|Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future
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In this provocative new book, award-winning political journalist Will Bunch unravels the story of how a right-wing cabal hijacked the mixed legacy of Ronald Reagan, a personally popular but hugely divisive 1980s president, and turned him into a bronze icon to revive their fading ideology. They succeeded to the point where all the GOP candidates for president in 2008 scurried to claim his mantle, no matter how preposterous the fit.
- Wow lots of 1 ratings
I normally don't comment on other critics comments but I couldn't help notice the lack of content and/or character assassination of the author on most of the "1" ratings. If you can point at facts he stated that are incorrect or why his opinions of Reagan's legacy is off base with specifics maybe that would add some relevance to your critique. There were things I liked about Ronald Reagan but the revisionist history about this President and his administration seems to grow more glossy and myth-like every year. This book will hopefully help dispel some of that and give people a more balanced perspective. Yes he helped speed up the imminent collapse of the USSR (which the CIA had predicted in the Sixties due to them spending 25% of their relatively small GDP on military, which should also be a warning to us) but we are still paying the interest on the deficit spending (which eclipsed the deficit spending of any/all presidents before him) to do that. I also think every president's diligence from Truman on helped the USSR's collapse come about. He was the first president to borrow against the Social security fund, unfortunately not the last. He dropped taxes in his first year in office but raised them every year after. Secretly supplied arms to Iran against our own governmental policy. He conducted a secret war that was characterized by Death-Squad assassins that killed many innocent people including children against a democratically elected government and was aided in the process by notorious drug-dealers (see Iran-Contra). He opened up international trade but to such a degree that America no longer has much of a manufacturing base. Although we were bound to have to compete more in the global economy eventually most of the successful manufacturing countries take actions to support and protect their home grown industries. Many people also seem to forget the recession of 1987 after several years of his Voodoo(George H.W. Bush's term) "Trickle-down economics" (which Bush "43' subscribed to as well much to the detriment of America's economic health). Overall a very informative book about a very interesting subject. ...more info
- Thanks for popping the St Ronnie Balloon.
One of the most annoying conspiracies of the last couple of decades was the remake of a below average President, namely Reagan. Principally a meat puppet for the Baker/Meese cabal, he wrecked the economy, busted unions and unleashed greedy criminals on the environment. While I believe he probably was not racist, he certainly had no objection to using racism to advance his career. That, in my mind, is a greater crime.
Bunch is a good writer and has done his homework. I love this book and will be giving it to all my wingnut friends for Christmas....more info
- Enjoyable! A well-written rebuttal to Reaganism
This is a great book for someone who wants to know the origin of, and the fallacy of, the Reagan myth. It covers the main overarching myths: Reagan was a heroic, engaged leader; he cut taxes and regulation and it saved the economy; and single-handedly won the Cold War. This shows how Reagan, startlingly, was detached and (though at times sympathetic) was more of an actor than a leader. As someone who works in the banking sector and has to watch the ravages of Reaganomics on the economy on a daily basis, this is a timely rebuttal. Of particular interest is how the book ties Reaganism all the way to George W. Bush, the logical conclusion of Reaganism and, moreso, conservatism.
The only criticism is I would have preferred a more detailed economic review of the conservative mantra, but this isn't meant to be.
Highly recommended, especially for Reagan's worshippers. ...more info
- A 'liberal' writes a negative book about Reagan
Will Bunch believes America was saved by Obama and the media. Enough said....more info
- Great Job!
Fast service that delivered the book in the shape advertised. I am very happy w/this seller....more info
The only value this polemic could possibly have is if it were printed on bathroom tissue and taken on a long camping trip. ...more info
- Even-handed look at the orchestrated Reagan myth
The central concern of the author is that the very serious economic, environmental, social, and foreign policy problems of this nation are either going unaddressed, or worse exacerbated, because we the public and political opportunists in particular cling to a set of beliefs and policies, supposedly held and enacted by former President Ronald Reagan and now unassailable after a two-decade long campaign to raise him to sainthood, that are grossly ideological, bare only faint resemblance to the Reagan presidency, and most importantly cannot and will not work.
