At least, that is what many of my high school classmates told me. He was the reason for the economic recovery that started in early 1984, the fact that we were not at war with anyone and the resurgence of “morality” in our nation.
When I disagreed, arguments ensued. The arguments would always revolve around Reagan and what my “problem” was.
I would say I did not agree with the arms buildup under Reagan. Then I would get a response like:
“These weapons protect us! Reagan is tough on communists.”
Of course, after I left high school, Reagan made an arms-reduction deal with the Soviet Union.
I said I did not like the strike on Libya that Reagan authorized in April 1986. He did so in retaliation for what he believed were Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy’s terrorist activities. The classmates first pummeled me with their fists before the teacher arrived in one of my classes. They told me we needed to be tough on terrorists.
Of course, after I left high school, an investigation revealed that the Reagan Administration illegally shipped weapons to Iran, designated by the State Department as a terrorist state. This is now known as the Iran-Contra affair because the profits were diverted to the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua.
My suspicion that the nation was not being told the whole story about the President’s mental faculties fell on deaf ears. I guess that is why people even then called him the “Teflon President.”
Of course, after I left high school, Reagan acknowledged that he had Alzheimer’s disease. And now, in his new book, Reagan’s son Ron, Jr. admits that his father may have had this problem during his time in the White House.
Support for Reagan during those years I was in high school was comparable to idolatry. Instead of evaluating his policies, my classmates blindly followed them.
Over twenty-five years later, little has changed. Republicans still view Reagan as anti-communist, anti-terrorist and the epitome of patriotism. The facts don’t seem to matter.
As we approach the one hundredth birthday of President Reagan, we can expect to hear the same rhetoric from his supporters. As they did at his funeral in 2004, they will say that he “won the Cold War” (implying that the seven presidents before him did not contribute), that he was a “tax fighter” (he raised taxes sixteen times during his two terms) and that he belongs on Mount Rushmore (well, some say he was a big bust!).
Now would be a great time to talk of the real Ronald Reagan. He was not as bad as Democrats would say, nor as good as the Republicans believe.
Other presidents can and should learn from the mistake he made in keeping our soldiers in Beirut before a terrorist killed over two hundred of them. There are some places that not even peacekeepers belong.
They could learn from his use of humor to defuse difficult situations. Troubled by accusations he was too old for another term, he knocked out any chance that Mondale could make a race of it by saying he would not make an issue out of his opponent’s youth and inexperience.
But to suggest that any leader is without fault opens us to a false argument in which some participants defend a point of view without understanding it. Even high school students should know better than that.
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