Reagan Redux: The Gipper helped save the ozone layer but almost single-handedly ruined Americas leadership in clean energy

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"Reagan Redux: The Gipper helped save the ozone layer but almost single-handedly ruined Americas leadership in clean energy"

Today is the 100th anniversary of President Reagan’s birth.

As ThinkProgress points out, the right-wing hagiography of the Gipper leaves out the fact that he was “a serial tax raiser” and “nearly tripled the federal budget deficit” and “gave amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants.”

His overall environmental legacy as President is very poor, as Grist laid out in great deal here.  The only real exception was his work in helping to save the ozone layer.  But his clean energy legacy is an unmitigated disaster that we are still suffering the consequences from today.  Let’s run through the history.

Grist explained Reagan’s overall eco-legacy in 2004:

Before delving further into Reagan’s track record, it’s worth recalling his infamous public statement that “trees cause more pollution than automobiles do,” and that if “you’ve seen one tree you’ve seen them all.” This is not, in other words, a president who demonstrated much ecological prowess.

Reagan’s ignorance in this area is personified by James Watt and Anne Gorsuch, the leaders he selected to head the Department of Interior and the U.S. EPA, respectively. “Never has America seen two more intensely controversial and blatantly anti-environmental political appointees than Watt and Gorsuch,” said Greg Wetstone, director of advocacy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who served on the Hill during the Reagan era as chief environment council at the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The list of rollbacks attempted by these administrators is as sweeping as those of the current administration. Gorsuch tried to gut the Clean Air Act with proposals to weaken pollution standards “on everything from automobiles to furniture manufacturers — efforts which took Congress two years to defeat,” according to Clapp. Moves to weaken the Clean Water Act were equally aggressive, crescendoing in 1987 when Reagan vetoed a strong reauthorization of the act only to have his veto overwhelmingly overridden by Congress. Assaults on Superfund were so hideous that Rita Lavelle, director of the program, was thrown in jail for lying to Congress under oath about corruption in her agency division.The gutting of funds for environmental protection was another part of Reagan’s legacy. “EPA budget cuts during Reagan’s first term were worse than they are today,” said Frank O’Donnell, director of Clean Air Trust, who reported on environmental policy for The Washington Monthly during the Reagan era. “The administration tried to cut EPA funding by more than 25 percent in its first budget proposal,” he said. And massive cuts to Carter-era renewable-energy programs “set solar back a decade,” said Clapp.

Topping it all off were efforts to slash the EPA enforcement program: “The enforcement slowdown was staggering,” said a staffer at the House Energy and Commerce Committee who helped investigate the Reagan administration’s enforcement of environmental laws during the early ’80s. “In the first year of the Reagan administration, there was a 79 percent decline in the number of enforcement cases filed from regional offices to EPA headquarters, and a 69 percent decline in the number of cases filed from the EPA to the Department of Justice.”

As for energy, Reagan almost single-handedly killed America’s global leadership in renewable energy (see “Who got us in this energy mess? Start with Ronald Reagan“).

President Reagan is the “culprit in chief” when it comes to the “current energy debacle” explained Richard Cohen in his 2008 piece “Wish Upon a Pump.” I could not agree more.

Reagan is a key reason we have only about one-sixth of the soaring global market for windpower “” an industry we once dominated: “President Reagan cut the renewable energy R&D budget 85% after he took office and eliminated the wind investment tax credit in 1986. This was pretty much the death of most of the US wind industry” (see “Anti-wind McCain delivers climate remarks at foreign wind company“).  Same for solar power.

Indeed, Reagan gutted Carter’s entire multi-billion dollar clean energy and energy efficiency effort. He opposed and then rolled back fuel economy standards. Reagan turned all such commonsense strategies into “liberal” policies that must be opposed by any true conservative, a position embraced all too consistently by conservative leaders from Gingrich to Bush/Cheney to John McCain to the entire Tea Party-driven GOP.

