Today, Eags serves up a bowl of hot, steamin' snark for Dumbos and Teabaggers as they genuflect to the memory of St. Dutch. This blogger hopes that they choke on the snark. If this is a (fair & balanced) wish for the demise of Dumbos/Teabaggers everywhere, so be it.
[x NY Fishwrap]
Ronald Reagan, Heretic
By Eags (Timothy Egan)
Tag Cloud of the following piece of writing
In just under two weeks, the Republicans who want to be president will gather in Simi Valley, CA, at the presidential library of Ronald Reagan for their second debate. You can expect much brown-nosing, bloviating and outright fabricating in homage to the patron saint of all true conservatives, the charming 40th president.
If only the candidates were truthful to the man and his record. For the real Ronald Reagan — serial tax-raiser, illegal immigrant amnesty granter, deficit creator, abortion enabler, gun control supporter and peacenik — would never be allowed on the stage. The party has moved so far to the right from Reagan’s many centrist positions that the guy would be told to go find a home among the Democrats.
More than three decades after Reagan was first elected, his name is invoked, like political Tourette’s syndrome, by everyone from Scott Walker to Donald Trump. But there’s a gaping disconnect among Republicans between the Reagan worship of 2015 and the reality of his long, public career.
Start with immigration, and the police-state proposals that have driven Trump to the top of Republican polls. As president, Reagan signed a bill that granted amnesty to nearly three million people who were in this country illegally. And then he went a step further, acting on his own after signing the first bill, to extend amnesty to another 100,000 people.
Reagan would never back the authoritarian roundup and deportation that Trump advocates, or the Big Brother tracking of immigrants “like FedEx packages,” as [NJ] Governor Chris Christie has proposed.
While Trump vows to build a giant wall, Reagan is best known for four words: “tear down this wall.” He was referring to the Berlin barrier, but he could have been talking about obstructions for immigrants from south of the border. “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here for some time and may have entered illegally,” said President Reagan. You can hear the boos in the Reagan Library should any Republican say such a thing today.
Taxes. Yes, Reagan reduced the top rate, which was onerously high. But he was no absolutist, as required under the senseless no-new-taxes-ever pledge that all Republicans are supposed to take. Reagan raised taxes at least four times during his two terms in office, and 11 times by some readings of the record.
He had to do this because the federal deficit and the size of government ballooned all out of proportion while he was president. Yep, with Reagan the government-hater in charge, the size of the federal government grew to 5.3 million employees, and the federal debt nearly tripled, to $2.9 trillion. What’s more, he raised the debt ceiling — something modern Republicans are willing to shut down the whole shebang over — 18 times. Heretic!
What about social issues — the bedrock of values? It’s a given that Republican candidates oppose abortion in nearly all cases. Some of them want the government to reach into the bodies of American women and declare zygotes to be people, protected by an intrusive federal intervener.
And the sainted Reagan? Yes, he mouthed the pro-life line, while doing next to nothing for the cause as president. But if you want to see an act of real consequence, turn to the abortion liberalization bill that Reagan signed as governor of California in 1967. Legal abortions in his state went from 518 a year to nearly a million over the next decade.
Want to hear another round of catcalls? Let’s talk guns. Shot by a crazy man, Reagan became an advocate of sensible firearms legislation. He backed the Brady Bill — named for his wounded press secretary — that was signed by President Clinton. It required background checks for criminals, and a waiting period. He also supported an assault weapons ban, as most Americans still do. His words against assault weapons are credited with helping the ban pass a reluctant Congress in the Clinton era.
The Brady Bill has stopped more than 1.2 million people, those with felonies or a history of mental illness, from buying guns. And on that stage in Reagan’s library on September 16, the Brady Bill will be hard-pressed to find a single supporter.
Well, at least Reagan was tough on the Commies — a foreign policy with muscle. Yes, he was. But Reagan had a soft spot. While negotiating a nuclear arms treaty with the Soviets, this sunny optimist envisioned an even grander step. “My dream,” he wrote in his memoirs, “became a world free of nuclear weapons.” Cue the John Lennon song “Imagine.”
Did I mention that he sold arms to terrorists? That he supplied money and sophisticated weapons to what would grow into the Taliban and create the monster of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan? Or that perhaps the worst foreign policy debacle on his watch — the death of 248 Marines at the hands of terrorists in Lebanon, resulting in a shameful retreat — makes Benghazi look like a game of pinochle?
I mention these things now because no one will in the upcoming debate. Reagan was a conservative for his time. But his record was complicated. What’s happened to Republicans since then is similar to what Reagan once said about his earlier political affiliation — he didn’t leave the party, the party left him. Ω
[Timothy Egan writes "Outposts," a column at the NY Fishwrap online. Egan — winner of both a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 as a member of a team of reporters who wrote the series "How Race Is Lived in America" and a National Book Award (The Worst Hard Time in 2006) — graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in journalism, and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Whitman College in 2000 for his environmental writings. Egan's most recent book is The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America (2009).]
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