What's so great about Ronald Reagan?

So far, they’ve renamed Washington National Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, named a federal building in DC the Ronald Reagan Building, named an aircraft carrier after him. Now, a group in Congress wants to build a memorial to him on the Mall in DC.

The last has been nixed by the Bush Administration because a 1986 law that Reagan signed bars such memorials on the Mall until 25 years after the person’s death.

That’s one big point: this guys is still alive! Sure, he’s sadly not the person he was in his prime. But what fantastically great things did he do as Prez qualifies him for such honors, even before he’s dead? From what I remember, his economic policies increased deficit spending to unknown magnitudes, he didn’t increase the minimum wage throughout his term, and his beloved wife used astrologers to help plan his schedule.

If there’s a former president that needs a memorial, it’s William Henry Harrison, who pledged not to run for a second term. And to back up that promise, he died one month into his term. Way to go, Willie!

Hey AWB! You know better than to post something like this in GQ. When it gets over to the proper forum I’ll come join you. BTW, your assessment of Reagan is exactly right. He made huge messes that we only now are starting to clean up.

I’ll restrain myself to the facts since this is GQ.

Well, he was elected for two terms and served them both out, the first president to do that since Eisenhower. Plus he was popular enough that his V.P. could ride his legacy right into the Presidency. Contrast that to the other presidents we’ve had in the last 30 years, most of whom only served one term (or even less than one). Who’s going to build a monument to Gerald Ford?

He’s also reached the status of “virtually dead” since he makes no public appearances. He’s also not particularly involved in the lobbying for the memorials, a trait also shared with the actual dead.

One more point: You give “he didn’t increase the minimum wage” as a point against. Obviously this depends on your political point of view – but nearly all Republicans would put this in the “for” column.

I will also confine myself to facts.

  • He won the Cold War, in the same sense that FDR won WWII. He was not President when it was actually over, but he was primarily responsible for it happening.
  • He is largely responsible for the economic boom that began in the 80s and has continued to this day (with a brief and mild recession that triggered the election of a former President, who claims all the credit for the economy and deserves none of it)
  • He is responsible for the military buildup that assisted in ending the Cold War, and which his successor used to prevent World War III (aka the Gulf War).
  • He reduced the poverty rate in America.
  • He restored faith in America’s destiny.
  • He negotiated the treaty that eliminated all medium range missiles from Europe.
  • He managed to complete two complete terms without being impeached. By the standards of the 90s, this puts him well ahead of most of his predecessors and successors.
  • Most of all, he had style. Name another 70 year old who responds to being shot thru the chest by making jokes in the emergency room. [/ul]

Yes, this is heading towards Great Debates.

Irrespective of policy considerations one thing he did do and which is key to the respect and popularity that he is still regarded with to this day (that appears to mystify you) is to stand up and repudiate the Carter Administration’s attitude (and Jimmy Carter’s specifically) that essentially said:

1: To the world:

“We’re sorry we’re the richest, most dynamic, most powerful nation on the face of the planet. Please oh please, forgive us world, for the terrible sin of being Americans.”

2: "To the nation from his pulpit:

You know it’s really all your fault. If only you could shake this malaise that seems to plague you so."

Reagan stood and essentially said “It’s morning in America we can accompish whatever we set our minds to, I am proud to be an American and I make no apologies for it.”

History will judge Reagan but IMO simply for the fact that he pulled the suffocating, self flaggelating, Carter malaise off the chest of the nation is enough for me to consider him a good and necessary President for the time and situation he was in.

waits until it reaches GD, but for one point

Reagan was hardly responsible for “winning” the Cold War, nor did he have anything to do with the downfall of the USSR.

I weighed putting this in GD, but it seemed to also fit here in GQ.

SmackFu: OK, he was elected twice and served both terms. He didn’t exactly have the toughest competition. And Eisenhower, FDR, Wilson, Cleveland, etc. all were elected and served two terms, yet they have no memorials. (Arguably, Wilson has the Wilson Bridge on the Capital Beltway. But that’s rather an embarassment instead of memorial.) And how 'bout Nixon, who was VP twice and elected prez twice? :D:D

Also, his VP rode his legacy into the White House. Yeah, against Dukakis. My grandmother could’ve done that, and she’d been dead for 11 years in 1988.

Astro: Other presidents have cleaned up the “messes” of previous administrations without award (Coolidge, FDR).

Shodan: He wasn’t impeached. Hmmm… Well, only two presidents have been (without removal, BTW.). So it’s not much of a distinction. Also, I think more of RR’s administration has been indicted on criminal charges than any other.

And the economic boom was due to massive deficit spending. You inject a trillion dollars (that you don’t have) into any economy, and sure things are bound to pick up.

