On President Reagan

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I don't quite understand the furor. I've never disliked the man, but I didn't see him as all that great. You would think that he should stand beside acknowledged greats like Washington and Lincoln (of whom I also fail to see much of the glamor).

So why do people line up for five hours to file past his coffin? What was really so great about Mr. Reagan? What are people admiring and adulating? I'm not attempting to provoke controversy with these questions.

The only policy I can remember from the Reagan years is one that began to tax the pitiful stipends of graduate students AND their tuition exemptions as "benefits." So my friends, making seven-thousand dollars a year had to pay taxes on that and on up to 13,000 dollars a year in tuition fee wavers. What is there to admire in this foreward thinking economic policy? I cast my mind back to Reagan and I think Iran-Contra. What is there to admire here? Certainly the administration was no worse than many, but what are people seeing that I cannot seem to see?

I mourn for the family who have lost a loved one. In a sense I mourn for the loss of an era. And as always, I recall, "No man is an island. . . send not to know for whom the bell tolls--it tolls for thee." I am reminded of my own end.

Nevertheless I am puzzled. Puzzled, but in some sense pleased because this shows humanity at its very best. People willing to line up without complaining in a line that stretches from the Capitol biulding to the Air and Space Museum--waiting five hours to file past a man's coffin--to pay respects. There is something about this that appeals, that suggests the nobility of spirit that humanity is capable of.

In this particular case, I just don't quite understand its subject, Mr. Reagan. Regardless of my understanding, may he rest in peace. "May choirs of angels sing him to his rest."

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Some people connect with presidents in a special way; and some can't stand them. Even with our current president - some treat him almost like a saint while others speak of him as the devil. He's neither; he's a politician, and he's human like the rest of us.

I too am glad we can show some of the better sides of humanity at this time - nobility, respect, civility and so on. Would be nice if it lasted far beyond this week.

NPR aired a piece the other morning about the reactions of ordinary Russians to Reagan's death. Two greatly admired him, for what he did to bring down the Soviet Union. Two despised him, for what he did to bring down the Soviet Union.

I'm with you, Mr Riddle, in being puzzled about the "why." Sure Reagan was a good man who did some good things. But another aspect of his economics was to make federal employees the scapegoats. He restricted their pay increases and reduced their pension benefits (a delayed tax!). (maybe it's a little payback that they all get today off!) Also, his handling of the air traffic controllers was crude and unbecoming a diplomat.


I am glad for your comments as I now know I am not the only one puzzled by so many people's willingness to wait hours and hours to walk past a coffin. There isn't even a place to kneel and pray for his soul there!

What I remember about him is that, the year I started grad school, 75% of my income for the eight and a half months before school was considered money available to pay for school - there was no allowance for living expenses, or even the taxes owed on that income! I ate lots of potatoes that year!

Why did people line up for miles to say goodbye to Eva Peron? Why did millions of people watch Princess Di's funeral? Why do people flood Graceland every year? We are human beings and as such are obsessed with what is tangible. With the death of somebody you admire, you want that closure, even if you did not know him personally.

Eva, Di, and Elvis, in their own ways, meant something to some people, and had enough of an impact to evoke such devotion. Same with Reagan. In his own way he contributed to the happiness of some people - veterans come to mind, having seen their words of praise on the news, their eyes glowing with respect. I'm guilty of it myself - I've driven out of my way to visit the grave of Lewis Grizzard, because he had inspired me to become a writer. We all have our heroes.

Let's not forget the winning of the Cold War, the breaking of the Berlin Wall . . . oh, and pulling us out of economic disaster!

I think you remember what you want to about anybody. Regan did a lot of good things - I'll simply point out that the Pope had a special relationship with him and discussed Regan with our current president on his trip the other day (before Regan's death). The Pope didn't discuss any other US presidents - perhaps there's a reason for that?