The mythologizing began in earnest in the mid-90s, when it was announced that Reagan was suffering from Alzheimer's, by Republican operatives who were seeking a way to counter the Clinton presidency. According to the myth, government is too large and is our essential problem; large tax cuts, especially for the rich, will have broad economic benefit and will result in budget surpluses; social and environmental problems are either nonexistent or overstated, but will miraculously work themselves out regardless; the U.S. must dominate the world militarily, unilaterally if necessary; and most fundamental is that unregulated, laissez-faire capitalism is the only viable economic system. This belief system gains credibility when it is presented in the context of Reagan's sunny personality and profound optimism and his handlers' astute usage of props and the media in packaging it all.
What is most ironic is that while personally popular, the American public had grown weary of Reagan by the time he left office. Economic inequality had substantially risen and the public gave Reagan a pass on the Iran-Contra affair, for which he could have probably been impeached. Perhaps it says much about myth-making in our era of mass communications.
While Reagan did subscribe to much of that ideology, the author painstakingly shows that Reagan deviated substantially from those ideals and invited failure when he did not. His approach was practical, though perhaps reluctantly, in many cases and was not driven, as are modern right-wing ideologues, to roll back the New Deal. It is painful for modern Republicans to learn that Reagan raised taxes at least six times in his two terms, at least partly to shore-up social security. Government spending and the size of government grew tremendously under Reagan resulting in increases of the federal debt of over two trillion dollars. It seems to be little remembered in our era that his administration's failure to regulate the S&Ls resulted in a bailout of investors by taxpayers of at least 200 billion, certainly a forerunner to the bailout of Wall Street today.
The author shows that the costs of blindly following the Reagan myth are best seen in the presidency of GW Bush. At a time when the U.S. attempted to wage war on two fronts, Bush elected to dogmatically enact a huge tax cut disproportionately skewed to the rich, resulting in deficits far larger than those of Reagan. His blind insistence on invading Iraq was contrary to Reagan's very tactical withdrawal from Lebanon. Perhaps the largest failure of the Bush era is the belief that huge financial firms making as much money as possible regardless of manner will be a benefit to the U.S. economy. His lack of concerns about global warming and alternative energy is as misguided as Reagan's rollback of mileage standards for car manufacturers.
Despite the failed, ideological presidency of GW Bush and devastating economic realities, it is not clear that the Reagan myth has been much diminished. The Republican candidates for president in 2008 made great efforts in attempting to cast themselves as the person most able to carry out the mythological Reagan principles. It could be contended that perhaps Bush did not follow the prescription well enough. The election of Obama to the presidency is at least a small sign that the Reagan myth is just that: a myth. But myths die hard.
The author's book is a reasonable look at the huge discrepancy between what Reagan supposedly did and his actual performance. It is not Reagan bashing, though certainly some much-needed balance is achieved in assessing Reagan's presidency. He is most assuredly correct to suggest that if we are to have a chance at a bright future, we must, at the very least, move beyond myths. The book does tend to be a bit wordy and repetitious. It's unfortunate that those who could best benefit from the book won't read it. They'll simply see it as an attack on a sacred icon. It's too bad, because probably at least 47 percent of the electorate believes a good bit of the Reagan myth - not a comforting thought.
