Third Party & Independents Archives

The Teflon President on the Ten Dollar Bill? It Won’t Stick.

In the late seventies and early eighties I was just coming out of college into the work force and I was a big fan of the British Sci-Fi cult classic, Doctor Who. For those of you not familiar with this quirky television series Doctor Who was a time lord who traveled from one adventure to another as he battled bad guys along with an evil time lord who was out to steal the key to time.

The good doctor’s main mode of transportation through space and time was a time machine called the TARDIS which was spacious on the inside but looked like a British police call box on the outside. Many a villain tried to break into the TARDIS using hammers, blow torches, and even bombs but in all cases the TARDIS would emerge unscathed and without a scratch. Doctor Who was once asked why the TARDIS seemed impervious to the physical methods used to break into it and the doctor replied, “Because it is not really there”. An amazing defense for a machine that can drift in time.

It was during this same time that I began to become more of a tax payer and consequently I became much more interested in politics. Growing up and going to school in California as I did made Ronald Reagan a central figure in my new forays into the political landscape. I initially found Reagan to be an engaging and interesting figure who had successfully made the transition from acting to political life. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to hear him speak at my college during one of his campaigns for governor that I realized he may not have made much of a transition at all. During this event Reagan gave an opening speech that was phenomenal. It was like listening to a motivational speaker and he really pumped up the audience. Then came the Q&A and whatever gubernatorial image Reagan had generated came crashing down as it became apparent that he was unaware of many of the major issues facing California at that time. I realized that our governor was just some charming guy who gave a good speech. Whatever governing that was taking place was conducted by persons unknown who operated behind the scenes. First impressions are often lasting and often accurate and my first impression of Reagan as a mere figure head was only reinforced as he moved up the political ladder.

The Reagan presidency itself was marred by more scandals then I thought could have comfortably fit into eight years. The most prominent were Iran-Contra and the Savings and Loan fiasco. Through it all Reagan remained unscathed and this earned him the term “The Teflon President”. His presidency itself only ever enjoyed mediocre approval ratings but Reagan himself managed to remain a popular and likeable guy. Looking back on this I believe the secret to the Teflon President was that, like Doctor Who’s TARDIS, Reagan wasn’t really there and therefore it was difficult to damage him. I think many Americans instinctively realized that Reagan was not really acting as President and therefore could not personally be held accountable for the transgressions of his presidency. I remember back then that criticizing Reagan was almost looked on as being cruel. Why pick on this sweet old guy when everyone knew it wasn’t his fault?

So now as we mourn Reagan’s passing the Republicans, hungry to have their own FDR or JFK, are ratcheting up the hype as they try to turn Reagan into one of the major world leaders of all time. Flipping through the news channels I have heard him described as the best president the United States has ever had. All we need to do now is figure out how to honor this giant of a leader. The two ideas I hear tossed about the most are to have a likeness of Reagan added to Mount Rushmore and to have Reagan’s picture placed on the ten dollar bill. I hope these ideas fade into the sunset. The same Teflon qualities that protected Reagan from harm during his presidency should now keep him from undue accolades by the American people. Reagan was a decent man who gave great speeches and in the end fought a brave battle against Alzheimer’s. If the Republicans, or the Democrats for that matter, want another FDR or JFK then they had best take their hands out of the pockets of the special interests and start doing the work of the American people. Reagan was a nice guy but the Teflon president doesn’t fit the ($10) bill. It just won’t stick.

Posted by William Flynn at June 13, 2004 6:20 PM