his part and I try to be half the man he was. If you get time, drop by and find the story "Funeral" at our place. I wrote it as a tribute to Dad.It's probably under a Creative Sunday heading.

Let me add my voice to those who sing your praises. What a wondeful place you have here.