- A weeklong infomercial followed his death on June 5,
2004, mythology airbrushing truth, including Marilyn Berger in the New
York Times, saying:
- "To a nation hungry for a hero, a nation battered
by Vietnam, damaged by Watergate and humiliated by the taking of hostages
in Iran, Ronald Reagan held out the promise of a return to greatness, the
promise that American would 'stand tall' again."
- Quoting admirers and critics, she called him a "great
communicator," a "made-for-television president (who) never lost
his boyish charm or his ability to look Americans in the eye and make many
feel good about themselves. (He) was a combination of ideologue and pragmatist
who could compromise and still appear to be a man of unbending principle."
- One of America's best or worst? For supporters, the former.
Critics disagree. Judge him by his record, not the hoopla. Typical praise
came from made-for-media historians like Michael Beschloss practically
elevating him to sainthood, equating him to FDR, saying it's "not
too much to suggest that Americans would give similar thanks that they
twice elected Ronald Reagan, a President who saw the chance to end the
Cold War in his own time" - an event, of course, he had nothing to
do with besides being president on the cusp of when it happened.
- Calling him "an exceptional leader," Beschloss
praised his "inner strengths (and) political skills....who left an
indelible stamp on history, (and was noted for his) powerful speeches...."
In fact, according to one critic, they mixed:
- "hokum, bunkum, flapdoodle and balderdash of the
type dished out daily by motivational speakers, along with mashed potatoes
and turgid chicken breasts," the type language that turned Warren
Harding into a laughing stock, "the 29th President who most resemble(d)
Reagan (in) physical appearance and intellectual capacity" - big in
size, small in wisdom and good judgment - a lightweight at best.
- As a former actor he could read his lines, but with no
prepared text, he was inept, a simpleton, passive, and detached, the term
"damage control" practically invented to mean correcting his
frequent gaffes and ignorance of facts any head of state should know. Not
Reagan, yet the press barely noticed or cared, nor about the worst of his
- In his 1988 book, "On Bended Knee: The Press and
the Reagan Presidency," Mark Hertsgaard explained how Reagan became
the "Teflon president." The scandals during his tenure never
stuck because the media gave him a pass, going along with the "Mr.
nice guy image," his first term deputy chief of staff, Michael Deaver,
- "Ronald Reagan enjoyed the most generous treatment
by the press of any President in the postwar era. He knew it, and liked
the distinction," though his record deserved condemnation, given no
Republican leader since Nixon.
- When he died, in fact, truth never exposed popular fantasies.
Admirers gushed about his persona, popularity, and how he made Americans
feel good about themselves again. They also praised his being right on
big issues, and said the world is better off because of his presidency
and leadership. CBS anchor Dan Rather called him a master at communicating
greatness. Tim Russert on Meet the Press admired his tortured evasion of
Iran/Contra culpability as "very believable," and on June 14,
2004, Time magazine wrote:
- "the Reagan years were another of those hinges upon
which history sometimes turns. On one side, a wounded but still vigorous
liberalism with its faith in government as the answer to almost every question.
On the other, a free market so triumphant - even after the tech bubble
burst - that we look first to 'growth,' not government, to solve most problems."
- Time, of course, ignored decades of massive government
subsidies responsible for much of that "growth," what looks puny
now compared to the trillions given Wall Street alone since 2008 with no
end to them in sight. Big government is only bad for popular needs, not
corporate ones, on the dole for them a way of life.
- Ready or Not, Reagan Revisionism Is Coming
- On March 17, 2010, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation
and GE announced their partnership in supporting a two-year centennial
commemoration of his birth on February 6, 1911. On television, from 1954
- 1962, Reagan hosted the Sunday evening GE Theater and traveled the country
as it's roving ambassador, a prelude to entering politics.
- From 1947 - 1952 and in 1959, he also served as Screen
Actors Guild (SAG) president, during which time he named members he suspected
of "communist" sympathies, telling the FBI and House Un-American
Activities Committee (HUAC) they threatened the film industry. As a result,
hundreds of actors, directors, producers, screenwriters, musicians, songwriters
and other artists were blacklisted for their progressive beliefs.
