A few recollections of Ronald Reagan on the day after his 104th birthday

Yesterday was Ronald Reagan’s birthday, which makes me a day late in marking the occasion with this collection of certain realities concerning his record: As I’ve pointed out on numerous occasions, Reagan would be considered a RINO (Republican In Name Only) by current GOP standards. Snarky pundit Slade Sohmer put it succinctly when he said Reagan’s tenure in the White House  “would have to be considered by current conservative standards the worst presidency in American history.” This president is a president every conservative Republican and Tea Party member should loathe. This president nearly tripled the national debt. This president signed an immigration reform bill that granted blanket amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. This president talked with our enemies. This president raised taxes 11 times. This president, in fact, raised payroll taxes in order to pay for government-run health care. This president presided over double-digit unemployment. This president expanded the size of government and created new federal departments. This president cut and ran, withdrawing troops from hostile regions. This president put two justices on the Supreme Court that voted to uphold Roe v. Wade. This president closed tax loopholes to ensure “every corporation pay their fair share.” This president even advocated gun control on the op-ed pages of the, gasp, New York Times. (Snip) [C]ompared to the Palins, Limbaughs, Bachmanns, Tea Party leaders and Fox News commentators that make up the current ideological head of the conservative mega-beast, Reagan is at best a centrist. At worst — strictly looking at governance, not ideology — he governed far more liberally than the job-killing, tax-raising, enemy-appeasing, immigrant-loving Barack Obama. Can you imagine the vitriol from Fox News if President Obama granted amnesty to illegal immigrants? Can you imagine the venom on Tea Party signs if President Obama raised taxes 11 times, called out corporations for tax loopholes and nearly tripled the national debt? Can you imagine the uproar from talk radio if President Obama actually wrote an op-ed advocating any restrictions on the sale of handguns? The right-wing echo chamber might implode upon itself in a fit of blind rage. —— A less snarky, but no less accurate, account of the real Reagan record was offered a few years ago in an essay by Joshua Green in the Washington Monthly. Here’s an excerpt: It’s conservative lore that Reagan the icon cut taxes, while George H.W. Bush the renegade raised them. As Stockman [Reagan’s first budget director, David Stockman] recalls, “No one was authorized to talk about tax increases on Ronald Reagan’s watch, no matter what kind of tax, no matter how justified it was.” Yet raising taxes is exactly what Reagan did. He did not always instigate those hikes or agree to them willingly–but he signed off on them. One year after his massive tax cut, Reagan agreed to a tax increase to reduce the deficit that restored fully one-third of the previous year’s reduction. (In a bizarre bit of self-deception, Reagan, who never came to terms with this episode of ideological apostasy, persuaded himself that the three-year, $100 billion tax hike–the largest since World War II–was actually “tax reform” that closed loopholes in his earlier cut and therefore didn’t count as raising taxes.) Faced with looming deficits, Reagan raised taxes again in 1983 with a gasoline tax and once more in 1984,...

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Hilariously, some conservatives think Jeb Bush wouldn’t fit the Reagan mold as president

