There We Go Again

Churlish thoughts on the 40th president

click to enlarge HOLDING OUR APPLAUSE: Ronald Reagan in - Death Valley Days (1965) - Getty Images
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HOLDING OUR APPLAUSE: Ronald Reagan in Death Valley Days (1965)

We believe everyone deserves a loving eulogy, even former presidents. But now that the official mourning in America has passed, we thought we'd share a few of our own less savory memories of Ronald Reagan.

We know this will annoy the hell out of many conservative and/or sensitive readers. Feel free to write or call. Operators are standing by.
—Jim Harper

Requiem for a Ray Gun

OK, OK. I get it already. He was the Mother Teresa of the right. And now he's dead and it's time to canonize him, although I got to say, seeing big-time Democrats do it makes me want to throw up in a bubble-wrap envelope and overnight it to Kerry campaign headquarters. My guess is our whole country has fallen victim to the same convenient "Can't Recall Disease" the 40th president made so popular near the end of his second term.

Yeah, yeah, I understand it must have been hard on his family seeing him deteriorate during the last 10 years of his life, falling to the gauzy clutches of Alzheimer's, but where's this same sympathy for the thousands of disabled he was responsible for throwing out into the streets? What about the retirees with stolen pensions who couldn't afford teams of attendants wiping their butt at the end? Where's the compassion for the legions of agenda-less gays he sentenced to early deaths with his policy of withholding federal dollars for AIDS research? And now they're talking about putting his face on everything from the 10 dollar bill to Mt. Rushmore. Excuse me?

Feverish with the same giddy amnesiatic malady of revisionist history sweeping the nation, allow me to weigh in with my "Saint Ronnie Died for Our Sins Exoneration Collection."

Accusation: Once spoke of being on the bow of a ship in WWII. Was never on a ship during WWII, but he did play a part in a movie where he was on the bow of a ship.

Exoneration: Gave the country a belief and confidence in itself that transcends reality.

Accusation: Napped during Cabinet meetings.

Exoneration: Well rested for State Dinners.

Accusation: Most presidents are figureheads: Reagan was a hood ornament.

Exoneration: Hood ornaments need role models, too.

Accusation: Said trees cause pollution.

Exoneration: He didn't actually mean trees cause pollution, he was only using it as a metaphor for ... for, unh, something else.

Accusation: Turned down Bogart's part in the movie Casablanca.

Exoneration: History would have changed if he had taken the part. Bogart might have been president. Of course, Casablanca would have been a crappy movie. I mean, c'mon, you got to have priorities.

Accusation: Consulted astrological charts to determine which were the most propitious times for foreign trips.

Exoneration: He was ahead of his time, grasshopper.

Accusation: Had the intellectual depth of an ashtray.

Exoneration: Possessing more than the intellectual depth of an ashtray was always an arbitrary barrier thrown in the way of potentially great leaders like Ronald W. Reagan, J. Danforth Quayle and George W. Bush.

Accusation: Called ketchup a vegetable.

Exoneration: He didn't really mean ketchup was a vegetable, he was only using it as a metaphor for ... unh, for trees not causing pollution.
—Will Durst

66 (Unflattering) Things About Ronald Reagan

The firing of the air traffic controllers, winnable nuclear war, recallable nuclear missiles, trees that cause pollution, Elliott Abrams lying to Congress, ketchup as a vegetable, colluding with Guatemalan thugs, pardons for FBI lawbreakers, voodoo economics, budget deficits, toasts to Ferdinand Marcos, public housing cutbacks, redbaiting the nuclear freeze movement, James Watt.

Getting cozy with Argentine fascist generals, tax credits for segregated schools, disinformation campaigns, "homeless by choice," Manuel Noriega, falling wages, the HUD scandal, air raids on Libya, "constructive engagement" with apartheid South Africa, United States Information Agency blacklists of liberal speakers, attacks on OSHA and workplace safety, the invasion of Grenada, assassination manuals, Nancy's astrologer.

Drug tests, lie detector tests, Fawn Hall, female appointees (8 percent), mining harbors, the S&L scandal, 239 dead U.S. troops in Beirut, Al Haig "in control," silence on AIDS, food-stamp reductions, Debategate, White House shredding, Jonas Savimbi, tax cuts for the rich, "mistakes were made."

Michael Deaver's conviction for influence peddling, Lyn Nofziger's conviction for influence peddling, Caspar Weinberger's five-count indictment, Ed Meese ("You don't have many suspects who are innocent of a crime"), Donald Regan (women don't "understand throw-weights"), education cuts, massacres in El Salvador.

"The bombing begins in five minutes," $640 Pentagon toilet seats, African-American judicial appointees (1.9 percent), Reader's Digest, CIA-sponsored car-bombing in Lebanon (more than 80 civilians killed), 200 officials accused of wrongdoing, William Casey, Iran/contra. "Facts are stupid things," three-by-five cards, the MX missile, Bitburg, S.D.I., Robert Bork, naps, Teflon.
—David Corn

David Corn is Washington editor of The Nation and author of The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception. Will Durst is a comic who thinks selective memories are fine, as long as they're not too selective. Jim Harper is, for a while yet, editor of the Weekly Planet.

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