The only real difference between Reagan and Bush/McCain is that the latter have embraced the Frank Luntz strategy for conservatives, in which they claim rhetorically that they support clean energy technologies while actually promoting anti-technology policies (see “Bush climate speech follows Luntz playbook: “Technology, technology, blah, blah, blah.” That is why Presidential candidate John McCain went to a wind company to talk about climate in 2008.

The media was oblivious to what the Teflon president did in the 1980s, and they continued to lap up phony rhetoric of the anti-clean-energy conservatives in recent years (see “Slate and the WashPost are suckered by anti-environmentalist Newt Gingrich” and “NY Times get suckered by Newt Gingrich’s phony techno-optimism“). Well, not all of the media. Cohen gets it right in his terrific op-ed, most of which I reprint below:

Those of you with keen memories may recall that the energy crisis is not new. In 1977, Jimmy Carter called it the “moral equivalent of war.” In the sort of speech a politician rarely delivers, he told a not-particularly-grateful nation that his energy program was going to hurt, but “a policy which does not ask for changes or sacrifices would not be an effective policy.” The core of his initiative was conservation. Carter had earlier asked us to lower our thermostats and wear sweaters. He wore one himself.

Reagan, who succeeded Carter in the White House, wore only a smile. For him, there was no energy crisis. Whereas Carter had insisted that only the government could manage the energy crisis, Reagan, in his first inaugural, demanded that government get out of the way. Speaking of general economic conditions at the time, he said, “Government is not the solution to our problem.” He went on to call for America to return to greatness, to “reawaken this industrial giant,” and all sorts of swell things would happen. It was wonderful stuff.

To contrast the two speeches is like comparing the screeching of a cat to the miracles of Mozart. Yet today, Carter’s speech reads as prescient. Most of his dire predictions “” “It is a problem we will not solve in the next few years, and it is likely to get progressively worse through the rest of this century” “” have generally come true, although not quite as soon or as calamitously as he had warned. The pity of it all is that in American politics, being right is beside the point.

It is not my intention to pummel the late Ronald Reagan for what he did or did not do back in the 1980s. It is my intention, though, to suggest that Reaganism “” to which Republicans now swear allegiance “” has outlived its very short usefulness and ought to be junked. This is not to say that government is the answer to all our ills. It is only to note that if you think the answer is private enterprise, then drive to the nearest gas station and admire the prices brought to you by private companies.

The worst part of Reaganism was its political success. It left behind a coterie of panting acolytes who learned from Reagan himself that optimism, cheerfulness, an embrace of magical thinking and the avoidance of the painful truth was the formula for victory at the polls. For a time, it worked “” the cost of gas went down “” and Carter, that scold in the silly sweater, was banished. As they say in New Orleans, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” (Let the good times roll!) Upbeat? You bet. But not a business plan.

Ironically, one reason for Reagan’s political success is that oil prices collapsed in the mid-1980s, because the high energy prices coupled with the aggressive government-led efficiency and conservation policies he gutted — including doubling the fuel economy of U.S. vehicles — led to more supply and less demand.

In “The Age of Reagan,” Princeton historian Sean Wilentz posits that Reagan was the transformative president of our times. I don’t know about that. But I do know that in the recent primary debates, Republican after Republican invoked Reagan the way Democrats once did Roosevelt, and they vowed, knock on wood, to be a similar kind of president. If they meant what they said, that would mean no energy plan worth its name and, worse, chirpy assurances to the American people that all would be well.

This is the doleful legacy of Reaganism. We have become a nation that believes that you can get something for nothing. We thought that the energy crisis would be solved . . . somehow, and that no one would have to suffer. We still believe in the magical qualities of America, that something about us makes us better. Yet we have a chaotic and mediocre education system that desperately needs more money and higher standards, but we think “” don’t we? “” that somehow we will maintain our lifestyle anyway. Hey, is this America or what?

Somewhere in his peripatetic travels, the much-maligned Jimmy Carter “” an artless politician, to be sure “” must scratch his head at the reverence still accorded Reagan. The way things are going, the Gipper’s visage will be added to Mount Rushmore. Not that anyone will notice. It’ll be too expensive to drive there.