It’s been almost 26 years now since Ronald Reagan left the White House, and in that time there has arisen a new generation of Republican right-wingers who know little or nothing about our 40th president’s actual record. As I’ve pointed out on numerous occasions, Reagan would be considered a RINO (Republican In Name Only) by current GOP standards, if his performance as president was more widely remembered. But even some Republican operatives who were around when Reagan was in the White House seem to have forgotten the reality of the situation. Consequently, there has emerged a movement among conservatives to block any presidential bid by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on grounds that he doesn’t fit the Reagan mold (see HERE). If it weren’t impolitic for Jeb to do so, he could lecture the Reagan worshippers on certain truisms. Snarky pundit Slade Sohmer put it succinctly a few years ago when he said Reagan’s tenure in the White House “would have to be considered by current conservative standards the worst presidency in American history.” This president is a president every conservative Republican and Tea Party member should loathe. This president nearly tripled the national debt. This president signed an immigration reform bill that granted blanket amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. This president talked with our enemies. This president raised taxes 11 times. This president, in fact, raised payroll taxes in order to pay for government-run health care. This president presided over double-digit unemployment. This president expanded the size of government and created new federal departments. This president cut and ran, withdrawing troops from hostile regions. This president put two justices on the Supreme Court that voted to uphold Roe v. Wade. This president closed tax loopholes to ensure “every corporation pay their fair share.” This president even advocated gun control on the op-ed pages of the, gasp, New York Times. (Snip) [C]ompared to the Palins, Limbaughs, Bachmanns, Tea Party leaders and Fox News commentators that make up the current ideological head of the conservative mega-beast, Reagan is at best a centrist. At worst — strictly looking at governance, not ideology — he governed far more liberally than the job-killing, tax-raising, enemy-appeasing, immigrant-loving Barack Obama. Can you imagine the vitriol from Fox News if President Obama granted amnesty to illegal immigrants? Can you imagine the venom on Tea Party signs if President Obama raised taxes 11 times, called out corporations for tax loopholes and nearly tripled the national debt? Can you imagine the uproar from talk radio if President Obama actually wrote an op-ed advocating any restrictions on the sale of handguns? The right-wing echo chamber might implode upon itself in a fit of blind rage. —————— A less snarky, but no less accurate, account of the real Reagan record was offered about 10 years ago in an essay by Joshua Green in the Washington Monthly. Here’s an excerpt: It’s conservative lore that Reagan the icon cut taxes, while George H.W. Bush the renegade raised them. As Stockman [Reagan’s first budget director, David Stockman] recalls, “No one was authorized to talk about tax increases on Ronald Reagan’s watch, no matter what kind of tax, no matter how justified it was.” Yet raising taxes is exactly what Reagan did. He did not always instigate those hikes or agree to them willingly–but he...

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Was Ronald Reagan more of a narcissist than Barack Obama?

In the nearly eight years I’ve been writing this blog, nothing has been more fun for me than puncturing the popular conservative myths about Ronald Reagan’s political career. The Gipper, as his fans affectionately called him, defied the right-wing stereotypes applied to him on a whole host of issues — taxes, spending, gun control, abortion, the size of government, compromising with Democrats, negotiating with America’s enemies, arms control, relations with Israel, etc., etc. And now there’s cause to point out another matter on which Reagan wasn’t exactly what his latter-day admirers thought he was. It’s a relatively minor matter, to be sure, but it merits mention here. First, let’s set the stage: A few days ago, I wrote a post (HERE) about Fox News pundit Charles Krauthammer’s foolish claim that Barack Obama is a narcissist. But what I didn’t mention in my rebuttal  was a certain matter about the president’s use of the the personal pronoun “I.” John McWhorter fills in that gap HERE: [Krauthammer’s] evidence? Obama apparently says “I” too much. He’s all into himself instead of the country he’s supposed to be running. “Count the number of times he uses ‘I’ in any speech, and compare that to any other president,” limns Doctor Krauthammer. “Remember when he announced the killing of Bin Laden? That speech I believe had 29 references to ‘I’—on my command, I ordered, as Commander-in-Chief I was then told, I this.” But as linguist Mark Liberman notes at Language Log, the president used the word “I” exactly 10 times in that speech. Meanwhile, when Ronald Reagan made a speech in an analogous situation about Lebanon and Grenada, he used “I” exactly, um, 29 times. Yet to Krauthammer, who coined the term “Reagan Doctrine,” the Gipper was what a president is supposed to be. Why can’t Obama refer to himself as much as Reagan? Krauthammer isn’t alone in bridling at our president’s referring to himself in public addresses. George Will has complained about this too, and yet the whole notion is complete BS. A useful example: Conservative writer Howard Portnoy claimed Obama was “I”-ing up the place ungraciously during his debates with Mitt Romney. In fact, in the first debate, Romney said “I” 227 times to Obama’s 122; in the second, 260 to Obama’s 176; and in the third, 198 times to Obama’s 108. Clearly, it isn’t that Obama refers to himself to any notable degree. It’s that these pundits rankle inwardly when they hear the man saying “I”—because they deeply dislike him.        ...