I know a few Russians that would disagree with you, Guin

And I know quite a few who wouldn’t. A professor of mine laughed when I asked him saying Reagan had nothing to do with it. (This man lived most of his life in Russia, spent times in the gulags, is friends with Sergei Khruschev and has a Ph.D., etc etc…)

Reagans contribution to ending the Cold War was being able to outspend the competition. Of course that landed us heavily in debt.

For the record, there’s already an FDR memorial in Washington DC.

And Congress has a committee working on an Eisenhower memorial.

Ronald Reagan brought the republican party back from it’s near death at the hands of Richard Nixon. He plainly saw that he needed to incorporate the agenda of the religious right into the GOP if he was ever going to get elected. His historic decision to “win at any cost” has probably changed the face of american politics forever.
The trickle down disaster, drug debacles and record deficits notwithstanding, those factions that gained political clout from Reagans actions naturally consider him to be a great president.

“You know better than to post something like this in GQ.”

“I’ll restrain myself to the facts since this is GQ.”

“I will also confine myself to facts.”

waits until it reaches GD, but for one point

::sniff:: ::wipes away tear:: It’s like my birthday and Christmas all rolled into one! Thanks, all!

Off to GD.

Hardly. The Soviet Union had been digesting its own guts for at least a decade when RR took office. The Cold War came the closest since the early Sixties to becoming a Hot War under Reagan, but his policies were a minor nudge toward what was already the inevitable.

The only economic boom Reagan triggered was for the wealthiest 1% of Americans. On the other hand, he forwarded policies that drove American working class jobs overseas, much to the chagrin of the Americans who once had those jobs.

This is too hilarious for words. The Gulf War was nothing more than a chance for GHWBush to pretend he wasn’t a wimp while propping up a corrupt, undemocratic gulf regime that just so happened to be friendly to wealthy American conservatives. The real cowardice of Bush shone through, however, in his failure to complete the job.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Under Reagan, the gap between the rich and poor widened faster than at any other time in American history. Payroll taxes on the poorest working Americans went up, while overall tax burden on the wealthiest Americans and corporations went down. Under Reagan, being poor got only more horrible than it already was.

Meaning what, exactly? Nuthin’, except empty-headed, self-congratulatory conservative rhetoric.

I’ve give you this one. Sorta.

Only because opportune paper shredding, lying, and grandstanding by his treasonous subordinates. And only by oh so conveniently “forgetting” so much he looked like either a raging buffoon or a nefarious liar. Either one hardly worthy of celebration.

I’ll give you this one too. The man was all style and no substance, or rather no substance with any moral value. He loved the murderous Contras and supported Salvadoran death squads. Started a “war on drugs” while the CIA under his watch was running drugs to the U.S. to support covert operations against democratically elected governments with inconvenient ideologies. Pretended to lower taxes while in fact raising taxes on those who could afford it the least (and the Congressional Budget Office bears this out.)

What’s to debate? The man was either an empty-headed fraud or one of the great monsters of the the 20th century. There’s nothing to debate at all, except why anyone believes the man is worthy of anything other than complete and utter contempt.

Did Reagan Win the Cold War, Save the Economy, Hit the Snooze Button on the Clock of History so the American Dream could be Dreamt for nine more minutes back when it was Morning in America? I doubt it, but I also doubt I could win a debate with any of you cherishers of beliefs to the contrary.

But there was only one guy even more responsible than Reagan for 241 dead Marines and sailors in Beruit, and he was driving the truck that morning.

You know, the first step in gaining a real understanding of the world is to accept that your opponents are not complete idiots. Die-hard Republicans and Democrats would do well to learn this.

Reagan was not a monster. Nor was he an empty-headed fraud. You can disagree with his policies, but recognize that there are other people of high intelligence and education who believe that his policies were effective and necessary for the time. Instead of dismissing that point of view, why don’t you spend the effort to try and understand it?

I was just entering the work force when Reagan came to power. If you’re younger than this, it’s understandable that you don’t ‘get’ Reagan, because it’s hard to describe just what the mood of the world was like then. Let me set the stage:

Jimmy Carter was making regular speeches to the people telling them how terrible things were. Inflation was 17%. Interest rates were in the same range. There was very little economic growth. The American military was in terrible shape: There were weekly television specials exposing various military failures - poor maintenance, low pay, high drug use, very low fitness scores, etc. This was punctuated by the failed hostage attempt that seemed to symbolize how screwed up America had become.

Domestically, there were escalating union conflicts going on, high trade tariffs to prevent Japanese autos from being imported (because everyone believed that America could no longer compete). Thus, everyone was driving American-made shitboxes that were crap because their competition had been legislated away. OPEC was flexing its muscles (another sign of America’s impotence), and the Carter Administration’s response was rationing, which just panicked everyone. Then, the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan, and the Carter Administration’s response is to boycott the Olympics. More impotence.