Reagan’s anti-clean-energy, anti-conservation legacy lives on in mainstream conservatism today:

That’s a key reason why dreams of “post-partisan power” remain just that — a dream (see Brookings embraces American Enterprise Institute’s climate head fake along with right-wing energy myths.)

Ironically, opposition to clean energy investment runs longer and deeper in the conservative movement than opposition to reducing global pollution. After all, President Reagan helped save the ozone layer.

As Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP) points out (see “What would Reagan do about climate change?“):

“We especially want people to remember Reagan’s leadership in negotiating the Montreal Protocol treaty, which began the phase-out of ozone depleting chemicals and has done more to safeguard the earth’s atmosphere than any other law or treaty ever passed,” Jim DiPeso, REP’s vice president for policy and communication, said.

Reagan certainly deserve credit for that important achievement (see “Lest We Forget Montreal“).  He did assert leadership and overrule his advisers, as Richard Benedick, Reagan’s chief ozone negotiator, explained in a 2005 Senate hearing:

Nevertheless, after contentious international negotiations, compounded by unexpected late controversy from within the U.S. administration, a strong control treaty was signed in Montreal in September 1987.  The treaty signing attracted worldwide media attention, and it was hailed in the United States Senate as “the most significant international environmental agreement in history.”   President Reagan became the first head of state to endorse the Montreal Protocol, pronouncing it “a monumental achievement of science and diplomacy,”  and the treaty was unanimously ratified by the Senate.

Had Reagan followed the advice of his hard-core anti-environmental advisers, who knows what might’ve happened to the ozone layer?

But taking on CFCs didn’t require taking on the fossil fuel industry or promoting clean energy “” two things Reagan could not abide.

Assuming that modern-day conservatives are successful for the foreseeable future in blocking action to 1) reduce greenhouse gas emissions and 2) rapidly accelerate clean energy into the marketplace, they will help destroy Reagan’s legacy.  After all, in a world suffering from unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions, from “Hell and High Water,” historians — and indeed all Americans — will see just how tragically mistaken it was to crush US clean energy leadership and abandon a true conservative ethic of conservation.

Note:  For any conservatives reading this blog, don’t miss,”Listen to a Liberal Caller Crush Rush Limbaugh’s Ronald Reagan Delusions.”

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23 Responses to Reagan Redux: The Gipper helped save the ozone layer but almost single-handedly ruined Americas leadership in clean energy

  1. Leland Palmer says:

    Yes, I remember when Reagan cut the alternative energy research budget by 85%. I remembered that figure as 90%, by the way.

    He and Stockman said they were doing it to save money. :)

    Our recent Mideast invasion could pay for about a thousand years of research at that level.

  2. From Peru says:

    How can so many Americans admire a president (Ronald Reagan) that:

    -masively funded Islamist Extremists in Afghanistan that later formed the Taliban and Al Qaeda,

    -sold weapons to the Islamic Republic of Iran to fund far-right guerrillas in Nicaragua,

    -wanted to militarize the Outer Space (the “Star Wars” project)against Soviet missiles, a crazy project that if not for the extraordinary compromise with peace of the head of the Communist Party of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev would have make the USA-USSR negotiations to end the Cold War fail

    All of this based on a crazy anti-communism.

    And there are so many people that beleive that Reagan together with Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II have the credit for ending the Soviet Empire…

    …nothing more far from the truth. The USSR collapsed because the Stalinist regime was unsustainable, it collapsed under its own weight. The Gorbachev reforms to end Stalinism, ironically, shaked a society already in a terminal state, like chemotherapy can kill people already severely ill from cancer.

    Many thanks to JR for showing that also in environmental matters Reagan policies were disastrous.

    It is a shame that so many people consider Reagan on the greatests USA presidents when he was one of the worst.

    How can that be possible, maybe because of the extensive right-wing influence in the media?

  3. Mike Roddy says:

    As someone who lived through his governorship and presidency, I’ve been barfing up a storm lately over the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of Reagan’s birth.