- A waste of time
I read this book out of interest in the American political scene in the 80's . What you get is a far left rant by somebody trying to rewrite history with the flimsiest of evidence . For example Jimmy Carter really won the cold war not Reagan ? that should give you an idea of how poor this trash for a book really is . If your a left winger you will probably like what you read if your an independant or conservative it will leave you shaking your head in disbelief that a; it was even written and b; somebody actually published it . ...more info
- WILL BUNCH TEAR DOWN THE REAGAN MYTH
YES HE WILL. UNFORTUNATELY, REAGAN WAS JUST RATED THE NUMBER 8TH BEST PRESIDENT IN THE TOP TEN LIST. THE COMMITTEE THAT RATED HIM SHOULD HAVE READ THIS BOOK. OR STOP SMOKING WHATEVER THEY ARE SMOKING. THE REVISIONIST ARE STILL AT IT WITH THERE BS. THEY CONTINUALLY NAME THINGS & PLACES AFTER REAGAN TO PERPETUATE THE MYTH, "THE WORLD'S GREATEST PRESIDENT". REAGAN WILL GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS THE 2ND WORST PRESIDENT AFTER GEO W. BUSH, WHO RESURRECTED REAGAN'S FAILED ECONOMIC & FORIEGN POLICIES, & EXPANDED THEM. CAUSING A REPETITION OF THE SAME DIASTER WE SEE TODAY. THIS IS NOT AN ACCIDENT. THE PLOT WAS NOT TO TEAR DOWN THE WALL BUT TEAR DOWN THIS COUNTRY AND MAKE IT A 3RD WORLD NATION. WITH HALVES & HALVE NOTS. SO THE REPUBLICAN PLOT THICKENS. RUSH LIMBAUGH SAID "ROOSEVELT IS DEAD & SOON HIS POLICIES WILL BE TOO." WHY WOULD ANYONE RESSURECT POLICIES THAT FAILED IN THE PAST & CAUSED THE DEPRESSION, FIRST REAGAN THEN BUSH. DON'T TELL ME YOU DON'T BELEIVE IN CONSPIRACIES. COOLEDGE CAUSED THE DEPRESSION HOOVER GOT BLAMED FOR (THE TRICKLE DOWN THEORY). ...more info
- Devastatingly accurate; crucially relevant
In 1988 I told my brother that I would surely never hate a president as much as I hated Ronald Reagan. The way he had stirred up racial hatred (much of it by speaking in code, by focusing on welfare cheats -- though the examples he cited always turned out to be his own fictitious creations, such as the welfare queen allegedly living in a luxury hotel that he often mentioned -- or by flaming fears of products of the inner city); the way he increased the poverty rate despite a growing economy; the way he dramatically weakened the middle class while increasing the gap between the haves and have nots; his antagonism towards environmental issues, intensified by his appointment of the loathsome James Watt as Secretary of the Interior; the way his cabinet was racked by a string of investigations and convictions that have not been matched to this day; the way he built the national debt to levels that had been previously unthinkable (though Bush 43 would push even beyond that); the way he made America hated and loathed around the world, not unlike way the world reacted later to the second Bush; his ineptitude on economic matters, creating -- despite the mythmaking -- a fractured economy that we largely recovered from under Clinton, only to have Bush imitate Reagan's disastrous script and create economic chaos a second time; and . . . well, I could literally go on for a few thousand words.
Everything that Will Bunch says in this book is true. This is utterly the Reagan I remembered and loathed. And while I eventually came to hate Bush even more than Reagan (and my hate is based on the extraordinary harm both men have done to the nation; they truly have done more harm between them than any other presidents since the Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover triumvirate), I still hate how badly he harmed the nation, while bringing into the White House public relations techniques that have made many believe otherwise.
Bunch is absolutely correct in stating that Reagan was not an especially popular president. This has to be qualified. There was perhaps a quarter of the nation that loved Reagan with an immeasurable, and utterly irrational, passion. A significant additional portion liked him as a person while disliking his policies. As more than one person put it at the time, Reagan seemed like a nice man with really mean policies. The GOP propaganda machine even at the time created an absurd myth that Reagan was a tax cutting machine who had saved the economy, when in fact his tax cuts caused massive debt that had to be corrected by a long string of tax cuts. In fact, Reagan was one of the great taxers in American history. Though not, of course, for the rich. He didn't come quite as close as Bush 43 in his love of giving rich people tax cuts, but it was a passion nonetheless. He was also the most profligate spending in real dollars in American history, excepting only FDR during WW II and Bush in the past eight years. Any idiot ought to be able to guess what happens when you dramatically increase federal spending while (temporarily) cutting taxes. Deficits! As Bunch points out, Reagan increased the federal debt in real dollars more than ALL PREVIOUS PRESIDENTS PUT TOGETHER.
