The Reagan sacred cow
By Greg Kay
Sometimes – well, to be honest, usually – it’s the best intentioned people that really set me off. Inevitably, I suppose, since I’ve little patience with Orwellian double-think, less for those practicing it, and none for the ones who should know better: namely White Nationalists, Southerners among us in particular, who worship Ronald Reagan as… as one of them referred to him… “a Godsend.” I’ve got news for these folks; God sends a lot of things, including plague, flood, fire…and tyranny.
Reagan was a likable guy, no question about it: classy, charismatic, usually doing his lines with great aplomb. However, that goes with the territory of a trained, career showman. Remember, an actor is one who makes a living playing convincing parts as a thing he’s not. Around here we call that a b.s. artist (usually a hawker making some sales pitch), and no doubt Ronald Wilson Reagan was good at it. Not only did he play his part as “a conservative,” but, despite creeping Alzheimer’s, recited the lines his handlers gave him very well. People tend to forget that he was neither a conservative nor writing the script.
For those of you frothing at the mouth right now because you liked the things he said, let’s step back and take a look at what he and that administration actually did – before, during, and after his tenure as President of the United States.
First, let’s do a little review. After all, under his watch, corporate power rose and began to grow into the background check and this privacy-invading, crazy, working society that exists today. So it’s only fair.
Reagan’s “conservatism” started with his strong support for Franklin D. Roosevelt. Yes, he admired the man who not only gave us the New Deal, but did everything short of peeing in Emperor Hirohito’s best rice bowl to provoke a response allowing him to break his campaign promise and get us into World War II. He loved FDR so much as to quote him in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention.
Due to what was reported as poor eyesight, Reagan himself spent that war in the Signal Corps shooting propaganda films in Hollywood. As this didn’t sound heroic enough, the first known Reagan fantasy appeared. He began making the claim – and stuck with it throughout his political career – that, immediately after the defeat of Germany, he visited Buchenwald to shoot a film about the concentration camp. He was still saying that as President. It must have been an out-of-body experience, though, because he never left the country during that period, remaining the entire time in California.
Which wasn’t the last lie by Reagan; he told some whoppers to get himself elected. He would reduce the size of government, end such spending and deficits as started by the Carter Administration, eliminate the Departments of Energy and Education. Instead, during his time in office we saw those promises translated into massive raises in government spending as an even greater percentage of the GNP. After Carter’s last year in office, 1980, Federal spending rose from $591 billion to $1.064 trillion in 1988, Saint Reagan’s last year, and the deficit from $73.8 billion to $155 billion. Oh, and the Departments of Energy and Education? He didn’t eliminate either; strengthened them both.
One place Reagan did cut government legislation favored the Savings and Loan Industry. The result is still with us today, in scandal after scandal, as the heads of these companies get rich while running them into bankruptcy, taxpayers holding the bag while they hold the keys to a new Porsche.
Because of this and similar actions, the neo-cons claim Reagan was a great friend to business. Hardly; and, just as Bill Clinton “did not have sex with that woman,” it all depends on how you define “business.” Corporations are not business. Business is the local drug store, bakery, the unaffiliated bank. Business is responsible individuals. Corporations are conspiracies designed to shield the conspiring groups of individuals from the potential civil consequences of their actions, and provide them rights and immunities unavailable to individuals. The Gipper might’ve been a friend to the giant corporations (He was quoted as saying so behind the scenes during his 1980 campaign for the Republican nomination: “What have they got against me? I support big oil. I support big business.”) that have turned America into a quasi-feudal society, but he was no help to real, individualistic businesses, nor friend of the working class. For the first time, “unemployment” began to drop not because fewer people were out of work, but rather, having exhausted their benefits, they were no longer counted as unemployed.
But Reagan also promised to cut taxes and he did… Didn’t he? In a word: “No.” With some more Clintonesque shuffling, he “redefined” taxes before sliding them around the table in the old shell game. He officially lowered the take, then eliminated deductions and changed the brackets so that more people suddenly found themselves paying a greater percentage of their income to the Federal Government. He also raised Social Security taxes. In 1982 he oversaw the largest tax increase in U.S. history back then, to the tune of $100 billion. Which shouldn’t be too surprising, though. After all, he had done exactly the same thing as Governor of California. There, he ran on a campaign promise not to raise taxes, and then proceeded to do so in short order.
