In preparing to write this necessarily abbreviated assessment of Ronald Reagan's life and career, yer old pal Jerky looked to the work of his fellow opinionsmiths for inspiration and, if I may be candid, for stuff I could plagiarize.
Pro, con, anti, I read them all. From the glowing and long-prepared hagiographies of CNN, FOX, the Big Three networks, the New York Times and Post, the Washington Post and Times, and the Wall Street Journal, to the brutally blunt assessments of alternative and independent media sources; from personal recollections by the people who knew him best, to the smoldering, head-shaking fury of the people he hurt the most, yer old pal Jerky read them all.
It was while perusing this vast array of online Reagan resources that I came to a sobering conclusion. It's become something of a truism that even his most ardent political opponents in Washington found it difficult not to like Ronald Reagan, personally. And you know what? It turns out I didn't hate Ronald Reagan as much as I thought I did. In fact, it turns out I kind of liked him. And the more I think about it, the more I remember Little Jerky thinking Reagan cut quite the commanding figure, back when he was president.
I liked the way he looked like somebody who just stepped out of a 50's black and white science fiction movie. I liked the way he bounced back from the attempt on his life with wit and charm. I liked Phil Hartman's impersonation of him on Saturday Night Live. I liked it when he scared everybody shitless and almost started World War III by going on live radio and joking: "I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." I liked it when he bombed Libya in retaliation for Kaddafi's terrorist acts in Europe, and I liked how, after the French refused to let American planes fly over their airspace for this purpose, the bombers "accidentally" destroyed the French embassy.
But you know what else I like? I like pizza and chicken-fried steak and home-cut French fries smothered in gravy. I like triple-scoop banana splits, smothered with chopped nuts and hot fudge. I like driving my gas-guzzling pick-up truck three blocks to buy cigarettes, which I like to smoke. I like to drink Havana Club rum and smoke big fat marijuana doobies. I like a lot of things that aren't good for me. We as a species like a lot of things that aren't good for us. And while Ronald Reagan's presidency gave a whole lot of people a whole lot of instant gratification, it also left the nation obese and wheezing, riddled with tumors, a little bit dumber and a whole lot meaner than it was when he first took office.
Debunking the myth of Ronald Reagan's greatness is not a difficult thing to do. He headed up the most corruption-riddled administration of the modern Presidency. Reagan's "rogue's gallery" contains names both forgotten and well known. Lyn Nofziger, Ollie North, Michael Deaver, E. Bob Wallach, James Watt, John Poindexter, Richard Secord, Casper Weinberger, Elliott Abrams, Bob McFarland, Ray Donovan, and a host of others were investigated, indicted and convicted of crimes ranging from defrauding the government out of millions of dollars to attempting to bypass the constitution by selling arms to Iran in exchange for the release of hostages, then using that money to illegally fund a bunch of nun-raping, drug-running terrorists in Central American secret wars that literally killed hundreds of thousands.
Remember how the first thing Reagan did when he got into office was to create an army of homeless by "freeing" all those dangerously deranged mental patients? Remember the "trickle down" voodoo fraud? Remember the tripling of the national debt under Reagan's watch? Remember the Pentagon paying Republican defense industry cronies a thousand dollars for a toilet seat? Remember how Reagan's wealthy friends and fixers raided HUD for billions of dollars, fucking over the country's poorest people? Remember the HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS needed to bail out all the Savings and Loans that never would have needed bailing out if Reagan hadn't recklessly deregulated the industry in the first place? Remember how Reagan's OMB chief David Stockman came out and admitted they cut taxes not to increase investment and stimulate the economy, but to reduce tax revenue so as to have an excuse to eliminate social safety net programs that his administration's ideological conservative members found morally abhorrent? Remember hearing him say "I don't recall" over and over and over again after being cornered on Iran/Contra, facts-wise?
You probably don't remember most of these things because, like most people and contrary to popular conservative mythology, the journalistic elite liked Reagan. And they still like Reagan, which explains the week-long 24-hour tribute-fest that's been going on since his body finally caught up with his brain. It's hard to say something bad about someone you like. It's even harder if everybody around you seems to like that person, too.
As already noted above, debunking the myth of Ronald Reagan's greatness is not a difficult thing to do. His crapulence is an established fact of history. But much like the fervent denial of a mother who's just been told that her son is a brutal rapist, it's facing up to the truth that's hard.
Ronald Reagan did not die prematurely, nor were the circumstances of his death as sad as the long, slow decay that stole his final decade. He was not assassinated, like Abraham Lincoln or John Kennedy. He did not die in the saddle at a time of great national tribulation, like Franklin Roosevelt. He did not succumb to the heartbreak brought on by his own failures and regrets, like Lyndon Johnson. He was not a tragic figure, like Richard Nixon. By the time the Gipper shook hands with the Reaper, this oldest serving and longest-lived of all presidents had been out of the public eye for over sixteen years.