The average person had this sinking feeling that America’s best days were long gone, and we all worried about the world our children were coming into. On top of all this, the Cold War threatened to blow us out of our beds at any time.

Now along comes Ronald Reagan, who promises that America will be great again. He pledges to rebuild the military, break the back of inflation and high interest, put the Soviets in their place, and get government off the backs of the people.

8 years later, and the Soviet Union is about to collapse. Interest rates and inflation are at the lowest levels in decades. The U.S. military is once again at the top of its form. Marginal tax rates have been lowered from 70+% to 28%, and yet the poorest members of society see a greater increase in their standard of living than they’ve seen since the 60’s. You can call it all coincidence, or twist reality to find other people to give the credit to (although many others do deserve credit - Paul Volcker, and Jimmy Carter for appointing him, for instance). But it was Reagan who had the vision, and who worked to make it happen.

If you don’t believe how much America improved under Reagan, consider this: When he ran for re-election, he basically went around saying, “Ask yourself - are you better off now than you were four years ago? If so, vote for me.” And the people did, re-electing Reagan in one of the biggest landslides in history. He and his policies were so popular that George Bush was elected in a decisive fashion by simply going around saying, “Stay the course. If you liked Reagan, I’m more of the same.”

Even Reagan’s biggest failure, the deficit, was coming under control. By the time Reagan left office, the deficit had been dropping rapidly. In fact, if domestic spending under Reagan had been held to just the rate of inflation, Reagan would have had a 150 billion dollar surplus in his last two years.

Reagan was not a stupid man. In fact, he was well educated, had a ton of experience in government, and was in fact an intellectual. Not many people know that he wrote many of his own speeches, and even re-wrote the speeches of some of his cabinet members. When he had his radio show, he wrote the entire thing himself. He had a degree in economics, and conservatives considered him the pre-eminent proponent of their cause since the 1960’s, when a speech he made for Barry Goldwater (and which he wrote himself) was considered to be one of the great political speeches of the century.

But Liberals have always attacked conservatives for being stupid. Ford was supposedly stupid and a klutz, (despite being an all-state football player who was offered spots on two pro football teams, the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, and despite his having an honors degree in economics and an LLB from Yale). George Bush Sr. was a ‘wimp’ and also stupid, despite being a decorated WWII combat pilot and former director of the CIA. George W. Bush is supposed to be stupid, despite being the only president in history to actually have an MBA.

None of these people were stupid, but y’all keep on believing it and keep on underestimating conservatives. You can hate Reagan and write him off as a senile fool, but doing so robs you of the ability to understand why so many people loved him, and therefore robs you of some understanding of the world and your place in it.

["He lifted the USA from the doldrums and self-doubt (?self-hate) of the early post-Vietnam era and continued to carry it all the way until victory in the cold war was imminent (a victory that he engineered). That set of accomplishments is rivaled only by his planting of the seeds for the economic bonanza that is still being enjoyed today.

(Furthermore), his good natured, all-American persona, as well as his poise under fire (literally) did more to reinvigorate and restore America then most anything else in the eighties."](http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=27838)


Beats me. All I can say is that certain presidents have their die hard supporters. If you ask certain people they’ll tell you Clinton was the best president we’ve ever had. I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would think he, or Reagan for that matter, were the best presidents ever.


Well, that might just have something to do with the fact that his opponent in the 1984 race promised Americans that he’d raise their taxes if elected.

Sam, you seem like a decent guy, and I have a feeling you’d be a good companion over a beer, but I’m afraid you’ve been lulled by the Reagan fantasy.

First, being elected by campaigning on the “Are you better off platform…” is essentially meaningless. One of the things that Republicans hate about Clinton is that he was such a good campaigner, and they argue, with at least some justification, that he won on style rather than substance. When you look at the country during Reagan’s re-election campaign, you can see that most people are in fact NOT better off than they were. For people on the lower end of the economic spectrum, the overall tax burden has crept up, good-paying jobs are less plentiful, world tensions are higher. If you’re already wealthy, then you’re getting wealthier (and Reagan’s second term will really be great for you) but for the most part, you might FEEL better, but your options are less plentiful and your real income is down. You’ve been duped by a very public income tax cut while payroll taxes, a much more significant burden for lower wage earners, have been quietly pushed up. The wealthy don’t feel this, since it’s such a small part of their overall tax burden and their income tax has gone down so dramatically that the payroll tax is irrelevant to them. For those of us among the working poor, of course, the tax bite is bigger, but Reagan has convinced us to feel good about the screwing we’re getting. He fucked us, but at least he kissed us first, and he called the next morning.