Lest we forget, it was also ol’ freedom loving Ronnie who laid the groundwork for this later loss of so many of our rights under Clinton and Bush II, in the name of a “War on Terrorism.” Reagan set the stage for that erosion with his “War on Drugs,” a situation demanding that we surrender our traditional liberties so the government can protect us from the evils of dope dealers (at least ostensibly; see next section). I think about that whenever yielding samples of my body fluids to the company pee police in order to get or keep a job; or when I read about money, cars and even homes being confiscated (read: stolen) by police with no charges ever being filed. Clinton simply took that same strategy and went further by hanging a right-wing face on it following the Oklahoma City Bombing, and copycat Dubya did likewise with an Arab mask plus still more refinements after 9-11. We may thank Ronald Reagan for today’s lost liberties; he planted what has grown like kudzu, strangling the landscape.
Of course, you can tell a lot about a person by his friends, they say. Well, who were Reagan’s buddies on the world stage? Let’s see; he continued to back a certain Communist in Cambodia by the name of Pol Pot during the latter’s war against those other Communists in Vietnam. (If you don’t know who Pol Pot is, he’s considered one of the greatest butchers of humanity in all time. Look him up in the encyclopedia, or do a web search.) The Gipper also aided Saddam Hussein when Iraq was at war with Iran. You remember Saddam, don’t you? He’s been in the news quite a bit lately; we claim he is a monstrous war criminal. Another of Reagan’s old pals is a household word, too: Osama Bin Laden, who received help and training from the Reagan Administration’s CIA during our proxy war against the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. Of course, he wasn’t the only one; the U.S. also aided the region’s opium lords – right in the middle of Reagan’s “War on Drugs” – who were growing and sometimes refining the stuff that was being shipped as heroin into Europe and the United States. They were opposed to the Soviets, don’t you know; so what’s a few addicts and resulting crimes when fighting a larger-scale War on Whatever? In fact, the Reagan CIA seemed to have an affinity for drug runners; consider the Contras of Nicaragua, who supported much of their efforts against the Sandinistas by trading in cocaine, which was going directly into the United States with at least the tolerance, reportedly outright support and assistance, of American intelligence. That particular plan was also underwritten by yet another Reagan ally, Panamanian President Manuel Noriega, who now sits in Federal prison as… you guessed it… a drug lord. Of course, like Saddam and Osama, only after he was no longer useful.
Ronald Reagan also invaded sovereign States Grenada and Lebanon. He claimed the need to “rescue” American medical students in the first country (who had never requested help) and, in the heat of saving them, seized the entire nation. This was lauded as a heroic action in the press, despite the fact that Grenada had no navy, air force, or even an army outside a token Cuban force there by invitation of the legitimate government. In the second case, he invaded Lebanon with the intent of helping Israel’s proxy army – the Lebanese Christian militias. That resulted in the deaths of U.S. Marines by the hundreds, also thousands of Lebanese, and finally the 9-11 attacks. This last Reagan legacy came back to haunt us because, as Osama Bin Laden has stated: while watching the U.S. Navy pounding those helpless Lebanese cities into rubble from offshore, he first conceived the idea of making America pay in kind for its actions.
(Ronald Reagan was also never one to let a little matter like the law interfere with his agenda, either. His adventures in Latin America were in direct violation of the Bolan Amendment, while his entry into Lebanon was equally illegal under the War Powers Act, both passed into law by Congress.)
As previously mentioned, he got us involved in the Iran-Iraq War, not only logistically but directly. He used the United States Navy to protect Iraqi oil tankers in the Persian Gulf despite the fact that the Iraqis accidentally mistook the USS Stark for an Iranian ship and sank it. His administration at first tried blaming the Iranians for that action, and used the resulting heightened alert as an excuse when “our” Navy blasted a fully loaded civilian Iranian airliner out of the sky and into the Persian Gulf, leaving no survivors.
