Sunday, February 6, 2011

Another Advantage of Living in Canada

Yes, I whine a lot about living up here, but there are heaps of advantages as well.   Right now, one of them is getting much less of the Ronald Reagan lovefest.  Thanks to George W. Bush, Reagan is out of the contest for the worst President of my time as a voter.  I am not a big fan of Ronnie so I am glad I am missing out on the mything and idolizing of a mediocre President.

Reagan might have done much to improve American optimism in the aftermath of Vietnam, Watergate, stagflation and all the rest, but he did heaps of damage with his policies and rhetoric.  The whole welfare queen driving a cadillac idea made it easier to step on the poor.  After all, poverty was a choice, right?  He made hostility to taxes and hostility to government legitimate, moving the country enough to the right that it lost a bit of its balance, which then helped to keep the right going ever further to the right.  The irony, of course, is that he blew out the budget deficit but still supported a number of tax increases.  He probably increased the passion of the right by not being nearly as right wing as they would have liked on abortion and the rest. 

The one credit I do give to Reagan is not that he ended the Cold War, but that he did allow it to end better than might have otherwise been the case.  That is, as Soviet decline became a freefall, he moved away from his hard right rhetoric and negotiated with Gorbachev, making it easier to stand down and reduce the tensions of the 2nd Cold War (which he had stoked, of course).  Imagine a Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld administration and what that would have done to a rising Gorbachev.  Retrenchment and repression were always options in the old USSR, and an external environment of hostility might have tipped the balance.  So, I do give credit for Reagan relying on the pragmatists rather than the ideologues.

I also do not blame him much for "creating Al Qaeda" as pretty much any President would have considered arming proxies to fight the USSR in Afghanistan, if only for avenging Vietnam.  He was not the first President nor the last to invest in some dubious folks to confront another threat.  The failure to manage the endgame of the Soviet withdrawal out of Afghanistan is on the first Bush and Clinton. 

We can revisit more of the Reagan record, but since I live in Canada, I don't have to do so and I can ignore most of the hagiography.  However, I do have Reagan to thank as I have never used the word "hagiography" before in writing or in speech.  Thanks Ron!

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