Sunday, February 6, 2011

Celebrating Reagan: the lies, the myths and the catastrophies

Republicans, conservatives and the ever compliant press are now engaging in a an exercise in nostalgia, fabrication and a rewriting of both history and reality in celebration of Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday. How fitting.

That Reagan remains the standard bearer for conservative Republicans, especially conservative candidates and members of congress is all too appropriate. It is also appropriate that Barrack Obama let it be known through his press secretary that he was reading Reagan's biography. Because once the PR and the lies are washed away, what is left is a president who made some of the most catastrophic, costly and incomprehensibly stupid decisions in the history of the United States, and at least two of them were mistakes that the country is still paying for and paying dearly.

I would be the first to admit that Reagan was as affable a fellow as there has been in the White House. And I don't believe there was an insincere bone in his body. But there continues to be a kind of infantile dishonesty surrounding Reagan and his presidency perpetrated by Republicans, not Reagan himself, and then regurgitated by pandering journalists like Candy Crowley and Wolf Blitzer on CNN just to name two who continue to pander to Republican PR and a rewriting of history that Reagan was both an extraordinarily popular and effective president. Reagan as a symbol stems from the fact that he succeeded in getting elected as an unabashed conservative and so has become some kind of role model for conservative and Republican politicians,. The problem is Reagan and his policies were a disaster for the country.

As for his much ballyhood popularity it should be noted that Bill Clinton on the day he was impeached by the Republican majority in the House scored a job approval rating of 66%, something Reagan never approached. And of course there remains the Republican hoax that Reagan was responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Believing that Reagan was responsible for the Soviet collapse is like thinking that the rooster's crowing is what brings the sun up in the morning. The Soviet Union imploded under the weight of its own failed ideology and that happened because of the policies of every president since Harry Truman, every dollar in taxes paid by every American since 1946 and because of every member of the armed forces who served from 1946 until the Soviet Union collapsed. And if there was any one single individual who was instrumental in the Soviet collapse it was Mikhail Gorbechev who recognized that the Soviet Union could not sustain itself and orchestrated the reforms, not Reagan.

When it came to the U.S. economy, Reagan's policies were derisively called "Reaganomics" and it was an unmitigated failure. It was even derided by his future vice presidential running mate George HW Bush who called Reagan's economic ideas "voodoo economics". The "trickle down" theory that if you cut taxes of the wealthy the benefits trickle down to the peons below was a disaster. It didn't work with Reagan and it had catastrophic consequences for the economy when George W. Bush applied the same idea with his reckless tax cuts that destroyed the balanced budget, destroyed the surpluses left by Clinton and sent the country into the worst deficits and economic collapse since the Depression. That is also part of Reagan's legacy.

During the 1988 presidential campaign there was only one candidate who warned of the growing deficits left by Reagan and only one candidate that said that " we can't continue living on a government credit card". And it was not a darling of the Tea Party. It was Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis. And his advice was ignored by Republicans and George HW Bush who continued much of Reagan's failed policies until he realized he had to go back on his pledge of :"read my lips - no new taxes". It spelled the end of Bush's presidency.

But the worst and most catastrophic decisions of Reagan's presidency were foreign policy decisions that we are still paying for today and displayed probably the worst judgement of any president of any that had preceded him.

First, in 1982, Israel sent fighters into Iraq and took it upon themselves to bomb and destroy the nuclear facility being built by Sadaam Hussein. At the time the entire world community condemned Israel for the attack and so did Reagan. The United Nations condemned the attack and Reagan, issued instructions for the US to vote yes on the UN resolution condemning Israel for the "act of aggression" against Sadaam, an act that less than 10 years later the world will be thankful was carried out.

And the reason for Reagan's condemnation of Israel at the time was because of his blind alliance with none other than Sadaam Hussein. Sadaam was at war with Iran, an avowed enemy of the U.S. and Reagan, applying the Arab philosophy that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, supported Sadaam. And he did it in a way that was as incomprehensibly stupid a decision as has probably ever been made in American foreign policy. Because it was Reagan who gave Sadaam his biological and chemical weapons.

Sadaam received weapons grade anthrax from Reagan in the form of starter cultures so he could grow more of his own. He received other chemical and biological weapons help including, many believe, the mustard gas that Saddaam used to kill 60,000 of his own people.And when Sadaam used the mustard gas to kill 60,000 men, women and children, the Great Communicator as Reagan was called, communicated nothing.

There can be no rationale, no excuse, no foreign policy that could ever justify the United States aiding and abetting the proliferation of WMD to anyone much less a proven mad man like Sadaam Hussein. And the fact that it was Reagan who gave Saddaam his biological and chemical weapons starter kits is not something you will hear from Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich when they talk about Reagan. What do you think they would be saying now or then for that matter had it been a Democratic president who gave Sadaam his WMD?

