June 13, 2004

Reagan Tributes-Enough Already!

The Media Has Gone Overboard With Reagan Tributes
By Fred H. Arm
Since Reagan has died the media has gone absolutely beserk with accolades and tributes to a man simply because he was once the President of the United States. I cannot go on ignoring what I know as fact and continue bear this nauseating hero worship of a man in a job way over his head. Very few of these “cheerleading entourages” were either born yet or old enough to remember Reagan during his tenure as governor of California beginning in 1966. In 1980, when he was elected president, most writers were still in grammar school or possibly high school. The older writers must have been either out to lunch during Reagan’s tenure or wholly deluded by his charisma. A little truth now would be most refreshing. I will attempt a brief overview as follows:

Back in 1962, General Electric fired Reagan as a political liability when he took on the Tennessee Valley Authority, as an example of "big government." G.E. had contracts worth millions of dollars. About this time, Reagan switched his political affiliation to the Republican Party.

In 1966, Reagan announced his candidacy for governor of California. He promised to reduce the waste in government and to "clean up the mess at Berkeley." On November 8th, Reagan was elected by almost 1 million votes more than incumbent Democratic governor Edmund G. ("Pat") Brown.

Reagan proposed a 10% across-the-board cut. There were both needed cuts and unnecessary, unpopular ones, such as cuts in the mental health system and for the University of California. When I first came to California in 1968, I was appalled by the massive closures of mental health facilities in the state. Mentally ill people were forced to fend for themselves in the streets, perhaps leading to the massive homeless problems we face today.

On February 2, 1967, students staged an orderly demonstration in front of the California State Capitol protesting budget cuts and the governor’s request that a tuition be imposed for the first time in the University’s history. Two days later, a much louder demonstration took place with groups carrying signs reading "Tax The Rich”. On June 15th, Reagan signed a bill liberalizing California’s abortion law. He later regretted that decision. On October 25th, Reagan called for a harder line on war protestors.

In January 1969, Richard Nixon was inaugurated for his first term as president. In the spring, Reagan sent in the National Guard to break up a student strike at the University of California at Berkeley. Armed with bayonets and tear gas, the National Guard occupied Berkeley for 17 days. The event established Reagan as a peace-restoring hero for some, a trigger-happy extremist for others. In spite of campaign promises, California's state budget increased during Reagan's first term as governor.

On January 18th 1973, Reagan submitted a $9.258 billion budget with a $1.1 billion surplus, and gave taxpayers a rebate. On May 1st, Reagan defended President Richard Nixon in the midst of the Watergate scandal. Then finally, in August of 1974, this longtime Nixon defender admitted that Nixon deceived the country. On August 9th under the threat of impeachment, Nixon resigned and Ford became president. On November 5, 1974, Jerry Brown was elected governor of California.

On November 4, 1980, Reagan trounced Carter, winning 44 states in the general election, and the Republicans gained control of the Senate for the first time since 1964. On February 18, 1981, Reagan unveiled his "program for economic recovery" to a Joint Session of Congress. Reagan called for $41.4 billion in cuts from the Carter budget, mostly from "Great Society" programs to benefit the poor, and vowed to maintain a ‘safety net’ for the poor, the disabled, and the elderly. He also called for a 30% tax cut over three years and an increase in defense expenditures, and vowed not to cut Social Security.

On April 28th, Reagan appeared before Congress for the first time since his assassination attempt, receiving a hero's welcome and overwhelming support for his economic package. Despite optimism and support for Reagan's tax cuts and increased defense spending, the country plunged into a deep recession, as the Federal Reserve Board raised interest rates to fight inflation. Soon, the United States would face the largest budget deficits in its history.

On October 18th, 1981, Reagan admitted to reporters that the nation was in "a slight recession," but predicted recovery by the spring. Several days later Reagan said a balanced budget in 1984 is "not probable." On November 6th, unemployment reached a six-year high. Reagan redefined a balanced budget as "a goal."

On November 12th 1981, Reagan adopted "zero option" in Europe. The U.S. had set a date for deployment of Pershing II missiles, while promising to cancel it if the Soviets dismantle all intermediate weapons targeted at Western Europe. Meanwhile, Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis came to the forefront of the nuclear freeze movement in the Hollywood Bowl on Survival Sunday. Her opposition to her father's policies was considered personal as well as political.

