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blue bits. red rocks.

reagan

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Even at age twelve I could tell that Jimmy Carter was an honest man trying to address complicated issues and Ronald Reagan was a brilcreemed salesman telling people what they wanted to hear. I secretly wept on the stairs the night he was elected President, because I understood that the kind of shitheads I had to listen to in the cafeteria grew up to become voters, and won. I spent the eight years he was in office living in one of those science-fiction movies where everyone is taken over by aliens—I was appalled by how stupid and mean-spirited and repulsive the world was becoming while everyone else in America seemed to agree that things were finally exactly as they should be. The Washington Press corps was so enamored of his down-to-earth charm that they never checked his facts, but if you watched his face when it was at rest, when he wasn’t performing for anyone, you could see him for what he really was—a black-eyed, slit-mouthed, lizard-faced old son-of-a-bitch. He was a bad actor, an informer for McCarthy, and a hired front man for a gang of Texas oilmen, fundamentalist dingbats, and right-wing psychotics out of Dr. Strangelove. He put a genial face on chauvanism, callousness, and greed, and made people feel good about being bigots again. He likened Central American death squads to our founding fathers and called the Taliban “freedom fighters.” His legacy includes the dismantling of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the final dirty win of Management over Labor, the outsourcing of America’s manufacturing base, the embezzlement of almost all the country’s wealth by 1% of its citizens, the scapegoating of the poor and black, the War on Drugs, the eviction of schizophrenics into the streets, AIDS, acid rain, Iran-Contra, and, let’s not forget, the corpses of two hundred forty United States Marines. He moved the center of political discourse in this country to somewhere in between Richard Nixon and Augusto Pinochet. He believed in astrology and Armageddon and didn’t know the difference between history and movies; his stories were lies and his jokes were scripted. He was the triumph of image over truth, paving the way for even more vapid spokesmodels like George W. Bush. He was, as everyone agrees, exactly what he appeared to be—nothing. He made me ashamed to be an American. If there was any justice in this world his Presidential Library would contain nothing but boys’ adventure books and bad cowboy movies, and the only things named after him would be shopping malls and Potter’s Fields. Let the earth where he is buried be seeded with salt. The Pain

…the outsize Republican idolatry of Reagan is explained in part by the fact that there’s no one else in their history of whom they can really approve. The Bushes are a bad memory for most, Ford was a non-entity and Nixon was Nixon. Eisenhower looks pretty good on most historical rankings, but he’s anathema to movement conservatives: Eisenhower Republicans were what are now called RINOs. Going back a century, and skipping some failures/nonentities, Theodore Roosevelt is problematic for related but different reasons. Going right back to the beginning,and skipping more nonentities and disappointments, some Repubs still try to claim the mantle of the “party of Lincoln” but that doesn’t pass the laugh test. As many others have observed, the “party of Jefferson Davis” is closer to the mark. So, they have little choice but to present Reagan as the savior of the nation. Reagan and the Great Man in history

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The issue of Reagan’s intelligence is a controversial thing. Liberal friends love to dismiss him as dumb. Everyone has a Reagan story that allows us to dismiss him and his appeal. For example, people would make fun of the fact that while in office he would only read one-page memos. Well, so did FDR, because it’s a good management technique. But whatever you think about his intelligence, what’s unquestionable is that Reagan had extraordinary emotional intelligence. He could sense the temperature of a room, and tell them a story and make them feel good. And that’s more fun, right? It’s more fun to feel good than feel bad. That’s part of our human state. And also that’s what leaders are for. Leaders are for calling people to their better angels, for helping guide them to a kind of sterner, more mature sense of what we need to do. To me, Reagan’s brand of leadership was what I call “a liturgy of absolution.” He absolved Americans almost in a priestly role to contend with sin. Who wouldn’t want that? But the consequences of that absolution are all around us today. The inability to contend with climate change. The inability to call elites to account who wrecked the economy in 2008. The inability to reckon with the times when we fall short. Rick Perlstein

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If the people believe there’s an imaginary river out there, you don’t tell them there’s no river there. You build an imaginary bridge over the imaginary river. Nikita Khrushchev

Ronald Reagan never wanted to be a war president, and there were no wars on Reagan’s watch. None. The Gipper was no neocon. What Would Reagan Do?

Although the top rate for income taxes was 70 percent under Carter (where it had always been, since Kennedy), Carter gave the rich the most sacred tax cut they hold dear: a capital gains tax cut in 1978, from 39 to 28 percent. Thus, Carter gave the rich their first tax cut in 15 years. According to conservative theory, this should have nudged the economy in the right direction, not sent it into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Conservatives also criticize Carter’s promotion of expanded government regulations. But Carter actually began deregulating during his term; in 1978, he deregulated airlines; by 1980, he was deregulating trucking, railroads interest rates and oil. All are fundamental to the economy’s operations. Carter also set up the deregulatory machinery that Reagan would later use to slash regulations almost in half by the end of his second term. Again, Carter’s actions should have nudged the economy in the right direction, not sent it into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Myth: Carter ruined the economy; Reagan saved it

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