The fact that it happened under Reagan and was ordered by him, is nothing you will hear about when conservatives start bellowing and getting teary eyed about Reagan's virtues. Which re-enforces even further the truth that conservatives have no real values or principles, just dishonest political slogans designed to bamboozle people to win elections. Something they have in common with Obama.And the fact that it was Reagan who gave Sadaam his WMD probably wont be mention either by those courageous souls we call political journalists. After all they are not going to want to spoil the party with the truth.

Reagan's decision was a foreign policy catastrophe we are paying for to this day. Had Sadaam not had WMD, George W. Bush would not have had the excuse to lie the United States into a war with Iraq using 911 and WMD as the pretext. That war, which has raged on for 8 years can be laid at Reagan's feet as well as George W. Bush.

But there was another catastrophic decision by Reagan, also one we have been paying for ever since,.and are paying for today and one that also re-enforces Republican and conservative dishonesty and hypocrisy, and it regards terrorism.

In 1982 Hezbollah in Lebanon launched a terrorist attack against a US Marine barracks using a truck bomb. It killed over 240 U.S. Marines. Reagan's response was to do what Republicans have called when it relats to Democrats, "cutting and running". Reagan pulled out all US forces in Lebanon as a response to the terrorist attack and did nothing in terms of retaliation. Had it been done by a Democratic president, ut would have set Republicans and conservatives howling about weakness and they would be talking about it to this day. Instead its just one more Reagan decision to sweep under the rug.

There is not an expert in Islamic terrorism anywhere who will not say that it was Reagan's decision to pull out in the face of the Hezbollah attack in Lebanon, that gave the terrorists the idea that America did not have the stomach to fight back against terrorism and that terrorist attacks against America, especially those that produce mass casualties, would succeed in achieving the terrorists political aims of driving the United States out of the middle east.

The country has paid for that Reagan decision ever since, and paid the highest price on Sept 11,2001 which in turn sent American troops into Iraq and Afghanistan where they are still fighting.

Osama Bin Laden did not send those planes into the World Trade Center because he wanted American bombers and ground forces invading Afghanistan, destroying Al-Qaeda sanctuaries and training camps, and making him the most hunted man in the world, forcing him to live on the run. He ordered those attacks because he didn't think there would be that kind of retaliation and he didn't think so because of Reagan's decision to pull out of Lebanon.

Conservatives and Republicans are now complaining that America is no longer in step with Reagan's values and pledge to bring them back. I dont know about his values but America could not take any more of his policies.


Anonymous said...

Spot on as usual! But these truths will be buried out of sight under the mounds and heaps of praise for "nice guy" Reagan.

Anonymous said...

Don't blame Regan, Marc. Nancy probably made those decisions. I recall watching a gutsy Dateline episode that has been duly covered up. It was shown during Regan's presidency that, time and time again, he quoted supposedly real "generals" and other people who said things to support his positions. The Dateline reporters then flipped to cuts showing movies in which these were the words of ficticious characters as part of a movie plot. In addition, Dateline showed how often microphones picked up Nancy giving him the words to say when he blanked. Obviously, Regan was not competent to serve and did not step down as his son recently claimed he would have done if he had had symptoms of Alzheimer's. There was no news coverage of Dateline's evidence at the time, although a friend in another country said many people there watched the show and were apalled. It seems to have diisappeared from the NBC archives and the memories of the country. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

Lesly Stahl said that she witnessed one of Reagan's 'blank moments' herself, intended to write about it but then pulled back. It was a temporary moment of confusion and Reagan regained his footing in this private moment in the Oval Office. But my father suffered from Alzheimer's and that's what the disease looks like in the early stages. The GOP will never admit that, of course. It's why the son's recent book has been lambasted.

But still the myth continues regarding 'Saint Ronnie.' The economic philosophy alone, voodoo economics ahould tell us everything we need to know. Yet Republicans persist in selling the 'trickle down' snake oil. Poppy Bush knew it was garbage and so did/does David Stockman, which is the reason he quit the Reagan Administration as budget director.

It didn't work then; it doesn't work now. The fairytale is toxic.

Silent Kate said...

I remember when they wanted to replace FDR with Reagan on the dime. I take it you aren't a member of the Friends of Ronnie campaign? He was no friend of the people. He was a union buster.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Marc for your succinct expose of Ronald Reagan. I never liked him as a president and now I remember why.

Anonymous said...

Another excellent post, Marc, it is such a thrill these days to occas- ionally get to read the truth.

Kuddos to you - you have been doing it from the get go.