Democrats & Liberals Archives

Presidential Presence and Presidential Past

Ronald Reagan has died at 93. The plaudits for his contributions to this nation are no doubt deserved. His policies and programs while in office can finally be weighed by history and set to rest. Wherever you saw Mr. Reagan when he was President you were struck by his bearing and charisma.

Nothing about Bill Clinton’s way of carrying himself was as Presidential as Reagan’s bearing but there was little doubt when you were in his presence that this man had charisma and presence. Jimmy Carter was and remains an unassuming genius but he too had the capacity to hold the role of President in its proper place. Nixon was hardly Presidential but may have been the best Republican President since Theodore Roosevelt in terms of his positive impact on our nation’s role in the world. Harry Truman was the first President I remember in my lifetime. Harry’s honesty defined his time in the office, that and his ability to make the tough decisions and take responsibility for them on his shoulders made him a great man for his time.

I skipped Lyndon Johnson because he was the most likely to succeed of all our recent Presidents and had the least success of all in office. His “Great Society” Programs have been dismantled one by one, his expansion of the Vietnam war was a disaster. After winning the Presidency by a huge margin his policies were passed through Congress much like those of this President, without effective opposition. They have not stood the test of time, nor has his Presidency. John Kennedy was a man who inspired great emotions. He did not have the time to leave a real legacy of policies and programs except the support he gave civil rights. That made him the first President since Lincoln who attacked the programs designed to keep blacks from holding a respected place in our society.

It is too early to write the history of this Presidency. It shares a few things with that of Lyndon Johnson. Johnson’s term began in a controversy because of Kennedy’s assassination; Bush’s Presidency was controversial because of his appointment by the Supreme Court. After one year in office Bush had huge approval ratings, after one year in office Johnson won the 1964 election by a landslide. Johnson lied about the war in Vietnam; Bush has lied about the war in Iraq. By the last year of their first term in office both men had terrible approval ratings. Johnson’s were so bad that he refused to run again. Bush’s are so bad that his White House is in a state of siege. The controversy over many issues related to his handling of the responsibility every President must assume will mar his record no matter what happens in this election.

Reagan took office during the hostage crisis in Iran. Jimmy Carter was the victim of the failure of our installed government in Iran. It was an illegitimate government that had been in place since 1954 when we deposed the elected President of Iran in a coup led by our CIA. Ronald Reagan proved that we had learned nothing by that experience when he backed the Contras in Nicaragua. The Militarism of the Reagan Years surfaced again in 1992 with the release of a textbook used in training Latin American officers that called for use of assassination and murder as political tools. From 1982 to 1991 the School of the Americas produced and used seven different manuals that supported these tactics in training the officer corps of Latin American countries. The slaughter of many political activists during that time was related to our policies and our blatant encouragement of the use of violence to dominate the affairs of many Latin Nations.

Ronald Reagan was a decent man with a vast and powerful love for the USA and the people here. That affection led him into actions that were morally reprehensible and unethical in regard to many nations of the world. He did have the awareness that this current Administration seems to lack of how important allies are in the conduct of international affairs. He was a true Patriot but he was not a true Statesman despite the fact that he contributed to the fall of Communism. That fall, which today leaves Russia in the hands of Putin, who is fast becoming all powerful there, was important because it marked the end of the Cold War. We won that war because of the combined sacrifices of the people of this nation and often in spite of poor leadership, including at times that of Reagan.

Reagan is destined to be promoted as one of the great Presidents by those who support our militaristic element in this society. That is, by the way, different from supporting our troops while they are engaged in combat. The militarism that dominates the seats of power in this nation is often self serving and greedy. The patriotism of the rest of us supports our active troops and our retired members of all our military forces. If it were left up to the Bush Administration the benefits to both retirees and those who were disabled while in uniform would have been cut twice in the last two years. Without the outcry of the patriotic public against such political actions there would be no protection for our troops whose incomes are still too low to sustain their families. Reagan to all appearances was a true Patriot and as such was an exceptional President in spite of his profound dedication to militarism. He, unlike the Bush family, never profited from the wars to which he committed our troops. God rest his soul in that kind place reserved for those who believe in our nation so much that they compromise their ethics and morals on its behalf. Patriots can be sinners but that makes them no less patriots. ©Henri Reynard/GoldenBrush Investments Ltd

Posted by Henri Reynard at June 8, 2004 11:49 AM