God bless,

I loved him. I admired his chutzpah in finding a way to fund the Nicaraguan contras fighting the vile Marxists of that country. I and my friends emulated his optimism and his patriotism. His contributions to the defeat of Soviet communism and the liberation of central Europe can only be admired. I enjoyed his constant tweaking of liberals, whose policies were (and are) viewed with disgust among my family and friends. I admired his courage to do the right thing despite constant derisive criticism from the press and arrogant contemptuous leftists.

One large part of his appeal was his virile maturity after the long years of Mr. Carter's pusillanimity.

As little as I enjoy speaking ill of the dead, I can't let Iran-Contra be praised without pointing out that: a) it was illegal, and b) Reagan lied about it.
If, as some believe, he didn't lie about it, then his scofflaw underlings were running amok and he didn't know about it. The latter proposition assumes his incompetence; the former, his dishonesty.
That said, may he rest in peace.

When I was growing up, it was widely thought we could die at any moment from a nuclear exchange with the Soviets. Now my children are free from that particular threat. The major reason? Ronald Reagan taking on the "Evil Empire." Tens of Millions of former East European communist drones now are living in democracies, free to chose to live and worship the way they choose, thanks to Reagan. He was obviously not the only one involved, but he, along with Thatcher, Pope JP2, and Solidarity were the ones who brought the curtain down on the horrors of Soviet communism. Reagan is well worth honoring.

John B

John B
Then I guess that you don't believe the contention of the current Republican administration that we are in more danger than ever from the Russian nukes (and other WMD) sold to terrorists on the Black Market by disemployed Russians "rogue scientists" after the precipitous collapse of the Soviet Union left them in anarchy and chaos? You say you feel safer. But the Bushies keep telling you to be afraid.
Here's a short quiz: A) What is the only country to ever use atomic weapons in warfare? B) Who controls the Soviet nukes that remain in those parts of the Soviet Union no longer controlled by Moscow?
Pray for peace.

I echo what Bill said. It's wonderful that so many are recognizing Reagan this way. The more I read about him the more I appreciate him - by seeing how deeply he loved Nancy (see his recently published letters), how optimistic he was given how easy it is to be pessimistic, and how deep his religious faith ran. A very remarkable man and worthy of imitation.

Dear Steven,

I remain deeply uncomfortable with some of the policies and ideologies of the Reagan administration - which I am too young to fully remember - but Reagan, though imperfect, was so quintessentially American that not to honor him would seem almost like denying a part of myself. This is, to be sure, a part of myself that I regard with some ambivalence, but it is there nonetheless. I think that the liberal commentator Todd Gitlin captured this succintly in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

"He was American optimism and Irish fancifulness personified, the storyteller as utopian. By force of personality and underrated political acumen, he succeeded in ending the long Democratic dispensation that dominated his youth and early manhood.

"Government (except the military part) was the problem, he said, and men like himself - staunch, self-made, good-humored, transfixed by the prospects of a glimmering future - were the solution ...

"Already, in 1976, when he came within a hair of overturning President Gerald R. Ford as the Republicans' candidate, he grasped that conservative victory would come from a federation of two camps: the social moralists and the economic tax-cutters. He was a convincing best friend to the far righteous (Larry Gelbart's phrase), the Christian moralists who quivered in recoil against what they saw as an oversexed, underdisciplined culture.

"Equally he admired the wealthy, was comfortable among them, and yet had the knack of convincing the proudly down-but-not-out (especially men) that he was their man, too. He made young voters feel good. With his knack for performing what one adviser called 'our little playlets,' he invented the concept of staying 'on message' before the term arrived."

I do not deny that there is something very dangerous in these aspects of Reagan. But there is something in all of up that still admires optimism and Irish fancifulness, that looks up to staunch men transfixed by the prospect of a glimmering future, that believes that we can reconcile the rich and poor, entrepreneur and moralist, with plain speech and simple virtues. Reagan embodied that mythology and something does seem lost now that he is gone.


Hi All,

This is utterly fascinating. I asked my wife about it because she said Reagan was her hero. I asked why and there was no coherent answer. I think Kat may have something with her comparison to Lady Di and Elvis. For whatever reason some people capture the imagination of a multitude.