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The death of Jim Brady brings to mind Ronald Reagan’s support for gun control

Today’s conservatives generally seem not to remember that Saint Ronaldus Maximus was an advocate of gun control. The death of former White House Press Secretary Jim Brady is a perfect occasion  to remind Americans of what Reagan actually said about guns. A good example is a COLUMN Reagan once wrote for The New York Times: While there has been a Federal law on the books for more than 20 years that prohibits the sale of firearms to felons, fugitives, drug addicts and the mentally ill, it has no enforcement mechanism and basically works on the honor system, with the purchaser filling out a statement that the gun dealer sticks in a drawer. The Brady bill would require the handgun dealer to provide a copy of the prospective purchaser’s sworn statement to local law enforcement authorities so that background checks could be made. Based upon the evidence in states that already have handgun purchase waiting periods, this bill — on a nationwide scale — can’t help but stop thousands of illegal handgun purchases. And, since many handguns are acquired in the heat of passion (to settle a quarrel, for example) or at times of depression brought on by potential suicide, the Brady bill would provide a cooling-off period that would certainly have the effect of reducing the number of handgun deaths. Critics claim that “waiting period” legislation in the states that have it doesn’t work, that criminals just go to nearby states that lack such laws to buy their weapons. True enough, and all the more reason to have a Federal law that fills the gaps. While the Brady bill would not apply to states that already have waiting periods of at least seven days or that already require background checks, it would automatically cover the states that don’t. The effect would be a uniform standard across the country. There were other occasions, as well, dating back even to his days as governor of California. when Reagan spoke out in favor of gun control. In 1967, Reagan signed a California law known as the Mulford Act, “”prohibiting the carrying of firearms on one’s person or in a vehicle, in any public place or on any public street.”  ...

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Remember what Ronald Reagan did when the Russkies shot down a passenger plane?

The current generation of American political conservatives is not well-known for its firm grasp of history. Accordingly, it strikes me as a good idea to warn these right-wing partisans against making any snarky suggestions that Ronald Reagan would have done better than Barack Obama in dealing with yesterday’s missile attack on a civilian passenger plane in the skies over Ukraine. HERE‘s a history lesson worth taking to heart: On Sept. 1, 1983, the Soviet Union shot down a Korean Airlines passenger airliner traveling from New York to Seoul, killing 269 people… [I]t is worth recalling that Reagan’s own response in 1983 did not get good reviews from the Fox News of the day. According to Richard Reeves’s “President Reagan,” the administration was seen as far too weak. True, the president’s nationally televised address on Sept. 5 was full of strong rhetorical condemnation: Reagan called the Soviet action “monstrous,” “murderous,” and “born of a society which wantonly disregards individual rights and the value of human life.” But little action followed. Reagan demanded an apology to the world and continued a number of sanctions — but he decided not to end grain sales to the USSR or to suspend arms control talks. George Will argued that “the administration is pathetic…. We didn’t elect a dictionary. We elected a President and it’s time for him to act.”  The Manchester Union-Leader editorialized that “if someone had told us three years ago that the Russians could blow a civilian airliner out of the skies – and not face one whit of retaliation from a Ronald Reagan administration, we would have called that crazy. It is crazy. It is insane. It is exactly what happened.” Even at the height of the Cold War, however — and keeping in mind that the flight had departed from the U.S., with dozens of American passengers, including a sitting member of Congress – Reagan told a National Security Meeting that “we’ve got to protect against overreaction. Vengeance isn’t the name of the game.”      ...

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