Blogs > Cliopatria > Roundup of Stories About Reagan

Jun 18, 2004 6:18 am

Roundup of Stories About Reagan

Note: This page will be continuously updated during the period of Reagan's funeral services. New items will be posted at the bottom.

In the unlikely event you have not yet had your fill of articles about Ronald Reagan, here is a list I have compiled of links from all over that reveal aspects of his personality and politics.

For the big picture, there's the NYT archive of major articles on Reagan's presidency, which highlights select news clips from his era, including the defeat of Bork, the signing of the intermediate range nuclear missile treaty, the Iran-contra scandal, and Reagan's trillion dollar budget.

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz notes that Reagan had a contentious relationship with the media in his days as president despite the uplifting tenor of the funeral coverage. George Skelton remembers the day he asked President Reagan about his sex life. Reagan biographer Lou Cannon notes that Reagan succeeded in stealing the show at Normandy one last time. Cornell Ph.D. candidate Joseph J. Sabia, in a feature article on David Horowitz's, celebrates Reagan as the "greatest American President of the 20th century." Says Sabia:

In 1977, Reagan sat down with foreign policy advisor Richard Allen to discuss his philosophy on relations with the Soviet Union. Allen expected Reagan to describe a nuanced version of détente, the policy adopted by all Republican and Democratic presidents for 25 years. Instead, Reagan told Allen, “Here’s my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose.”

"We win, they lose." So simple, and yet so revolutionary. Allen says that Reagan’s words changed his life forever. No politician in either party had ever advanced the notion that we could, should, and would defeat communism. That was crazy talk. We could peacefully co-exist with Communism, hopefully contain it, but not actually defeat it.

In Dinesh D’Souza’s biography of Reagan, he shows that experts on both sides of the aisle were sure that Soviet Communism was here to stay. In 1982, Dr. Seweryn Bialer, a Sovietologist from Columbia University, proclaimed, "The Soviet Union is not now, nor will it be during the next decade, in the throes of a true systematic crisis." Later that same year, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. indicated that "those in the United States who think the Soviet Union is on the verge of economic and social collapse (are) wishful thinkers." Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger insisted that "the Soviet system will not collapse."

They were all wrong. Ronald Reagan was right.

Peter Robinson, a Reagan speech writer, insists that Reagan actually won the Cold War. Paul Craig Roberts, the conservative economist, argues that it wasn't Reagan's military build-up that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was his giant tax cuts. Speech writer Peggy Noonan says in the WSJ that Reagan was surprisingly modest for a man who "changed the world." The WSJ reran an editorial from 1980 that celebrated his election. Media critic Joe Strupp says the media are ignoring many of Reagan's flaws. Not Christopher Hitchens. His piece in Slate is called, "The Stupidity of Ronald Reagan."

The NYT's David Brooks says that optimism was central to Reagan, but it wasn't simply a personality trait, "It flowed from his core convictions and makes no sense if severed from the beliefs that gave it force." Critics of Reagan's administration cite his silence on AIDS, his opposition to an extension of civil rights, and his attempts to reduce aid to the poor. Historians are offering a mixed evaluation of Reagan's presidency, according to this report in Federal News Radio. Salon, in its roundup of political opinion, features comments by Michael Lind (Reagan didn't change much), Andrew Cockburn (Reagan was Saddam's best friend), John Judis ("I lived through Ronald Reagan's two terms as governor of California and his two terms as president, and was forever bewildered by his political success"), and Martin Andersen (Reagan will be remembered for being present when communism ended, the threat of nuclear war between the major powers eased, and economic prosperity improved lives).

Agence France Presse reminds readers of Reagan's role in helping Saddam, noting that "In February 1982, the State Department dropped Baghdad from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, clearing the way for aid and trade." Dick Morris says that Clinton secured the adoption of Reagan's policies: "Historian David Eisenhower speaks of the role of 'ratifiers' in our political culture. Eisenhower notes that a 'dynastic' cycle in politics is only completed when an innovator’s policies survive the tenure of his political opponents. In that light, he sees his grandfather Dwight Eisenhower as the ratifier of the FDR New Deal initiatives — the president from the opposing party who did not repeal but further refined the original policies. And so Clinton was Reagan’s ratifier."

