Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ronald Reagan: Who needs your truth if it stands in our way?

The quote in the title of this post is from former Chief Political Commisar of the Soviet Armed Forces, General Aleksei Yepishev, in response to complaints by former Marshall of the Soviet Union, Georgy K. Zhukov.

Zhukov was upset that his memoirs were being "edited" by the communist party, removed criticism of Stalin, and had "cameo" appearances of senior communist party officials written in (regardless of the fact they weren't there).

Yepishev's response made clear, the facts did not matter. In the Soviet Union, the Communist Party decided what was and what was not "history." We find the fact that Soviet commisar's quote would apply just as much for the Grover Norquists and other Reagan acolytes today.

With the observance of what would have been Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday this weekend, it's important to note the difference between the fact and fiction of Reagan. This icon of the modern conservative movement in the United States owes his image more to good post-presidency PR and much less to actual fact. Because the fact is, as our own Sen. Lindsey Graham noted last year, "Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today."

Ronaldus Magnus could be called a "serial tax raiser" having raised taxes 7 out of 8 years he was in office. In fact, "The Great Taxer" would be a more apt moniker than the "Great Communicator," as Paul Krugman noted in the NY Times:

But Ronald Reagan does hold a special place in the annals of tax policy, and not just as the patron saint of tax cuts. To his credit, he was more pragmatic and responsible than that; he followed his huge 1981 tax cut with two large tax increases. In fact, no peacetime president has raised taxes so much on so many people. This is not a criticism: the tale of those increases tells you a lot about what was right with President Reagan's leadership, and what's wrong with the leadership of George W. Bush.
Reagan grew the deficit from $7 billion to $3 trillion. Reagan expanded government, granted amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, negotiated with terrorists, cut and ran from Lebanon, supported federal handgun laws, called for a world without nuclear weapons and and suffered from Alzheimer's before his first term was over.

This isn't to disparage that Reagan is not worthy of praise from conservatives. Reagan did some pretty good things. In fact, in 2003, the Washington Monthly caused a stir by running a cover story titled "Reagan's Liberal Legacy." But as Benen notes, conservatives deification of Reagan seems to be more likely the result of a lack of other candidates amongst Republican presidents.
Over the last 146 years, exactly how many GOP presidents do contemporary Republican activists actually like? There's Reagan, and there's no one else.

Dems have a more diversified list, ranging from Jefferson to Jackson, Roosevelt to Truman, JFK to Clinton, and maybe someday, Obama.

Reagan, conversely, gets all the love, because his party isn't proud of anyone else except Lincoln. That makes the adulation understandable, but it doesn't give it value.

1 comment:

Mike Reino said...

Hey, Hey, Hey... We had Teddy Roosevelt too!