Monday, February 9, 2009

Doyle disses Reagan

I'm not a Gov. Doyle cheerleader. In fact, I'd put myself at lukewarm (at best) when it comes to the guy. But I have to give him major kudos for resisting the peer pressure on this one:

Friday marked the 98th anniversary of former President Ronald Reagan's birth, the fifth since his death in 2004.

Almost two-thirds of U.S. governors -- both Democrats and Republicans -- enacted a proclamation to delegate Feb. 6 as "Ronald Reagan Day."

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle was one of only a handful of governors to deny recognition of the late president, according to the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project based in Washington D.C.

I know a lot of people have this posthumous hard-on for the guy, but you know what? I feel nearly the same way about them as I do about those people still clinging to the idea that Richard Nixon was a great man.

Shall we take a quick look at some of the highlights of the Reagan administration?
  • Reaganomics / trickle-down theory - "...income tax rates of the top personal tax bracket dropped from 70% to 28% in 7 years, while payroll taxes increased as well as the effective tax rates on the lower two income quintiles."
  • Iran Contra Affair - "In October and November of 1986, it was discovered that for several years, agents of the United States government had been running an illegal operation to sell weapons to Iran and funnel the profits to the Contras, a military organization dedicated to overthrowing the leftist government of Nicaragua."
  • Hollywood Snitch - "As Anthony Summers makes clear in his book Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, the “Gipper” had his own code name – “T-10” – and regularly provided the FBI with information on Communists, real, imagined and manufactured."
  • Genocide in Guatemala - "In 1999 a report on the Guatemalan Civil War from the UN-sponsored Commission for Historical Clarification stated that 'the American training of the officer corps in counter-insurgency techniques' was a 'key factor' in the 'genocide…Entire Mayan villages were attacked and burned and their inhabitants were slaughtered in an effort to deny the guerrillas protection.' According to the commission, between 1981 and 1983 the Guatemalan government—financed and trained by the US—destroyed four hundred Mayan villages and butchered 200,000 peasants."
And the list goes on. I am dismayed by our country's ability to ignore the past in favor of mythologizing bad men who managed to have a decent public image, so it's damn refreshing to hear about at least a few public officials refusing to give in to that urge. Reagan probably wasn't the worst president ever, but the continued effort toward virtual canonization is ridiculous at best, offensive at worst. So Doyle? I've got your back on this one.


P.S. For what it's worth, yesterday was the 2 year anniversary of this blog. Hooray! Thanks for reading.

11 comments:

George H. said...

There is a book out on this phenomenon. The author was on public radio this past week, detailing the organized effort to get a Reagan monument in every county (!) in the United States.

George H. said...

Here is one review/excerpt of that book:

http://www.salon.com/books/excerpt/2009/02/02/ronald_reagan/

apc said...

Not to reduce in importance any of "highlights" you listed, Emily, but I think Reagan's most damaging legacy is his contention, which has (at least until recently) become the almost unquestioned conventional wisdom--namely that government can never, ever offer a solution to any problem at any time. I certainly wouldn't contend that it's always the solution, but sometimes it's the only solution. The current economic situation is a clear example, but it seems the official GOP position has become to let it run its course, a certain disaster.

Every session of the Texas Legislature, somebody introduces a bill to have the street running around the Texas Capitol named for Reagan. I can't believe it never passed, altough it came damned close a few years back.

Congratulations on two years!

Cam said...

But you are forgetting all the wonderful things he did for us, like teaching us you can't get AIDS from a toilet seat but you still shouldn't let your kids go to school with kids with AIDS. Also, if it hadn't been for Reagan, Bonzo goes to Blitzburg would have never been written and Reagan Youth still might have existed but they probably would have been called something else, or if they did decide to still call themself Reagan Youth it wouldn't have made any sense.

Emily said...

Cam - You make a compelling argument. Don't forget about ketchup as a vegetable!

apc - Oh no, I hear you. Trying to list all of Reagan's anti-accomplishments would have taken up way too much time and space, but I appreciate you adding that bigger theme.

George - Thanks for the link!

Scott said...

gotta say Emily, you and your amen corner sound like a bunch of left wings kooks on par with the right wing nuts you balance out. It seems like only you and those who don't want to rile up your ilk(Doyle wanting to score points?) would agree with your churlish Reagan diatribe!

Those hits on Reagan seem extremely lame and warmed over! :)

Emily said...

I'm sorry, did you just refer to the Iran Contra Affair and supporting genocide in Latin America "lame"?

Your priorities need some serious reexamination.

Anonymous said...

Your take on Reagan's Latin America policy is just that - your take and the perspective of true believers like yourself. No offense.

What's unbeleivable is that there were people back then (and now apparrently) who didn't understand the evil (yes evil) of the police states that communisim utilized back in the day. I don't have a romantic, or naive view, of Mr. Reagain, but I'll let every bi-partisan survery of historians speak for itself - Reagan is in the top 10 OF EVERY SINGLE ONE! AND THAT'S A FACT! Sorry.

Emily said...

True believer? No, just someone who's done some research.

As to your assertion that Reagan has been in the top 10 of every bi-partisan survey of presidents, I'm going to have to disagree. He's been ranked in the top 10 in just 3 of the 8 big surveys that have happened since his presidency.

I have no illusions about many of the so-called Communist organizations and leaders that attempted (or succeeded at) rule over various countries. Most of them so thoroughly bastardized the movement as to be rightfully called tyrants, dictators, and ruthless goon squads.

That said, it still doesn't excuse the US/Reagan's unquestioning support of groups and leaders who were just as bad (if not more so). Their blind hatred of Communism lead them to back anyone who they perceived they could control, regardless of the atrocities those people then committed.

We should never compromise our core values of human rights and justice, and yet that's precisely what happened:

The Contras.
Manuel Noriega.
School of the Americas.
The Guatemalan Civil War.
El Salvador.

Scott said...

Okay, perhaps it's only been the most recent surverys of the past 4 years or so - I stand corrected!

At any rate, I actually AGREE with you about the wrongness of supporting somebody mainly because they are anti-communist, despite their flaws! That's not a plus on the Reagan ledger - but neither does it cancel out the objectively good accomplishments.

Emily said...

I appreciate your candor.

You may be right, but I'd be hard-pressed to find enough objectively good accomplishments to cancel out the multitude of nefarious programs implemented by the Reagan administration.

Heck, I just thought of another one: His refusal to acknowledge or do anything about the AIDS epidemic until well into it.

Look, there were certainly far worse presidents. But after all is said and done, I maintain that Reagan doesn't deserve a position anywhere close to the top ten.

The Lost Albatross