Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Real Ronald Reagan

I’m delivering this blog much later than I promised;
however, I can only use the excuse that it was much
more complicated than I believed it would be and
runs to well over 5,000 words even after it was
seriously and carefully edited. Ronald Reagan was
one of the strangest presidents in U.S. History in that
he bungled so much and got blamed for so little, thus
becoming known to the press as the “Teflon President.”

The Ghost of Ronald Reagan and his
greatest sin returns to haunt us!

by Charlie Leck

I have a good friend who is as frantic as I about our need to get progressive leadership back in control in Washington. A couple of months ago he told me that his only worry about the 2008 elections was John McCain. I, looking at the polls and at McCain’s slim campaign resources, told him that he had nothing to worry about.

How things change!

Now McCain is actually our big worry. Even at his age he seems to have abundant energy. He flipped the entire Republican primary situation on its head and is charging toward a giant, whopper-sized victory and the Republican endorsement.

Filled with new enthusiasm and certain the nomination is his, McCain has already put his general election strategy into play. He will portray himself as one of the nation’s great, patriotic heroes and the next coming of Ronald Reagan. “I am a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution,” John McCain keeps calling himself. McCain has the temerity to say that we are currently betraying Ronald Reagan’s principles about tax cuts and restraint of spending. The documentation following in this essay will show that Reagan actually did neither, but, quite remarkably, the opposite.

The name of Ronald Reagan is going to be invoked again and again. Writing in the LA Times, Michael Kinsley has written that this year’s “Republican primaries have turned into a Ronald Reagan adoration contest.” Kinsley reminds us, as I will get more specific about later, that Regan’s legacy is that he left us with taxes running at 999 billion dollars and a deficit of 153 billion dollars.

Democrats are going to be running against Ronald Reagan. They might as well get ready for it. Old time, conservative Republicans adore the memory of Ronald Reagan. The young are going to be sold a bill of goods about, not who he really was but, how Ronald Reagan is perceived today.

Here’s the Ronald Reagan the Republican Party will portray. Within days of his election hostages were released by Iran – hostages that Jimmy Carter could not get released for over a year. The great Berlin wall came tumbling down upon his Moses-like command: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!” The Soviet Union (“the evil empire”) began to crumble under Reagan’s stern watch and eventually dissolved. The labor movement became mostly ineffective because of Ronald Reagan. Deregulation of industry, commerce and government made the Anti-Trust laws virtually obsolete under the presidency of Ronald Reagan. The nation’ military strength was at the constant ready and Reagan demonstrated that he had a steady and ready-finger always upon a hair-trigger.

John McCain will declare himself the disciple of Ronald Reagan. It could be a road to victory if the Democrats don’t find a way to bust the myth and reveal Ronald Reagan for whom and what he really was.

My friend was right-on when he expressed his fear about John McCain as the Republican Party candidate. He is formidable. Because of his age, he will only be a one-term president, if he is elected, but even that could be disastrous for a nation already in trouble.So, my goal here is to present an honest history and a truthful portrayal of the man who was a second-rate actor and a third-rate president. You can see that I’m letting you know right up-front where this depiction is going.In 1989, Murray Rothbard, relieved that Reagan was leaving office, wrote candidly.

“Reagan’s heirs and assigns are a pale shadow of the Master, as we can see from the performance of George Bush. He might try to imitate the notes of Reagan, but the music just ain’t there. Only this provides a glimmer of hope for America: that Reaganism might not survive much beyond Reagan.”
Unfortunately, Rothbard was incorrect. The followers of Reagan are legion within the Republican Party. In the coming election, we will hear far more about Ronald Reagan from the Republican candidates than we will about our original founders and the constitution they so wisely crafted. Most people are simplistic in analyzing Reagan and those people will be easy fish for the Republican campaigners.

