May 5, 2009

The Raygun Legacy

By Brady Bonk

There are two free newspapers that are handed out by actual people here in the D.C. Metro Area. One is Express, published by The Washington Post. The second is The Examiner, a “fair and balanced” publication. I tend to pick up the Express, but only because “Pearls Before Swine” makes it easier to face the day and because the fella who usually hands it out at my Metro stop is a very cool dude who calls me “young man.” I do not pick up The Examiner, which is a shame because it is actually a better newspaper, with a fine sports section to boot. But in order to read it, one has to negotiate all of the right-wing propaganda therin.

The paper’s main opinion writer dude is Byron York. Today, York writes a piece about the legacy of one Ronald Raygun. Apparently, York recently had the opportunity to visit Raygun’s ranch in Van Nuys*. York did not mention in the article if at any time during his visit did he pop a boner. However, I think one can read between the lines on that question:

The house is nestled on the edge of a mountainside meadow. It’s idyllic, but if you drive about five minutes away, you’ll find another spot on the property, at the top of a hill, where the president could have built a new home, perhaps an impressive monument to himself, with fabulous views of the Pacific to the west and the valley to the east. Instead, Reagan preferred the little house by the meadow.

Walking around the ranch, you can’t help thinking about the current Republican party and its relationship to Reagan. One feeling the ranch produces—nearly forces on you—is the realization that the 1980s were a long time ago. When Reagan took office, the top income tax rate was 70 percent. The Cold War was in one of its most dangerous phases.

By the end of his administration, Reagan had reduced that confiscatory 70 percent tax rate to 28 percent. And he won the Cold War. Most presidents don’t leave much for us to remember them by. Reagan has two great legacies.

Boiiiiiiiing.

Let me tell you about the legacy of Ronald Raygun, in the form of two ubiquitous bumper stickers here in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 1987. These stickers were plastered everywhere, on sidewalks, on bridges, on cars, on buildings. These were two sentiments from which one could not avert his eyes if he spent any time whatsoever anywhere in the city. They were:

Ed Meese Is a Pig

and

RIF Reagan

A few points of definition: Ed Meese was Ronald Raygun’s attorney general, his Fredo Gonzales, if you will. As a matter of fact, Meese was a lot like Gonzalez, in that he, too, believed his DOJ’s job was to offer rim jobs to the President of the Untied States. Also, “RIF” means “Reduction In Force,” a common phrase around here to indicate that one has been laid off or fired.

The point being: Ronald Raygun was not this cuddly, universally adored executive at the time. In this town, he was disliked enough that people spread sentiments like wildfire that he should be fired and that the man he had chosen to dispatch the law was swine.

There are many reasons besides just being a by-gods liberal to be skeptical of the Raygun record. There are actually many objective reasons. His White House side-stepped Congress, sold weapons to Iran, then used the proceeds to fund an illegal war. He vetoed sanctions on South Africa. He wanted to normalize relations with Pinochet (and indeed began testing the shock doctrine in Chile). He covertly sent arms to Saddam, even after he “gassed his own people.” He declared war on the middle class, with the ridiculous “trickle down” economics plan, with union-busting, and with an overall poisoned philosophy that has somehow survived the duration and that still threatens to plunder this great country today.

And, by the by, it’s a lie to paint Raygun as a tax cutter. He did cut taxes, and then he saw how it affected the deficit, so he had to raise them again. Ronald Raygun raised taxes four times between 1982 and 1984. Conservagoats who blabber on and on about Raygun the great tax cutter are only fooling themselves.

And, you know what? Hell, I’ll give them the Cold War deal. Why not? I dump September Eleventh solely at the feet of the Failed Immediate Past President. I mean, evidence more strongly supports that the USSR collapsed of its own weight and the failures of nationally state-sponsored commienism. That and $10 a barrel crude. But, what the heck? Sure. Raygun cured commienism. Tear down this wall, motherfucker. Good going, Ronnie.

Except that part of that effort was the support the Untied States of America offered the mujahideen in Afghanistan, which allowed them in part to drive Russia the hell out of there, which provided a power vacuum there, filled by a group called the Taliban, which in turn hosted a group called the al-Qaeda. And, except for the fact that, recently, relations between the two countries have chilled. They don’t like our idea of putting missiles in Poland. We don’t like their “invading Georgia” policy. Blah, blah, blah. If we “won” the “cold war,” shouldn’t all of our diplomatic issues with Russia just be solved and/or moot? And, if we “won” the “cold war,” what the hell do we need with missile defense, anyway? We won the cold war? Oy veys mir. What’d we win?

What I ultimately don’t understand about this whole “Raygun Legacy” thing is why conservagoats seem to need it so badly.

Why do you people need Ronald Raygun to have been a superhero? What’s in it for you? Why spend so much time and money and energy to build this house of cards? Are you so bereft of ideas and talent that you’ve got to put so much stock into a guy who’s been dead for five years?

Ronald Raygun wasn’t actually what they’re trying to make him out to be. He did things in his time that made many conservagoats cringe. Let the Washington Monthly sum it up for us:

A sober review of Reagan’s presidency doesn’t yield the seamlessly conservative record being peddled today. Federal government expanded on his watch. The conservative desire to outlaw abortion was never seriously pursued. Reagan broke with the hardliners in his administration and compromised with the Soviets on arms control. His assault on entitlements never materialized; instead he saved Social Security in 1983. And he repeatedly ignored the fundamental conservative dogma that taxes should never be raised.

In other words: Ronald Raygun wasn’t Captain Marvel, kids. He was just another friggin’ politician. I’ll say it for him and I’d say it for the current occupant as well. But I do know already, even, which one of those guys I’d rather see blasted onto the moutain next to George, Tom, Teddy, and Abe.

*I know that’s not where it is. Let me have my fun.