- In his ghostwritten memoirs, Reagan (1911 - 2004) said
"Looking back now, I realize it wasn't a bad apprenticeship for someone
who'd someday enter public life....the GE tours (and SAG) became almost
a graduate course in political science." It was a prelude to becoming
California governor (1967 - 1975), then president (1981 - 1989), an actor's
role of a lifetime, impersonating a president.
- In his book, "Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan
Revolution Failed," David Stockman, Reagan's Director of the Office
of Management and Budget (1981 - 1985), called him shallow and extreme,
a man who "ignore(d) all the relevant facts and wander(ed) in circles."
His administration was a "frontal attack on the welfare state."
- His close advisors weren't "the best and brightest"
and some were "intellectually disreputable." He considered Reagan
"a cranky obscurantist whose political base was barnacled with every
kook and fringe group that inhabited the vasty deep of American politics."
- In 2011, however, he'll be reinvented, Los Angeles Times
writer Richard Simon saying events across the country are planned. "A
Reagan-themed float (graced) Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena during"
the New Year's day Rose parade. CNN called it "the first time (it)
ever included a presidential-themed float."
- Reagan's Dixon, IL boyhood home commissioned a musical
piece to honor him, the "Reagan Suite." Eureka College, his alma
mater, will commemorate his roots. Warner Bros., where he made films, may
produce one about his Hollywood years. Supporters hope to name a mountain
in Nevada after him, and a Reagan statue in London will be unveiled.
- His 100th birthday is on Super Bowl Sunday, so expect
synergies to his "Gipper" role (George Gipp, Notre Dame football
star) in "Knute Rockne All American" (1940). As president, he
used the phrase "Win one for the Gipper" as a political slogan.
- Reagan's Presidential Library will also host events that
weekend, including a ribbon-cutting ceremony and military flyover to celebrate
its museum's multimillion makeover, followed the next day by a Los Angeles
- Imagine - all that and more is just the beginning, making
him bigger than life, reinventing him better than Hollywood by transforming
a ham actor into a superstar, a third-rate president into a demigod, a
rogue perhaps heading for Mount Rushmore instead of a long overdue defrocking.
- A web site, reaganrushmore.com, in fact, promotes a fake
"photographic art image" of him already there, perhaps angering
Abe Lincoln to his immediate right looking very distraught.
- Reagan's Legacy - More Myth than Man
- For two years, expect all myth, no man, besides some
information on the latter. The real Reagan and his "Revolution"
is no "shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving
people everywhere." Nor is it "morning in America....Prouder,
Stronger, Better," the stuff Madison Avenue or Hollywood moguls dream
up, making molehills into mountains. Reagan revisionism will make him Everest
over a stomach-churning two years. You've been warned.
- He was ideologically hard right, his legacy including:
- -- disdain for working Americans;
- -- contempt for the rule of law, civil liberties, human
rights, and democratic freedoms; and
- -- support for concentrated wealth, power and budget-busting
- He backed:
- -- sweeping deregulation;
- -- destructive "free trade;"
- -- offshoring high-paying manufacturing jobs;
- -- the war on drugs - in fact, a war on poor minorities,
escalating America's prison population to the highest by far in the world,
two-thirds in it Blacks and Latinos, most for nonviolent offenses;
- -- tax cuts for the rich;
- -- draconian social program cuts;
- -- support for global despots, apartheid South Africa,
star wars, death squads, proxy wars in Central America, Africa, Afghanistan,
and Middle East by helping Iran and Iraq wage war;
- -- contempt for gays, lesbians, people of color, the
poor and disadvantaged, and more.
- On August 3, 1980, in fact, he delivered his first presidential
campaign speech in Philadelphia, MS where KKK thugs murdered James Cheney,
Michael Schwemer, and Andrew Goodman. His topic: states rights, a Southern
euphemism for race discrimination, white supremacy, and Jim Crow, unmentioned
in his comments, uncared about throughout his presidency in ideology and
- In his first inaugural address, he declared "government
is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem," meaning,
of course of, by or for the people, not the big monied interests he supported.
- On June 11, 2004, Alexander Cockburn, in an article titled
"Ronald Reagan in Truth and Fiction," said he saw the world as
a "Cinemascope epic, a vast battlefield, through those famous spectacles....he
could (thus) assess the global balance of forces." In fact, he "stayed
awake only for the cartoons," viewing things "in simple terms,
in the tiffs between Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, or Tom and Jerry."