Columnist Jim Hoagland says that Reagan's death is transforming him into a hero no subsequent president will find easy to match--despite the fact that Reagan's actual performance was often less than heroic. Conservative author Dinesh D'Souza says that when he came to Washington as a journalist in the 1980s he had high hopes for Reagan but then saw little change and doubted Reagan's abilities as a leader:"Now, with more than a decade of hindsight, I realize how wrong I was."

Jason Maoz in the says that Israel welcomed Reagan's election as president after four years with Carter, even though most Jews voted for Carter. In the NYT William P. Clark, Reagan's conservative NSC advisor, says that Reagan would have opposed using embryonic stem cell lines for research.

R.W. Apple, who covered Reagan for the NYT, tries to guess how historians will eventually judge the 40th president's term. Norman Solomon, a leftwing media critic, says in his column:

If journalism is history’s first draft, the death of Ronald Reagan has caused a step-up in the mass production of falsified history.

It’s mourning in America.

The main technique is omission. People who suffered from the Reagan presidency have no media standing today. It’s not cool to mention victims of his policies in, for example, Central America.

Sidney Blumenthal in Salon contrasts President Bush's embrace of the fantasy Reagan with the real Reagan:"Unlike the current occupant of the White House, Reagan was willing to improvise on the far-right script, which is what ultimately saved his presidency."

Gay activist and writer Larry Kramer lets forth with a bellow on Reagan in a piece called, "Adolf Reagan". It begins:

Our murderer is dead. The man who murdered more gay people than anyone in the entire history of the world, is dead. More people than Hitler even. In all the tributes to his passing, as I write this two days after his death, not one that I have seen has mentioned this. The hateful New York Times ("all the news that's fit to print") of course said nothing about this. We still are not fit to write about with total honesty in their pages. Not really. Just as we were not fit for Ronald Reagan to talk about us. What kind of president is that?

In Time Joe Klein says that the secret of Reagan's success was that his ideological commitment to anti-communism:"Unlike other Presidents—except, perhaps, for Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson—Reagan came to power as the leader of an ideological movement: in his case, a fierce conservatism forged and tempered by decades of disdain from the nation's moderate media and political establishment."

Charles Krauthammer, writing in the same issue of Time, says that Reagan had the good fortune, in a way, to come to the presidency at a time of trouble.

Milton Friedman, writing in the WSJ, says that Reagan stopp[ed socialism dead in its tracks:"The trend before Mr. Reagan is one of galloping socialism. Had it continued, federal non-defense spending would be more than half again what it is now. Mr. Reagan brought the gallop to a literal standstill."

William Greider, writing in the Nation, takes a decidedly different approach, as you might imagine, from Friedman.

In the Weekly Standard Matthew Continetti takes the NYT to task for allegedly slanted coverage of Reagan's death, noting in particular that on Sunday the paper of record published just one major article on the death of the 40th president while the Washington Post published four.

Whatever shortcomings in the NYT's initial coverage were overcome later in the week when the paper began flooding readers with articles about Reagan, including, in the online edition, a column by a Reaganite who says the Reagan take-over of the Republican Party began in 1976 with his challenge to Gerald Ford.

Still not through with Reagan, more than a week after his death, Peggy Noonan, in the WSJ says that Reagan should be remembered not for being a great guy but for the things he accomplished.

Evidence that the media overdid the Reagan week began surfacing by Friday when E.J. Dionne in the Wash Post began to complain that the fuineral had become an unpaid political advertisement for the Republican Party. In US News & World Report Dan Gildorf noted that many of Reagan's critics from the 1980s are still mad at him.

Columnist Khalid A-H Ansari wants to know why no one has noticed that there were almost no black faces at the long lines of Americans attending Reagan's funeral. Meanwhile, Joseph Sabia, writing in, complained that liberals were rewriting the history of the Reagan administration.

Slate's Gerald Shargel focuses on Reagan's federal court legacy--and no surprise here--finds it alarming. Holman Jenkins, Jr., writing in the WSJ, focuses on Reagan's ties to the corporate world--and finds them satisfyingly middle class. Sidney Blumenthal in the Guardian says that history seemed to stop during the Reagan funeral week as the country gave itself over entirely to nostalgia. (Don't miss his acute commentary on the unveiling of Clinton's painting.)

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Derek Charles Catsam - 6/9/2004

Rick --
Historians certainly won't be able to claim not to have enough commetary on reagan when they sit down to write reasoned, scholarly accounts.
Best President of the 20th century? What? Historians will, however, have to deal with a lot of blind hagiography and crass dismissals. Ugh.