    It’s not exactly that Reagan was anti-environmental; it’s more that he valued money above all else, and somehow managed to paint corporate greed red white and blue. Anyone standing in the way of more money had to be brushed aside. This culture extended all through the Administration. As with Bush, it was “government sucks anyway, boys. Steal all you can while you’re here, it’s OK with me”.

    Lead land steward and Secretary of the Interior James Watt ended up with a five year jail sentence, and he was not alone. There were 138 government officials in the Reagan Administration who were indicted, convicted, or subject to official investigations. As is their habit, the Right is inventing numbers to claim that Clinton was more corrupt, but some of us know better.

    The Kochs are Reagan’s current soul brothers, though they take it to another level. Pathological greed is elevated into a moral philosophy, and they even hire windbags from “think tanks” to give it intellectual cover.

    Reagan had the nice house in Beverly Hills, but for what? So people can propose building a statue on Mount Rushmore for him? Those poor people were conned by the fake warmth and flag waving, and some will live to see the awful legacy of “The Gipper”- poisoned air, heat strokes, starvation, and irreversible damage to what was once a glorious planet.

  4. Peter M says:

    Considering that American energy and environmental policy stands basically the same as it was when Reagan took office 30 years ago, says something about where we are- and where we are likely headed.

  5. catman306 says:

    What a wonderful word hagiography! St. Ronnie, the patron saint of Alzheimer victims. I heard somewhere that skills learned at an early age are among the last to go. An Alzheimer victim who might not recognize his own children can still play piano songs learned as a child. For Ronnie, the analogy to playing piano was memorizing scripts and repeating them believably, a skill he learned early in life.

    http://www.google.com/search?num=50&hl=en&safe=off&defl=en&q=define:hagiography&sa=X&ei=ODtPTeitCcHVgQe_ocEa&ved=0CBMQkAE

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    While Reagan set back US science and rationality his most immediately odious policies were in the Third World. Not just his creation of al Qaeda to destroy Afghanistan, and his incitement of his good buddy Saddam Hussein to wage war on Iran, arming him with nerve gas and bacteriological agents in the process, but also full support for the world’s most odious despots for (small) example Mobutu and apartheid South Africa, Suharto and Park in South Korea. Most tragic and horrendous were the death-squad outrages in Central America. There was not a murderous fascist despot anywhere that Reagan did not support to the maximum extent. And he intensified the economic neo-feudalisation of US society with massive wealth transfers to the rich from the rest, and plunged the US into unprecedented debt in the process. His one ‘triumph’, the ‘victory’ in the Cold War, was achieved because Gorbachev and his allies were convinced that the Armageddonists around Reagan, including in his Cabinet, were quite capable of starting a nuclear war to further their vision of ‘God’s plan’.
    Yet the US public, brainwashed by Hollywood, were so gullible and credulous that they bought this cynically packaged pabulum. The end of the US Empire began with Reagan, perhaps the equivalent of the deranged Commodus succeeding Marcus Aurelius, although Jimmy Carter is no Marcus Aurelius. Much of his cachet emerges from the bathetic disaster that followed his Presidency.

  7. Hossein Turner says:

    Don’t they know that there’s something going on
    What they’re harming with their indecision
    But who will be left standing when I’m gone?
    There’ll be nothing left but a vision

    It’s too easy to turn a blind eye to the light
    It’s too easy to bow your head and pray
    There are some times when you should try to find your voice
    This is one voice that you must find today

    Are you hoping for a miracle

    as the ice caps melt away?
    No use hoping for a miracle
    There’s a price we’ll have to pay

    It’s too easy to turn a blind eye to the light
    It’s too easy to bow your head and pray
    There are some times when you should try to find your voice
    This is one voice that you must find today

    Are you hoping for a miracle
    as the ice caps melt away?
    No use hoping for a mïracle

    Link:-
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGTWaUV6Z10

  8. mike roddy says:

    George Carlin:

    “When they announced that Reagan had Alzeimers, how could they tell?”.

