Sunday, June 06, 2004

Ronald Reagan 1911-2004

[US Politics]

LAT's Ronald Brownstein- Reagan Redefined U.S. Politics:
"No one since Franklin D. Roosevelt reshaped American politics or restored the primacy of the presidency more than Ronald Reagan. Reagan redefined the message of the Republican Party, expanded its reach to working-class voters who had rejected it for decades, and put in place the final pieces of a conservative alliance that has carried the GOP to unified control of Congress and the White House for the first time in half a century. As the Great Communicator, Reagan changed the way presidents pursue their goals, enormously elevating the role of direct communication with the public through television. He hastened the realignment of the South from solidly Democratic to the cornerstone of GOP strength. And he crystallized an anti-government populism that has lastingly constrained Washington's role in society. During the New Deal period ushered in by Roosevelt, "the burden of proof was on those who tried to argue that government should not act," said veteran Democratic strategist Bill Galston. "But in the era of Reagan, which I think we are still in, the burden of proof is on those who think the government should act. And if you bear the burden of proof, you have the problem." Following a series of presidents who failed in one way or another ... Reagan at the most fundamental level demonstrated that the Oval Office was a lever from which a talented leader could change the country and the world ... He shook the political landscape so powerfully that he became one of the few who profoundly influenced both parties, forcing Democrats toward the center while tilting Republicans toward the right."

WP- Actor, Governor, President, Icon:
"Although Reagan was an outspoken anti-communist who described the Soviet Union as an "evil empire," he forged a constructive relationship with the reform-minded Gorbachev, who ascended to power midway through the Reagan presidency ... There is general agreement ... that the meetings between Gorbachev and Reagan and later between Gorbachev and President George H.W. Bush eased the transition from Cold War to peace ... Reagan gave weekly Saturday radio speeches to the American people, a practice continued by his successors. He was particularly effective in prepared television speeches delivered from the Oval Office. Drawing upon skills forged in his earlier careers in radio, films and television, Reagan set the standard in using television to promote his presidency ... Overall, the "Reagan Doctrine" foreign policy of aiding anti-communist insurrections had mixed results ... SDI remains a controversial legacy of the Reagan presidency ... but there is little doubt that SDI, whatever its feasibility, was a factor in prodding the Soviets to negotiate ... Reagan said he wanted to become part of government in order to reduce its influence ... One of the paradoxes of Reagan's political career was that he campaigned ceaselessly against government, even as an incumbent president, but wound up strengthening the presidency and the influence of the central government."

WP Editorial- Ronald Wilson Reagan:
"Mr. Reagan's inattentiveness to detail, as well as to some fairly major goings-on, was well known, and in at least one instance -- what came to be known as the Iran-contra scandal -- it hurt him, his administration and the country. But on the things that mattered most to him and that turned out to matter most to the country, he was both decisive and influenced to an unusual degree by what he had himself seen and done over the years ... Mr. Reagan will forever be seen by certain of his adversaries as an easily manipulated executive, something of a figurehead, fronting for the traditional interests of his party. This view fails to take into account how forceful, focused and sometimes stubbornly personal Mr. Reagan was regarding the basic matters on which his administration will be judged."

WP- Key Role in Ending the Cold War:
"The United States, in the years before and during the Reagan presidency, underwent a revolution in high technology that the Soviets could not match. The Soviet system was under pressure from Reagan's defense buildup ... and Reagan's proposed missile defense system, the Strategic Defense Initiative ... In Reagan's second term, it was disclosed that he had sought to bypass congressional restrictions on aiding the rebels, known as the contras, by diverting $3.8 million from the secret sale of 2,000 antitank missiles to Iran. What came to be known as the Iran-contra scandal touched off a furor. Reagan, frustrated at the inability to free American hostages in Lebanon, had traded the missiles for the release of three of them, breaking his own earlier vows not to make deals with terrorists or states that aided them ... Reagan's ardent anti-Communist rhetoric was extremely controversial in its time, but events have shown he was prescient and probing about the depth of Soviet internal weaknesses."

WP- Sagging GOP Rebuilt in His Image:
"Reagan's 1980 campaign symbolized the emergence of the conservatives as the dominant force in the party ... What the 1980 campaign demonstrated, to the surprise of many Democrats who underestimated his political skills, was Reagan's ability to enunciate strong conservative principles without appearing threatening to a majority of Americans ... Reagan exploited the country's demoralized mood with an upbeat campaign in which he promised to return the country to greatness ... That campaign marked a major shift in the Republican Party's approach to economics when he embraced the supply-side tax-cutting philosophy of many young conservatives ... The principles that undergirded Reagan's campaign for the White House guided his actions as president, as he pushed his party and the country farther to the right ... "Beginning with Roosevelt, the presumption was that if you had a problem, the federal government was going to solve it," said David Keene of the American Conservative Union. "Beginning with Reagan, the presumption was that if you had a problem, government was likely to screw things up and you looked for a private solution." ... Reagan's presidency brought a new term to the political lexicon: Reagan Democrats. His social conservatism, his unapologetic appeals to patriotism, his challenge to the Soviets and his economic policies brought onetime Democrats streaming into the Republican column ... Reagan's political career was marked by strategic retreats from his stirring conservative rhetoric, pragmatism when he needed it, and a number of instances where he failed to come close to achieving his goals, most notably in bringing the federal deficit under control. But in the almost 16 years since he left the presidency to return to California, his influence on the party and the politics of the country has never waned. Few politicians in the history of the country have had that kind of lasting legacy."

LAT Editorial- A Presidency Characterized by Paradox:
"The mark of Reagan's presidency was paradox. Having campaigned as an implacable foe of government deficit spending, he left office with a federal debt that was nearly triple its level when he was inaugurated. He succumbed, as Bush has, to the fallacious "supply side" economic notion that government revenues rise if taxes are cut. ... Hero though Reagan was to so many Americans, his legacy is marred. Economically, the Reagan years were epitomized by a freewheeling entrepreneurialism and free spending. But the affluent got more affluent and the poor got poorer. The number of families living below the poverty line increased by one-third. The Reagan administration's zeal for deregulation of industry helped create the savings and loan debacle, which left taxpayers holding the bag for billions of dollars in losses. All of this presaged a recurring malaise among American workers, who continue to see jobs lost to corporate downsizing and outsourcing."

WP- Reaganomics:
"Reagan owed his election to the economy. He won the presidency by asking a voters a simple but devastating question: Are you better off than you were four years ago? ... [Reagan] would unleash the forces of the free market by reducing the size of government and cutting taxes. Reagan also demanded larger defense spending. These goals appeared contradictory or, in the memorable phrase of 1980 presidential candidate George H.W. Bush, "voodoo economics." But Reagan insisted that reducing taxes would generate enough corporate activity to make up the difference in lost revenue. This was a theory espoused by "supply-side" economists, who focused on the impact of taxes on the total supply of output, in contrast to those who concentrated on how to stimulate demand."

LAT- Reagan Left Mark on California:
"He was a non-threatening conservative ... who appealed to working-class Democrats — "Reagan Democrats" they became called — and governed as a pragmatic moderate, having the courage and sense to raise taxes when necessary to honestly balance the state's books."

LAT- Cold War's End a Reagan Legacy:
"Reagan will be remembered less for his failings in what would later be called a "war on terrorism," and more for his success in bringing the Cold War to an end."

LAT- Reagan's 1994 Letter Disclosing He Has Alzheimer's Disease:
"In closing let me thank you, the American people for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your President. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future.
I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead."

LAT- A Collection of Reagan's Speeches and Documents