I have serious questions about some of the things attributed to Reagan. On the other hand I bear him no animus and I have insufficient distance to really be able to say anything profound on his contributions to the present state of the world. Was he a great president? I honestly don't know. I cited two things I found less than great. Many others here have different, and highly interesting and informative perspectives. Thank you all for the contributions. I really appreciate it and I am coming to know more about how people view President Reagan.

No matter what my opinion of him as president (and I don't really have one at all), my understanding was that he was a good person and certainly worthy of the honor and respect being paid him. I pray that he rest in peace and that his family have the strength to continue without his guidance and his presence--always difficult even when the end was as long and as terrible as President Reagan's was.

Once again, thank you all. And keep commenting. I learn more with each comment.

And TSO, welcome back, so good to hear from you again after too long a silence.



Even in your most fevered fantasies I doubt you think anyone is saying that islamofascists will launch 30,000 nuclear weapons at us. It was not at all unreasonable to think the Soviets would.
To answer your questions - we are the only ones to have used nuclear weapons- and your point is that somehow that should make me chagrined that the cold war is over? Also, I have no idea where those weapons are, and I suspect you don't either. In that ignorant state I don't see why you are basing any kind of argument on it. If you are unable to honor President Reagan, the loss is yours. It is quite typical of liberals to dance on the graves of those who protected their freedoms to do so.

John B

The Pope, at least, is not finding it difficult to honor President Reagan.

Pope: Reagan 'changed the lives of millions'

Associated Press
Jun. 6, 2004 10:00 AM

BERN, Switzerland - Pope John Paul II paid tribute Sunday to former President Ronald Reagan, recalling his efforts to bring down communism that "changed the lives of millions of people," a Vatican spokesman said.

On the second-day of a 32-hour pilgrimage to Switzerland, John Paul learned of Reagan's death with "sadness" and immediately prayed for the "eternal rest of his soul," said papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

The pope and the Reagan White House worked closely in the 1980s in efforts to promote the Solidarity labor movement in the pope's native Poland and to end the Soviet grip on eastern Europe. Although the Vatican has denied there was a formal alliance, it said a few years ago that the two men were committed to fighting totalitarianism.

Navarro-Valls' statement said John Paul recalled Reagan's contribution to "historical events that changed the lives of millions of people, mainly Europeans." The statement also praised Reagan's contributions to his own country.

Two days ago, when President Bush visited the Vatican, the pope knew that Reagan was very sick and sent a "warm message of best wishes" to the former president's wife, Nancy, said the spokesman.

The Vatican and the American Church will be represented at Reagan's funeral, he said.

Reagan and the pope met both at the Vatican and in the United States. It was during the Reagan administration that Washington and the Vatican established formal diplomatic relations.

The move had been delayed for years because of worries in the United States that it would violate the constitutional division between church and state.

"It was a shock for the pope. His companion-in-arms in the fight against communism in the 1980s has died," said Marco Politi, co-author with Carl Bernstein of "His Holiness," a book recounting their efforts to overcome Soviet rule.

"There was a psychological and emotional tie between the two that John Paul has not had with any other president," Politi said.

Dear Mr. B.,

It is only fair to warn you that I have very low tolerance for interpersonal unpleasantness, even if I have inadvertantly invited it. I understand better how strong the current are that run through this issue, but please keep all posts temperate. You haven't crossed the line yet, but it is so very easy to do when one's deepest loyalties and feelings are touched upon. I do understand. And I will apologize if by what I have said I have caused you grief. That was not my intent. I truly was looking for understanding, which many have brought today.

And as I hope I made clear, while I do not hold him in the high esteem of many here, I cannot be said to be a detractor in any way. Indeed, I believe both in honoring him and the things he has done. It is both right and proper. We do so best by emulating his graciousness and civility.

Thank you.




Am I alone in my struggle with his marriage to Nancy after his first marriage ended? I appreciate the devotedness of their relationship but struggle with it because of the Church's teachings. Now, there is enough unknown in this case (at least unknown to me) to allow God lots of "wiggle room" in the mercy department.