Of course, most, though by no means all, of Reagan's spending was on the military. The only part of the budget that Reagan really slashed was entitlements, apart from Medicare, Medicaid, and social security [one of his few genuine achievements as president was putting social security on firm footing until the 2040s]. But his increases on the military were so massive that he raised federal spending by hundreds of billions of dollars. All this despite the fact that the Cold War had been thawing for many years and tensions between the US and the Soviet Union were quite low at the time. If you were alive at the time and remember it well, you will recall that Reagan's anticommunism seemed strangely out of date, appropriate perhaps for the 1950s, but not terribly relevant at the time. It wasn't clear precisely why he was building all these weapons.
Of course, the mythmakers, who have never met a fact that they weren't willing to ignore, say that "Reagan won the Cold War." But as I said, it was already thawing when Reagan became president. And I can't imagine anyone truly cognizant of the situation at the time would imagine that Reagan played a significant role in things turning out as they did. One thing that Bunch does not emphasize is that while there are a large number of American speechwriters and GOP popularizers who push the "Reagan ended the Cold War" myth, there are vastly fewer scholars, who truly are scholars of the situation. But if you move outside the US -- and after all, we were hardly the only country involved in the Cold War -- anyone reputable individual who believes that Reagan played a pivotal role in ending the Cold War simply can't be found. There may be the random crackpot somewhere, but the believe that Reagan somehow ended the Cold War is a curiously American phenomenon. And if you move into the former Iron Curtain countries, where scholars have access to the former Soviet records, you won't find anyone at all, crackpot or no, who ascribes such a role to Reagan. To virtually the entire world (except for random GOP ideologues), Mikhail Gorbachev is overwhelmingly according pride of place in ending the Cold War. Why? Well, because he did. In fact, multiple accounts from the period indicate that Gorbachev was far out in front of Reagan in wanting to bring the situation that had existed since 1945 to an end. Gorbachev was the leader and Reagan stumbled along after him. And of course, after Reagan left office, Gorbachev continued his reforms, which eventually led to the dissolution of the Soviet bloc and the independence and reunification of Germany. Though "Tear down this wall" made great copy well after the fact, the brute fact is that Gorbachev was already moving at a faster pace than Reagan was pushing far. But like I said, the rest of the world already knows this.
Factually, I have very few quibbles with Bunch's superb book. He hits nail after nail directly on the head. Reagan did have some achievements, but they are not at all what the GOP myth machine ascribes to him. His first great achievement was sharply raising taxes (several times) after he realized the negative impact the huge tax cut early in his first term caused. I've already noted how he worked with Congress to save Social Security. And after the confusion over his first term caused by an aging Brezhnev and the very brief time of Andropov as premier, he was able to meet with Gorbachev and produce some very excellent arms reduction treaties. He didn't move as quickly as Gorbachev wanted to, but that he was able to keep up with Gorbachev at all is admirable.
Reagan's low point was obviously Iran-Contra, arguably the worst scandal of any presidency in American history, worse than the Teapot Dome Scandal, worse than Watergate. After hearing Reagan's Iran-Contra testimony, which was laced with protestations that he either didn't know or didn't remember, GOP icon Barry Goldwater said that Reagan was either lying or incompetent. Clearly there was criminal wrongdoing for which no one was ever found guilty. It isn't clear that Reagan knew what was going on (though it is equally clear, if special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh is correct - and there is absolutely no reason to imagine that he isn't - that George H. W. Bush definitely knew what was going on, which may be the major reason according to the speculation of many, that George W. Bush blocked the release of the vast majority of the Reagan presidential papers).
One thing that Bunch fails to note is how completely the Reagan-idolization project a Top-Down one. Though I believe people are, under unrelenting GOP propaganda, gradually gaining a predominantly positive image of Reagan, complete with a string of misinformation, there isn't a huge groundswell of popular support for Reagan. I can recount a nice example of this. A couple of years ago I saw an excellent documentary on FOX News entitled OUTFOXED. In one part a former FOX reporter recounts how one year he was assigned on Reagan's birthday to go to the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. He was asked to report on the Reagan birthday celebrations there. The problem is that . . . there weren't. There were no special celebrations. The crowds were not out of the ordinary. But his superiors at FOX refused to acknowledge this and eventually the reporter had to speak inanities while the camera showed a regular school group visiting the library. As Bunch pointed out, the ratings for the networks covering ad nauseum the Reagan funeral were not high and the crowds turning out to see Reagan's casket were not especially large, never generating the kind of interest that the death of Lady Diana had.
