My mother taught me to never speak ill of the deceased; that’s why I have not said anything about Ronald Reagan on his 100th birthday. But there is some other guy to whom many Repubs have been writing glowing tributes -- someone whom they call the “Gipper” -- and since he has no similarity to the former president, I feel free to mention something about him.
I have lived through Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan and others besides, but this Gipper can’t be any of them. Take Reagan, for example. They say the Gipper believed in cutting taxes, but Reagan raised taxes 11 times as president, promoting tax cuts only for the very wealthy, though he did slash theirs in half, all of which pushed unemployment to over 10 percent. (see Douglas Brinkley, a Reagan biographer). As for the Gipper’s belief in small government, Reagan created a whole new department -- the Department of Veterans Affairs that today has close to 300,000 employees -- and he expanded military spending so enormously along with the tax cuts for the wealthy that he increased the federal debt to nearly $3 trillion. As for the Gipper’s peace-loving nature, that’s nothing like Reagan either, because we should all remember how he sold arms to Iran in order to create a mercenary army to overthrow the first democratically elected government of Nicaragua since before World War I. Following Jimmy Carter’s support of them, Reagan was determined to eliminate the popular Euro-Socialist Sandinista government, even creating a secret army to use terrorist tactics like blowing up civilian buses, since the Sandinista government was so popular with the middle class and the peasants.
Now the Gipper was supposed to be anti-communist, and on that score he was much like Reagan, who, to kick the Soviets out of Afghanistan created the Osama bin Laden-led mujahidin, extreme Islamists who morphed into the Taliban. But R.R. failed to destroy communism. It was Gorbachev who led the Soviet Union out of the nightmare of state control, and he was totally home-grown; at the same time, Reagan’s Star Wars defense system was an utter failure. Moreover, his savings and loan disaster revealed the deep flaws in unregulated capitalism (though Newt Gingrich, Alan Greenspan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all failed to learn that lesson -- witness the Wall Street debacle of 2008). Until the TARP bailouts of Bush and Obama, the S&L bailouts were the largest in history.
Interestingly enough, unregulated capitalism and the reaction to it have virtually restored the dictatorship in Russia. Now we might call it fascism, a semi-dictatorship with elite control of the economy rather than state control, coupled with a capitalist ideology rather than a communist one.
To conclude, the Gipper is supposed to have been a great actor with a sense of history, and Reagan we all know was second-rate in Hollywood, even when he helped cause better actors to lose their jobs in the McCarthyite witch hunts. He also lost touch with history and vetoed a historic bill that was passed over his veto -- the bill to divest from South Africa shortly before the collapse of apartheid.
I’m scratching my head over who this Gipper really was -- someone who according to the recently aired PBS documentary had poor or no relationships with his children, who mainly read Reader’s Digest for intellectual stimulation, and whose wife consulted astrologers in the White House. I know for a fact that no decent U.S. president could ever be like that.