(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
Ronald Reagan must be the nicest president who ever destroyed a union, tried to cut school lunch milk rations from six to four ounces, and compelled families in need of public help to first dispose of household goods in excess of $1,000...1f there is an authoritarian regime in the American future, Ronald Reagan is tailored to the image of a friendly fascist. - Robert Lekachman
About the only true good thing that could be said about Ronald Reagan was that he'd retired from the most stressful job in the world with a full head of hair and he didn't do the damage he could've on account of all the naps he took.
Today is Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday and his fascistic followers are celebrating the day with all the pomp, circumstance and money-grubbing alacrity as unabashed fascists celebrate April 20th. You go to any bookstore, there will be the obligatory retrospective hagiographies commemorating the 100th anniversary of his birth courtesy of our nation's most premier wingnuts and publishing houses. As with everything else, it's a great opportunity to make money and young college Republicans can now learn through his official biographers how Saint Ronnie of the Jelly Bean nearly completely destroyed middle class families like theirs.
To put it simply, as far as full term presidents go, Ronald Reagan is absolutely the worst, most destructive and dishonest president (George W. Bush would get that top honor if he was actually elected) this republic has ever produced. Under Reagan, the deficit tripled, national defense spending increased, he got a massive wave of tax breaks designed primarily to benefit his wealthy campaign contributors, public education took a rogering, he tried unsuccessfully to take food and milk out of our childrens' mouths at the same time he was giving tax breaks to corporations, more soldiers than ever died for his foreign policy adventurism, he was a coward and cut and ran when terrorists killed 241 of our Marines in Beirut, he cut back room deals with the contras under the fictional guise of combating the Commies, funneled money to them through arms sales to Iran and before he was even elected, sent envoys to talk to Iranian officials and illegally meddling with the hostage crisis under Carter (the all-but-discredited October Surprise which is making a comeback).
In late 1983, he sent another special envoy, Donald Rumsfeld (about to be anointed by CPAC with the Defender of the Constitution Award), to sell Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein weapons of mass destruction and satellite photos of the Iranian army's encampments, thereby resulting in the murders of thousands of Iranians (and Kurdish and Shi'ite Iraqis). But earlier, he made it up to the Iranians by immediately lifting an arms sales ban and brokered a sale of weapons by ex-Mossad gun runners. He flexed his muscles on the beach while in reality doing nothing more than watching the surf crumble the sand castle of Communism then took credit for kicking it down. He overthrew another left wing government under Maurice Bishop by invading Grenada. His "supply side economics" was the forerunner of the unbridled and unchecked greed and capitalism that served as the successful template of the nightmare that ensued under Bush II.
That's just a partial laundry list of what a galactic-class scumbag Ronald Reagan was, a man who demonized the victims of his economic policies and dredged up stereotypes of the welfare queen, used dog whistle politics for racists by announcing his candidacy in a city in which three civil rights workers were murdered just 16 years earlier and smashed one union after another. He stole Jimmy Carter's playbook during that same campaign. His axe man, future jailbird David Stockman, immediately targeted the poor and sickly, immediately eliminating government-subsidized job training such as CETA (resulting in 300,000 suddenly unemployed federal workers) that still hasn't made a comeback. (I guess Reagan took the government underwriting training designed to make people more employable to be the "meddling" that he'd warned us about.)
He not only coddled and protected Noriega, but he even put him on the CIA's payroll and turned a blind eye when Nicaraguan drugs were making their way onto America's streets while having the nerve to appoint an ineffectual "Drug Czar" and his equally clueless wife was saying, "Just Say No!". He coddled and protected Pinochet in Chile until Pinochet's hideous excesses were too much even for Reagan to tolerate (.pdf file). But the ends justified the means because they were our staunch allies in the war on
And through it all, the Teflon President sailed, smiled and waved through all these scandals like some befuddled old duffer unaware of his family's murderous, chaotic greed and ambition swirling around him. In point of fact, the man's evil was so systemic and so far-flung that we still haven't cataloged what a truly evil man he really was.
Kind of like the guy we have in the Oval Office now. As with Reagan before him, Obama puts a fresh face on fascism, the man who pats you on the back and tells you everything will be alright while his TSA, FBI, CIA, Homeland Security and God only knows how many other government goons are frisking the rest of your body. Both men have other things in common, including the highest unemployment rates since the Great Depression (Reagan still outshines Obama, as the unemployment rate in 1983 peaked at a whopping 10.2%.) But Obama, friendly fascist though he is, had also had a lot of mud unfairly flung at him and much of it sticks.
He's a Socialist, a Muslim, a fraud who was born in Kenya. He pals around with terrorists. He's bound and determined to hand over 1/6th of our economy into the grasping hands of Big Gubmint. He didn't put his hand over his heart. He's not wearing his flag lapel pin. He disrespected the Office of the Presidency by not wearing his jacket. He muffed a Bible verse. He wants to impose Sharia law on the United States.
And he's a smoker.
Yet nothing, certainly not the truth, stuck to Reagan thanks to those slick, tailored suits and an endless supply of Brylcreem. He represented to many ignorant people, well-meaning folks and fascists-in-waiting a return to the good old days when he actually had a career in acting, a return to a glorious America somewhere between 40 acres and a mule and Jimmy Carter's sweaters, as if we could actually get that dusty, dog-eared 1955 calendar out of the attic and begin reusing it.
How soon we forgot that those good old days, let's say the 50's, were ones in which, under Eisenhower, the wealthiest paid 90% in taxes, that Reagan was a liberal Democrat who headed up a large union called the Screen Actor's Guild. How fast we chose to forget that by 1962 Reagan had turned from a so-called Democrat to a staunch, union-busting Republican, that he would follow in the footsteps of not Dwight D. Eisenhower but Joe McCarthy. In fact, Reagan's example had not only gone uncriticized, it even spawned a still-famous movement involving petty turncoats who were dubbed "Reagan Democrats." (They've since awakened from their slumber and have switched back.)
12 years of policies ranging from the ruinous to the neglectful ensued and once St. Ronnie was out of office, we all suddenly blinked and rubbed our eyes and wondered where the devastation came from. By 1992, three years after Reagan stumbled back to his California ranch and beginning 12 more years of mistaking his tapioca for hair tonic, 48% of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of Reagan. Less than a quarter of those polled said we were better off, a bitter counterpoint to Reagan's campaign mantra of, "Can you say you're better off now than you were four years ago?"
But 1992 was almost a generation ago and now The Gipper is making a comeback like another dictator is in his own country.
Yet, in case all this hasn't made an impression on you, let's take a look at the real "Dutch" Reagan, who wasn't really Dutch anymore than he was The Gipper, in this video that was secretly taped at the Oval Office.
Yeah, that about gets it right.
So, here's my idea. In lieu of a minute of silence, let's have a minute of piss while we're standing over or sitting on the toilet and think of Ronald Reagan's grave.