What is this praise for Ronald Reagan?
by Charlie Leck
This is one of the great arguments I had with my wonderful father-in-law in the latter years of his life. [Lord, how I miss him!] Others in the family worried when we got into this particular fight, but good, old Lyman and I always came out of those sessions as smiling, good friends. However, we also came out of them knowing the other was dead-wrong on the issue. Ronald Reagan was the issue. Good President or bad? Lyman would have smiled this week, hearing one of the Democratic Party's candidates, Barack Obama, praising Ronald Reagan's presidency.
There is speculation that Obama took his position in order to curry the favor of some conservative newspaper editors. It appears to have worked. Personally, I would be all over Obama to find out what he is talking about. Was it Reagan's keen political acumen that you like, Mr. Obama? Certainly, sir, you're not talking about his presidency.
Rating Ronald Reagan as a great president, which Obama didn't exactly do, but came too close to it for comfort, is a gymnastics exercise practiced by rich, singularly Republican big-wigs. And, they are so good at this slight-of-hand that they actually have an awful lot of people believing them. I think Paul Krugman was right-on in one of his columns this week, written in reaction to Obama's praise of Reagan.
"The Reagan economy was a one-hit wonder. Yes, there was a boom in the mid-1980s, as the economy recovered from a severe recession. But while the rich got much richer, there was little sustained economic improvement for most Americans. By the late 1980s, middle-class incomes were barely higher than they had been a decade before — and the poverty rate had actually risen.
"When the inevitable recession arrived, people felt betrayed — a sense of betrayal that Mr. Clinton was able to ride into the White House.
"Given that reality, what was Mr. Obama talking about? Some good things did eventually happen to the U.S. economy — but not on Reagan's watch."
Ronald Reagan was a tough guy! He was stubborn, too. Anti-trust law went to hell in the Reagan years. He took government out of the business of protecting the American consumer. Corporate greed grew to unimaginable levels during Reagan's years. His theme song was "deregulation" and he put cabinet secretaries to work accomplishing it.
Tough guy, Dutch Reagan came into the White House on a conservative platform that declared wild spending and government debt was the enemy. He left behind, after eight years, the largest amount of debt in the history of the United States (until George W, of course).
It wasn't only a bad economy that Dutch left us. Our educational system tumbled under Ronald Reagan. He wanted the federal government to get out of the state's proper business. No more fat checks from government to fund education. Take a look at education in South Carolina and Mississippi, Mr. Obama. That's what education can look like when it's left to the states.
Here's just a little teaser from a column written by Bob Herbert this week about education and racism in South Carolina:
"The host of a dinner party I attended was Bud Ferillo, a white public relations executive who produced and directed a documentary called "Corridor of Shame" to call attention to the terrible neglect of rural schools in South Carolina.
"If you were to walk into some of those schools — which are spread along a crescent-shaped corridor on either side of Interstate 95 from the southern edge of North Carolina to the northern edge of Georgia — you might forget that you were in the United States.
"A former South Carolina commerce secretary, Charles Way, talks in the film about the time his car broke down near one of these schools and he went inside to use a phone.
"'I just couldn't really believe my eyes,' he said. 'It was the most deplorable building condition that I've ever seen in my life. How the hell somebody could teach in an environment like that is really just beyond me.'"
Now, this is the first time I've questioned Mr. Obama's good sense. He praised Reagan's "sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship." Our young presidential candidate has got his values all out of whack if he thinks dynamism makes for a good presidency. Krugman wonders "why would a self-proclaimed progressive say anything that lends credibility to this rewriting of history."
Because, that's what is going on here. That's what Obama did! He didn't go as far in that praise as many pundits are saying he did, but he went too far. Now, the after-spinners on Obama's comments on Reagan are trying to insinuate that he was not really praising Reagan at all. I ask you to listen to the words carefully. This, in fact, was misplaced praise.
The U.S. economy never really got going until about half way through the Clinton years in the White House and, then, only after reversing most of the Reagan economic blunders. Reagan's tax cuts, like those of George W. Bush, were favors for the rich. It was Reagan who began the great weakening of the American middle-class and his student, George, has put the great crown on the effort. Even honest Republicans admit that trickle-down didn't work under Reagan's presidency and it isn't working under the leadership of George W. Bush either.
The comparisons between Bush's 2008 and Reagan's 1992 are eerily similar and amazingly dismal. Poor employment growth, family income that lags behind the inflation rate, economic pessimism, and an amazing growth of the power of the corporation over that of individuals.
Any Democrat worth his salt should see what remarkable set-backs America suffered under both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
It was Reagan who loosened the restrictions on international banking. Had it not been for Reagan, Arab kingdoms would not now be buying huge percentages of American banks. China would not be holding the papers on huge amounts of our debt.
Obama's kiss-up statements about Reagan have moved me a long way toward supporting Senator Clinton. His debate on Monday night (22 January 2008) also moved me away from supporting him. I sensed a real meanness of spirit in him and I was disappointed. I'm betting that other American's sensed it, too. We'll see if South Carolina sensed it when the next polls come out. So far Obama has a crushing lead in that state.
As I feared, these debates have deteriorated exactly to the low level that Republicans had hoped they would. The one great chance the Republicans have in November is precisely in the hands of the Democratic candidates.
If you survive to keep going, Mr. Obama, please remember the following. We don't need more favors for the rich. We don't need more attacks on the middle class. We don't need more blessings for giant corporations. We don't need more isolationism. We don't need more bully-pulpit diplomacy. These were all gifts of Ronald Reagan's administration and they've caused us problems ever since.
The Republican Party has not been, as Mr. Obama said it has, "the party of big ideas." Unless, of course, you are thinking about big ideas for the rich and big ideas for corporate America. We hear you trying to wiggle out of this mistake now and your campaign organization is trying to say you were talking about Reagan's political prowess. Sorry, Senator, we heard the remarks and we know better. [Listen to the Obama comments.]
Here's what James Clyburn, South Carolina Representative, says and he could not be any more right-on!
“You can’t allow your description to sound like praise.”
Let's not have any more praise for Ronald Reagan. Mr. Obama, you comments hurt you, whether you want to admit it or not.
There is a possibility that Obama is a wounded candidate who, out of desperation, is now flailing out wildly. It didn't appear to me that losing in New Hampshire and Nevada had hurt him that much. Perhaps it did. Perhaps he fears another New Hampshire surprise in South Carolina!
In my mind, South Carolina is a must win for Obama. It would pull him even with Clinton and make this a race right to the finish. There's even a chance this one might go to the convention floor, though Howard Dean, the head of the party says it will not.
On, or about, February 14th (Valentine's Day), I will make my selection – my personal favorite – for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Unfortunately, it will NOT be John Edwards. It will either be Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. The nation waits in great anticipation!