There is one other thing that I think that Bunch misses about Reagan and that I believe accounts for a great deal of what popularity he had in the eighties. Reagan was very comforting because he made people believe that things were much simpler than some wanted them to be. The world according to Ronald Reagan was a very simple place. Complicated problems could, in his view, have simple solutions. Of course, I believe H. L. Menken was correct when he wrote, "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." Reagan's world had no grays, but only blacks and whites. The good guys all wore white and the bad guys sneered and twirled their mustaches. People found this comforting, even as it was misleading. It is one of the parts of Reagan's legacy that Bush 43 most successfully appropriated, except that he stated it in even starker terms. For Reagan and Bush, the world is a place of definite good and definite evil, and we are the good guys. Such thinking helps no one make any progress in resolving problems, but many find this simplicity reassuring.
Another place where I think Bunch misses an important point about Reagan was how old he was during his two terms in office. He mentions late in the book about the publication IN HIS OWN WORDS, and writes how vital and sharp Reagan was then. There is absolutely no question, if you see speeches Reagan gave in the sixties or seventies and then see some from the eighties, that he underwent a decline. I once had dinner with an Alzheimer's researcher shortly after Reagan had been diagnosed with it. He replied that at conferences he and some fellow Alzheimer researchers speculated among themselves about whether Reagan was suffering from the disease or perhaps some mild dementia. He told me that they believed they saw some early symptoms. This was during his FIRST TERM. He said that in his second term he was confident that he showed signs of Alzheimer's. Some aides close to Reagan say that he slowed down some after the assassination attempt. My point is that many of Reagan's more famous foibles recounted by aides in the White House, such as his falling asleep in meetings and his constant disengagement with the affairs of state, were quite probably a result of the physical decline noted by those inside the White House after his recovery from the assassination attempt.
I will add that I believe that in the long run the Reagan mythmakers are fighting a losing cause. For one thing, their narrow range of political interests will at some point cease to motivate. If you go back and read presidential biographies are accounts of politics in various periods of American history (or even just read Gore Vidal's superb series of historical novels about American political life), you will know that the concerns of one age are frequently not that of another. It is astonishing now to read how passionately people from both parties debated the national bank. The interests who are pushing the myths about Reagan so passionately do not have time as their ally. Additionally, the facts are stubborn. Overwhelmingly Reagan's record is his worst enemy. Even with the available evidence he can be seen to be at best an average president, and more accurately an average one. He falls well behind the best presidents of the 20th century like Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson, and I believe he eventually will correctly be seen as below Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Clinton. Why? His actual record. The stupid facts. And as books like Bunch's call attention to the blatant attempt to create a myth to replace the man, their attempts will merely serve to refocus attention on the man.
In closing I would like to add two positive things about Reagan. I think it very possible, though not definite, that he was the greatest president of the 1980s. Second, I would like to propose something that my brother suggested as a good idea after Nancy Reagan shot down the idea of putting Ronnie on the dime in place of Roosevelt: put his face on a new piece of currency, the One Million Dollar bill. I think it would be an appropriate way of honoring him....more info
- A realistic look at the Reagan Years
Ronald Reagan was a strange man who is worshipped by some people. However, it's unclear why. Reagan greatly increased federal spending. The payroll tax went up substantially when he was president. His tax cuts for the richest citizens ran up the largest deficit in history and cut vital programs. The number of homeless people increased dramatically. He privately made fun of people with AIDS.
Most disturbing is that Reagan deliberately chose to open his 1980 campaign in the part of Mississippi where civil rights workers were murdered by ultra-conservatives 16 years earlier. In a "wink and nod" to racists throughout the country, Reagan denounced "federal intervention" and made it clear that if elected, states could once again operate as they choose on matters of race.