  9. catman306 says:

    Cheney and Rumsfeld schemed and Reagan delivered. Believability is a most necessary skill for an actor.
    Despite four bi-passes, Cheney is still lying.
    http://www.examiner.com/us-headlines-in-national/dick-cheney-draws-controversy-show-of-support-for-hosni-mubarak

  10. Not a Lawyer says:

    For your reading enjoyment, here’s the statement House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton put out today to commemorate Reagan’s birthday:

    ——–

    Many will use the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birth this Sunday, February 6, to reflect on his accomplishments as president. Winning the Cold War and reviving the economy will get most of the attention, and both achievements merit their place in the history books.

    Yet Americans should also remember the very first thing Reagan addressed after taking office: energy policy.

    I had the great privilege of working for President Reagan, and his successful, free-market approach to energy offers important lessons for today’s energy debate and its consequences for economic growth and job creation. Reagan inherited all the energy policy mistakes of the 1970s – a decade in which every energy challenge was met with ill-advised federal programs and mandates.

    For example, domestic oil production was hampered by a convoluted system of price controls that favored imports while sparking shortages and gas lines – ironic, since they were touted as the answer to OPEC and a benefit to consumers. Just one week after his inauguration in January 1981, Reagan issued an Executive Order sweeping away this market interference.

    Lamenting that “restrictive price controls have held U.S. oil production below its potential,” Reagan said that eliminating them “is a positive first step towards a balanced energy program.”

    Within a few years, domestic oil production went up – and prices went down. Affordable energy helped usher in a quarter century of phenomenal economic growth. Reagan understood that keeping the lights on for families with abundant, reliable energy was not a partisan issue, it was a moral issue, and the entire country would benefit.

    In contrast with Reagan’s pro-growth energy policies, President Obama’s energy moves are Big Government micromanaging straight out of the ’70s playbook.

    Within weeks of taking office, his Department of the Interior revoked dozens of oil and gas leases in the West and shelved a plan to increase offshore production. Ever-tightening drilling restrictions are limiting domestic production much like price controls once did.

    Unfortunately, Obama’s State of the Union address offered more of the same: digs at oil producers as purveyors of “yesterday’s energy” to be replaced by government-selected “clean energy breakthroughs.” The President repeatedly mentioned “clean” but never said “affordable.” In contrast, Reagan considered the latter at least as important as the former, because he understood that affordable, abundant, and reliable energy sources are essential to job creation and economic strength.

    Reagan never assumed central planning would replace the ingenuity and efficiency of a free marketplace.

    Just last week, Shell postponed a $3.5 billion Alaska drilling project in an area believed to contain up to 25 billion barrels of oil following a decision by the Environmental Appeals Board to invalidate its air quality permit. Shell reported that it has complied with 34 other permits.

    No wonder we import 70 percent of our oil today.

    Reagan’s work on energy did not end with the elimination of price controls. He also recognized the threat to the economy – and to freedom – of burdensome, cost-raising environmental measures. Needless to say, nothing enacted by the Reagan EPA threatened to boost energy prices and destroy jobs like the agency’s current global warming strategy under the Clean Air Act. EPA’s multi-pronged crackdown on fossil fuels – the coal, oil, and natural gas that provides 85 percent of the nation’s energy – threatens homeowners, car owners, and businesses large and small. The costs could reach into the trillions, and the job losses into the millions.

    Reagan’s famous line that “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem” is particularly appropriate in describing EPA’s global warming power grab.

    Ronald Reagan’s free-market and limited-government approach to energy has a proven track record. On Reagan’s centennial the current administration would be wise to follow his course. Two critical first steps would be to remove the obstacles to domestic oil production and put an end to EPA’s global warming regulatory overreach.

    Regardless, it is incumbent upon those of us in Congress to channel our inner Gipper and fight for an energy policy that works for America.

  11. Leland Palmer says:

    There were news stories at the time about Ronald Reagan, and how the Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party disliked him because he defeated George Bush the elder in the primary. Supposedly, Bush was the Rockefeller favorite, and Reagan “the great communicator” upset their plans.

    There were also news stories about a deal between David Rockefeller and Reagan, that Reagan was able to make concessions to Rockefeller to gain his favor.

