Who would have predicted that a retired Republican Senator from Utah would become the left wing’s leading expert on Ronald Reagan and the Tea Party movement? No one, I’m sure.
Nevertheless, it happened last week when some lefty bloggers venerated Bob Bennett’s recent sour grapes snark-fest to Greta Van Susteren as if he’d been channeling Che Guevara himself.
Even the scrupulous fact-checkers at Think Progress took a break from splicing video of Tea Party imposters holding racist signs, to pledge their unswerving support for a petulant, sore-loser former senator who got benched by the Tea Party and can’t move on:
Indeed, as ThinkProgress has noted, the image of Reagan that many conservatives hold dear bears little resemblance to the actual man, who did many things these self-professed Reaganites would not like. Reagan raised taxes, increased government spending, and ballooned the size of government.
Reagan warned us when he left office that the “other party” would “do everything in their power to rewrite history.” And I firmly believe that each time that happens, someone needs to speak up. So here goes.
For example, it’s unfair to define the Reagan presidency by the tax hikes that he signed and forget to mention how they were dwarfed by his massive, historic, and unprecedented cuts.
According to Think Progress, The Reagan record begins and ends with tax hikes – not his courage to join Paul Volcker and slay the inflation dragon that had bloodied the noses of the four previous administrations, or to tear the noxious incentive-killing weeds from the engines of industry and innovation – effectively pressing the pedal to the metal in the process.
There followed sixty straight months of economic growth, the longest uninterrupted period of expansion since the government began keeping such statistics in 1854. Nearly fifteen million new jobs were created — a total of eighteen million by the time Reagan left office. Just under $20 trillion worth of goods and services, measured in actual dollars, were produced from 1982 to 1987. To give some notion of how much that is, by the end of 1987 America was producing about seven and a one-half times more every year than it produced in John Kennedy’s last year as president.[viii]
These amazing achievements become astounding when you consider that Reagan wasn’t exactly working with Newt Gingrich or Paul Ryan over on Capitol Hill. He was opposed by the Democrat majority in the House, and their duplicitous, two-faced Speaker, Tip O’Neill.
Nevertheless, Think Progress insists on defining Reagan only by the times that he was forced to compromise – or conned by empty promises of budget cuts – as if those missteps nullified his success in resuscitating the economy and ultimately presiding over the rip-roaring eighties.
On that pinnacle of logic, I suppose they also believe that Roosevelt and Churchill deserve no credit for saving the world from the Nazis, because the Soviet Union was allowed to annex East Germany after the war.
Think Progress also eagerly pointed out that Reagan “increased government spending and ballooned” government – an accusation that begs for historical context.
By 1981, while the Reagans were still sweeping the John Lennon Imagine albums and solar panels out of the White House, the Soviets were thriving like a robust fungus after four fertile years of President Carter’s daisy-chain diplomacy — so robust, in fact, that Reagan found them busy at work installing their tanks and political prisons into the far-flung reaches of South America and Africa.
It’s not as if they would have been too concerned about the U.S. military strength, considering that the problems occupying our military around that time involved the unarmed coral reefs that our subs would blunder into because the wire-hanger and duct tape navigation antenna had dropped off after submersion.
Call me crazy, but something tells me that Reagan hadn’t clocked many minutes behind the Resolute Desk before he flipped the Yellow Pages open to D for Defense Contractors, and, yes, “ballooned” defense spending by 35%.
Think Progress also exploited Bennett’s statement by placing Reagan smack-dab in the bosom of the far left union agitators in Wisconsin and their paid lackeys in the state house, presuming that he would have forsaken the hapless taxpayers forced to finance the corrupt operation.
And Reagan was a staunch defender of unions. A union boss himself, Reagan was the only president to have been a union member. As Bennett implies, today’s conservative movement, with its assault on government and unions, has disregarded its greatest hero.
This is vintage Think Progress. Twisting facts into whatever left-wing pseudo-reality advances their ideology. I suppose, they just bank on the ignorance of their readers by conveniently forgetting to mention Reagan’s trademark technique for resolving conflicts with renegade public employee unions – canning every last one of them.
I’m surprised, however, that on that note of self-serving, selective truth, they didn’t redact Reagan’s Hollywood “union boss” activities as well. Because even a quick skim reveals that Reagan’s “staunch” defense for union mobs and bullies was pretty spotty even back then.
I will grant them that Reagan, was a “staunch defender” of Poland’s Solidarity trade union, an intrepid movement of organized freedom fighters in a miserable, oppressed Eastern European satellite state. What a shocker.
As former President George W. Bush pointed out at Reagan’s memorial, Reagan was first and foremost a “staunch defender” of freedom and fairness. If unions advanced the cause of liberty, he was indeed their champion. If not, they didn’t get along so well.
And Ronald Reagan believed in the power of truth in the conduct of world affairs. When he saw evil camped across the horizon, he called that evil by its name. There were no doubters in the prisons and gulags where dissidents spread the news, tapping to each other in code what the American President had dared to say. There were no doubters in the shipyards and churches and secret labor meetings where brave men and women began to hear the creaking and rumbling of a collapsing empire. And there were no doubters among those who swung hammers at the hated wall that the first and hardest blow had been struck by President Ronald Reagan.
That’s why I don’t see it the way Bennett and the lefty bloggers do. Reagan and his Tea Party offspring are indelibly interwoven into the tapestry of salt-of-the-earth America.
They appeared out of nowhere, during two points in my life when I stared into what I thought was the soul of America and saw only a dark abyss — because I knew that America’s trademark liberty, industry, and decency would never endure within a population had lost any concept of their value.
The first time Reagan told me that I was wrong, and the second time the Tea Party told me that I was wrong. That’s why Reagan and the Tea Party can never be “anathema” to each other, as Bennett insists. They both represent the renewal of my faith in the American people and hope for a free and blessed future for our grandchildren.
I’ll never understand why Think Progress and their ilk don’t want that too.