Reagan consciously provoked the Soviet Union and brought us very close to a nuclear exchange in the early 80's. It was only the work of citizens demanding a nuclear freeze that intimidated Reagan and forced him to sit down with the Soviets and work out nuclear treaties later in the decade. Reagan supported "death squads" in Central America and sanctioned the illegal funding of these groups in violation of federal law.
Ronald Reagan was a terrible president. He also seemed to be a person with many problems. He didn't talk to his daughter for years and his son publicly denounced his politics and policies---and does to this day.
This book sheds light on the real Ronald Reagan and the damage his did to our good country. ...more info
- Absolutely Absurd
There are a million ways I could justify why this book deserves to be firefuel, but honestly I am not going to bother. It angers me that books like this are allowed to be published, but then again, so was pro-slavery propaganda when Lincoln took office. Speaking of Lincoln, party politics were just as alive in the 1860s as they are now, and Lincoln, the 1st Republican president, was certainly not adored by the masses until much later on. If you are ignorant and ill-informed enough to actually believe any of the nonsense written in this book, then there is nothing I can do. But whatever your politics, it is impossible to deny that Ronald Reagan loved this country, did what he thought was best for it, and made America stronger as it recovered from the economic devastation of the 1970s and the disaffection of the youth under Carter. Ronald Reagan was an American Hero, and if even Barack Obama and Ted Kennedy can admire and respect Reagan without agreeing with his politics, then who the hell is 'Will Bunch' to argue otherwise. 50 years from now, Reagan will still be beloved, and Bunch will just be on par with the white supremisists that hated Lincoln and would do anything to bring him down. Reagan brought down the wall, and Bunch is only bringing down his (nonexistent) credibility by tampering with the legacy of one of the great leaders of the modern age. ...more info
- Well-written corrective to the Gipper's inflated legacy
I first ran into the Reagan mythmaking machine when a family member gushed a few years back about how Ronald Reagan won the Cold War. Shocking as this statement was to me, I managed to sputter something about how many presidents -- Democrat and Republican -- had contributed to the win, and that Reagan just happened to be there at the end. But I was always unsettled by the claim.
Now, Will Bunch provides a reminiscence of the story of Reagan's presidency -- both the good and the bad. Bunch reminds us that Reagan was not particularly popular during most of his presidency, and that many Americans had good reason to wonder whether the country was in competent hands. Bunch runs over the Iran-Contra scandal, which came close to ending up in Reagan's impeachment. Far from being a thrifty government downsizer, he added $2 trillion to the national debt and grew the government. Bunch also reminds us that Reagan was the original "cut and run" artist, pulling US troops out of a failed mission in Lebanon within weeks after 241 Marines were killed there in a terrorist attack. We are reminded that Reagan's overtures to Iran to free hostages only resulted in more Americans being taken, and that his economic plans sowed the seeds of deregulation and greed that we are still reaping. We also see Reagan, the man who hated committing troops to war, who was a pragmatist economist who raised taxes when his trickle down theories did not working and whose personal diplomacy with the Soviets came close to riding the world of nuclear weapons.
The second half of the book lays out the players involved in turning Reagan into a poster child for ideas that he did not espouse. Grover Norquist and others are shown twisting Reagan into a champion of constant tax cuts, removal of long-time fiscal regulations and intervener in foreign affairs. George W. Bush eagerly wore his mantle. And even Barack Obama is unable to escape his shadow.
Apart from laying out the facts, Bunch writes well and engagingly. And he is fair. I personally have long thought that the invasion of tiny Grenada, coming close on the heels of the Marine barracks disaster, was meant to distract the public from Reagan's ineptitude. Bunch disagrees, pointing out (not completely convincingly) that the invasion had been in the planning for some time. Bunch argues persuasively that Reagan's popularity grew at the end of his presidency only when he had been so weakened by his own blunders that he had to move to the center. And he was fortunate in becoming an Alzheimer's victim, gaining popular sympathy as he left the public stage.
"Tear Down this Myth" is a must read for liberals as well as conservatives -- anyone, really, interested in basing the politics in reality rather than in myths and wishful thinking. With luck, the political climate may finally be right or this kind of accurate accounting....more info
- Will the Real Ronald Reagan Please Stand Up?