Oscar Buchmueller, an old, fatherly fellow for whom I worked for a year, doing an internship while I was in graduate school, was a fellow student with “Dutch Reagan” at Eureka College (a school that some observers have called “that Illinois barber school.”) Oscar’s eyes would light up when he spoke of his old pal. My, oh my, but Oscar was proud. He had been proud enough during those years when Ronny was such a star out in Hollywood; but, wow, when his fellow-alumnus became Governor of California, Oscar was busting his buttons. I never got to talk to Oscar during the years that Reagan was President, but I can imagine that he was beside himself. The interesting thing, though, is that Oscar couldn’t tell me too much of significance about his buddy. He was a terrific football player. He worked on a little college or town radio station (I can’t remember which) and got involved in dramatics. Oscar was a fairly deep thinking, contemplative guy. He couldn’t say the same about Dutch!

Go to the Internet and find the Eureka College web pages about Ronald Reagan’s time at the school. Reagan graduated in 1932. You’ll find all kinds of wonderful stuff that carefully avoids any discussion of academic achievement or class work.

After graduation, Reagan did some radio sports broadcasting in Davenport, Iowa, and in Des Moines (1933-1936), before moving on to Hollywood in 1937. After a screen test with Warner Brothers, he was given a seven-year contract.

Let’s get a lot of the petty stuff out of the way before moving on to Ronald Reagan’s terms as Governor of California and President of the United States.

Reagan was a two bit actor. I know of no one who will disagree with that. His list of movie credits is less than distinguished: Hollywood Hotel (1937) Love is on the Air (1937); Accidents Will Happen (1938); Boy Meets Girl (1938); Brother Rat (1938); Cowboy from Brooklyn (1938); Sergeant Murphy (1938); Angels Wash Their Faces (1939); Dark Victory (1939); Knute Rockne – All American (1940); An Angel from Texas (1940); The Santa Fe Trail (1940); King’s Row (1942); Stallion Road (1947); The Hagan Girl (1947); The Voice of the Turtle (1947); Bedtime for Bonzo (1951); Storm Warning (1951); The Last Outpost (1951); The Winning Team (1952); She’s Working Her Way through College (1952); Law and Order (1953); Tropic Zone (1953); Cattle Queen of Montana (1954); Tennessee’s partner (1955); and Hellcats of the Navy (1957).

During the Second World War, Reagan served in the Army Air Corp as a Captain, making pilot training films.

During his career, Ronald Reagan received no (zero) nominations for Academy Awards; yet, there is something about his movie career with which any evaluation of his life and political work must take into account. Reagan was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) in 1947. It was the beginning of McCarthyism and J. Parnell Thomas was chairing the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). A host of actors, writers, producers and directors were being named by the committee as people unfriendly to the “causes” of the United States. The list is startling. Over a few years period, approximately 320 people were “black-listed” from the entertainment industry. Reagan, as president of SAG, refused to support actors such as Larry Parks, Joseph Bromberg, Charlie Chaplin, John Garfield, Howard Da Silva, Gale Sondergaard, Jeff Corey, John Randolph, Canada Lee and Paul Robeson. The careers of most of them were ended as the result of defaming charges by HUAC. It was a cowardly act on Reagan’s part. He not only failed to come to their aid, but he openly and actively supported McCarthyism. He was shamefully protecting his own career; for, he knew that anyone who confronted the committee would likely end up on its terrible list.

Reagan was the kind of man who always chose the most convenient way and not the courageous way to leadership. He was a Democrat throughout the 30s and 40s and a huge admirer of Franklin Delano Roosevelt because his own parents had been so significantly assisted by the programs of the New Deal. After the second Great War, he switched to the Republican Party in order to back the popular general, Dwight David Eisenhower. He was a staunch supporter of Richard Nixon in the 1960 election and of Barry Goldwater in 1964. His active and visible support made him a friend of the business leaders of California. Using a promise of tax relief and the tactics of a dramatic and ugly smear campaign, Reagan defeated incumbent Governor Pat Brown in 1966. His governorship saw dramatic budget cuts and state employee hiring freezes. Student fees in California’s state universities rose dramatically. Students organized protest rallies and Reagan sent in the state police to deal with these rabble rousers. During a second term he instituted tighter requirements for welfare assistance. He squeezed the lower and middle classes very hard, but never delivered on his promise of tax relief. In fact, during Ronald Reagan’s terms as Governor of California, taxes rose to a level that had never been seen in any state in American history.