And what an incredible sixteen years. When he succeeded Reagan as president, former vice-president George Herbert Walker Bush had to pardon a bunch of Iran/Contra co-conspirators just to keep himself and his former boss out of jail. He then allowed his secret society and intelligence community cronies to raid the treasury, sending the nation into an economic tailspin it took Bill Clinton the majority of his first term to reverse, a feat which he had to perform without the fawning media sycophancy both his predecessors enjoyed.
But Reagan himself once said "facts are stupid things," and his partisan mythmakers aren't about to let the facts get in the way of their task, which is to use the death of their ideology's most (only?) charismatic spokesmodel as a means of enshrining their revisionist memories as irrefutable history. We are today witnessing the right-wing version of the Council of Nicea, where bishops from all over the world gathered to hash out conflicting theologies and settle on a consensus vision for the One True Church. This they did, and afterwards, to believe anything other than this consensus was heresy, punishable by death… after a nice long stint on the holy torture rack, of course. Yet another echo with the present day.
Rappin' Ronnie's Farewell Tour has other uses for those with ulterior motives, hidden agendas, and Straussian secrets to keep. As noted in the previous Dirt, this is the first time in the television era that a former President's funeral has been so nakedly hijacked for partisan gain. Thumbing their noses at precedent, memorial organizers left former presidents Carter and Clinton off the list of eulogists, while both Bushes spoke (Dubya from the pulpit, for some reason), along with Margaret Thatcher and widely-reviled former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney. This, from the party that demanded Minnesota television stations give them equal time after they broadcast portions of Paul Wellstone's memorial service.
Reagan's death is also being put to use as media cover, a distraction from the incredibly important and disturbing news that the Bush cabal would rather we not even know about, much less pay attention to. As the tepid, cowardly window-lickers at CNN continue their 24-hour necro-fetishistic freak show - fearful, perhaps, that if they pause, the vultures will raise their gore-spattered beaks from Reagan's guts and shriek "LIBRUL BIAS!!!" - here's what was going on in the REAL world…
- Even while Preznit Dubya and his co-conspirators continue their doomed attempt to blame the systemic torture in their illegal prison camps on seven or eight low-level "bad apple" recruits, a memo has surfaced revealing that the sick bastards sought (and received) legal advice that basically said the Executive Branch of government doesn't have to obey laws regarding torture, because… well… surely the Executive Branch of government shouldn't have to obey laws pertaining to torture! When journalists questioned him about these memos - and about torture in general, Bush used the sneakiest language at his tiny brain's disposal to issue non-denial denials. Then, during some hilariously testy questioning by Congressional Democrats, Witchfinder General Jesus H. Ashcroft flatly refused to hand over the memos to his duly entitled Congressional overseers. Unfortunately, they refused to cite Ash-hole for contempt of Congress, like they should have.
- The truth about the extent of the torture perpetrated by Americans and international private contractors at the Iraqi prison of Abu Ghraib is beginning to leak out in dribs and drabs. Veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh claims to have seen all of the pictures and videos, and if his descriptions are accurate… well, I'll just quote him: "You haven't begun to see evil. Horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run…"
- Speaking of those private contractors, two of them biggest are being sued by former Abu Ghraib detainees. In a complaint filed on behalf of nine Iraqis by the Center for Constitutional Rights, private, Republican-connected "intelligence" contractors Titan Corp and CACI International have been accused of bona-fide, no-grey-area torture. Everything from near-deadly beatings to electrocuting genitals to flat-out rape, all done in an attempt to harvest "actionable intelligence"… for a profit. As more Iraqis are freed from coalition prison camps, CCR expects the number of participants in their class action lawsuit to swell by hundreds.
- More details about Dubya's bestest buddy, Ahmed Chalabi -- and his warning Iranian intelligence officials that the US had broken their encryption codes -- have come to light. According to an intercepted Iranian communiqué, and I quote: "Chalabi had told him a drunk American had told him the US had broken the Iranian code." One is left to speculate whether the drunk in question was falling off his bike while choking on a pretzel while doing so.
- You know those terrorists who killed ten hostages at a private industrial compound in the petroleum hub of Khobar, Saudi Arabia last week? Well, it turns out they didn't use human shields to escape Saudi commandos, as was first reported. Nope… according to a Saudi security official -- whose description of events dovetails with witness accounts -- US officials advised the Saudi government that "letting the militants go" would be the best thing to do in this case. Like the authorities who investigated all those mysterious Spinal Tap drummer deaths, The Powers That Be apparently feel that these particular terrorist murders are "best left unsolved." Just like 9/11.
- Speaking of which, the Capitol and Supreme Court buildings were briefly evacuated last week, when a small plane flew a bit too close for comfort. Gee. I wonder what they did with that brief window of sabotalogical opportunity... Plant bombs for a controlled demolition? Hide ricin packets? Plant evidence that all the Dem-appointed Supremes are all kiddy-porn enthusiasts?! Keep your eyes peeled, America. Pop some popcorn. Sit back and enjoy the beginning of the end of the universe as we know it.