    I’ve always wondered if killing Carter’s alternative energy programs was one of those concessions.

    So, considering that the Rockefeller family still wins the proxy fights to control ExxonMobil, and as recently as 2006 kicked Lee Raymond out of his position as CEO, it does not seem like unreasonable speculation to wonder if killing Carter’s alternative energy program was just a small favor done by Ronald Reagan for David Rockefeller- and ExxonMobil.

  12. nyc-tornado-ten says:

    A key point here was that reagan benefited from the energy efficiency standards enacted by the previous administrations, most critically, doubling auto efficiency requirements. When government standards required that cars get 27 mpg in 1983, compared to an average of 13 mpg in 1973, every old car was being replaced by a car that used as little as half the fuel.

    The consumption of oil in the US declined from 17 million barrels a day in 1979 to only 13.5 mbd in 1985, when the price of oil crashed. US oil production also increased from 1979 to 1985, but only by 1.5 million barrels a day, while the efficiency standards saved 3.5 mbd, a clear victory for “demand side economics” and government regulation over “supply side economics” and deregulation.

    Reagan’s economic legacy was saved when the price of oil crashed in 1985, allowing unemployment to finally dip below where it was when he first took office in 1981, but this was because of the delayed reaction to the fuel efficiency standards of the nixon-ford and carter administrations, not the failed free market capitalism of the reagan administration.

  13. Len Conly says:

    If I remember correctly, Reagan also removed the solar panels from the White House. Talk about bad judgment.

    “President Reagan cut the renewable energy R&D budget 85% after he took office and eliminated the wind investment tax credit in 1986. This was pretty much the death of most of the US wind industry” (see “Anti-wind McCain delivers climate remarks at foreign wind company“). Same for solar power.

  14. Geo77 says:

    My favorite post-Reagan absurdity was a few years back when “conservatives” wanted to take FDR off of the dime and replace him with Reagan. I thought – yeah all FDR did was lead us through the Great Depression and World War II. That’s nothing compared to Reagan – who proudly led us as we overcame disco and invaded Grenada.

  15. Richard Brenne says:

    This is a great post with great comments, including as always From Peru (#2), Mike Roddy (#3) and Mulga Mumblebrain (#6).

    All I have to add is that Reagan defeated Carter in part because he prevented an “October Surprise” of the release of the American Embassy hostages in Iran. Gary Sick was at the National Security Agency and wrote a book about how William Casey represented the Reagan campaign with Iranian officials seeking arms; as a reward Casey was appointed head of the CIA by Reagan and only a karmic brain tumor rendered him speechless just as he was called to Congress to testify about Iran-Contra. Because Reagan and Bush were running for election and not yet elected, this is as clear a case of treason as any U.S. presidents have ever committed. The hostages were ultimately released 20 minutes after Reagan’s inauguration.

    Then selling arms to Iran to get the cash to arm the Contras was a willful and wanton usurping of Congress’ Boland Amendment – again, in a Democracy this is treason, and far worse than Watergate, as bad as that was.

    In 1988 I crashed the Presidential debates on the UCLA campus with an old credential to a World Cup ski race (post 9-11 I’d add presidential debates to the list of things I would no longer crash). I asked Tom Brokaw, Sam Donaldson, Brit Hume, Jeff Greenfield and Ed Bradley why Iran-Contra had been dropped as a campaign story. At least Brokaw noticed my credential as we were talking and might have also noticed the lack of snow on the UCLA campus, and Ed Bradley said “There is so much more there than we’ll ever know” as he got into his limousine like Klaus Von Bulow.

    Each of these “journalists” would obviously rather be limousine-riding celebrities than I.F. Stone-style journalists. Instead of ink-stained wretches, they were just wretches.

    And if they’d done their effin’ jobs and found out how heavily-involved in Iran-Contra and in fueling the Iran-Iraq war George H.W. Bush was, they’d have spared us the 12 miserable years of both Bush presidencies. H.W. Bush helped build up Saddam Hussein’s power more than anyone, evidently eager to see a million Muslims killed in that horrific and pointless war. When he then got Saddam to withdraw from Kuwait, Al Gore said that “Putting out a fire isn’t that impressive when you’re the one who set the fire in the first place.”