During his campaign for the presidency, Reagan made the same promises to America that he made to California. He promised lower taxes and smaller government. The facts show that the size of government during Reagan’s term grew enormously. Conservatives have controlled the reins of government in America for 16 of the last 24 years. Yet, government is bigger and more expensive than ever. Reagan promised more efficient government. During his term, the efficiency of government, when measured against dollars in and service out, decreased dramatically. Reagan promised to get U.S. debt under control. Our debt increased to record numbers and he left us with what was then the largest budget deficit in U.S. History.

Reagan was an extraordinarily good speaker (the Great Communicator), if not a magnificent one. He governed up an enormous amount of blunder with a fabulous amount of bluster. He actually knew very little about foreign affairs and international policy. He knew very little about Washington politics and he knew less about the manner in which the federal government worked. When he was asked a truly significant and thoughtful question at a press conference, he looked like a deer in headlights as he nervously pondered a reply. His handlers resisted every attempt Reagan made to go “off script.”

The one thing that Ronald Reagan knew for sure was that he hated Communism. He took communism on in ways that no president before him would have dared. At times he was open and candid about it, but he was mostly covert and devious in his attacks. The Great Communicator was not willing to criticize any anti-Communist government even if they were highly undemocratic. He had a series of UN resolutions criticizing South Africa vetoed. He was unsuccessful in vetoing the Congressional Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986.

As an example of Reagan’s anti-communist craze, take the unbelievable invasion of Granada as a prime case study.

The invasion of Grenada was called “a lovely little war” by some correspondent. Even such a broadcast news service at Public Broadcasting called the war “an unmitigated success” for Ronald Reagan. To most Americans it was an inconsequential event and nearly the entire country accepted the spin Reagan’s administration put on the action. There was no one to contradict the Reagan version because the administration had blacked out the media and they weren’t included in the invasion force. Only history and the facts are left to contradict Reagan’s version.

More than 20 years later, we know some of those facts and we can look at the adaptation the White House gave us with a jaundiced eye. Reagan claimed that the island was under the control of hard-line communists who were cooperating with Cuba to hold and store modern military weapons that would be eventually transferred to dangerous rebels in Central and South America. Reagan claimed there were vast numbers of military personnel on the island and that 800 American students at a medical college there were in great danger.

Let’s start with the last claim first. The President told the American people that the Grenada airport had been closed and that the students couldn’t get out. Indeed and in fact, the airport wasn’t closed. There was no military presence at the airport and customs procedures were being carried on. Airline service to other Caribbean islands had ceased because U.S. officials were putting pressure on those islands to do so – all in preparation for the invasion. Officials at the medical college sent numerous messages to Reagan and to the press that the students were not in danger and no attempt to save them should be attempted. Over 500 parents of students contacted the White House to say their children were safe and they would only be put in danger by U.S. military action.

Nevertheless, the President sent the marines in. They met very little resistance. It turned out there were few Cuban military personnel. Most were construction workers. Unfortunately, 19 Americans died in the invasion and a number of others were injured. Today we know that most of those were as the result of friendly fire or accidents. Only 100 of the students left the island with their saviours. The others saw no reason to go.

Reagan’s spin-meisters went to work, however, and told of the huge warehouses of modern, dangerous military weapons that had been uncovered. Today we know better. A small warehouse, half-filled with outdated and nearly useless military surplus weapons was stormed. Even these absurd weapons were further away from gorilla bases in South America than they would have been in Cuba.

When the military coup that raised Reagan’s hackles had taken place, Cuba and Fidel Castro had condemned it with great strength and stopped both diplomatic and commercial relations with the little nation. There was certainly no growing and dangerous communist relationship there.

Reagan had also claimed that Cuban construction workers were building a military airbase, bomb-resistant fuel tanks, sheltered bays for military aircraft and fortified control towers. In fact, the invasion discovered that it was a British contractor, underwritten and approved by the conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was doing the work. Very few Cubans were on the work force. Most were Finns, Canadians and locals. They were not building military facilities, but only modernizing and enlarging the airport.

