Ronald Reagan's Legacy: Your Thoughts

Reagan is constantly in the news these days due to his 100th birthday coming up and more recently the family squabbles. I am going to start with an admission of ignorance:

I remember much of Reagan’s presidency but it began when I was 14 and I wasn’t informed enough to really know much at the time, and most of what I know about him politically comes from readings after his reign. I also have a near irrational dislike of him due to my family being very negatively affected by a couple of his policies (particularly his Social Security cuts). However, I basically know enough about his administration to follow a conversation but too little to participate without betraying some- in the words of his biographer Edmund Wilson concerning Reagan- “encyclopedic ignorance” of areas of his administration and its after effects, so I’m starting this thread less to participate and more to learn.

He’s of course one of the most divisive figures in history, beloved by millions- some of whom would literally carve his face on a mountain if they could- and hated as the ruin of the nation if not civilization by his detractors, with of course most folks falling in between. His sons are bitchslapping each other this week as even they are divided on his legacy (though both have the most self serving of reasons to be- book deals).

So- in your opinion- what were the best and worst aspects of the Reagan years? Was he responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union? Were Reaganomics effective or disastrous? And do you think the man was actually in control?

Greatest POTUS of my lifetime, which dates back to LBJ. I will admit that there is not much in the way of competition for that title.

Does get credit for winning the Cold War. And for restoring hope…the Carter years were a very dark time for the country.

But I have no doubt the usual suspects will be here shortly to shit all over the legacy of a fine man.

I have no desire to “shit all over the legacy of a fine man”. But my recollectioin of Reagan is very different from your.
As a grad student in optics and lasers, his March 23 1983 speech jolted me out of my chair. Either he did not know what he was talking about, or he knew something vastly different than I did. It seemed highly likely that it was the former, and all the things we’ve learned since have not changed that view. I know that some people think that this caused the Soviets to spend themselves into oblivion, but I read the critiques from the USSR, which were pretty well-considered that this program was unworkable. I’ve never seen anything resembling proof that Star Wars caused their demise.

And this is much the way it was with virtually all of his programs. He seemed to be oblivious to facts when it suited him, and i disagreed with most of his policies. Despite Republican claims of financial austerity, the debt ballooned under him, and his social programs seemed ill-considered. He never inspired confidence in me, because I never believed that he himself properly understood what he was saying or doing.

The most over rated POTUS in history. Saying he ended the cold war is a joke. He did kill the labor movement and helped destroy the middle class.

A doddering old fool with a silver tongue and a super strong team behind him. I thought he ws a great leader who happened to lead in a direction that I thought was wrong. He would have been just as happy to lead in any other direction, I believe, as long as he got to ride on the float and wave.

He was responsible for the fall of the Soviet Union the same way Carter was responsible for the fall of Iran. They both happened to be POTUS when it happened.

My main memory of the Carter Years (I turned 10 the month after he was elected so I wasn’t that informed at the time but these are memories) are of gas prices and the Iran hostage crisis. I remember several little pee-diddly service stations out in the country where you had to multiply the gas price by two because the pumps were old and it was unthinkable when they were made- or even a year before Carter- that gas prices would reach more than 1.00 per gallon and so the pump dials only went up to .99, thus if gas was 1.20 per gallon (outrageous at the time) it was .60 per gallon on the pump. There was also a guy from Alabama who was much on the news at that time who was devastated that after a lifetime of training he wasn’t going to the Olympics (though I don’t remember his name or what sport) and the Olympics boycott being huge news for a year. And of course the hostages were nightly news and there was a huge elation when it was announced they were free during Reagan’s inaugural proceedings, probably the single greatest new president PR triumph in history (and one we now know a lot more about). I do remember though the general discontent and often hatred for Carter both in Alabama where I lived and on most of the TV shows (news and sitcoms).

Carter is somebody who I often heard from liberal professors especially “good men don’t all make good leaders”. I’m increasingly convinced now that he’s not even that good a man- numerous firsthand and secondhand anecdotes from people I trust indicate he’s actually quite the prick. He’s also one of the big reasons (far from the first or the only one) for the South’s turning from bastion of Democrats to bastion of Republicans.

One of the biggest outcries in the gay community against Reagan was the sense that he ignored the AIDS crisis due to it being seen as strictly a gay thing. Combatants of this alleged legacy cite that the government spent billions on HIV-AIDS research in this time. Anyone have any opinions on this?

How specifically does Reagan get credit for winning the cold war? Did he do this singlehandedly, or was he simply the major player?
Do you think that historically the Soviet Union would have broken up irregardless of who was POTUS?

In other words, I need some specific actions that Reagan took that led directly to the breakup of the Soviet Union, which would not have broken up without these actions.

What specifically do you mean by “restoring hope”? This sounds pretty amorphous to be hanging a legacy on. I mean, it is simply your opinion, and “hope” is not really definable.

Sorry in advance if I’m a “usual suspect”, and if you consider my reply to be “shitting all over” Reagan’s fine legacy.

I just reread that speech - there was nothing about optics or lasers in it. And I seem to recall that research at the time was spread among a number of different research areas, and the beam weapons went by the wayside fairly quickly.

Am I wrong here, or are you?