    I’ve thought a lot about the appeal of Reagan and the Bushes, and I think the gist of it is that they tell people what most want to hear, and in increasingly complex times a simpleton’s simplistic world-view is reassuring. With those three, Quayle, Gingrich, Boehner, Palin, McCain and many others, I question their intelligence and especially their intellectual depth, while I have no such questions about Obama, the Clintons, Gore, Biden, Kerry and Carter.

    I don’t want someone to have a beer with or who can blow smoke up my arse but who can’t formulate a complete sentence of their own becoming president and playing bingo with the launch codes. Since Reagan started so many of these trends, it’s a fair question to ask if the world would’ve been better off if he’d stayed a B-movie actor, or if his co-star Bonzo had become president instead.

  16. In 1986, there was a severe drought in the Midwest. I had just moved back to my hometown, Du Quoin, Illinois, population 6,700 (largest town in the county) from Holland, where I had lived for 7 years.

    Imagine my surprise when Reagan showed up there to give a press conference in the backyard of a grade school buddy, Herman Krone (tons of German there who arrived in the mid-1880s, my own family included), a local farmer.

    So, they set up a few short rows of folding chairs there in the grass under the shade of a large oak tree, and placed a lectern in front of them. The local news station ran the entire press conference, unlike the national news which got the usual soundbite.

    Reagan stood up there with some note cards.

    So long as they asked him questions that had answers on those cards, he answered brilliantly.

    As soon as they asked him a question that had no related card, he seemed entirely lost, like a puppet with no strings. It was incredible.

    So, who was really running the country back then?

  17. Peter M says:

    Off Topic Joe

    but a great piece from Paul Krugman yesterday

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/07/opinion/07krugman.html

  18. Ed Hummel says:

    I remember growing up in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts in the late 1940s through the early 1960s when this country was sitting on top of the world after winning WWII (though the Soviet Union actually did most of the work against Germany). Everywhere I went, all I could hear was what a great country this was and what a privilege it was to live here. We were a favored nation that would always lead the “free world” against all threats to personal freedom and liberty while making sure that our people always had the highest material standard of living in the world. We would always be the strongest bulwark against world Communism, an awful evil perpetrated by godless idealogues who sought to destroy individual liberty at every oppotunity and to make robots who just followed orders of every person under their rule. Our economic system was the greatest and our “control” of nature was becoming breathtakingly absolute. There were a few hiccups during this time such as Korea and Sputnik. But overall we were on the road to human perfection that would always be the envy of the rest of the world. These were all givens; they were dogmas that were pounded into us in school, church, social organizations such as Boy Scouts and YMCA, and increasingly on television, radio, and magazines. It made everyone feel good about the country and each other. There was no doubt that, on the whole, it was great for social cohesion and national purpose for the great majority of Americans who were of European origins. Ozzie and Harriet were truly the ideal family that reflected what this country was all about, supposedly. However, the contradictions embedded within the reality of America started to raise up with the first stirrings of the civil rights movement broadcast on national TV in the early 60s. Then Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, JFK was assasinated, Viet-nam heated up, and the fight for civil rights turned violent. For the first time probably since the Civil War period, the country began to tear into two polar opposites. The embarrasing end of the Viet Nam conflict, Watergate, Stagflation, and the Energy Crises of the 1970s made a huge number of Americans yearn for the old days when it was obvious who was number one. Riding to the rescue was Ronnie Reagan in 1980 to make this critical mass of Americans field good about themselves and their way of life again. It didn’t matter that he was a puppet being controlled by corporate interests who stood to gain the most by reliving the “good old days” of Ozzie and Harriet. The image was very strong and ingrained in a vast number of us. Advertisers and the Main Stream Media have simply continued the indoctrination, always touting the unlimited consumerism of the old days, but with an increasinly modern flavor as the high tech revolution took off. Some of us eventually saw that the emperor and the empire itself had no clothes. But the elixir of unending consumerism and American exceptionalism was too strong for a large number of people that have become the perfect foil for the oligarchs that really run this country and the world. And so, Ronald Reagan still remains the iconic saint to a huge number of people that don’t want to hear about limits, or that the US is just one country among 200 all trying to share dwindling resources while at the same time destroying that which sustains us. Just as with denying climate science, it doesn’t matter what the historical record says, these people, led by Rush and Glen, will continue to be deaf to the facts and continue to want a return to the “good old days”. And their mass is still critical!

