Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues

Looking Presidential

Somebody please tell me which was the real “Presidents Day”? There’s Washington’s and Lincoln’s to whom we used to give a nod teach Feb. 12 and 22. Maybe no others were born in this month of the most “r’s” and the most oysters. Truth be told, some years we’re big on those two guys, some years not. These days the GOP give not an ounce of respect to Obama, as if the office itself doesn’t deserve it. So much for presidents.
Will Rogers said that all he knew was what he read in the newspaper. Now our info is anecdotal, aggravated by the new technology–we learn by bits and pieces while lack of serious, sustained reading handicaps our brains.
Take the apotheosis of Reagan, for example. People think he brought down Communism, gave us balanced budgets and that his “toughness” restored morale in America. But if ever there were a Cardboard Messiah, he was it. As for the fall of the commies, you’d think the pope and the Solidarity movement never existed, to hear his revisionists tell it. And during his first term the scariest financial meltdown to that time occurred while he went and hid, bringing about the increased power of the Federal Reserve that we know and love today.
And he was no tough guy–till he had a military behind him. He and John Wayne never went near the fighting in World War II. In his autobio, Reagan admitted he was just a “reserve officer…for ‘limited service’” due to his “poor eyesight.” I never saw him wear glasses, did you? As the war generation began dying I officiated many funerals for men whose early-life photos showed them wearing lenses as thick as the bottoms of Coke bottles– but who served their country in war. Ronnie only narrated “training films.” And though he spent those years stateside, he made sure he always wore his little uniform from home to work, since men who donned civilian clothes while on furlough were mistaken for draft dodgers and cursed and spat on.
Reagan and Wayne were just big, good-natured guys who had other things to do than fight wars. Their agents convinced them and the military that doing films were good for U.S. “morale”–while Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart and others gave up valuable career time (and money) risking life and limb for America. Wayne’s conscience finally got to him and he regretted being a noncombatant. Not Ronnie; he wanted to be President.
Conservatives laugh at the very mention of Jimmy Carter but during his four short years in office (after being an officer on Navy subs in war time) he negotiated the Camp David Accords, the SALT II and Panama Canal treaties, normalized relations with China, got the USSR to demilitarize the Indian Ocean, a SALT III agreement for 50% reduction of nuclear arsenal by the Soviets, an on-site inspection of their facilities, and a comprehensive test ban.
Yet Reagan, to the end of his presidency, referred to Carter’s time as “failed policies of the past,” a chestnut he recurringly threw into speeches right up to his very last month in office. His big talent, more than acting, was blaming someone else for his own ineptitude, and Carter was it. Yet during his first six years, Ronnie concluded no international treaties with foreign governments and failed to free American hostages in Lebanon; two were executed and Terry Anderson by that time had been held over 650 days and counting.
Allow me to humor you with some more facts, this time from the Congressional Quarterly: Reagan’s budget overestimated revenues by 5 billion in ‘83, 13 bill in ‘84 and 16 in ‘85. By ‘84 he was back to the blame-game, and this time his target was Congress, but the Economic Advisers warned of a coming rise in deficit, and when that hit, it hit hard. And we all know about his gaffe at Bitburg cemetery where Hitler’s elite guard were interred.
Domestically, he was good at talking tough then pulling in his claws. For all his right-wing rhetoric, he never made abortion a priority, let alone deliver on it. When Right-to-Lifers mass-marched in DC he spoke to them only by loudspeaker from the White House, pledging a human life amendment to the Constitution with “no compromises,” and later, through a spokesman, said he’d support legislation “except to save the life of the mother.”
Allow me now to mention Lincoln, who came to the job with a terrible civil war on his hands that went very badly at first, while he was called every name in the book, mostly simian terms like, “monkey,” “ape,” “baboon,” and “orangutan,” though he was a true rough-and-tumble frontiersman who self-educated and became the right man for the right time in America. When he died, people who didn’t think they liked him realized they loved him, but politics had got in their way.
If you wanna be prez, just know it’s no piece of cake. And even when you do the best that is humanly possible, some people will hate you anyway.

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