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.