Reagan also openly attempted to cold-bloodedly assassinate a foreign head of state via aerial bombing, namely Libyan leader Khadafy. Missing him, they instead killed his nine-year-old little girl; but her tragic death was dismissed by the press, as she was “only his adopted daughter.”
Of course, Reagan did have one real friend in the Middle East: Israel. Following his thorough Judafication in Hollywood, he and his administration were among the most fanatically devoted to all things Jewish as had ever occupied the White House. No matter what Israel did, it was okay. When the United Nations dared to complain about Israeli actions, Reagan’s UN Ambassador Jean Kirkpatrick informed them that, “The United States walks out with Israel.” I don’t know about that, but… we certainly walked into the Middle East with them.
Israel and several other countries with atrocious human rights records received more foreign aid under Reagan than ever. Banks were encouraged to make “loans” to regimes that would never repay, and the U.S. bailed them out with our tax dollars.
Conservatives – the real ones, that is – believe in our right (some might even call it an obligation) to keep and bear arms. Ronald Reagan was honored repeatedly by the National Rifle Association as a hero, and by Guns & Ammo as “the gun owners’ champion,” primarily for his support of the McClure-Volkmer Act that rolled back a few provisions of the 1968 Gun Control Act – this while “coincidentally” severely limiting licensed machine gun transfers in the process; good overall perhaps, but a drop in the bucket when, later, he got a chance to express his real feelings on the subject. During his term, high-penetration bullets, state of the art composite handguns and the manufacture and licensed transfer of new machine guns were banned: all three items potentially of much more use if – when – it finally hits the fan. In the early 1990s he climbed in bed with Sarah Brady to lobby for passing one of the two most hated laws by those who cherish freedom, namely the Brady Bill; and he afterwards lobbied for passage of the second one: the assault weapons ban. After leaving office, he lobbied intensely for these two pieces of legislation, knowing that respectable conservatives would cast the blame on his bumbling successor, Bill Clinton, and that nothing he did would ever stick in their minds when it came to old “Teflon Ron.” If this is the “gun owners’ champion,” well, with friends like that, who needs enemas?
And what about race? In the aftermath of the Watts Riots, then-Governor Reagan decided to “understand” what caused those California Negroes to rob, rape, pillage, and burn through a substantial area, and, in the same way a cowardly French President is now doing with the Muslims, blamed it not on their inherent savage lawlessness, but discrimination and lack of economic opportunity. Thus, even while mouthing words against “affirmative action,” he put pressure on the State employment agencies to implement a program that had almost exactly the same result. His autobiography brags of him having “devoted a lot of time to bringing more Blacks and Hispanics into important jobs in the state government,” and “appointed more Blacks to executive and policy-making positions in State government than all the previous governors of California put together.” He was also responsible in large part for the institution of bilingual education in that State through an attempt to gain political ground in the barrios.
But at least Reagan was a good Christian man! I’m sure he was; that’s why he and his second wife Nancy were ardent astrologers, despite such practices being expressly forbidden by the Bible.
Finally, here’s Reagan’s real legacy to the South, in the words of the great Southern author Michael Grissom, from his must-read book, Can the South Survive?
“Even today, with a majority of Southerners imperfectly informed about their own heritage, mention of the word ‘Reagan’ evokes starry-eyed idol worship among those in the South who choose not to remember that it was Ronald Reagan who gave us the troublesome Martin Luther King holiday, and that it was Ronald Wilson Reagan who not only signed but pushed for extension of the hated Voting Rights Act when it came up for renewal during his first term. He lobbied Congress to extend the federal government’s control over elections in the Deep South States for another twenty-five years. Like some coup-ridden banana republic, those Southern states under its provisions must endure the humiliation of federal poll-watchers who have the same type of authority Republicans gave carpetbag regimes during Reconstruction… Reagan’s policies were tangential with Southern interests only by coincidence. When he had the chance to relieve the South from some of its peculiar persecutions, he was cheerleading for the other side.”
And there you have it. Ronald Reagan was the same sort of President as had been Abraham Lincoln: at one with all the characteristics of a Bill or Dubya, but who happened to get good press. If that’s the kind of clay Southerners want to cast into heroes, all I can say is, God save the South…from us!
The First Freedom