This book shines a light on a concocted myth that was built for political purposes to represent former President Ronald Reagan. But it also reflects on many positive aspects of the former President and his administration, most of which are in direct conflict with the myth. To me, that is the thesis of the book: The "Reagan Myth" is a contrived version of the real Ronald Reagan, for better or worse.
A major reason why a contrived version could be built is that Reagan died in 2004 at the age of 93, after suffering from Alzheimer's for many years before his death. As a result, any direct role in defining his own legacy was over long before his death. No, it was for others to define this myth, not so much for his posterity, as for the contemporary benefit of conservative political candidates.
Not included in the myth, as developed, is the fact that the national debt increased from $700 billion to $3 trillion over his eight-year administration. Also not included is that Reagan never denounced his signing and approval of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act. And his tax cuts of 1981 that we hear so much about were followed by tax hikes every single year thereafter that we do NOT hear about. Additionally, the size of the federal government grew significantly during the Reagan years. And his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal was probably the biggest blunder of his Presidency.
Some neutral points are that Reagan ran for President against a relatively unpopular and weakened President Jimmy Carter, and that his business experience was limited to his tenure as Governor of California. Additionally, he was President in 1987 when the DOW had a one-day drop of 508 points.
To his credit, as President, Reagan many times showed the ability to compromise and to be pragmatic. And with his sincere belief in the superiority of democracy and capitalism, he met with confidence with Soviet ruler Mikhail Gorbachev, with whom he worked to reduce the world's supply of nuclear weapons. He also felt strongly that it would be inappropriate to kill civilians, unintentionally or not, in response to terrorist acts. He favored surrogate armies to do the fighting, not American soldiers. And, he once said, "The United States does not start fights. We will never be the aggressor."
Back to the negatives, the author tells us that Reagan:
* Failed to address AIDs or homelessness in any meaningful way as President;
* Failed to foresee the limited future of cheap oil-based fuel or the warming of the planet;
* Did extraordinary damage to the middle class and working people;
* For the most part, showed an obvious callousness toward African-Americans;
* Resisted increasing power of federal regulators, leading to the S&L crisis soon after he left office;
* Oversaw an increasing sense that greed was good and an increasing gap between the salaries of corporate CEOs and the average worker;
* Saw unemployment rise to 10.5% and his approval rating drop to 35%;
* Reportedly opposed Medicare when it was introduced in 1965;
* Raised payroll taxes on workers in 1983;
* Approved the spending of billions of dollars on new weapons systems, which required money the nation did not have;
* Near the end of his second term, was described as being "weak, out of touch, distracted."
As for the myth, the author says that the major thrust to build it began in 1998 at the time of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. And, by his death in the summer of 2004, the occasion of his funeral was billed by some as "a legacy-building event." George W. Bush used the momentum of this effort to gain a narrow victory in the 2004 Presidential election.
The Myth was designed to be selective and simplistic. A basic tenet was that Reagan was a homespun public intellectual. Also included was the belief that Reagan's buildup of the military caused the Berlin Wall to tumble, when, in fact, communist Russia was clearly collapsing under its own weight. And it said that Reagan was a man of God, when he had seldom attended a church when President. And that he shrunk the size of government, when, in fact, it had increased during his tenure. Plus the perception that "there is no problem that cannot be solved with a mixture of optimism and painless policy choices."
Per the author, the Reagan Library is "a great place to escape the real world." There, the President is seen to be all about reducing taxes and shrinking government. There is no mention of the Iran-Contra affair. And even his nomadic alcoholic father is depicted as having stood for "the value of hard work and ambition."
Per one source, "Reagan embraced the consumer-oriented, pleasure-seeking culture that seemed to thrive during the 1980's and 1990's." In polls that rank our U.S. Presidents, he comes out above average in most. But what is hard to distinguish is whether voters of these polls are evaluating the real President Reagan or the myth. After reading this book, I feel that I have a much better understanding of the differences between the two.
- Hate Speech
The author hates Reagan. He makes a series of wild claims, but he does not produce any credible evidence to support them. This is pure left wing "journalism", the kind that you read in the Philly newspapers, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Liberals (aka Progressives) will enjoy the book. But any reader with intellectual integrity will reject it as rubbish. ...more info
Do not let the "stacked" negative reviews prevent you from getting this book.