  19. Robert In New Orleans says:

    This attempt to deify Ronald Reagan is a classic example of what a personality cult is. He was just a man like the rest of us; flesh and blood, flawed and imperfect.

    They have already named an airport and an aircraft carrier after him, what else does the right want? Perhaps a Lenin style mausoleum on the National Mall?

  20. Greg Palast has a worth a visit page over at his place with an article for The Observer London:

    Reagan: Killer, Coward, Con-man

    Now that Granada business was certainly ‘curious’ as I figured at the time. I recall having ‘discussions’ with American exchange students at a college where I was a mature undergrad (ex FAA RN) and appreciated a few things that they just could not grasp. The whole sorry business is described in:

    Great Military Blunders. I have linked to the UK site because that shows the issue that I have.

    another of those great American moments, not.

  21. Jim Groom says:

    As a Californian I’ve never been able to understand just why so many loved the man. As a governor is was middle-of-the-road and certainly not great. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the man.

    ‘You know, if I listened to Michael Dukakis long enough, I would be convinced we’re in an economic downturn and people are homeless and going without food and medical attention and that we’ve got to do something about the unemployed.’

    ‘The greatest security for Isreal is to create more Egypts.’

    ‘A tree’s a tree. How many do you need to look at.’

    ‘All the waste in a year fom a nuclear power plant can be stored under a dest.’ (whose desk did he have in mind?)

    ‘Approximately 80% of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation, so let’s not go overboard in setting and enforcing tought emission standards from man-made sources.’

    ‘Don’t be afraid to see what you see.’

    ‘How can a president not be an actor?’ (good question)

    ‘I’m not worred about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself.’ (Really?)

    And my personal favorite. ‘If we love our country, we should also love our countrymen.’ (Sarah, Rush, Shawn and etc are you listening???)

  22. Leland Palmer says:

    I remember the Carter alternative energy programs. Many of the currently producing alternative energy technologies were started by that program.

    Solar power tower concentrating solar thermal power was brought to commercial practicality in that era, as was molten salt thermal energy storage.

    I remember the precipitous decline in solar photovoltaic cell costs, that was occurring under that program. Most of the technologies which finally did work to bring down solar cell costs were pioneered or developed by Carter’s programs.

    And then Reagan cut that program, which had widespread public support, and said it was to “save money” – something on the order of a billion dollars per year. He then went on to pour a trillion 1980s dollars into Star Wars, and something like half a trillion dollars into the Savings and Loan bailouts, which many Republican insiders profited from.

    He also ignored the AIDS epidemic, and refused to take the most elementary public health measures, such as contact tracing, to slow the spread of the epidemic, ultimately costing the country tens of billions of dollars, at least, in increased healthcare costs.

    Being an Alzheimer’s victim, he undoubtedly did not know the future impact of what he so casually did, when he killed the alternative energy programs, and then came up with a politically acceptable excuse to do so.

  23. deryk anderson says:

    Yes, he did rip down the Jimmy Carter solar panels off the White House and set back alternate energy in America for 30 years..sad but true……but he did have some saving graces on the Environment …signing two (2) of North Americas greatest enviromental laws…..the Acid Rain Accord ( SO2) in 1991, the first Cap and Trade bi-lateral agreement that cleaned up the acid lakes in Eastern US and Canada and the HFC’s Ozone depleting chemicals and removal of leaded gasoline agreements… and also the Montreal Accord of which there are 184 world participants….not bad for 1989…. remains today, the most effective law to reduce CO2…better than Kyoto…what Republicans can do when they want to…….go figure