I’m not claiming that Star Wars caused the demise of the Soviet Union - but by the mid-80s the Soviet Union was spending between 15-17% of their GDP on defense, with defense expenditures rising 4-7% annually. That wasn’t sustainable, as events post-1989 demonstrated.

Reagan won the Cold War, was largely responsible for the longest sustained expansion of the US economy in peacetime history, restored confidence in the US, and drives liberals into the most entertaining fits of hysterical denial of reality it is possible to imagine. What’s not to love?


Reagan was far from anti-gay. In between his California governorship and his Presidency, California had the infamous Prop. 6 on its ballot. It would have made it illegal for homosexuals to be school teachers. It looked like it was going to pass too until Reagan was interviewed and came out against it. He said something to the effect of “being gay isn’t like the measles. Your kids aren’t going to catch it if they are around a gay teacher.”

Does it bother you that Reagan believed things that were not true? Or does that make you like him even more?

Let’s talk about his legacy with race relations.
There was his decision to accept the Republican nomination in a town that until then was primarily known for being battleground between the KKK and the FBI.
There was his stoking the fires of racism with his often cited “welfare queen” references.
Only 2% of his judicial appointments were to blacks.
Doubted the integrity of civil rights leaders, saying, “Sometimes I wonder if they really mean what they say, because some of those leaders are doing very well leading organizations based on keeping alive the feeling that they’re victims of prejudice."
Tried to get a tax exemption for Bob Jones University, which was then a segregated college in South Carolina .
His acceptance of South Africa’s apartheid government.
He once greeted his only black cabinet member (at a luncheon for mayors), “Hello Mr. Mayor. How are things in your city?”

IMHO, just using his record in this arena, he was terrible for many citizens.

Having worked in Hollywood for many years he and Nancy had many gay friends. Mr. Blackwell (who you don’t get a lot gayer than) was one and he was open when they knew him. Republican wheeler dealer and to quote from Angels in America “the polestar of human evil” Roy Cohn famously brought a male date to a White House reception.

It’s very sad that the middle class has been destroyed (how much did Reagan help in that? Can you quantify his help?). :frowning: We are now a society that are only rich and poor. Of course, it’s on a sliding scale, so…


Previous threads on the topic:

[THREAD=338067]“We have outlawed Russia…”[/THREAD]
[THREAD=349090]Ronald Reagan: Success or Failure?[/THREAD]
[THREAD=444887] Does Ronald Reagan really deserve credit for taking down the Berlin Wall?[/THREAD]
[POST=9943969]World’s Largest Ronald reagan Statue to be unveiled Tomorrow[/POST]

And just for fun:

[POST=11896637]The Beatles helped win the Cold War![/POST]

Reagan’s biggest legitimate accomplishment with regard to the Cold War conflict was forming a strong and sincere friendship with Mikhail Gorbachev which allowed the two leaders to sit down, make a moral commitment to reducing the most dangerous classes of nuclear weapons (IRBMs, eliminated by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty), reducing overall weapon stockpiles to something more reasonable (the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, incidentally allowing both the US and USSR to retire older and less fail-safe weapons and delivery systems). This allowed both parties to walk away claiming victory (arguably a better deal for the Soviets, who in the INF eliminated a direct threat to the Russian homeland), gave Gorbachev credibility in dealing effectively with the West, and ultimately permitted the introduction of economic and political liberalization in the Warsaw Pact nations that (unintentionally) led to the fall of communism in the East Bloc.

You may want to talk to your doctor about treatments for irony deficiency.


There was more job creation per year under Jimmy Carter, and lower unemployment.

The gasoline shortages, the subsequent inflation, and the Hostage Crises were caused by the Iranian Revolution. Carter was not responsible for that. President Eisenhower was. In 1953 he directed the CIA to orchestrate the overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected government, and install the Shah as absolute dictator.

The Shah was never a popular dictator. By imposing him on the Iranian people Eisenhower guaranteed that when he was overthrown the Iranians would hate us. We have been having trouble with Iran ever since.

He was ignorant and senile, pandered to many of the worst aspects of America, did huge damage to it and probably in the long run set it on the path to destruction. He came pretty close to instigating WWIII (his mere election was enough to convince the Soviets to seriously consider a nuclear First Strike on the US; they feared he’d nuke them for Jesus). He helped make the homeless problem what it is today, screwed over the environment, was responsible for slaughter and torture across the globe, and in general ruined what he touched. Bush II was called the second coming of Reagan by some for a reason.

He and the Republicans in general did their best to drag their feet on AIDS in the hopes of killing as many homosexuals as possible. “Let those dirty, disease-infested, sinning queers die!” – John Ashcroft

Most of that expansion went to the rich. There was less job creation under Ronald Reagan than under Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton.

Also, there was the highest unemployment in 1982 since the Great Depression.

Both of those assertions are believable. Nevertheless, they should be documented. On the internet I could not find confirmation that the Soviets considered a first strike when Reagan was elected. Nor could I find confirmation that John Ashcroft said that about homosexuals.

Provoking a nuclear arms race with the Soviets was dangerous and may have provoked a nuclear war if Mikhail Gorbachev had not been more prudent than Ronald Reagan.

Also, the United States spends 46.5% of what the rest of the world spends on the military.

I do not think that is sustainable.