PS I hope this doesn't stir up a hornet's nest.

Economically I didn't care for his policies they were too inconsistent. He cut taxes and increased spending. This leaves a budget deficit which means what deficits always mean: politicians cut funding for the necessary governement activities first (you never see the highway to nowhere on the chopping block or the boondogle study for something that will never see the light of day) hoping to either embarass the tax cutter or hood wink the tax payer into paying more.

Today watching the funeral though three things stood out:
1. He was a very sincere, loving, and committed Christian

2. He was the instrumental catalyst in the fall of communism

3. He was able to help people connect to a vision of America that was lost in the late 60's and 70's and sadly is being lost again..a nation of free people who truly ask what they can do for their country and are good neighbors

Please forgive my poor manners in your house. I have greatly appreciated your thoughts and meditations, and it pains me that the only time I have posted I have given offense.


John B

Dear Mr. B.,

I'm sorry I gave you that impression. You have given no offense. But I wanted to be certain that the boundaries were clearly defined so that no one would do so. No offense given nor taken, do not disturb yourself about it, and please forgive me if I were heavy-handed, it was unintentional. But I think it is best to make sure everyone knows the limits even if they are at a distance.



Dear Katherine,

President Reagan was not a Catholic. Right there we start with a panoply of disagreements and misinformation about what is right and wrong. One must assumethat he worked in best conscience to live out his life by the norms of the faith to which he belonged.

That, at least is how I view it. I don't condone divorce, but considering the careers of many of his Hollywood colleagues, I'd say he did pretty well with only one divorce.



John B and Steven:
I am certain that if I had resisted the impulse to speak ill of Mr. Reagan (despite the fact that nothing I expressed do I believe to be false, or irrelevant to Mr. Reagan's biography or to his affects on history: cf. Luke 9:60), the hint of rancor would not have entered this discussion. For that, I apologize.

22 comments and going! You struck a nerve, 'eh Steven?

President Reagan and the Pope had such a close relationship - much closer than the Pope & either of the Bushes or Clinton. So I wonder if things would've gone differently in '91 if Reagan were in office when JPII came out against the Gulf War. I wonder if either man would've influenced the other concerning what to do about Iraq's incursion into Kuwait. Those "alternative history" books fascinate. So often history is impacted simply by the personalities of the heads of state involved, how they get along and how much they communicate with each other.

Dear TSO,

I just read on Fox or somewhere that Reagan is ranked in the top five most controversial presidents along with Clinton and others I don't rightly recall. So perhaps that is the cause of all of this.



I have long had reservations about Mr Reagan, stemming from his policies when he was governor of my home state of california. I share your puzzlement as well. However, I am glad that there are so many who desire to honor his memory and I hope that God will be kind to him in the judgement. Let us not speak ill of the dead - however proper it is to argue about the impact of their lives, the time is not now.

It seems to me that those who lived through the Cold War and saw the Soviet Union as the enemy (as opposed to the moral equivalent of the US) have the greatest respect for Reagan. I'm too young to remember much of that (born 1981), so there's a lot of that I just don't "get." He seems like the right man at the right time, especially after 4 years of Carter's bungling.

Bill White (quite a number of posts up) highlights something worthwhile with his reference to the fact that Reagan followed and constrasts with President Carter. In fact, his immediate precedecessors were Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon, not three administrations that particularly fostered admiration and respect for the office of the presidency (whatever the varied strengths and limitations of the men themselves).

Reagan had a vision that was clear and took actions that aligned with that vision. You could choose for him or against him, but you know what you were choosing. People of that ilk are likely to be very controversial because they can't be made over in the perceiver's own image.

I for one will always be particularly impressed by the way he handled and communicated the news of his own Alzheimer's. Truly a public servant.

Dear Roz,

Thank you so much for your persective. By seeing all of these views, I am coming to a better understanding of the man and his appeal. Yours was most particularly helpful to me for some reason. What you said resonates. And I did forget the inestimable service he did us all by life with dignity under difficult circumstances.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on June 11, 2004 6:39 AM.

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