In reality, Reagan ordered the invasion because of his paranoia about communists. The little nation was certainly no threat to America. Some think the invasion was staged to take attention away from the horrible bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut that had killed 241 military personnel. Reagan’s popularity and approval rating suffered as a result of that attack. It rose remarkably again after the invasion of little Grenada.

A more likely theory holds that Grenada was too good an example of the success of a Black Power movement. The rebels in Grenada had claimed to have been inspired by the Black Power movement in America. That may have worried Reagan.

America’s humiliation in Vietnam was still fresh and Reagan had been angered by Richard Nixon’s half-hearted approach to that war. Grenada was an easy victory on which both Reagan and the military could hang its hat.

Never mind that it was a violation of International Law. Democrats did not distinguish themselves at the time of the invasion. Both Walter Mondale and Joseph Liebermann spoke strongly in support of the action. It was a Republican Senator (Lowell Weiker) who raised the biggest stink about the action, pointing out that it was an unconstitutional power that the President was exercising.

Reaction around the world was completely negative. It took a U.S. veto to negate a United Nations Security Council condemnation of the military action. The General Assembly’s vote against the action passed with an overwhelming majority.

Philip Zunes, an associate professor at the University of San Francisco, wrote of the invasion’s aftermath:

“In Grenada during the ensuing months, the mass organizations were dismantled, the labor unions were re-organized, over half of all medical personnel were expelled, investment and tax codes were revised to favor foreign investment, and cooperatives and states enterprises were sold to private interests. Billboards that had inspired the population to work for justice, equality, development, and national sovereignty were quickly replaced by those designed to inspire them to buy American consumer products.

“The quality of life for most islanders deteriorated in the period following the invasion despite infusions of American aid. This was most apparent in the health care field, where not a single pediatrician remained in this country where 60% of the population was under 25, nor was there a single psychiatrist to care for 180 mental patients (Seventeen patients and one staff member were killed when the U.S. bombed the mental hospital during the invasion.)

“The U.S. invasion of Grenada prompted witch-hunts throughout the Caribbean for those with leftist sympathies. Countries that thought they had the right as sovereign nations to receive economic and military assistance from whomever they pleased realized they had to reconsider. The day after the invasion, for example, Suriname closed down the Cuban embassy in its capital and expelled its diplomats.

“Upon taking over the island, most foreign doctors, teachers, and other civilians were summarily arrested and expelled by U.S. officials. Shortly after the invasion, U.S. forces raided and ransacked the Pope Paul Ecumenical Center due its "subversive activities" of aiding the poor. Hundreds of Grenadans were held for months without charge. Some suspects were shackled and blindfolded in violation of Hague convention standards on the treatment of prisoners of war. The island's only radio station was taken over by the U.S. Navy. The right of free assembly was seriously curtailed, the press was censored, and writ of habeus corpus was abolished.

“Over the next several years, U.S. forces loosened their grip and allowed for popular elections. Grenada has joined other small Caribbean islands under the leadership of a conservative and corrupt elite. The current center-right government, for example, has engaged in some major irregularities in awarding contracts for public works projects to foreign investors with criminal ties and has set up offshore banking operations with little oversight. Although Grenada's economy has been expanding, poverty is widespread, and it appears that the country has little choice but to follow the neoliberal orthodoxy dictated by Washington and its allied international financial
This Reagan action and the current war in Iraq are remarkable reminders that Congress must reign in Presidential power and restore the power of Congress to exclusively wage war. You can be guaranteed that such a restoration will never take place under the leadership of John McCain.

Reagan’s “biggest crimes” during his tenure in office, according to William Blum, were his powerful military actions to suppress social and political change in Central America and Afghanistan.

The support Reagan gave to Pol Pot in Cambodia was not much more palatable to most of us than his interference in Central America. Though Pol Pot’s thugs were murderous and dangerous, they weren’t communists. That was Reagan’s rationalization.

Now, let’s tackle the portrait of Ronald Reagan that John McCain will paint during his campaign and see how much of it is fictional.

