By Manifesto Joe
I remember the time well. It was the 1980s, the prime of my young adulthood. He was supposed to be rebuilding America, and millions of jobs went overseas or to Mexico. Suddenly there were all these homeless people on the streets, hitting on you for spare change -- in 1980 they had either been living in Section 8 housing or were in mental asylums. You could see Reaganvilles beneath the bridges and underpasses in every city, with tents pitched and fires burning in garbage cans. He was supposed to be a fiscal conservative, but the deficit ballooned to record numbers. Yet, I noticed that I was suddenly paying more tax for Social Security than I was before.
He was supposed to be this badass patriot, yet hundreds of Marines were blown up in a defenseless position in Lebanon, and then we tucked tail and ran out of there. Arms appeared to be traded to terrorists for hostages. The example of Cold War conquest was overrunning some little halfass country called Grenada, where they found a cache of commie weapons that were, like, World War I vintage.
This is the guy we're supposed to be honoring on what would have been his 100th birthday?
Not the sharpest pencil in the box
We've certainly discovered that it isn't necessary for a U.S. president to be an intellectual of any sort. But Ronald Reagan lowered the bar a lot, and paved the way for the likes of Il Doofus, and now Klondike Hottie, to parade about on the national stage. Here is what some notables (and Reagan himself) said about Uncle Ronnie, courtesy of the website, "The Reagan Years":
"I never knew anything above Cs."
--President Reagan, in a moment of truthfulness, describes his academic record to Barbara Walters, November 27, 1981
"They told stories about how inattentive and inept the President was.... They said he wouldn't come to work--all he wanted to do was to watch movies and television at the residence."
--Jim Cannon (an aide to Howard Baker) reporting what Reagan's underlings told him, Landslide: The Unmaking of the President: 1984-88
"Reagan's only contribution [to the subject of the MX missile] throughout the entire hour and a half was to interrupt somewhere at midpoint to tell us he'd watched a movie the night before, and he gave us the plot from WarGames, the movie. That was his only contribution."
--Lee Hamilton (Representative from Indiana) interviewed by Haynes Johnson, Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan Years
"This President is treated by both the press and foreign leaders as if he were a child.... It is major news when he honors a political or economic discussion with a germane remark and not an anecdote about his Hollywood days."
--Columnist Richard Cohen
"What planet is he living on?"
--President Mitterand of France poses this question about Reagan to Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau.
"During Mr. Reagan's trip to Europe...members of the traveling press corps watched him doze off so many times--during speeches by French President Francois Mitterrand and Italian President Alessandro Pertini, as well as during a one-on-one audience with the Pope--that they privately christened the trip 'The Big Sleep.'"
--Mark Hertsgaard, On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency
"He demonstrated for all to see how far you can go in this life with a smile, a shoeshine and the nerve to put your own spin on the facts."
--David Nyhan, Boston Globe columnist
"an amiable dunce"
--Clark Clifford (former Defense Secretary)
"Poor dear, there's nothing between his ears."
--British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
"...like reinventing the wheel."
--Larry Speakes (Reagan's former press secretary) describing what it was like preparing the President for a press conference, Speaking Out: The Reagan Presidency from Inside the White House
"The task of watering the arid desert between Reagan's ears is a challenging one for his aides."
--Columnist David Broder
"He has the ability to make statements that are so far outside the parameters of logic that they leave you speechless"
--Patti Davis (formerly Patricia Ann Reagan) talking about her father, The Way I See It
"This loathing for government, this eagerness to prove that any program to aid the disadvantaged is nothing but a boondoggle and a money gobbler, leads him to contrive statistics and stories with unmatched vigor."
--Mark Green, Reagan's Reign of Error
"President Reagan doesn't always check the facts before he makes statements, and the press accepts this as kind of amusing."
--former president Jimmy Carter, March 6, 1984
"Ronald Reagan is the first modern President whose contempt for the facts is treated as a charming idiosyncrasy."
--James David Barber, presidential scholar, On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency, Mark Hertsgaard
"His errors glide past unchallenged. At one point...he alleged that almost half the population gets a free meal from the government each day. No one told him he was crazy. The general message of the American press is that, yes, while it is perfectly true that the emperor has no clothes, nudity is actually very acceptable this year."
--Simon Hoggart, in The Observer (London), 1986
Sage words from the Gipper himself
These quotes are from the same source:
"All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk."
--Ronald Reagan (Republican candidate for president), cited in the Burlington (Vermont) Free Press, February 15, 1980. (In reality, the average nuclear reactor generates 30 tons of radioactive waste per year.)
"Growing and decaying vegetation in this land are responsible for 93 percent of the oxides of nitrogen."
--Ronald Reagan, cited in the Los Angeles Times, October 9, 1980. (According to Dr. Michael Oppenheimer of the Environmental Defense Fund, industrial sources are responsible for at least 65 percent and possibly as much as 90 percent of the oxides of nitrogen in the U.S.)
"Fascism was really the basis for the New Deal."
--Ronald Reagan, cited in Time, May 17, 1976
"I know all the bad things that happened in that war. I was in uniform four years myself."
--President Reagan, in an interview with foreign journalists, April 19, 1985. ("In costume" is more like it. Reagan spent World War II making Army training films at Hal Roach Studios in Hollywood.)
"...a faceless mass, waiting for handouts."
--Ronald Reagan, 1965. (Description of Medicaid recipients.)
"History shows that when the taxes of a nation approach about 20 percent of the people's income, there begins to be a lack of respect for government.... When it reaches 25 percent, there comes an increase in lawlessness."
--Ronald Reagan, in Time, April 14, 1980. (History shows no such thing. Income tax rates in Europe have traditionally been far higher than U.S. rates, while European crime rates have been much lower.)
Well, that's enough to digest for one day. But wait awhile -- there's more.
Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.