As one person put it, the election of Ronald Reagan was essentially based on the fact that resentful white guys could be counted on to vote against their own best interests out of fear that a black guy might get an even break.

But that’s just economic politics. Reagan looked out for his wealthy friends and contributors and we let him get away with it. And it doesn’t even get near what makes Reagan a monster. No, for that we have the Iran-Contra treason, which made Nixon and Clinton both look like minor miscreants in comparison.

But, hey, whatever. Right? Ronald Reagan was such a sweetie we can give him a little treason, and accessory to rape, murder, and drug running. Because he made us FEEL good about ourselves. He defeated communism, so his apologists tell us. The fact that the Soviet Union was dissolving from the inside is irrelevant. Ronnie defeated communism. He’s practically Jesus Christ for that alone.

But, of course, I’m just a liberal. Don’t listen to me. I hate all conservatives, and never give any of them a break.

Tell you what, as an irrational, knee-jerk conservative hater, I’ll give you my assessment of some other presidents and national level politicians.

Gerry Ford: yes, a physical klutz and an easy target for the comedians whose overall politics (like, I admit, virtually all conservative politics) I find troubling, but who was essentially doomed as a president no matter his politics due to his position as Republican follow-up to “I am not a crook.” Ford shouldn’t have been president, but someone had to be, and he took the fall for the party. He should be given credit for that. Only a true miracle worker would have had a chance in Ford’s position, and he essentially acted as set up man for whoever was going to run in 80.

Carter: a good, honest, honorable man who as president was so caught up in foreign affairs and peace making that he lost sight of the situation in his own country. Some of his policies might have turned things around had he gotten a second term, but probably not. He certainly missed the boat on a number of domestic issues, and as a man who worked on his campaigns, I confess that he makes a far better ex-president than president. Of course, he also lost the election in 80 due to some sand in a helicopter engine, and unimpressive as he was as president, he was no Ronald Reagan. We definitely traded down in 80.

Bush Sr.: Had the courage to call Reagan’s economic nonsense what it was, voodoo, then turned into a lap dog in exchange for the vice-presidency. Barely relevant as a president, aside from his muscle-flexing in the Middle East that killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and propped up a corrupt, non-democratic regime in Kuwait but pointedly missed its target. At least we could feel good about our smart bombs, and I give him credit for building an unlikely international coalition. Had the strength to admit that some taxes had to go up, and probably deserved some of the credit for the economic upswing that Clinton claims all the credit for. (In fact, that tax increase probably helped the economic turn up, but I realize that goes against the holy writ of conservativism.)

Clinton: a pretty good republican, except for supporting pro-choice. Stayed out of Greenspan’s way. Got a blow job and lied about it, which of course is much worse than selling arms to a declared enemy of the U.S. and using the money to support raping and murdering insurgents against the legally elected government of Nicaragua. Clinton, to this liberal, was too oily and poll-driven and lost any chance to really doing anything as president by giving his political opponents too much low-level crap to use against him. His long term legacy will be zilch. Any one of the individual “scandals” of his administration was blown way out of proportion by conservatives, but there was more than enough little things to hamstring him. Which may have been a good thing anyway, since he never showed an ability to truly think for himself. It was always, what do the polls say, that’s what I think. The Mark Rich thing was, at the very least, stupid, more likely nefarious. But no worse, frankly, than Bush’s pardon of Weinberger.

Bob Dole: I disagree with his politics, and he’s done a few things in his career that I consider really egregious, but overall this is a man I respect and would probably like personally, from all I hear and see of him. Even though I voted against him, I concede it might actually have been better for the U.S. if he’d been president.

Al Gore: conservatives get all hot and bothered that he had the audacity to do fund-raising, yet they fight every effort to reform fund-raising. Aside from his efforts to raise campaign money, he’s a pretty honorable guy for a national politician who would have made a better president than Clinton.

Dubya. The man is an idiot. Period. But what a chucklehead. And at least he won’t get a blow job. Gotta feel good about that. If your wallet is already heavy, it’ll get heavier, but if it isn’t, well the Texas working class isn’t better off than they were before he became governor.

Don’t even get me started on Trent Lott.

In the end, I’m modestly impressed by some Republicans, slightly more impressed by some Democrats, but truly appalled by Ronald Reagan. The man was a monster who wrapped himself in the flag as an excuse for selling arms to a declared enemy of the U.S. and supporting death squads and murderous terrorists in Central America, and who used his unarguable charm to deflect attention away from policies that widened the gap between the rich and poor faster than any other time in U.S. history. He took credit for things he had little influence over, and couldn’t “remember” his involvement or knowledge of criminal matters that would have been death penalty offenses had we been at war, and were ducked in any event by political grandstanding, paper shredding, and convenient pardons. Support for Reagan demonstrates, to my mind, either a failure of wit or a failure of character.