Saturday, June 05, 2004
Ronald Reagan 1911-2004
Ronald "Dutch" Reagan, the 40th President of the United States (1981-89), died Saturday from complications of Alzheimer's-related pneumonia. Reagan, both the oldest president and the longest-living ex-prez in U.S. history, was 93. Or as Reagan himself would have said, "The 54th anniversary of my 39th birthday."
Reagan's death shows the true spirit of American politics; leaders from all sides are praising Reagan for his life as a visionary and as a positive role model. In a way, those praises are true; even I found Reagan to be genuinely hip and hilarious in his lighter moments.
For all his wit and charm, however, Reagan was a terrible president. Before Bush Deuce took the all-time title, Reagan set the standard for cluelessness in the Oval Office. The same positive qualities that he had refined as an actor (and had endeared him to so many average Americans) were the perfect front for a right-wing, feed-the-rich administration controlled by people who Reagan unfortunately trusted in that cheerful way of his. Poor people, the working class, the middle class, minorities, women and even most Republicans suffered considerably under his economic policies. Most of the time with a smile on their faces. Reagan gave us all something to take pride in, even if it was all bullshit. We wanted to BELIEVE. Many of us still do.
For all of our political differences, Reagan was a human being. Anyone dying is a tragedy, no matter who they are. And I will honor the dead just like I know the conservatives will when Bill Clinton dies. Reagan was a tough man who cheated death many, many times. He was also very open-minded; from his flirtation with the American Communist Party in the 1930s and his days as a liberal movie star to his McCarthyism and his eventual total shift to the right, Reagan never left a political stone unturned.
For a thorough account of the Ronald Reagan presidency and the 1980s, check out "The Clothes Have No Emperor" by Paul Slansky. It's a day-by-day account of the decade that brought us, well, the eighties.
Rest in Peace, Gipper. At least you weren't Nixon.