- He was bored stiff and dozed off during Joint Chiefs
briefings. To keep him focused, they had to cartoonize them for him. He
couldn't distinguish between fact and fantasy, playing president was like
a Hollywood sound stage, script and all. Truth was whatever he said at
the time. In fact, "He (did) George Washington (one better) in that
he couldn't tell a lie and he couldn't tell the truth, (because) he couldn't
tell the difference between the two."
- Like GW Bush, he was a caricature of a leader, all pretense,
no substance, vacuous, vapid, both "vicious" men, "with
(a) breezy indifference to suffering and the consequences of (their) decisions."
He praised the Afghan Mujahideen resistance (today's Al Qaeda and Taliban)
and Contra butchers as "the moral equivalent of the founding fathers."
- He was the progenitor of today's neocons and backed Christian
Right extremists like Pat Robertson, John Hagee, and James Dobson whose
ideology supports racial hatred; white Christian supremacy; male gender
dominance; gay, lesbian and Muslim hatred; and belief that they have a
divine right to rule and must be obeyed.
- As mentioned above, he was also contemptuous of working
Americans, hypocritically saying "I support unions and the rights
of workers to organize and bargain collectively." In August 1981,
months into his first term, he showed it by firing 11,000 PATCO air traffic
controllers, jailing its leaders, fining the union millions of dollars,
and effectively busting it in service to his monied backers. It was a shot
across organized labor's bow, and clear message to his business and Wall
- Union membership had been in steady decline from a 1950s
34.4% post-war high. It held constant through most of the 1970s at around
24%. At the end of Reagan's tenure, it was 16.8% and today much lower at
12.3% in 2009, mostly government workers with private sector unionization
at 7.2%, the lowest percentage since 1900 - because both parties disdain
organized labor, a trend Reagan accelerated.
- He did more as well, institutionalizing a decline of
worker rights and vital social programs. He let them erode through higher
payroll taxes, raising the retirement age, increasing Medicare premiums,
and cutting Medicaid benefits for the poor. He slashed social services
across the board, cutting them by one-third from 1981 - 1988.
- Programs for low income earners dropped 54%. Subsidized
housing declined 80%, housing assistance for the elderly 47%, and training
and employment services over 68%. He also cut food stamps, school lunches,
and student loans. In addition, he reduced health and safety protections,
and weakened federal statutes guaranteeing workers the right to organize
and bargain collectively.
- Beneath his avuncular persona, he was callous, vicious,
and indifferent to equal justice, civil liberties, and human rights and
needs. He also backed the Christian Right's hate campaign against gays
and lesbians, refused to address the HIV/AID problem and let it mushroom
into a global epidemic.
- In 1981, it first surfaced among New York and California
gay men. Disdainfully, he and others called it a "gay disease,"
God's revenge for being sinners according to Christian Right extremists.
Reagan ignored it during his first seven years, causing enormous setbacks
in research, and appalling discrimination against those infected. They
were unmentioned in the eulogies after his death, and for sure won't be
next year nor other parts of his dark side.
- "Reaganomics" was welfare for the wealthy,
supply side "trickle down" voodoo, the faux theory that tax cuts
for rich grow the economy, benefitting everyone. Rubbish. David Stockman
them a "Trojan Horse," Congress conned into accepting "Republican
orthodoxy (accelerating) the greed level, the level of opportunism (that
got) out of control" and led to massive fraud and history's greatest
ever wealth transfer.
- Before becoming Fed chairman, Alan Greenspan played a
leading role as head of the National Commission on Social Security Reform
- the 1981 Greenspan Commission to study and recommend ways to fix the
"short-term financing crisis that Social Security faced," saying
otherwise the "Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund would run
out of money....as early as August 1983."
- Like today, it was a lie, a hoax, but dominant media
complicity helped transfer trillions of public dollars to the rich, one
of history's greatest ever heists in plain sight, ongoing, and likely getting
worse as new Social Security "fixes" are proposed.