Ronald Reagan ended the cold war and brought down the Berlin wall
This will probably be the major claim that John McCain will make and he will try to equate himself with Reagan. Well, the truth about this claim is “yes” and “no.” Objective historians will need to give Reagan some credit about the cold war claim, but little or no credit when it comes to the end of Soviet control over East Germany and other satellite nations.

The Soviet Union was nearly bankrupt when Ronald Reagan came into office. The situation in Russia and the other nations that made up the great union was terrible. Of Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev had flattering things to say, but he wouldn’t go too far. “He was an extraordinary political leader,” Gorbachev told a group of listeners, who “decided to be a peacemaker” at just the right time. “Our interests coincided,” the General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party said.

However, Gorbachev brushed aside the idea that Regan won the Cold War?

“That isn’t serious! That isn’t serious! …I think we all lost the Cold War, particularly the Soviet Union. We each lost ten trillion dollars. We only won when the Cold War ended.” The General Secretary knew he was in “an arms race that is beyond our capabilities, and we will lose it because we are at the limit of capabilities.”
It has to be admitted that Reagan poured money into the arms race at a pace with which the Soviet Union couldn’t possibly keep up. The domestic result of that in America was national debt astronomically higher than we’d ever seen before or ever imagined possible.

The effect and influence of Ronald Reagan’s famous, but fanciful, Star Wars Plan was devastating on the Soviet Union. Was Reagan bluffing? I think so! We were not in good enough financial condition to have implemented such an idea. However, the bluff worked. Gorbachev blinked. He was prepared to talk turkey with the President of the United States.

And, it’s pretty clear now that Reagan was bluffing and that he actually hated nuclear weapons. When he met with Gorbachev, face to face, in Reykjavik in 1986, Reagan shocked the General Secretary by seeing the Soviet ante of a 50 percent cut in strategic arms, and upping him by proposing a total disposal of all nuclear weapons. Declassified minutes from the Soviet Union show that this is factual and that it was an extraordinary historical moment. Reagan was flying solo and his nearby advisors and councilors were shocked. Yet, Reagan didn’t back down. He proposed that the Soviet Union join us in building the Star Wars Defense system to prevent either nation from reviving a nuclear program. In the end the whole idea fizzled out, but Gorbachev was rocked and had discovered Ronald Reagan was not the man he had suspected.

Gorbachev, in 1986, knew already that communism was dead and the Soviet Union was crumbling. It was not Ronald Reagan who was bringing down the great bear, but it was internal economics.

“We were a country with the richest resources on Earth,” Gorbachev said, “and we couldn’t provide toothpaste for our people.”

Though the great Soviet leader didn’t think Reagan had ended the Cold War, he did have great respect for his adversary. He praised Reagan for “restoring America’s self-confidence!” The Watergate scandal and the defeat in Vietnam had America in a depressed mood. “For him,” Gorbachev said of Reagan, “the American dream was not just rhetoric. It was something he felt in his heart. In that sense he was an idealistic American.”

William Blum, in his book, Killing Hope, claims something quite different. He says that Ronald Reagan did not end the cold war, but that he actually prolonged it. His argument is quite convincing. Reagan was certainly NOT responsible for the destruction of the Wall, but the arms race is quite another matter.

Blum shows that it was the failing of the Soviet’s own system of economic and government that did it in. The movement away from Communism is not something that happened suddenly or quickly, but the great empire moved slowly, but steadily, toward a great social change. The slow, steady movement began with the death of Stalin.

Harold Marcuse, a professor of history at the University of California (in Santa Barbara) has strong opinions about whether Ronald Reagan had anything to do with bringing down the Berlin Wall.

“Oh please,… in reality, it was the peoples of eastern Europe, the Poles, Germans, Czechs, Hungarians, etc. whose persistent pressure on their governments forced them into opening toward the west. To suggest that Reagan was the ‘true’ originator of Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika is utterly absurd.”
Reagan’s speech in front of the wall was perfectly timed, but was not motivational in bringing it down. The stage had already been set for that in Eastern Europe.