August 25, 1982, the U.S. Marines arrived in Lebanon. In the fall, the nation sank into its worst recession since the Great Depression. Reagan feared budget deficits would go as high as $200 billion. On November 1st, more than 9 million Americans were officially unemployed. On January 1, 1983, the official unemployment rate reached 11.5 million. Hardest hit was the "rustbelt." In Milwaukee, 20,000 waited in 20-degree weather to apply for 200 jobs at an auto-frame factory. In January 1983, Reagan's approval rating plummeted to 35%. On January 31st, Reagan submitted his fiscal 1984 budget to Congress with an $189billion deficit. A combination of the recession, tax cuts, and an increase in defense spending were ostensibly to blame. Advisors urged Reagan to either raise taxes or cut defense, Reagan rejected the advice and vows to "stay the course."

On October 25, 1983, in order to protect against a perceived a Communist threat in Grenada, and to protect U.S. medical students from growing unrest, 5,000 U.S. troops invaded the island nation.

On August 27, 1986, Reagan signed an anti-terrorism law that banned arms sales to nations that support terrorism, and strengthened U.S. anti-terrorist measures. Then surprisingly, in September, former National Security Advisor WilliamMcFarlane took 23 tons of weapons to Iran. On October 30th, 500 anti-tank missiles were shipped to Iran. On November 3rd, Lebanese magazine "Al Shiraa" reported that the U.S. had sold arms to Iran. The Iranian government confirmed the story. This marked the beginning of the Iran-Contra scandal.

November 13th 1986, in a nationally televised speech to defend against charges concerning arms sales to Iran, Reagan admitted sending some defensive weapons and spare parts to Iran, but denied it was part of an arms for hostages deal. "Our government has a firm policy not to capitulate to terrorist demands. We did not -- repeat, did not -- trade weapons or anything else for hostages, nor will we." Polls show that the American people did not believe Reagan.

November 24th, Meese told Reagan that some proceeds from the sale of arms to Iran went to the Contras. Reagan was visibly shaken and according to Meese, surprised. He was aware that the diversion of funds could mean impeachment for violation of the Boland Amendment.

On November 25th, National Security Advisor John Poindexter resigned and Oliver North was fired. In a press conference, Meese announced Iran-Contra: that $10 million to $30 million of profits from the sale of U.S. arms to Iran had been diverted to Swiss bank accounts for use by Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

On February 26, 1987, the Tower Commission report was delivered to Reagan. The report could not link Reagan to diversion of funds from Iran to the Contras, however concluded that Reagan, confused and unaware, allowed himself to be misled by dishonest staff members who organized the trade of arms to Iran for hostages held in Lebanon and pursued a secret war against the Nicaraguan government. The report charges that Reagan had failed to "insist upon accountability and performance review, " allowing the National Security Council process to collapse. Reagan’s approval rating dropped down to 42%.

October 19, 1987: The stock market dropped 500 points. The drop was partially blamed on rising deficits.

On March 16, 1988, Oliver North, John Poindexter, and two others were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government by secretly providing funds and supplies to the Contra rebels fighting the government of Nicaragua.
Of course, there are many other fiascos of this not-such-a-wunderkind president such as the idiotic Star Wars failure, diminished social security benefits, exacerbated military spending when promises were made to cut government expenditures, sponsorship of repressive foreign governments that are too extensive to enumerate here.

I am sure Reagan was probably a nice fellow, however, that is not enough to run a country or to canonize him. It is a sad commentary on the American people that they so quickly forget the letdowns they suffered by incompetent leaders and so they glorify their memory with distorted facts and wondrous accolades, perhaps so that they can feel better about their great leaders. That old cliché, “that the evil in man lives on while the good is interred in their bones” does not apply when it comes to dead presidents. Instead, the converse seems to be true. I must add though that as bad as I thought Reagan was, I would still rather have him than Bush.

Posted by fredarm at June 13, 2004 04:26 PM

nice to hear from you again Fred. I am very impressed with your website,as well as you very true comments on Reagon. Your analysis was exactly right on.Let us hope there are enough sensible peoplein U.S. to get rid of the bush virus. anne boher

Posted by: anne boher at June 15, 2004 01:05 PM

Fred - Deconstructing the Reagan myth is more informative than your personal lament about women causing the death of society in your article re 'Rosie'. Personally, I thought it was silly men advancing technology like the A-bomb and Reagen policies with mental health and star wars and other horrors of our male-dominated culture that messed us up.

Posted by: Mrs. Anon at June 13, 2004 06:29 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?