- The Commission's 1983 recommendations were supposed to
make SS fiscally sound for the next 75 years, a package along with tax
cuts from 1981 - 1986. The rich benefitted most with top rates cut from
70% to 50% over three years, then 28% in 1986, while the bottom rate actually
rose from 11% - 15%.
- It was the time time ever combination top cut/bottom
increase, but even worse than that. The rich got their largest ever break,
while others earning $30,000 or less were assessed the greatest ever increase.
It was grand theft in plain sight, a precursor to Wall Street looting the
- Greenspan engineered it by doubling the payroll tax to
defray the revenue shortfall. He also recommended raiding the Social Security
Trust Fund to offset the deficit. He made the tax code hugely regressive,
kick-started the great upward wealth transference, and transformed a pay-as-you-go
retirement/disability benefits program into a wage earner subsidized handout
to the rich. It was the essence of "Reagonomics," besides cutting
the capital gains tax from 28% - 20%, lowering corporate taxes, and slashing
welfare and other social benefits.
- His foreign policy was just as blighted. The Reagan Doctrine
was its centerpiece, providing overt and covert aid to thugs like the Contras
and other Central American death squads to make countries like Nicaragua,
El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras safe for US capital.
- Honduras and Guatemala still train their militaries at
the infamous School of the Americas (SOA), renamed the Western Hemisphere
Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), where they're taught the
latest ways to kill, main, torture, oppress, exterminate poor and indigenous
people, overthrow democratically elected governments, assassinate targeted
leaders, suppress popular resistance, and surrender their sovereignty to
Washington to solidify fascist rule.
- In the 1980s, it caused over 160,000 Central American
deaths, including over 100,000 in Guatemala, more than 50,000 in El Salvador,
and 11,000 in Nicaragua because its army fought back while elsewhere the
military was the enemy. State terror also included extensive torture,
rape, mutilation, disappearances, and political assassinations against
figures like El Salvador's Archbishop Oscar Romero 30 years ago on March
24, gunned down while celebrating mass inside San Salvador's Hospital de
la Divina Frobidencia.
- Called a "voice for the voiceless," he spoke
for the poor and oppressed, opposed death squad killings, and elitists
exploiting deeply impoverished people. Two months before his death, he
vainly wrote Jimmy Carter to stop arming and training El Salvador's army
under a government led by Roberto D'Aubuisson, the fascist death squad
terror commander/SOA graduate/ARENA Party head.
- Celebrating mass the day before his death, Romero appealed
to the army and police as brothers, implored them to stop the killing,
obey God's law, and regain their consciences. Passionately he said "In
the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people whose laments
rise to heaven each day more tumultuously, I beg you, I ask you, I order
you in the name of God: Stop the repression!"
- ARENA thugs murdered him the next day, perpetuating state
terror throughout the 1980s. Their Guatamalan and Nicaraguan counterparts
did their own share with Reagan's blessing and support. He supplied millions
of dollars in weapons and training, besides more for Central Asia, the
Middle East, Africa, and other proxy wars.
- In Central America alone, Noam Chomsky said he "construct(ed)
an international terrorist network of impressive sophistication, without
parallel in history (and) used it overtly and clandestinely against leftist"
resistance movements, on the pretext of fighting communism. It was the
equivalent of today's "war on terror," Muslims now the main "threat."
- With help from Congress and the dominant media, the Iran-Contra
scandal over illegally selling arms to Iran to fund the Contras left him
unscathed. Like the farcical Watergate investigations, high crimes were
swept under the rug. No one in his administration was punished for even
- What should have toppled him faded. Now called a great
leader, he's reinvented, from war criminal to hero, perhaps headed for
Rushmore. And beginning in February, expect non-stop revisionism, most
people none the wiser. They're merely out-of-the loop, uninformed spectators
believing the state-sponsored rot they're fed.
- The combination of ignorance and indifference lets government
benefit wealth and privilege at the expense of working Americans Reagan
spurned. Most affected are people of color, the poor, disadvantaged, and
millions like them throughout the world in countries he ravaged by death
squad terror, as well as others he neither knew about or cared.
- He was all pretense, no substance, the myth, not the
man blown bigger than life. Watch for typical Hollywood-style revisionism,
making mountains out of molehills, saints out of sinners, and in Reagan's
case, a scandal-plagued war criminal deserving condemnation, not eulogies.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
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