We must remember it was also Reagan who was given some of the blame for the rise of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. It was this President who sent Donald Rumsfeld to Hussein to seek his assistance in our problems with Iran. Reagan it was who supplied Hussein with the weapons (Helicopters and chemicals) and funds to fight against the Soviet Union. Reagan also approved of the decision to arm the Mojahedin in Afghanistan. It was this group that eventually became the Taliban.

There is neither time nor space enough here to review all the details of the Irangate Scandal. (Here’s a link if you want to read about this many-faceted and corrupt, illegal action by the Reagan administration.) Against the will of Congress, Reagan used the profits from those deals to supply fund to the anti-Communist forces in Nicaragua. The key element is this entire scandal is that Reagan had promised the American people that he would “never yield to terrorist blackmail.” As a result of this pitiful bit of corruption, two Reagan aides were forced to resign (Donald Regan and John Poindexter). Donald Reagan was only one of the chiefs of staff that the President would lose during his tenure. Michael Deaver, a deputy chief of staff, was also forced to resign and face criminal charges for taking a very apparent bribe from the South Korean government while he served the Reagan administration.

Don’t forget, also, that Reagan had his Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, abruptly resign in June 1982 over the President’s handling of the Falkland Island War involving Britain and Argentina.

[Revision of 13 Feb 2008] A reader sent a column by Fred Kaplan that was published on Slate that argues quite well that the extraordinarily unusual personality combination of Gorbachev and Reagan actually did, together, end the cold war. Click here if you'd like to read it.

Ronald Reagan reigned in Federal Government
This McCain claim will be one of the most absurd. Reagan was deeply committed to weakening federal government. Deregulation was the key word during his administration of our land. Though Ronald Reagan made the feds weaker in terms of their relationship to the states, he actually caused the cost of government to soar. There were 230,00 more civilian government workers when Ronald Reagan left office than when he took the oath.

Even though we were facing a 100 billion dollar deficit, in 1981 Reagan convinced Congress to pass a three-year tax reduction package. He followed this with cuts in domestic spending. Military spending rose at a rate beyond the rate of those cuts. He had increased defense spending by 35 percent, including ludicrously expensive programs like Star Wars (the Strategic Defense Initiative) and the MX missile program. The gap between the rich and poor was widened. The nation moved into a deep recession. This was called Reaganomics.

John McCain is starting to accuse the Bush administration of turning its back on Reaganomics. In fact, George Double-U was a faithful follower of the Reagan system. He cut taxes on the wealthiest of all Americans and, at the same time, increased spending.

Even Reagan’s promise to deregulate government and get it off people’s backs was a bogus one. Jimmy Carter actually set in motion the deregulation of oil and gas, the airline and trucking industries and abolition of the Civil Aeronautics Board. They were all timed to phase in during Reagan’s first year and, therefore, he got credit for all of those actions.

Let’s remind John McCain that Reagan went into office promising to eliminate the Department of Education. During Reagan’s years its budget actually doubled. The cost of farm programs also more than doubled. Federal entitlements increased by more than 100 percent. I’m sure a lot of these increases were necessary and good, but candidate McCain ought to be called on his unbridled praise of Caesar.

Let McCain’s memory be refreshed. Reagan signed the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA) of 1882. TEFRA was the large increase in taxes in U.S. history. In the same year, Reagan supported higher taxes on gasoline and increased taxes on the trucking industry. In 1983 he raised Social Security taxes by 165 billion dollars and, a year later, he signed his Deficit Reduction Act to raise another 50 billion dollars.

The Republicans will herald the 1986 Tax Reform Act that only shifted 120 billion dollars in taxes over five years from personal income taxes to various, hidden business taxes.Immigration and Ronald ReaganThe Republicans will holler and shout during this campaign, as they have during the primary debates, that Ronald Reagan “would say no way” to amnesty for illegal immigrants. In fact, in 1986, President Reagan signed a law that authorized the most recent act of legal amnesty.