I will bet that none of the negatives ever read the book. Glenn Beck, Limbaugh and his ilk mention this on the air, and the warbling masses of NEOCONS run to their computers to dismiss the book.
Funny thing, Limbaugh HATED REAGAN, it is just that revisionism now has him canonizing him.
YOU ALL NEED TO GROW UP, GET A LIFE....more info
- Reason to believe
In TEAR DOWN THIS MYTH: HOW THE REAGAN LEGACY HAS DISTORTED OUR POLITICS AND HAUNTS OUR FUTURE, author and journalist Will Bunch explains how many prominent Republican and big money operatives promote a distortion of Ronald Reagan and his presidency to continue pushing failed policies such as reduced taxes and nation building. Reagan raised taxes six out of his eight years in office, loathed war, and expanded the size of the federal government. However, those wishing for the opposite speak as if they follow Reagan's lead.
TEAR DOWN THIS MYTH recalls the Reagan administration's "line of the day" strategy for promoting image over policy. Today's let's-be-like-Reagan storytellers do the same, purporting a false image of America's fortieth president as they sell schemes he never supported. For example, the hard-line foreign policy they attribute to Ronald Reagan did not exist in his presidency and, as the George W. Bush administration later proved, is catastrophic. Reagan refused to call on America's armed forces in retaliation to terrorist acts, reasoning the resulting civilian injury and death would be "terrorism itself." Yet the lunatic fringes and moneyed interests of the Republican Party and corporation-sponsored think tanks, still trying to give people or at least themselves a reason to believe in America's disastrous actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, promote an image of Reagan as a practitioner of invade now, question later diplomacy.
Still odder, Ronald Reagan was never that popular a president, records of opinion polls show. Issue by issue the majorities of Americans were against Reagan policy throughout his presidency but, due to the appearance management of Reagan handlers, twice awarded him four years in office. Yet as TEAR DOWN THIS MYTH documents, today politicians and corporate propagandists ride Reagan's jock as if he was right up there with Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, presidents Americans admire most.
Read TEAR DOWN THIS MYTH.
- Reclaim Ronald Reagan by embracing fact
This book illuminates an important phenomenon in American culture, Liberty Valence Syndrome: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."
Well, facts don't need to be settled in the immediate years after an event. Abraham Lincoln was controversial and even hated in the years following his administration. Thomas Jefferson has been viewed differently by each generation.
If Ronald Reagan deserves a place among the momentous U.S. Presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, etc.), then his personal history and his cult of personality deserve more penetrating analysis than received opinion. If not, Reagan could become a figure popular in his heyday but not as consequential as his contemporaries would believe (Polk, Grant, Cleveland).
Either way, the view of Ronald Reagan as a great President requires examination. This book examines contemporary opinions and real-time successes and failures from 1981-1989 and explains why and how a myth-making cadre would adopt Reagan and make him their own. Norquist et al. have cheapened the valid legacy of an important Cold War figure by turning him into their marionette.
Reclaim Ronald Reagan from the propagandists. Do not let him become their useful idiot. "Tear Down This Myth" is an excellent place to start....more info
- It shows the true legacy of the Reagan years. His policies ruined the lives of millions of middle class americans.
Excellent book. I recommend it to everyone who wants to understand how the Reagan policies ruined the American middle class. Reagan laid the foundations on which future republican administrations would continue their one sided campaign against the middle class in order to make the rich even richer. Remember that Reagan put Alan Greenspan in charge of the Federal Reserve. The current worldwide financial crisis that got the public attention with the sub prime crisis was a direct results of the same policies started by Reagan: Financial deregulation, tax cuts for the benefit of the very rich, elimination of funding for useful social health and educational programs among others....more info
- Why is this book so inexpensive??
Have any of you liberals even thought about why this book is only rated 3 stars??? Or why it's only worth 16.00?? Most political writings I've bought are a lot more expensive. It's because no one wants it. Therefore the price keeps dropping. go figure....more info