scott_sanford: (Daria proofreads)
[personal profile] scott_sanford
Conservatives have been praising Ronald Reagan for a few years now, as their model of what a president should be. Lately it occurred to me to ask why.

If our current conservatives like Reagan's policies they should approve of our current president's similar positions, and they don't; many dislike him because he's of the wrong party, and some because he's the wrong color, but overall it doesn't sound like a policy choice at all. It's not that Reagan had a great presidency, either; he didn't. Americans saw corruption charges, an exploding deficit, etc.

Eventually it occurred to me that they're pushing Reagan because he's the only one they've got. Look at the Republican presidents over the last fifty years: the crook, the nobody, the actor, the spy, and the drunk. Of course they're going for the actor. Let's break down their options.

Richard Nixon Nope, not a chance. He actually had some decent accomplishments such winding down the Vietnam war (eventually), opening relations with China, overseeing healthcare and welfare reform, and happening to be in office when Apollo 11 landed. Many Americans at the time could overlook him being paranoid, unable to control inflation, and destabilizing the democratic process in Chile. But none of that matters now, only Watergate. Nixon is the president who gave the -gate suffix to scandals in general, and all people remember is what led to his resignation.

Gerald Ford is the forgotten president. Like his successor Jimmy Carter, he had the disadvantage of being a decent human being and an unimpressive president; they also shared the difficult 1970s economy. Whether or not you think he should have pardoned Nixon, he fell on his sword knowingly to put Watergate behind us.

Ronald Reagan Now here's someone you can put on a movie campaign poster! He stirred up pro-America and anti-Soviet feelings, he spoke a lot about the economy, had a few quick and easy wars against tiny opponents, and being the best public relations guy the Oval Office had seen since the Fireside Chats. If his economic theory was crap, he was anti-union, his Attorney-General was being indicted in more cases than he was prosecuting, the national debt was out of control, and we were invading tiny nations nobody cared about, so what? It was Morning In America!

George Bush (the first one) came to office with the problem that he'd been the featureless appendix to Ronald Reagan for eight years; America basically opted for a third Reagan term. He happened to be in office when the Berlin Wall came down and the USSR collapsed. But a valuable skill in politics, perhaps the most valuable one, is getting people to know you and think you're important; this is not a talent welcomed in the intelligence community, and as CIA Director Bush learned prudence not pizazz.

George Bush (the other one) came into office by a 5-4 vote (to keep his Florida 537 vote margin from being recounted); this didn't make his early presidency any easier, but the defining event of his presidency was the 9/11 attack. Once terrorized, he reacted to innocent people being killed in America by sending our forces out to kill people in safely distant countries, as well as restricting inconvenient freedoms here in America. He racked up positive accomplishments such as the No Child Left Behind Act, creating the largest marine wildlife reserve in the US, and tax cuts for people named Koch or Walton. Unfortunately he's also remembered for the PATRIOT Act, his handling of the Hurricane Katrina damage, the Great Recession, and starting several pointless wars.

So...yeah. Given the five possibilities, of course the Republican PR machine pushes Reagan.
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