Ronald Reagan was the Great Communicator
True, Reagan could give a great speech; however, in analysis, the Reagan’s speeches were little more than grand rhetoric that lacked substance. More than one historian of American politics and many political scientists have pointed to the Reagan era as the one that ushered in a lower standard for intellect in American presidents. Reagan taught people, like George W. Bush, how to use a simple “aw shucks” approach to important decision making.

Enough with all the questionable praise that John McCain will heap upon Ronald Reagan. Let me deal here with one of the most shameful acts any candidate for the presidency of the United States has ever committed. You need to be reminded that, during the Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan campaign in 1980, Iran was holding a sizable number of American hostages. Carter was working on a substantive plan to have them released. Word of this was leaked to Ronald Reagan and one of his campaign managers, Michael Deaver (who, as we mentioned above, would later resign in shame from the administration). Deaver, in later years, would tell the NY Times about it.

“One of the things we had concluded early on was that a Reagan victory would be nearly impossible if the hostages were released before the election… There is no doubt in my mind that the euphoria of a hostage release would have rolled over the land like a tidal wave. Carter would have been a hero, and many of the complaints against him forgotten. He would have won.”
For a candidate to interfere in foreign relations and international negotiations in order to benefit his election prospects is an unheard of sin in American politics. It should be criminal! Nevertheless, according to Barbara Honegger, a researcher and policy analyst in the 1980 Reagan campaign, just such a sin actually was committed.

“William J. Casey and other representatives of the Reagan presidential campaign made a deal at two sets of meetings in July and August at the Ritz Hotel in Madrid with Iranians to delay the release of Americans held hostage in Iran until after the November 1980 presidential elections. Reagan’s aides promised that they would get a better deal if they waited until Carter was defeated.”

So much for not “dealing with terrorists” – a promise Reagan was making during his campaign. He reneged on that promise immediately when he saw that it was the difference in his election or not.

And so much for those 5 or 6 months of the hostages’ lives, as they were forced to remain longer than necessary as prisoners of the Iranian government.

This is a sin for which Ronald Reagan should never be forgiven.

Try to remember some of these things when John McCain gets himself really wound up and begins gushing about the Ronald Reagan legacy and the mantel that he intends to pick up. Save us from that!

In the general election, Reagan easily defeated an ambushed and hand-cuffed President Jimmy Carter by receiving 56 percent of the votes cast – a landslide victory.


See the essay by a staunch libertarian: Rothbard, Murray: Ronald Reagan: An Autopsy [ at ]

See: Spartacus School Net { ]

See: Los Angeles Times of 8 February 2008
[,1,4679972,print.story?ctrack=1&cset=true ]


  1. Remarkable words that you laid down here about Ronald Reagan's administration. I agree with you that there will be a great deal of Reagan talk during this 2008 election. I've always been fascinated by Reagan's Presidency. I aught to admit that I am a pradoxical admirer of Robert Bly and Ronald Reagan; that's a difficult reconciliation, but reading posts like yours helps someone like me better gage how we view Reagan's legacy.

    My reason for admiring Reagan relates to the emphasis in his speeches against Stalinist terror. The Soviet Union was an evil empire (but we could become the same if we don't watch out). For that alone, I believe he deserves credit. We really don't know how the Soviet Union would have decayed without Reagan's stances.

    I'll have to dig more into his history. It's a good time to evaluate his Presidency, since we're dealing with a lot of his legacy today.

    Thank you for a respectable, well-thought post Chas!

  2. Nice job, Charlie. I was only two years back from D.C. when Reagan was elected. I thought I had fallen through the looking glass. It's unconscionable how Congress let his administration off the hook on Iran Contra and other matters. Perhaps a sign of things to come. I remember watching the president react to the press finally pressing him on trading arms with terrorists in order to support our army in Central America. He sought to deflect the notion that he should recall what he was doing on a particular day that had been identified as the day a deal was struck. "If anybody in this room remembers what he was doing on August 8, 1985, raise your hand!" demanded a cornered Reagan. Listening on the radio, I thought about it and raised my hand. My daughter was born that day.
    BTW, change "Kruschev" to "Gorbachev" in the 7th paragraph. Talk to you soon.